Alessandra Colfi, Ph.D.(c)

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Chapter 2

review of Literature on Empathy


"If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?"                                         ~ Albert Einstein
Title Content Introduction Why a web-based Dissertation Review of  Literature on Empathy Story Telling Cancer Patients Developmentally Disabled     Bibliography


June 26, 2009

Chapter 2

review of Literature on Empathy


  • Review and evaluation of the relevant literature.
    • Presentation of history of literature on your issue
    • Review of literature on both sides of a controversy
    • Evaluation of the sufficiency of studies and other literature
    • Identification of methodological or other problems in the existing literature


 'The best medicine I can offer to a troubled person is a sense of purpose, the feeling that what he is going through may contribute to the vitality of the community. the process is reciprocal.' (Shaun McNiff, p.25, 1992).

A client I've been working with has been severely abused as a child; she is 24 years old now and has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and has had a history of anorexia. To protect her privacy here I call her Mary. Mary enjoys art making with various media like drawing painting, working with clay, collage and crafting beaded  bracelets; these are the kinds of activity she can stay engaged with for the longest time among all activities she's been exposed to. She showed pride when I took pictures of her and her artwork. When she heard her paintings would be hang on the office walls, she started selecting some of her paintings for the 'art show'; in all subsequent sessions, she always remarked on painting for 'my art show'. Showing and sharing her art is a motivating factor.

 'By working with the soul in cases of extreme pathology, therapists get to know the range and depth of its expressions and afflictions. But pathology is part of the terrain in every life, so why not embrace it as essential to the ecosystem of the soul? rather than undertaking the impossible task of eliminating my pathologies, I get to know them better and minimize their unconscious and harmful expression.' (Shaun McNiff, p.25, 1992)

'To push the value of empathy even further: ‘Vigorous, disciplined, and imaginative sympathy with the life situations of people, cultures, and inner characters outside my immediate frame of reference is a radical political prospective. It counters the often brutal ax-grinding the “well intentioned” reformers inflict on others with their righteous ideology and singularity. Sympathy supports not vacillation but direct and imaginative action based on the specific nature of a situation. Art compassionately immerses itself in events while maintaining its flexibility of movement'. (Shaun McNiff, 1992).



Carl Rogers: Focuses on the facets of empathy. Temporary condition of living in another person's life; Self-awareness without trying to uncover totally unconscious feelings; Disregard of personal views and values in order to enter another's world without prejudice.


Empathy and psychoanalytic technique. (eng; includes abstract) By Levy ST, Journal Of The American Psychoanalytic Association [J Am Psychoanal Assoc], ISSN: 0003-0651, 1985; Vol. 33 (2), pp. 353-78; PMID: 4020028


The Empathy Quotient: An Investigation of Adults with Asperger Syndrome or High Functioning Autism, and Normal Sex Differences. By: Baron-Cohen, Simon; Wheelwright, Sally. Journal of Autism & Developmental Disorders, Apr2004, Vol. 34 Issue 2, p163-175, 13p; (AN 12729112)


‘I have always been a 'natural' client-centered therapist having felt understood and listened to by my father (particularly in my teenage and adult years). He was a role model of empathy and positive regard.’ Natalie Rogers – see:


Liberty Mutual Commercial on Empathy :






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