Hearts and minds: aspects of empathy and wellbeing in social work students
AuthorsGrant, Louise Jane
MetadataShow full item record
AbstractAlthough empathy is critical to social work practice, the extent to which it can be measured, nurtured or taught is hotly debated. Furthermore, definitions of empathy are typically one-dimensional referring to the ability to adopt the perspective of others in order to understand their feelings, thoughts or actions. Such definitions do not adequately reflect the realities of empathy in the social work context or recognise its potential to lead to distress. This study utilises data from 359 social work students to examine relationships between several dimensions of empathy (i.e. perspective taking, concern and distress), reflective ability and wellbeing with a view to using the findings to develop evidence-based interventions to help staff develop appropriate empathic responses to service users' experiences. Whilst students reported fairly high levels of empathic concern, they also disclosed considerable empathic distress. Some evidence was found that reflective ability might protect social work students from empathic distress. Findings suggest that students require support to develop their empathic and reflective skills to effectively manage the emotional demands of practice. The use of techniques such as mindfulness and experiential learning for enhancing such skills is explored. © 2013 © 2013 Taylor & Francis.
CitationGrant L (2014) 'Hearts and minds: aspects of empathy and wellbeing in social work students', Social Work Education, 33 (3), pp.338-352.
PublisherTaylor and Francis
JournalSocial Work Education