Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

2019 Edition
| Editors: Jay L. Lebow, Anthony L. Chambers, Douglas C. Breunlin

Empathy in Couple and Family Therapy

  • Johanna Strokoff
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-49425-8_177

Name of Concept

Empathy in Couple and Family Therapy


A pioneer regarding the utilization of empathy in psychotherapy, Carl Rogers (1957) defined empathy as “to sense the client’s private world as if it were your own,” without the clinician’s personal judgments muddling the client’s experience (p. 99). Rogers posited that empathy was an essential driving force for behavior change, and indeed, substantial subsequent research has demonstrated the magnitude of empathy on the therapeutic process. Therapists’ use of empathy has been strongly associated with the therapeutic alliance, which is commonly referred to as one of the most significant contributors to treatment outcomes (Nienhuis et al. 2016). Distinguished from sympathy, which is defined as one’s personal reaction of concern and/or compassion towards another, empathy involves mirroring another’s feelings and perspectives (Stueber 2013). While both components are useful agents for therapeutic change, this chapter will...

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Johanna Strokoff
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Kelley Quirk
    • 1
  • Adam R. Fisher
    • 2
  1. 1.Marriage and Family Therapy Program, Human Development and Family StudiesColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA
  2. 2.The Family Institute at Northwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA