6 Jan 2007

Counselling Homework, Task Eight

Welcome to Task Eight! This is all about Empathy!

Definition of Empathy:
'To perceive the internal frame of reference of another with accuracy and with the emotional components and meanings which pertain thereto as if one were the person, but without ever losing the "as if" condition. Thus, it means to sense the hurt or the pleasure of another as he senses it and to perceive the causes thereof as he perceives them, but without ever losing the recognition that it is as if I were hurt or pleased and so forth' Carl Rogers

Working in groups of four, discuss the following examples of listener responses. Decide which one is the empathic response.
Also try to answer:
What is the feeling being expressed?
What is the underlying feeling?
What is behind each of the non-empathic responses?

My answers are in Red.

1. ‘ I just can’t make a success of this job. Everyone seems to be waiting for me to mess it up’.
The feeling being expressed is frustration. The underlying feeling is insecurity and anger.

a,Don’t talk nonsense. You just don’t understand how things are done here.
Non-empathic response, this is intolerant and dismissive

b,I wouldn’t worry about it. It’ll be OK in the end.
Non-empathic response, this is sympathetic and dismissive, ‘rescue’ response.

c,You feel frustrated because you seem to be mistrusted.
Empathic response is response C.

d,Well, I did warn you to keep your head down.
Non-empathic response, dismissive (I told you so), blaming.

2.‘ Now they’re saying that they can’t cope with having me here any longer and that I’ll have to go into a home’.
The feeling being expressed is desperation. The underlying feeling is fear/worthlessness/unloved.
a,They are only thinking of you. After all, it has been hard lately.
Non-empathic response, logical and from the frame of reference of the counsellor.

b,What can you expect. They have never been prepared to put themselves out.
Non-empathic response, sympathetic response and counsellors own opinion.

c,It’s not as bad as you make out. You’ll have your own room and they’ll be able to visit you.
Non-empathic response, sympathetic, dismissive, ‘rescue’ response.

d,Which one? Some places are better than others.
Non-empathic response, counsellors curiosity, distraction from talking about emotions.

e,You sound really upset, that all you’re good for now is to be packed off.
Empathic response is response E.

3.‘ I’m absolutely raging! How dare she say it’s all my fault’.

The feeling being expressed is anger. The underlying feeling is indignant maybe guilt.

a,I can see that you are furious that she is blaming you for everything.
The empathic response is A.

b,Well – maybe there is something in what she says.
Non-empathic response, unsympathetic and judgmental, the counsellors own opinion.

c,And what did you say to that?
Non-empathic response, curiosity, coming from the counsellor

d,Isn’t that just typical.
Non-empathic response, sympathetic/dismissive.

e,What makes you think that? What did she actually say?
Non-empathic response, curiosity, showing interest, leading.

4. ‘What I am going to do without him? We’ve been together nearly 35 years’.
The feeling being expressed is desperation. The underlying feeling is Fear/loneliness/anxiety.

a,There now don’t upset yourself.
Non-empathic response. Sympathetic response/rescue. Also could distract client from talking about emotions. Dismissive.

b,Have you really been married that long?
Non-empathic response. Curiosity/ wrong frame of reference. Distraction from talking about emotions or other issues.

c,You’re really upset and frightened that after all this time. You are going to be on your own without him.
The empathic response is response C

d,You need to have a good cry, and then you’ll feel better.
Non-empathic response. Wrong frame of reference. Dismissive

e,Come on, you know he wouldn’t want you to be upsetting yourself like this.
Non-empathic response, dismissive.


1,I’ve not been to the doctor-there doesn’t seem to be any point- she’ll only tell me not to worry. That’s what they told my dad, and he was dead inside a year.

‘It sounds like your feeling worried about your health, and you don’t trust your doctor after what happened with your father’.

2,I just don’t know what to do about our Jane. She hardly phones us these days- and it look like she’s lost loads of weight-I hope she’s ok and not in any trouble.

‘ It sounds like your feeling worried about Jane, and frustrated that she isn’t phoning you. Your hoping she is ok and not in any trouble’.

3,I really wanted to go to University – but now I’m here I’m so unhappy- I just don’t seem to fit in anywhere.

‘ It sounds like your feeling frustrated and disappointed now you’re at university, and you cant seem to find your place’.


  1. I don't think I would say anything but grunt or smile or hold a hand until I was sure I was hired. Meaning the person just might want to vent but not looking for a fix. However if I had to say anything

    1. It not unnatural to be worried but it could set your mind at rest to see the doctor and know exactly what is wrong. Would you like us to pray about it.

    2. It's awful how we worry about our kids isn't it? My boys forget to phone even though I have asked them, but I guess I was the same when I was young. Why don't you phone and arrange a date with her to get together just to show her your thinking of her.

    3. It's depressing isn't it when we dream of doing something and then we are not able to do it. What do you think you would like to do now?
    I know what you mean about not fitting in, I have often felt that myself, but I found it takes time.

    In actual fact I probably would be so tempted to say "Stop whining get off the pot and do something constructive" but I wouldn't.

  2. Hey not bad at all! the only problem is you cant talk about how you would feel in a situation! You have to put your self totally in their shoes and reflect back what they are saying. I think thats the plan anyway!
    at lot of the time people do just want to vent! if you have had a bad day, you just want someone to say wow you have had a bad day and leave it at that!
    I wonder what you will think of my answers!

  3. Regarding #4..

    I felt that way when I kicked my ex-husband out after 25 years of a rocky marriage. I had no job, was homebound with my panic and stuff. It was a hard decision to make, but the right one given the circumstances.

  4. Thanks for sharing skittles! everyone interprets the questions differently, i for example just presumed he had died, but anything could of happened. so as a wanabee counsellor i really have to listen!

  5. 1. I don't blame you for feeling that way but you've got to remember that medical science is improving all the time....what was incurable once can now often be cured.
    2.You're bound to be worried; have you tried phoning her? Maybe she's worried about something but doesn't like to worry you...give her a ring and see if you can meet up.
    3. That's the worst of being somewhere new and I bet with all that studying it's hard to get out to meet new people. Are there any interesting clubs or anything you
    could join so you can get to meet people with common interests

  6. Good job Ruth, I knew you would be good at it.

  7. I'll try one.

    1. I’ve not been to the doctor-there doesn’t seem to be any point- she’ll only tell me not to worry. That’s what they told my dad, and he was dead inside a year.

    It's OK to feel afraid. Am I also hearing that you really miss your dad?

  8. Somebody has done this before, eh tomcat!

  9. It's a situation I'm used to facing in the volunteer work I do. :-)

  10. Ah what volunteer work is it? if you dont mind me asking?