Saturday, July 16, 2016

KSA of the Day: The Concept of Empathy

Empathy is either the bread or butter of social work. But which? That's not a question you're likely to see on the ASWB exam. But "the concept of empathy" is on the knowledge skills and abilities list. Do you have the concept down? Can you define it? How is empathy different than sympathy?

Here's a simple conclusion from a blog-post long answer on the subject at
Sympathy is feeling compassion, sorrow, or pity for the hardships that another person encounters, while empathy is putting yourself in the shoes of another.
You might see this on the exam as a "which statement exemplifies the use of empathy"-type question. Watch out for distractors that involve sympathy, mirroring, congruence, or some other clinician behavior that isn't empathy.

Whether or not an empathy question comes up in the exam, it'll come up every day and every way in social work practice. Check with yourself: Are you expressing sympathy with clients at the expense of empathy. Sympathy has its place, of course. But expressing authentic empathy is the bread and the butter of good social work practice.

For more on the topic, try:
Happy reading, happy studying. Not enjoying it? We feel your pain.

Good luck on the exam!

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