By: Hannah Heitz
Different contexts focus on different aspects of empathy training. For medical professionals, training interventions aim to improve patient experience. More specifically, the training programs increase cognitive empathy and improve empathic behavior, or improve “bedside manner.” These programs are education-based and are starting to become commonplace in medical schools. Recently, the Cleveland Clinic launched a campaign promoting the importance of empathy in the quality of patient care.
Awareness of bullying is growing nationally, and researchers, teachers, and parents alike are seeking interventions to decrease the prevalence of bullying. There are well known correlations between empathy and bullying, but this does not mean that empathy, or lack thereof, causes bullying. A 2012 exploratory intervention study implemented empathy education modules in preschool and primary school children, which showed some success, but results were not definitive. While there is potential to use empathy training as a tool to decrease bullying, it is difficult to show causality between empathy and bullying.
1: Lam, T. C. M., Kolomitro, K., & Alamparambil, F. C. (2011). Empathy training: Methods, evaluation practices, and validity. Journal of MultiDisciplinary Evaluation, 7(16), 162-200.
2: Long, E. C., Angera, J. J., Carter, S. J., Nakamoto, M., & Kalso, M. (1999). Understanding the one you love: A longitudinal assessment of an empathy training program for couples in romantic relationships. Family Relations, 235-242.
3: Gini, G., Albiero, P., Benelli, B., & Altoè, G. (2007). Does empathy predict adolescents' bullying and defending behavior?. Aggressive behavior, 33(5), 467-476.
4: Şahin, M. (2012). An investigation into the efficiency of empathy training program on preventing bullying in primary schools. Children and Youth Services Review, 34(7), 1325-1330.
5:Klimecki, O. M., Leiberg, S., Ricard, M., & Singer, T. (2013). Differential pattern of functional brain plasticity after compassion and empathy training.Social cognitive and affective neuroscience, nst060.
6: Gleichgerrcht, E., & Decety, J. (2013). Empathy in clinical practice: how individual dispositions, gender, and experience moderate empathic concern, burnout, and emotional distress in physicians. PLoS One, 8(4), e61526.