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Perspect Biol Med. 2012;55(2):175-82. doi: 10.1353/pbm.2012.0018.

Empathy beyond the conceptual level: core nonspecific factors of psychotherapy.

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Department of General Practice, Faculty of Medicine, Free University of Brussels, Belgium.


The human mind contains much more than concepts. By only taking into account the conceptual level, a cared-for person may feel utterly lonely and abandoned, not deeply in contact with the caregiver, not deeply understood for who he or she really is. A chronic pain patient, for instance, may react to a purely conceptual-level communication, with its lack of deeper contact, by an increasing sense of loneliness. This in itself may substantially contribute to the suffering of chronic functional pain or even functional disorders in general. In dealing with chronic pain patients, as with any patients, it is therefore very important to develop a sense of empathy that goes beyond this, towards deeply understanding the patient as complete person. This sheds a profound light on the all-important nonspecific factors of psychotherapy, which according to many researchers form the only profoundly active principle in psychotherapy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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