What is empathic engagement and why is it important?
Empathy is the ability to perceive the meaning and feelings of another person and to be able to communicate these to that person. Empathy is a core aspect of building relationships and positive client interaction. When care workers engage empathically with clients, clients feel empowered, service uptake is improved and clients are more likely to adhere to recommended interventions and treatment regimens. There are also benefits for the care workers who report less burnout and enhanced work satisfaction.
Studies have shown that empathic engagement does not necessarily take up more time, is not emotionally exhausting like being sympathetic, and does not overburden the care worker, as the client maintains responsibility for their own problems. In addition, this type of communication can actually save time, effort and expense as the relevant client issues are more quickly identified resulting in early and more effective management.
Building up to empathic skills: learning about maternal mental health
Stigma, related to a lack of understanding and negative stereotyping of those with mental illness, is a significant factor in communities and among care workers. We attempt to reduce this stigma through the provision of background information about maternal mental illness and related medical and social problems. We encourage participants to work in small groups, engage with, discuss and apply our training material in a way which is relevant to their unique situations and work environment.
We noted a gap between the perceived ability and actual ability of workshop participants to engage empathically. Most participants struggle to “listen” and accept the client’s perspective without judgment. Instead, they very quickly assume they understand the problem and revert to “telling” and “fixing” based on their own perspective and experience.
Read more on how to develop a meaningful training, how to support trainers and how to evaluate the training process in our Learning Brief