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
A number of new studies have found that stress, depression or anxiety during and after pregnancy can have long lasting effects on the development of your child.
We have translated some of those findings into an Issue Brief and added some of our recommendations for evidence based interventions for parents.
This Issue Brief outlines not only the risk factors for parents, but also encourages the building of resilience to prevent or lessen the negative impacts for children.
“Caring for mothers and fathers – is caring for the future”
“Cindy* neglected her four children to such an extent that social workers removed the youngest two, both toddlers.
But after Nadia Drotsche, a social worker dealing with Cindy, attended a course on empathic training, she realised that Cindy might be depressed rather than an uncaring and lazy parent.”
Abused in labour, depressed after giving birth – pregnancy can be a nightmare for women. But an inexpensive intervention by the Perinatal Mental Health Project (PMHP) is trying to change this by teaching caregivers to listen, empathise, and identify depression.
Read more in this article by Kerry Cullinan in the Daily Maverick
Our partner – organisation, PRIME, was recently featured on NDTV’s programme Every Life Counts in a news clip zooming in on perinatal depression in India. A full feature will be aired in September.
Perinatal depression continues to be a stigmatised and poorly addressed problem in many low- and middle-income countries. In India it’s no different and the burden of this disease increases every year. Watch the clip below and keep an eye out for the full feature in September.