Accurate Empathic Understanding

“Accurate empathic understanding means that the therapist is completely at home in the universe of the patient. It is a moment-to-moment sensitivity that is in the “here and now,” the immediate present. it is a sensing of the client’s inner world of private personal meanings “as if” it were the therapist’s own, but without ever losing the “as if” quality. Accurate sensitivity to the client’s “being” is of primary value in the moment-to-moment encounter.



Rogers Three Characteristics/Attributes
Needed for Client-Therapist Relationship 

According to Rogers (1977), three characteristics, or attributes, of the therapist form the core part of the therapeutic relationship – congruence, unconditional positive regard (UPR) and accurate empathic understanding.




Congruence is the most important attribute, according to Rogers. This implies that the therapist is real and/or genuine, open, integrated and authentic during their interactions with the client. The therapist does not have a facade, that is, the therapist’s internal and external experiences are one in the same. In short, the therapist is authentic. This authenticity functions as a model of a human being struggling toward greater realness. However, Rogers concept of congruence does not imply that only a fully self-actualized therapist can be effective in counseling (Corey, 1986). Since therapists are also human, they cannot be expected to be fully authentic. Instead, the person-centered model assumes that, if therapists are congruent in the relationship with the client, then the process of therapy will get under way…Congruence exists on a continuum rather than on an all-or-nothing basis (Corey, 1986).


Unconditional Positive Regard (UPR):

This refers to the therapist’s deep and genuine caring for the client. The therapist may not approve of some of the client’s actions but the therapist does approve of the client. In short, the therapist needs an attitude of “I’ll accept you as you are.”

According to Rogers (1977), research indicates that, the greater the degree of caring, prizing, accepting, and valuing the client in a non possessive way, the greater the chance that therapy will be successful…BUT, it is not possible for therapists to genuinely feel acceptance and unconditional caring at all times (Corey, 1986). 

Accurate Empathic Understanding: 

This refers to the therapist’s ability to understand sensitively and accurately [but not sympathetically] the client’s experience and feelings in the here-and-now. Empathic understanding implies that the therapist will sense the client’s feelings as if they were his or her own without becoming lost in those feelings (Corey, 1986).

In the words of Rogers (1975), accurate empathic understanding is as follows: “If I am truly open to the way life is experienced by another person…if I can take his or her world into mine, then I risk seeing life in his or her way…and of being changed myself, and we all resist change. Since we all resist change, we tend to view the other person’s world only in our terms, not in his or hers. Then we analyze and evaluate it. That’s human nature. We do not understand their world. But, when the therapist does understand how it truly feels to bein another person’s world, without wanting or trying to analyze or judge it, then the therapist and the client can truly blossom and grow in that climate.” 



Reflections of Feelings

“Although I am partially responsible for the use of this term to describe a certain type of therapist response, I have, over the years, become very unhappy with it. A major reason is that “reflection of feelings” has not infrequently been taught as a technique, and sometimes a very wooden technique at that. On the basis of written client expressions, the learner is expected to concoct a “correct” reflection of feeling – or even worse, to select the “correct” response from a multiple-choice list. Such training has very little to do with an effective therapeutic relationship. So I have become more and more allergic to the use of the term….

I have come to a double insight. From my point of view as therapist, I am not trying to “reflect feelings”. I am trying to determine whether my understanding of the client’s inner world is correct – whether I am seeing it as s/he is experiencing it at this moment. Each response of mine contains the unspoken question, ‘Is this the way it is in you? Am I catching just the colour and texture and flavour of the personal meaning you are experiencing right now? If not, I wish to bring my perception in line with yours’.”



Carl Rogers Defines Empathy

Empathy as Gateway and Path:
Lessons from the Compassion Course.
Thom Bond and Edwin Rutsch

Building a Culture of Empathy

Culture of Empathy . com


Selene’s basic Google Doc Pages…


LINK :: How-To Empathy-Circle (text)

For easy language translation.