Empathy in Psychoanalysis and Medical Education - what can we learn from each other?
BMC Medical Education, May 2017
Henriette Löffler-Stastka, Felicitas Datz, Karoline Parth, Ingrid Preusche, Xenia Bukowski, Charles Seidman
Several research areas, including medical education (ME), focus on empathy as an important topic in interpersonal relationships. This focus is central to the use of communication skills related to empathy and even more crucial to provide information in a way that makes patients feel more involved in the treatment process. Psychoanalysis (PA) provides its initial concept of empathy based on affective aspects including findings from neuroscience and brain research. Enhancing cooperation between ME and PA can help to integrate both aspects of empathy into a longitudinal training program. The condition of psychoanalytic empathy definitions is the understanding of unconscious processes. It is important to primarily attend especially the dominant affects towards the patient before interpreting his or her behaviour, since in explaining the emerging affects, the analyst has to empathize with the patient to understand the (unconscious) reasons for its behaviour. A strong consideration of nonverbal communication, clinical perceptions, intuitive interaction, contagion-like processes and their implementation and empowerment in medical and therapeutic curricula is one way of beneficially using interdisciplinary approaches to yield empathy in clinical interaction. Established methods of PA, like training of containment, reflective functioning, affective holding and giving meaningful interpretations in accordance with countertransferential and transferential aspects may help to put a focus on the clinican-patient-interaction and the preservation of the physicians' (mental) health. In consequence of the discussion of various training methods that take the theoretical and practical concepts of empathy into account, we aim for an implementation of the named methods in the medical curricula.
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