Robert Elliott is Professor of Counselling in the Counselling Unit at the University of Strathclyde,
where he directs its research clinic and teaches counselling research and
emotion-focused therapy. A professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Toledo
(Ohio), he is co-author of several books.
co-edited Psychotherapy Research, and Person-Centered Counseling and
Psychotherapies, and is a Fellow in the Divisions of Humanistic
Psychology, Psychotherapy, and Clinical Psychology of the American
Psychological Association. He also teaches workshops about empathy around
"Psychotherapist empathy has had a long and sometimes
stormy history in psychotherapy. Proposed and codified by Rogers and his
followers in the 1940's and 1950's, it was put forward as the foundation
of helping skills training popularized in the 1960's and early 1970's."
"A new study, published in Psychotherapy,
explores the role of therapist empathy in predicting psychotherapy outcomes.
The results of this meta-analysis, conducted by Robert Elliot and a team of
researchers, suggests that therapist empathy leads to moderately better
results in psychotherapy."
Elliott, R., Bohart, A. C., Watson, J. C., & Murphy, D. (2018). Therapist
empathy and client outcome: An updated meta-analysis. Psychotherapy, 55(4),
"Put simply, empathy refers to understanding what another person is
experiencing or trying to express. Therapist empathy has a long history as a
hypothesized key change process in psychotherapy.
We begin by discussing definitional issues and presenting an integrative
We then review measures of therapist empathy, including the conceptual
problem of separating empathy from other relationship variables.
We follow this with clinical examples illustrating different forms of
therapist empathy and empathic response modes.
The core of our review is a meta-analysis of research on the relation between
therapist empathy and client outcome. Results indicated that empathy is a
moderately strong predictor of therapy outcome.."
by Robert Elliott,
Arthur C. Bohart,
Jeanne C Watson,
Leslie S Greenberg Abstract After defining empathy, discussing its measurement, and offering an example of
empathy in practice, we present the results of an updated meta-analysis of the
relation between empathy and psychotherapy outcome.
Results indicated that
empathy is a moderately strong predictor of therapy outcome: mean weighted r =
.31 (p < .001; 95% confidence interval: .28-.34), for 59 independent samples
and 3599 clients. Although the empathy-outcome relation held equally for
different theoretical orientations, there was considerable nonrandom
variability. Client and observer perceptions of therapist empathy predicted
outcomes better than therapist perceptions of empathic accuracy measures, and
the relation was strongest for less experienced therapists. We conclude with
practice recommendations, including endorsing the different forms that empathy
may take in therapy.
Why emotions are important
Professor Robert Elliot of the University of Strathclyde
discusses why emotions are important and how we can get stuck in our emotions.