Empathy Vs Sympathy. A Good Counselor is Empathetic

I blog about my experiences and thoughts on emotional intelligence from time to time and want to point out an important element of EI has to do with empathy.

~ Empathy ~ The capacity to recognize, understand and to some extent, share feelings (such as sadness or happiness or frustration) that are being experienced by another person.

I’m sure you’ve noticed that when interacting, people often “wait to speak” rather than “hear attentively.” To be empathetic you need to really listen. Huh? What?  It seems this kind of sensitive, active listening is exceedingly rare in our lives. We think we listen, but very rarely do we listen with real understanding, which is true empathy. 

This special kind of listening is one of the most potent forces for change that I know.

To empathize with others, we understand their feelings without taking them on as our own. We are not meant to suffer when others do; each person’s pain can aid in their growth. We are meant to be there for others in a loving and supportive way by listening with our heart.

Listen With Your Heart

There is a huge difference between empathy and sympathy. Empathy involves listening, while sympathy involves reacting. I’ve witnessed a few vocational rehab counselors (only a handful) react to others pain, suffering, anger or grief in such a way that the client was not able to express him or herself and reach their own conclusions. Out of sympathy, the counselor offered advice and solutions rather than allow others to come to their own realizations. Rehabilitation counselors do not offer advice!

Here’s just an example of being sympathetic over being empathetic:

Placement Client: “I can’t find a job.”

Vocational Rehab Counselor: “You will, all you have to do is keep trying. Here, let’s send your resume to employer XYZ. Contact them in the next 3 days and ask for an interview. Call me when it’s scheduled.”

VS

Placement Client:  “I can’t find a job.”

Vocational Rehab Counselor: “Would you like to tell me what you’ve done in your job search? Let’s start from the beginning, or where you felt your job search was not progressing. Is there something you’d like to do differently? What would you like to see happen in the next week or two? I’m here to help and can guide you through the process.”

To be a good rehab counselor, you need to have true empathy

I believe rehabilitation counselors should have true empathy.  Critical thinking skills and emotional intelligence are truly important as well! The more I learn and practice new skills and applications in these areas, the better counselor I become to help you help your client. Contact me at 515-282-7753 or vocresources@gmail.com when you’re ready! Thanks for reading and let me know if I can help on any case involving work and disability.

____________________

My professional rehabilitation counseling practice is focused on helping people participate in the world around them, particularly in their own world of work.