Love, Empathy and Altruism, and Their Clinical Implications
The focus of this chapter is on positive interpersonal relationships, from couple to parenting, to therapeutic alliance and finally to altruism. The final message is that from significant dual relationships (such as marriage and parenting) to larger social interactions, it seems that human beings are capable of bonding together and helping each other. More interestingly, these capacities are deeply embedded in our brain, where specific circuits make us able to feel empathy and sympathy for other human beings. Psychotherapy and healing settings could be considered ideal places to observe and promote these phenomena. The majority of clinical problems are in fact concerned with impairments in social functioning. Psychologists, social workers, and practitioners could help their clients to develop empathy, compassion, and altruism. This would improve their patients’ social functioning and, in turn, this may trigger a process of maturation and growth, connected to resilience and to a better recovery from their disorders. Importantly, these benefits could be extended to therapists and clinicians as well, throughout the process of vicarious resilience and vicarious growth.
KeywordsLove Empathy Altruism Positive couple therapy Vicarious resilience
- Balancho, L. F., & Marujo, H. (2006). Family-focused interventions to promote happiness. Abstract Book, European Conference on Positive Psychology, Braga, Portugal, 3–6 July 2006.Google Scholar
- Batson, C. D., Ahmad, N., & Lishner, D. A. (2002). Empathy and altruism. In C. R. Snyder, & S. J. Lopez (Eds.), Handbook of positive psychology (pp. 485–498). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Bishop, D. S., Epstein, N. B., & Levin, S. (1978). The McMaster model of family functioning. Journal of Marriage and Family Counselling, 4, 19–31.Google Scholar
- Caprara, G. V., Alessandri, G., Eisenberg, N., Kupfer, A., Steca, P., Caprara, M. G., … Abela, J. (2012). The positivity scale. Psychological Assessment, 24(3), 701–712.Google Scholar
- Carr, A. (2002). Positive psychology. The science of happiness and human strengths. New York: Brunner-Routledge.Google Scholar
- Cohen, K., & Collens, P. (2012). The impact of trauma work on trauma workers: A metasynthesis on vicarious trauma and vicarious posttraumatic growth. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy. Retrieved from http://psycnet.apa.org/index.cfm?fa=search.displayRecord&id=3354DC1C-910C-6158-42D8-71F3983DEC03&resultID=1&page=1&dbTab=pa.
- Conoley, C. W., & Conoley, J. C. (2009). Positive psychology and family therapy: Creative techniques and practical tools for guiding change and enhancing growth. Hoboken, NY: Wiley.Google Scholar
- Costa, P. T., & McCrae, R. R. (1985). The NEO personality inventory manual. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.Google Scholar
- de Fátima Perloiro, M., Neto, L. M., & Marujo, H. Á. (2009). We will be laughing again: Restoring relationships with positive couples therapy. In G. W. Burns (Ed.), Happiness, healing, enhancement: Your casebook collection for applying positive psychology in therapy. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.Google Scholar
- Ferguson, E., Farrell, K., & Lawrence, C. (2008). Blood donation is an act of benevolence rather than altruism. Health Psychology, 27(3), 327–336. doi: 10.1037/0278-6220.127.116.117.
- Figley, C. R., & Stamm, B. H. (1996). Psychometric review of compassion fatigue self test. In B. H. Stamm (Ed.), Measurement of stress, trauma and adaptation. Lutherville, MD: Sidran Press.Google Scholar
- Gottman, J. M., & Levenson, R. W. (2002). A two-factor model for predicting when a couple will divorce: Exploratory analyses using 14-year longitudinal data. Family Process, 41, 114–129.Google Scholar
- Gottman, J. M., Levenson, R. W., & Carstensen, L. L. (1993). Long-term marriage: Age, gender, and satisfaction. Psychology and Aging, 2, 301–313.Google Scholar
- Harvey, J., & Wenzel, A. (Eds.) (2001). Close romantic relationships: Maintenance and enhancement. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
- Herman, J. L. (1995). Trauma and recovery. London, UK: Pandora.Google Scholar
- Joseph, S. (2015). Positive therapy: Building bridges between positive psychology and person-centered psychotherapy. London: Taylor & Francis.Google Scholar
- Kelley, H. H., & Braiker, H. B. (1979). Conflict in the development of close relationships. In R. L. Burgess, & T. L. Huston (Eds.), Social exchange in developing relationships (pp. 135–168). New York: Academic.Google Scholar
- Lucas, M., & Wagner, L. (2005). Born selfish? Rationality, altruism, and the initial state. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 28(6), 829–830. doi: 10.1017/S0140525X05360146.
- MacFarlane, P., Anderson, T., & McClintock, A. S. (2015). Empathy from the client’s perspective: A grounded theory analysis. Psychotherapy Research, 7, 1–12.Google Scholar
- Midlarsky, E., & Kahana, E. (1994). Altruism in later life. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
- Nuttman-Shwartz, O. (2014). Shared resilience in a traumatic reality a new concept for trauma workers exposed personally and professionally to collective disaster. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 166(4), 466–475.Google Scholar
- Oakley, B., Knafo, A., Madhavan, G., & Wilson, D. S. (Eds.) (2012). Pathological altruism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Pearlman, L. A., & Saakvitne, K. W. (1995). Trauma and the therapist: Countertransference and vicarious traumatization in psychotherapy with incest survivors. New York, NY: WW Norton.Google Scholar
- Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Rogers, C. R., & Dymond, R. F. (1954). Psychotherapy and personality change. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Rushton, J. P. (1980). Altruism, socialization, and society. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
- Snyder, C. R., & Lopez, S. J. (2007). Positive psychology: The scientific and practical explorations of human strengths. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
- Tone, E. B., & Tully, E. C. (2014). Empathy as a “risky strength”: A multilevel examination of empathy and risk for internalizing disorders. Development and Psychopathology, 26(Special Issue 4 Pt 2), 1547–1565. http://doi.org/10.1017/S0954579414001199.
- Vishnevsky, T., Quinlan, M. M., Kilmer, R. P., Cann, A., & Danhauer, S. C. (2015). “The keepers of stories” personal growth and wisdom among oncology nurses. Journal of Holistic Nursing, in press, doi: 10.1177/0898010115574196.
- Vollhardt, J. R., & Staub, E. (2011). Inclusive altruism born of suffering: The relationship between adversity and prosocial attitudes and behavior toward disadvantaged outgroups. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 81(3), 307–315. doi: 10.1111/j.1939-0025.2011.01099.x.
- Wampold, B. E., & Imel, Z. E. (2015). The great psychotherapy debate: The evidence for what makes psychotherapy work. New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Weng, H. Y., Fox, A. S., Shackman, A. J., Stodola, D. E., Caldwell, J. Z., Olson, M. C., … Davidson, R. J. (2013). Compassion training alters altruism and neural responses to suffering. Psychological Science, 24(7), 1171–1180.Google Scholar
- Widiger, TA., Presnall, J. (2012). Pathological altruism and personality disorder. In Oakley, B., Knafo, A., Madhavan, G., & Wilson, D. S. (Eds.). Pathological altruism (pp. 85–93). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Worthington Jr., E. L., Berry, J. W., Hook, J. N., Davis, D. E., Scherer, M., Griffin, B. J., … Sharp, C. B. (2015). Forgiveness-reconciliation and communication-conflict-resolution interventions versus retested controls in early married couples. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 62(1), 14–17.Google Scholar