Mindfulness and empathy among counseling and psychotherapy professionals : A systematic review and meta-analysis

Journal article


Cooper, David, Yap, Keong, O’Brien, Maureen and Scott, India. (2021). Mindfulness and empathy among counseling and psychotherapy professionals : A systematic review and meta-analysis. Mindfulness. 11(10), pp. 2243-2257. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-020-01425-3
AuthorsCooper, David, Yap, Keong, O’Brien, Maureen and Scott, India
Abstract

Objectives
Past research shows that mindfulness-based training improves empathy in healthcare professionals and the general population. However, the empirical evidence for applying this assumption to counselors and psychotherapists is not well established. This review sought to examine the relationship between mindfulness and empathy, and the effects of mindfulness-based training on empathy among counselors and psychotherapists.

Methods
Published studies and dissertations indexed by PsycINFO, Scopus, Web of Science Core Collection, and Medline were systematically reviewed. We performed random-effects meta-analyses of both cross-sectional evidence and pre-post results of mindfulness-based training.

Results
A total of 22 studies met criteria. Greater self-reported levels of mindfulness were associated with less empathic personal distress, r = − .39, 95% CI [−.57, −.18], and greater perspective taking, r = .27, 95% CI [.09, .44]. An analysis of pre-post data indicated that mindfulness-based training did not have a significant effect on empathy.

Conclusions
There is a positive association between mindfulness and some aspects of empathy. However, mindfulness-based training did not significantly alter levels of empathy. Other methods of increasing empathy in counselors and psychotherapists should be explored. Furthermore, caution should be exercised when generalizing results from studies involving other healthcare professionals and the general population to counselors and psychotherapists.

Keywordsmindfulness; empathy; training; systematic review; meta-analysis
Year2021
JournalMindfulness
Journal citation11 (10), pp. 2243-2257
PublisherSpringer
ISSN1868-8527
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-020-01425-3
Scopus EID2-s2.0-85086165151
Research or scholarlyResearch
Page range2243-2257
Publisher's version
License
All rights reserved
File Access Level
Controlled
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online08 Jun 2020
Publication process dates
Deposited03 Sep 2021
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