Narrative empathy

Haim Omer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Therapeutic empathy is described as an active narrative process, in which the therapist attempts to construe and express the inner emotional logic of the client's problem patterns. The empathic narrative is contrasted to the external narrative, which describes the client from the outside and the client's behavior as making sense from the point of view of the theory rather than from that of the client's. The criterion of an empathic narrative is that it elicits from the client the response 'That's me!' The external narrative, in distinction, fails to elicit this self-recognition. The persistent rejection of the therapist's formulations by the client and the ensuing state of therapeutic impasse is interpreted as being often due to the therapist's assumption that the client should accept an external narrative as if it were an empathic one. When such a situation develops, the therapist may overcome the impasse by acknowledging the externality of the previous therapeutic narrative and proposing a potentially empathic one in its stead.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-27
Number of pages9
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1997


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