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Top Stroke Rehabil. 2010 Jan-Feb;17(1):20-9. doi: 10.1310/tsr1701-20.

Being empathetic: benefits and challenges for the clinician and client.

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Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, Bennington, Vermont, USA.


This article explores the meaning of empathy and how it influences clinicians in their personal and professional lives. Empathy may benefit client and clinician by improving patient satisfaction and pain management, reducing medical errors, and helping to keep clinicians grounded in the priorities of patient care. The cultural and developmental origins and neural basis of empathy are reviewed to provide insight into how a clinician's and client's emotions can interact and influence each other. Methods for cultivating and communicating empathetic responses in the clinical setting are provided, including ways of identifying and dealing with difficult clients. Concepts such as attunement, emotional labor, and parallel emotions are explained. The limitations to empathy and potential challenges or difficulties for the clinician are also explored, along with possible solutions. Narratives from the author's personal and professional life are included to illustrate how a clinician's emotions can play a significant part in interactions with clients. This discussion shows that clinicians must combine both evidenced-based practice and empathy in their interactions with clients to achieve the professional goal of high-quality care.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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