Supporting Health and Wellness Professionals!

In this issue we explore empathy and its connection to health.

The Role of Empathy in Healthcare

Empathy is a powerful communication skill that is often misunderstood and underused. Effective empathetic communiallheart_1930_65519113cation enhances the therapeutic effectiveness of the provider-client relationship. Appropriate use of empathy as a communication tool facilitates the health related interview, increases the efficiency of gathering information, and honors the patient / client. It is one of the vital facillitative conditions of coaching talked about by Dr. Arloski.

What is Empathy ?

The origin of the w2peopleord empathy dates back to the 1880s, when German psychologist Theodore Lipps coined the term "einfuhlung " (literally, "in-feeling") to describe the emotional appreciation of another's feelings. Empathy has further been des cribed as the process of understanding a person's subjective experience by vicariously sharing that experienc e while maintaining an observant stance.9 Empathy is a balanced curiosity leading to a deeper understanding of another human being; stated another way, empathy is the capacity to understand another person's experience from within that person's frame of reference.10

Even more sim ply stated, empathy is the ability to "put oneself in another's shoes." In an essay entitled "Somyellingcartoone Thoughts on Empathy," Columbia University psychiatrist Alberta Szalita stated, "I view empathy as one of the important mechanisms through which we bridge the gap between experience and thought." A few sentences earlier in her essay, she had emphasized that ... "[empathy is] consideration of another person's feelings and readiness to respond to his [or her] needs ... without making his [or her] burden one's own."11:p151

Empathy is concerned with a much higher order of human relationship and understanding: engaged detachment. In empathy, we "borrow" another's feelings to observe, feel, and understand them--but not to take them onto ourselves. By being a participant-observer, we come to understand how the other person feels. An empathetic observer enters into the equation and then is removed.

Practical Empathetic Communication

Making practical use of an otherwise esoteric concept such as empathy requires division of the concept into its simplest elements. As outlined by Frederic Platt,19 key steps to effective empathy include:

  1. recognizing presence of strong feeling in the clinical setting (ie, fear, anger, grief, disappointment); hospitalcartoon
  2. pausing to imagine how the client might be feeling;
  3. stating our perception of theclient's feeling (ie, "I can imagine that must be ..." or "It sounds like you're upset about ...");
  4. legitimizing that feeling;
  5. respecting the client's effort to cope with the predicament; and
  6. offering support and partnership (ie, "I'm committed to work with you to ..." or "Let's see what we can do together to ..."). Read more

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    Go Big or Go… Unnoticed! The Personal Brand Blueprint for Wellness Coaches

    122Now that you’ve found your calling as a wellness coach, you must now figure out how to turn that passion into profit; the first step is BRANDING! Before your business can be successful, you must first develop a brand that grabs the attention of your target clients and keeps them coming through the doors. Your brand represents your core values; the thing that sets you apart from your competition!

    The dictionary definition of branding is a collection of experiences and associations connected with a service, person or other entity. On paper that probably doesn’t mean a whole lot to you, but in the same way big corporations invest in their brand, Wellness Coaches can benefit from the same strategic investments. Creating a business brand is important for several reasons:

    • It lets your clients know who you are and what service you provide,
    • It sets the tone for your business environment, and
    • Your brand (if done correctly) will ultimately attract more clients – and isn’t that really the goal?!

    There are three overall keys to Branding – Identify, Develop and Stay Committed.

    Identifying your brand starts with you and knowing your personal values. The first part of brand identity has already been done – you’ve found something your passionate about and want to pursue it full-time. Next decide what message you want to convey to your target market. A mission or values statement will help you convey that message. I know this sounds very “corporate-y” but don’t be alarmed! A short paragraph describing the goals and objectives of your business is all you need. In this statement be sure to include: exactly what you do, what benefits you provide for your clients, what sets you apart from your competition, and what you envision for the future of your company. Keep this statement in plain sight for you, your employers and your clients. It will keep you on track and everyday you’ll be reminded of your accomplishments. Just as your values are an extension of you, so is your brand.

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