Murdoch University Research Repository

Welcome to the Murdoch University Research Repository

The Murdoch University Research Repository is an open access digital collection of research
created by Murdoch University staff, researchers and postgraduate students.

Learn more

The phases and focus of empathy

Barrett-Lennard, G.T. (2011) The phases and focus of empathy. British Journal of Medical Psychology, 66 (1). pp. 3-14.

PDF - Authors' Version
Download (285kB) | Preview
Link to Published Version:
*Subscription may be required


Interpersonal empathy is a subtle and multisided phenomenon which can, nevertheless, lend itself to systematic portrayal and investigation. This paper further refines the author's account of empathy as involving a sequence of distinct steps or phases. Freshly introduced here is the idea of empathic response not only to self‐experience but also towards relationships conceived as emergent living wholes with their own felt presence and individuality. Given described preconditions for empathy, three main phases in a complete empathic process are distinguished: reception and resonation by the listener; expressive communication of this responsive awareness by the empathizing person; and the phase of received empathy, or awareness of being understood. The phases are not a single closed system, thus do not occur in lock step and are semi‐autonomous in practice. Responding empathically to relationship systems (existing as ‘we’ or ‘us’ to the participants and as a joint ‘you’ to others) may be interwoven with empathic response to individual ‘I’ experience. Although differing in focus, the empathic process follows the same phasic course in both cases. An underlying view is that individual selves are only one of the forms human life takes; other forms include relationships, families and living communities.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Psychology
Publisher: Wiley
Copyright: © 1993 The British Psychological Society
Item Control Page Item Control Page


Downloads per month over past year