The paradox of empathy: When empathy hurts | Counseling Today

We normally think of empathy in counseling as a benevolent act in which the insightful counselor deeply understands the grateful client. Carl Rogers considered this empathic connection the centerpiece of a successful counseling relationship. He offered the following metaphor of the imprisoned client being emotionally liberated by the counselor:….

Such images of empathic connection have become common wisdom in the counseling profession. We strive for this empathic understanding of our clients to establish a warm and trusting relationship. But is it possible that instead of the client welcoming this level of closeness and understanding, he or she might regard the counselor’s ability to “see the whole person” as an intrusion?

Eric W. Cowan, Jack Presbury & Lennis G. Echterling