Accurate Empathic Understanding

Accurate Empathic Understanding

Carl Rogers

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The ability of the therapist accurately and sensitively to understand experiences and feelings and their meaning to the client during the moment-to-moment encounter of psychotherapy constitutes what can perhaps be described as the “work” of the therapist after he has first provided the contextual base for the relationship by his self-congruence or genuineness and his unconditional positive regard. Accurate empathic understanding means that the therapist is completely at home in the universe of the patient. It is a moment-to-moment sensitivity that is in the “here and now,” the immediate present. it is a sensing of the client’s inner world of private personal meanings “as if” it were the therapist’s own, but without ever losing the “as if” quality. Accurate sensitivity to the client’s “being” is of primary value in the moment-to-moment encounter of therapy; it is of limited use to the individual if the therapist only arrives at this insightful and empathic understanding of the patient’s experience as he drives home at night. Such a delayed empathy or insight may be of value if the therapist has a later chance to respond to the same theme, but its value would lie in formulating his empathic response to the patient’s immediate living of the relationship.

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