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J Consult Clin Psychol. 1992 Jun;60(3):441-9.

Therapeutic empathy and recovery from depression in cognitive-behavioral therapy: a structural equation model.

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  • 1University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.


This study demonstrated that therapeutic empathy has a moderate-to-large causal effect on recovery from depression in a group of 185 patients treated with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). The authors simultaneously estimated the reciprocal effect of depression severity on therapeutic empathy and found that this effect was quite small. In addition, homework compliance had a separate effect on clinical recovery, over and above the effect of therapeutic empathy. The patients of novice therapists improved significantly less than did the patients of more experienced therapists, when controlling for therapeutic empathy and homework compliance. Ss who terminated therapy prematurely were less likely to complete the self-help assignments between sessions, rated their therapists as significantly less empathic, and improved significantly less. Ss with borderline personality disorder improved significantly less, but they rated their therapists as just as empathic and caring as other patients. The significance of these findings for psychotherapy research, treatment, and clinical training is discussed.

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