Skip to main content

Can empathy be enhanced?: Experiential vs behavioral empathy training reviewed

28 July 1993


This thesis reviews the literature in an attempt to evaluate the effectiveness of empathy training programs. The approaches that have been used to train student clinicians, nursing professionals, and lay persons in empathy skills include modeling, microcounseling, behavior modification, and experiential approaches, combinations of the above, and other miscellaneous techniques. All were found to be effective in the enhancement of empathy. However, the conceptual understanding about empathy held by each study's author influenced the approaches used to train participants in empathy skills. As the studies were reviewed and evaluated, a dichotomy became apparent. Some authors viewed empathy as a set of external behaviors to be learned through skill-building exercises. This perspective thus adhered to a view of empathy as a behavioral dimension. Studies conducted from this perspective were quite different from those by authors who viewed empathy as an internal and experiential state of the helper. The latter perspective considers empathy an experiential dimension. There were few studies available for review that emphasized the experiential perspective. Future research is recommended to explore the possible benefits of including the experiential dimension as a component in both the study and in the training of empathy.


Files are restricted to Pacific University. Sign in to view.