Cultivating Empathy: Inspiring Health Professionals to Communicate More Effectively


by

Kathleen Stephany

DOI: 10.2174/97816080598811150101
eISBN: 978-1-60805-988-1, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-68108-031-4



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Research demonstrates that even if empathy – the capacity to perceive or share emotions with other beings – is not part of a person’s comm...[view complete introduction]

Table of Contents

About the Author

- Pp. i

Kathleen Stephany

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Foreword

- Pp. ii-iii (2)

Michael Miller

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Preface

- Pp. iv

Kathleen Stephany

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Acknowledgments

- Pp. v

Kathleen Stephany

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What is Empathy?

- Pp. 3-38 (36)

Kathleen Stephany

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When the Client/Patient Feels Alone

- Pp. 39-54 (16)

Kathleen Stephany

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Why Empathy is Sometimes Lacking: The Influence of Environmental Factors

- Pp. 55-83 (29)

Kathleen Stephany

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What it Feels Like to Experience Empathy

- Pp. 84-98 (15)

Kathleen Stephany

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How to be Empathetic

- Pp. 99-126 (28)

Kathleen Stephany

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Dealing with Difficult People and Situations with Empathy and Care

- Pp. 127-146 (20)

Kathleen Stephany

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Understanding Compassion Fatigue

- Pp. 147-166 (20)

Kathleen Stephany

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References

- Pp. 167-173 (7)

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Glossary

- Pp. 174-181 (8)

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Appendix

- Pp. 182

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Subject Index

- Pp. 183-186 (4)

Kathleen Stephany

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Foreword

A book of inspiration.

The concept of caring in our human existence is a moral and ethical imperative. Our survival as a species depends on the quality of care we give to our fellow human beings. Caring must satisfy certain human needs and the giver should demonstrate some special interpersonal qualities and skills. Empathy is a significant quality which is sometimes misunderstood and is not synonymous with sympathy. This text crystallizes the concept as it is applied to caring. The focus of this foreword is to give assent to the rigour of the current work.

Kathleen a creditable clinician and educator with years of experience, has boldly and passionately addressed the importance of empathy. This in-depth work has defined the construct of empathy and moved its comprehension to levels where clinicians, educators and students can appreciate its application. She has demonstrated the complexity and dynamics of empathic caring through theoretical knowledge, models of application and above all, through the lived experience of case studies. The emic view transcends the values, beliefs and assumptions of other individuals.

Individuals construct their experiences from perception, personal evaluation and other cognitive brain functioning. This unique and lived experience is what empathy sets out to capture and understand, not only from the individual describing it, but also from the emotions which accompany the experience. When empathy is not experienced by the recipient, mistrust, not being understood and “being alone” is a devastating feeling. Chapter 2 aptly addresses these feelings. On the other hand, chapter 4 highlights the experience of Rebecca when empathy is felt. This is a powerful humanistic and spiritual feeling.

Apart from the various levels of empathy such as understanding, acquiring trust and the accurate interpretation of the agony or suffering to the emotional feeling, as you travel with the individual, Kathleen has raised many poignant questions about the nature of empathy. Are humans naturally empathetic? Is it a nature/nurture issue? Can empathy be cultivated? She attempted to answer these questions well with a creditable body of theory, research and case experiences. She has recommended many good ideas of how to cultivate empathy in chapter 5.

So far, the focus of discussion has been on specific extracts of Kathleen’s brilliant work. Let us briefly turn our attention to the challenging aspects of empathy. Life has many exciting pleasures however; it can be frustrating with anger, disappointments and self destruction. These are difficult situations and experiences to comprehend especially when bias, beliefs and values are considered. She has again, focused on many insights to dealing with difficult situations. Bias, beliefs and values can deter an empathic response to such experiences. Kathleen has approached this with a measured sensitivity and warmth in chapter 6.

In conclusion, this text is an exceptional piece of work which addresses the concept of empathy from different perspectives. Its uniqueness lies in the multimodal approaches which is embedded with evidenced informed practice research material. She has synthesized research, education and clinical practice experiences well. Her dedication to care as a moral and ethical imperative is highly commended and, she is wished the best of success in her inspiring work to others in the field.

Michael Miller

Preface

“When I have been listened to, when I have been heard, I am able to re-perceive my world in a new way and go on.”

Carl Rogers, 20th Century Psychologist and Forefather of Humanism

I chose to write a book on empathy because I believe that empathy is the foundation for all therapeutic interaction and when it is lacking, our patients and/or clients feel emotionally neglected. For example, when people are faced with a serious life or health challenge, they want knowledgeable and competent practitioners caring for them, but they also long to be understood. Yet, all too often, empathy is not included in the curriculum of many caregivers’ training. Therefore, the intention of this book is to inspire and teach both students and practicing health professionals, how to be more empathetic. I chose the title, Cultivating Empathy, because I am a gardener. Just as a beautiful garden can be cultivated, empathy can also be nurtured.

(Note: All of the stories and case study narratives in this book come from real life experiences. However, names and details have been altered significantly enough to preserve confidentiality).

Kathleen Stephany
Full Time Nurse Educator in the Faculty of Health Sciences
Douglas College, BC
Canada
E-mail: stephanyk@douglascollege.ca

List of Contributors

Author(s):
Kathleen Stephany
Full Time Nurse Educator in the Faculty of Health Sciences
Douglas College, BC
Canada




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