The Structure of Empathy in Social Work Practice


Social Work and Human Services

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This article presents a detailed theoretical framework demonstrating how empathy is used in the practice of social work. This consists of affective, cognitive, and behavioral dimensions of empathy and delineates six latent constructs that make up these dimensions. These constructs are (1) caring, (2) congruence, (3) interpersonal sensitivity, (4) perspective taking, (5) altruism, and (6) the therapeutic relationship. Evolutionary, sociological, and neuroscience theories are used to describe empathy's origins as a historically adaptive and interactional process, and social work theories emphasize empathy as an interpersonal helping strategy and organizing principle essential to the practice of social work.

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