chapter  20
`The ideal person-centred therapist is ®rst of all empathic.' `Being empathic is a complex, demanding, strong yet subtle and gentle way of being'
Pages 4

The above heading is constructed from words used by Rogers (1975: 4±6) in his updating of his views on empathy. They re¯ect the widespread person-centred belief that empathy is an essential attribute of a successful therapist. In Rogers (1957: 101), being empathic is de®ned as `to sense the client's private world as if it were your own, but without ever losing the ``as if'' quality'. That is to say being empathic is to perceive the internal frame of reference of the other with accuracy while at the same time not becoming absorbed in it or overwhelmed by it. Sanders (2006b: 66) makes a useful distinction between perceiving the world of another person and experiencing it. He writes `I cannot feel someone else's hurt, fears and joys. I can, though, see their thoughts and feelings accurately and understand them.' It is this sensing and the communication of it to the client that constitutes the empathic process in therapy. To passively sense and understand is not enough, however accurate the understanding. In his later paper, Rogers (1975: 4) offers a richer de®nition:

The way of being with another person which is termed empathic has several facets. It means entering the private perceptual world of the other and becoming thoroughly at home in it. It involves being sensitive, moment to moment, to the changing felt meanings which ¯ow in this other person, to the fear, rage or tenderness or confusion or whatever he/she is experiencing. It means temporarily living his/her life, moving about in it without making judgements, sensing meanings of which she is scarcely aware, but not trying to uncover feelings of which the person is totally unaware, since this would be too

out how complex and demanding the task of being empathic is, referring to it (p. 4) as a `strong yet subtle and gentle way of being'. It is these things but, because it involves real contact with the experience of another, it can also be richly rewarding.