Title

An initial investigation into the possibility of advanced empathy

Date of Award

2003

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Counseling and Human Services

Advisor(s)

Jim Bellini

Keywords

Advanced empathy, Halopathy, Counseling, Empathy

Subject Categories

Medicine and Health Sciences | Mental and Social Health | Psychiatry and Psychology | Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy

Abstract

Empathy is frequently considered an important component of human service training with some students demonstrating more empathy than others. It is proposed that skilled practitioners have demonstrated advanced empathy and included it as part of their teachings. Some authors have attempted to describe advanced empathy, but the published descriptions lack clarity.

The lack of clarity surrounding the definition of empathy is problematic for research progress and for teaching advanced empathy. It is proposed that the disparity of definitions is linked to variations in authors' empathy development, ranging from novice to expert. At the expert development level, a form of advanced "holistic" empathy is here termed halopathy . Defining the possible characteristics of halopathy is the main focus of this research.

This exploratory conceptual research proposes a new model to define empathy. This model is tied to the idea that halopathy exists and that its effects can be described. The research design is qualitative, focused on describing these possible effects. The informants, seven college students, were selected because they may have experienced advanced empathy (halopathy) during meetings with a skilled practitioner and they were willing to provide a detailed description of the experience.

It is proposed that both the informants' and healer practitioners' descriptions of advanced empathy, halopathy, share common features. These effects may describe a universal relationship--one of promoting well-being, with common effects across cultures, and linked to advanced empathy. Moreover, this description appears to have numerous consistent features across a broad range of rituals and explanatory systems.

The new model of empathy definition, including the proposed description of halopathy, offers student practitioners a roadmap down the continued path of empathy development as an important part of their professional and personal growth.

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