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J Clin Psychol. 2000 Aug;56(8):1005-16.

The role of mutual empathy in relational/cultural therapy.

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Harvard Medical School, Lexington, MA 02421, USA.


Central to the notion of healing in connection is the power of mutual empathy in the therapeutic relationship. Isolation is a major source of human suffering and is often accompanied by immobilization, which prevents movement back into relationship after disconnections. Healing is seen as occurring in connection with others. In order for patients to relinquish strategies of disconnection and shift their negative expectations in relationships, they must actually experience a sense of relational efficacy, of having an impact on the other person, the therapist. This happens when the therapist is emotionally present, attuned, therapeutically authentic, and working with the connections and disconnections in the therapy relationship itself. In this way, people begin to move back into growth-fostering relationships, expecting that others may respond empathically and finding that they can be effective in shifting and moving relationships in ways that allow them to bring themselves more fully into relationship, to be more whole and authentic.

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