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Mordecai, E.M. (1991). A Classification of Empathic Failures for Psychotherapists and Supervisors. Psychoanal. Psychol., 8(3):251-262.

(1991). Psychoanalytic Psychology, 8(3):251-262

A Classification of Empathic Failures for Psychotherapists and Supervisors

Edna M. Mordecai, Ph.D.

Empathic failure is a normal characteristic of all human relationships. In psychotherapy and the supervision of psychotherapy, empathic failures can have a negative effect; however, with appropriate management, these failures can represent an important opportunity for a therapeutic experience. Due to a variety of factors embedded in the transference/countertransference ambience of therapy, empathic failures are often obscured and neglected by therapists and supervisors. This article proposes a classification for six types of empathic failures according to their sources. It suggests the range of failures within each type, and specifies the obscuring factors, the common errors in response, and the possible interventions for each type of empathic failure.

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