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  • Writer's pictureSusan Le De'an

Empathy

Updated: Jun 19


I have met diverse types of people who have identified the need for therapy and courageously moved forward with this endeavor. Meeting with a stranger to share the most personal struggles and traumatic experiences doesn’t always sound like a great idea to most people. While the outcomes of therapy are attributed to numerous factors, one thing that is essential to change is engagement in the process. Therapists take classes and attend training on how to build rapport with clients and this is the beginning of engagement. However, assisting someone with talking about and trying to make sense of their darkest days requires an abundance of curiosity and empathy.

What is empathy? According to the Oxford dictionary the definition is: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. As a therapist, when I display empathy, it shows that I am listening, understanding, and experiencing what the client is sharing. By being empathic, my focus is to build a therapeutic alliance by capturing the client’s perspective and goals, understanding their unique personality style and preferences, and communicating with them appropriately. By doing this I help create a meaningful connection for my clients to feel safe to share their innermost thoughts and feelings with me. I have realized that when I feel empathy for someone, I feel WITH them. I look for a situation or feeling that I can relate to that is similar to theirs, and this helps me feel their struggle.

When I am present with the people in my life, I continue this practice because I see the value it has brought me in my relationships. Being curious is extremely helpful as I build empathy because the skills involved in empathy are: be an active listener, offer advice without judgment, provide emotional and physical comfort and validate the person’s experience. These are difficult skills unless you have examined your own biases and agendas because when we show up for someone else, it’s not about us in that moment.

If you are feeling that your relationships are not as deep or connected as you want them to be, try looking for opportunities to be empathic. Having people you feel vulnerable with during your struggles will make those days more tolerable. There are so many benefits to showing up for someone else and you don’t have to think too long to remember a time when someone really saw you, really understood your experience and how valuable that was for you. If you learn to show up for others in that same way then you are giving them a very powerful gift. If you would like to learn more, consider reaching out to a therapist who can help you develop your empathic skills and deepen your connections with others.

By:

Susan Le De'an LPC, LCAC

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