Pastoral Psychology

, Volume 67, Issue 5, pp 461–474 | Cite as

Teaching Theological Empathy to Distance Learners of Intercultural Spiritual Care

  • Carrie DoehringEmail author


What is empathy, and why is it essential to intercultural spiritual care? I posit that intercultural spiritual care requires theological empathy—the reflexive capacity to imagine how another’s emotions generate a lived theology or orienting system that ‘makes sense’ given their family and cultural contexts. Can theological empathy be taught in distance learning? If so, how? What kind of outcome measures do we need to assess clinical and theological empathy in religious leaders and chaplains? I explore these questions by first drawing upon psychological research on empathy. I describe the shifting role of empathy within the goals of pastoral and spiritual care. I elaborate a definition of intercultural, spiritually oriented theological empathy that includes theological literacy and reflexivity and the use of spiritual practices in emotional regulation. I describe and illustrate how distance learning offers unique opportunities for modeling and assessing intercultural empathic skills in spiritual care.


Empathy Social empathy Intercultural spiritual care Theological empathy Theologian literacy Theological reflexivity Distance learning 


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Iliff School of TheologyDenverUSA

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