The Development and Initial Validation of the Empathy Scale for Social Workers


Social Work & Human Services

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Empathy is a core principle essential to social work. Despite this emphasis, minimal empirical research of empathy has been undertaken by social work researchers. The purpose of this study was to develop and initially validate the Empathy Scale for Social Workers (ESSW). The ESSW is a 41-item self-report inventory designed to assess empathy in social work practitioners. The sample (N = 271) consisted of social workers who had attained the Master of Social Work (MSW) degree. Findings revealed promising psychometric properties for the ESSW, and exploratory factor analysis (EFA) demonstrated content, construct, and factorial validity. Results were encouraging and they lay the ground work for the continued development of the ESSW. This scale addresses a gap in social work knowledge regarding the empirical evaluation of empathy. Results have implications for social work as the scale may be used to assess student training needs and/or as a screening tool for social work supervisors and practitioners.