Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 18, Issue 8, pp 670–674 | Cite as

What is clinical empathy?

Perspectives

Abstract

Patients seek empathy from their physicians. Medical educators increasingly recognize this need. Yet in seeking to make empathy a reliable professional skill, doctors change the meaning of the term. Outside the field of medicine, empathy is a mode of understanding that specifically involves emotional resonance. In contrast, leading physician educators define empathy as a form of detached cognition. In contrast, this article argues that physicians’ emotional attunement greatly serves the cognitive goal of understanding patients’ emotions. This has important implications for teaching empathy.

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Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Health and Medical SciencesUniversity of California-BerkeleyBerkeley

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