The Interpersonal Dynamics in Clinician–Patient Relationships



In this chapter, I discuss factors that contribute to interpersonal dynamics in patient care and propose that clinicians as well as patients can benefit from empathic engagement. The curing versus caring paradigm and the concept of disease versus illness contribute to the development of attitudes that in- fluence empathic behavior in clinical encounters. Findings regarding the tendency to bind with others for survival, comply with the orders of authority figures, and accept of authority figures uncritically; role expectations; and the effects of clinical environment on the behavior of clinicians and patients suggest that specific interpersonal dynamics operate in clinician– patient encounters. This chapter discusses important facets of interpersonal psychodynamics and their impact on empathic understanding in clinical encounters. The placebo effect of empathic relationships, cultural factors, personal space, and boundaries in clinician–patient encounters also are discussed. The chapter stresses how listening with the “third ear” and seeing with the “mind’s eye’ can enhance empathic understanding in the context of patient care.


Clinical Encounter Patient Encounter Patient Relationship Empathic Concern Personal Space 
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Copyright information

© Springer 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Research in Medical Education and Health CareJefferson Medical CollegePhiladelphia

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