What is known on the subject?
- Empathy is one of the main attributes for establishing the nurse–patient therapeutic relationship. Davis (1983) identified four components on an empathic response: perspective taking, fantasy, empathetic concern and personal distress.
- It is essential to deepen our knowledge on the influence of the dimensions of empathy for the construction and development of the therapeutic alliance during the different phases of the therapeutic relationship.
What the paper adds to existing knowledge?
- A significant association exists between the dimensions of empathy and the construction and development of the therapeutic alliance during the different phases of the therapeutic relationship between nurses and patients in mental health units.
- This study shows that the nurses’ perspective on the patient’s situation improves the bond, and therefore, this skill is especially useful in the first phase or orientation phase of the therapeutic relationship. However, for the second phase or working phase of the therapeutic relationship, a greater empathic concern among nurses, together with less personal distress, improves collaborative goal setting with patients.
What are the implications for practice?
- It is important for mental health nurses to be aware of the importance of personal self-awareness and the emotional management of empathy for the construction and development of therapeutic relationships of quality with patients.
- Knowledge of the relationship between each of the dimensions of empathy in the different stages of the therapeutic relationship is useful for the design of educational programmes, by including training on empathic strategies.
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MiRTCIME.CAT working group. The association between empathy and the nurse–patient therapeutic relationship in mental health units: a cross-sectional study. J Psychiatr Ment Health Nurs. 2021; 28: 335– 343. https://doi.org/10.1111/jpm.12675, ;