What does empathy sound like in social work communication? A mixed‐methods study of empathy in child protection social work practice
MetadataShow full item record
AbstractIt is widely accepted that empathy is important for social work practice, yet there are multiple dimensions of empathy and comparatively few studies of empathy as a component of social work skill. To date, published studies have been quantitative, and as a result, we know little about how social workers demonstrate empathy in practice or what skilled empathic practice in child and family social work might sound like. This study contributes to the development of understanding of empathy as a social work skill through a mixed‐methods analysis of 110 audio recordings of meetings in a child protection service between workers and parents, applying a coding framework for analysis. Findings indicate that workers who demonstrate higher levels of empathy skill use more open questions and reflections in their communication with parents. Further, they demonstrate curiosity about and make efforts to understand parents' often difficult experiences, including a focus on emotions. That the majority of workers were found not to demonstrate a high level of empathy skill presents concerns to be considered by the social work profession. A deeper understanding of empathy presents an opportunity for an increased focus in organizations to enable workers to demonstrate empathy towards families they work with.
CitationLynch A, Newlands F, Forrester D. (2018) 'What does empathy sound like in social work communication? A mixed‐methods study of empathy in child protection social work practice', Child and Family Social Work, 24 (1), pp.139-147.
JournalChild and Family Social Work
SponsorsDepartment for Education
The following license files are associated with this item:
- Creative Commons
Except where otherwise noted, this item's license is described as Yellow - can archive pre-print (ie pre-refereeing)