The role of empathy in psychoanalytic psychotherapy: A historical exploration

Greta Kaluzeviciute, Peter Walla
2020 Cogent Psychology  
Empathy is one of the most consistent outcome predictors in contemporary psychotherapy research. The function of empathy is particularly important for the development of a positive therapeutic relationship: patients report positive therapeutic experiences when they feel understood, safe, and able to disclose personal information to their therapists. Despite its clear significance in the consulting room and psychotherapy research, there is no single, consensual definition of empathy. This can be
more » ... accounted by the complex and multi-faceted nature of empathy, as well as the ambiguous and conflicting literature surrounding it. This paper provides a historical exploration of empathy and its impact on the therapeutic relationship across the most influential psychoanalytic psychotherapies: classic psychoanalysis, person-centered therapy and self-psychology. By comparing the three clinical schools of thought, the paper identifies significant differences in the function of transference and therapist's role. Then, drawing on the different clinical uses of empathy, the paper argues that the earlier uses of empathy (most notably through Jaspers' and Freud's writings) are limited to its epistemological (intellectual or cognitive) features, whilst person-centered and self-psychology therapies capitalise on its affective qualities. Finally, the paper provides a rationale for further
doi:10.1080/23311908.2020.1748792 fatcat:w6hmbbg4frav7fd6lqd5b64zya