Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Empathy vs Emotional Reasoning

Is there a difference between empathy and emotional reasoning? Michael LaFerney, PhD, PMHCNS-BC, believes that healthcare professionals often confuse the two, and this can often hinder or derail patient-provider communication. In the current edition of Advance for Nurses, Dr. LaFerney defines empathy "as the ability to understand another person's circumstances, point of view, thoughts and feelings." He goes on to explain that, "Empathy involves communication. Trying to understand what another person is experiencing without communication leads to interpretation without meaning. It becomes a mechanism of internal thought processes rather than an understanding of another's point of view or feelings." Dr. LaFerney describes emotional reasoning as "mind reading" on the part of the healthcare professional; unconsciously inferring one's own feelings, anxiety, or needs to the patient. Emotional reasoning is a lot faster for harried physicians and nurses than empathetic communication, because it does not require slowing down and taking time to truly listen to the patient. But as Dr. LaFerney points out it often leads to misdiagnosis and disconnection from the patient's needs, fears, or desires. The bottom line is MORE COMMUNICATION LEADS TO QUALITY HEALTHCARE.
What are your thoughts on empathy vs. emotional reasoning?

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