Empathy – A Critical Ingredient in Youth Mentoring Relationships?

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Working on a poster my colleagues and I presented at the Society for Research on Adolescence gave me a great excuse to look at the recent psychotherapy literature on empathy. As a clinical social worker, the psychotherapy literature is like a dear old friend to me. I enjoy catching up on the latest news and I always benefit from the wisdom and great insights I find there.


My most recent foray into that literature did not disappoint, as I found an interesting article by Theresa Moyers and William Miller (2013) provocatively titled, Is Low Therapist Empathy Toxic? In it Moyers and Miller make the case for the need to consider empathic listening skills in the training and hiring of counselors.


They cite research in which differences between therapists in their empathy skills were more predictive of client outcome than the particular approach being taken to the treatment process. This indicates that basic relational skills, such as empathy, transcend treatment type and may actually serve as a necessary foundation upon which different treatment approaches can then be built.


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