An exploration of focusing-oriented psychotherapy and empathy in the psychotherapeutic relationship

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Power, Orla
Issue Date
Higher Diploma in Arts in Counselling and Psychotherapy
Dublin Business School
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This dissertation explores the connection between focusing-oriented psychotherapy (FOP), the felt sense and empathy in the psychotherapeutic relationship. Sensing and attuning to clients’ present experience, and demonstrating understanding of these experiences to clients were found to be common factors in empathic approaches. In FOP, empathic responding appeared as an experiential process, focused on the client’s bodily felt sense in the moment. Intersubjective approaches to empathy also emphasised inner awareness in the present moment. Findings on the interpersonal physiology of empathy suggest more research is needed to understand the role of the body in the psychotherapeutic relationship, and in psychotherapeutic phenomenon such as projective identification and transference. Finally, the benefits of empathy and FOP in therapeutic outcomes were explored. FOP and empathy may both contribute to therapeutic change by helping clients to process deeply, feel understood, create meanings for their inner awareness, create a safe space, and increase self-confidence about expressing their needs and feelings. Empathy and FOP may interact to help clients develop self-regulation, internal resources and resilience. However, more research is needed to understand the mechanisms by which this might occur.