Empathy has long been regarded as central to the art of medicine and especially to the practice of psychotherapy. The ability of a therapist to appreciate the patient's state of mind and frame of reference is the foundation of a therapeutic alliance and key to the process of healing. However, these subjective aspects of practice are rendered suspect by today's emphasis on objectivity: formal diagnosis, with biological treatments, and standardized methodologies that appear to be aimed more at disease than at the person who suffers from it. Pressured by the practice climate and by the advances of science, practitioners have become treatment specialists and the empathic healer has become an endangered species.
In this book, the author establishes a new foundation for the use and value of clinical empathy that is based on a distinction between treatment and healing and a model for using psychotherapy as a component of an organized system of care: focused, attuned to the patient's presenting motive, and consistent with our understanding of the relationship between mind and brain.
Practicing mental health professionals and students find the rationale for assessment and treatment planning in The Empathic Healer an invaluable aide as they seek to adapt to the marvelous discoveries about how the brain shapes and recovers from mental disorder, and how an empathic environment fosters recovery and healing within and beyond the treatment setting.
- Establishes the historical roots of the concept of clinical empathy and its relationship to healing
- Elaborates the ideological and environmental factors that enhance or interfere with empathy
- Explores the biological importance of empathy as a feature of the normal human brain
- Argues for the integration of mind and brain in a new dualism
- Presents a vision of psychotherapy as an important component of an organized system of care
- Differentiates between the treating and healing functions, and suggests how each relies on empathy
- Suggests how an endangered species may be preserved in the present technological era
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The History of Empathy in Mental Health Care
Empathy and the Listening Healer
Empathy: Facilitators and Barriers
Empathy and Ideology
Empathy and the Brain
Treaters and Healers
Empathy and the Focus of Psychotherapy
Michael J. Bennett, M. D., was born in Brooklyn and raised in the New York area. He attended Princeton University, where he majored in philosophy, and is a graduate of the Harvard Medical School. Following a year of internship in Seattle, at the King County Hospital, he had his residency training at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center in Boston. At the time, that hospital was noted for its psychoanalytic orientation and the strength of its training in psychotherapy. Following two years in the military, as a psychiatrist at the US Army Hospital in Okinawa, Dr. Bennett returned to Boston in 1968, and became one of the original staff members of the newly developed Harvard Community Health Plan (HCHP). He served as the Chief of Mental Health in the (original) Kenmore Center for 11 years, and was responsible for directing the development of that staff model HMO's pioneering mental health program: the first in the country to offer prepaid mental health services as a basic benefit to an enrolled population. His interest in focal psychotherapy began in that context, as he was challenged to determine how to provide all necessary mental health care within a limited budget. After leaving his administrative role, Dr. Bennett continued as a clinician, supervisor and consultant for another 11 years, leaving the Harvard Community Health Plan in 1991 to become the Medical Director for the Massachusetts division of American Biodyne, a managed care carveout program. When he left HCHP, the Michael J. Bennett award was created in his honor, to be given annually to a member of the staff who had made a significant contribution to the mental health program.Dr. Bennett remained with American Biodyne as that organization grew, merged and became publicly traded, eventually being appointed Senior Vice-President in charge of Risk Management and Chair of its Medical Director's Committee. His major responsibility was to audit all deaths that occurred among the membership, and to coordinate th