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Clinicians' Empathy and Professional Quality of Life

Laverdière, Olivier, PhD*; Ogrodniczuk, John S., PhD; Kealy, David, PhD

The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease: February 2019 - Volume 207 - Issue 2 - p 49–52
doi: 10.1097/NMD.0000000000000927
Brief Report

Psychotherapists can experience emotional drain as a result of their work with distressed and traumatized patients. It has been suggested that psychotherapists' empathy, which is central to clinical work, may be an important risk factor in the development of burnout or secondary traumatic stress. This apparent contradiction is thought provoking, especially given the complexity of empathic response. The current study aimed to explore the relationship of empathy to compassion satisfaction, burnout, and secondary traumatic stress, while also considering the influence of important work conditions. To do so, 240 psychotherapists described their current practice and reported their levels of empathy and their professional quality of life. Results revealed various relationships between dimensions of empathy and professional quality of life, and the moderating role of empathy regarding the impact of work conditions on professional quality of life. Results highlight the importance of a multidimensional assessment of empathy and the importance of different training and supervision strategies that could help psychotherapists to be more resilient in their work.

*Département de Psychologie, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Québec; and

Department of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Send reprint requests to Olivier Laverdière, PhD, Département de Psychologie, Université de Sherbrooke, 2500 Boulevard de l'Université, Sherbrooke, Québec, Canada J1K 2R1. E-mail: Olivier.Laverdiere@usherbrooke.ca.

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