Empathy: What it Means in psychotherapy

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about empathy. We recognize it when we feel it but we don’t always understand what it means. I think that Meryl Streep really got to the gist of it at the Golden Globes when she said “An actor’s only job is to enter the lives of people who are different from us and let you feel what that feels like”. 

Like actors, psychotherapists imagine another’s mind and consider what it feels like to take up residence there. Unlike actors, however, we don’t actually try to live there. This is empathy in psychotherapy. It gives me the ability to serve as your translator. As Nelson Mandela once said “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

In therapy I intend to learn your languages; the ones you speak in, feel in, think in, and act in. I hope this will help you feel less alone and give you the courage to find empathy for yourself and with this insight and understanding the ability to pursue change.

Psychotherapy: Some Definitions

In my work as a psychotherapist I use elements of psychodynamic psychotherapy, developmental psychology, and cognitive behavioral therapy to meet you where your needs will be best met. 

Psychodynamic Psychotherapy develops insight by looking at underlying and often disguised or hidden feelings and patterns thereby improving mood, relationships, and sense of well-being. Developmental psychology refers to understanding where a child may be struggling in his/her growing independence within the arenas of family, peers and school and seeks to improve functioning in these areas. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) aims to challenge how you think about and respond to both internal and external stimuli thereby helping to change the way you feel.

In psychotherapy, I will talk with you in the way in which I think you will feel most understood and reach with you for the aspect of your experience that is most relevant in the moment.