Teaching Social Workers Empathy

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“Teaching Social Workers Empathy”
Jamie Raabe
Northern Kentucky University
Holly Riffe- 594

Aim/ Purpose
“Our society is externally oriented; we do not normally or easily see things from another person’s point of view. We are too preoccupied with our own frame of reference.” (Patterson, 1985 pg. 53) Being empathetic should be a cherished characteristic of a person. In the profession of social work, empathy is a skill that can assist the worker understanding client’s situation. Atticus Finch, a character in Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird, tried to explain empathy to his daughter- “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view- until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” (Lee, 1960 pg. 30) Teaching empathy to social workers may be an easy task, but social workers face many obstacles that work against them in their career. Burnout is a major issue facing social workers. Social workers who have burned out, get tired of situation, and heartache of clients they see day in and day out. DESIGN

“Good communication is at the heart of best practice in social work.” (Forrester 2008 pg. 42) Empathy is a form of communication whereas the listener becomes the person experiencing an emotion. To Be Empathetic:

“Empathy involves at least three aspects or stages. Assuming that the client is willing to allow the counselor to enter his or her private world and attempts to communicate perceptions and feelings to the counselor, the counselor must be receptive to the communication. Second, counselors must understand the communication of the client. To do this they must be able to put themselves in the place of the client, to take the role of the client. Third, the counselor must be able to communicate his or her understanding to the client.” (Patterson 1985 pg. 53) 1. “Social workers, therefore, must engage with service users as individuals, in order to understand their problems and needs.” In particular,...
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