Posts tagged empathy

Issue 10: The ‘Heart’ of Listening

…..Hmmmm a challenging issue to write this one.

The first challenge: how to define the function of ‘heart’ in the listening process.

The second challenge: keeping this exploration relevant to our work as Dietitians or any other health professional immersed in the objective medical model.

Defining ‘Heart’ in the Process of Active Listening

What do we mean when we refer to ‘heart’ in the listening process? This is open to many interpretations – all with merit.
In this sense we may consider that listening with heart could be defined as Empathic Listening – sensing into the emotional content of our client’s communication.

I’d like to also suggest that an extension to the definition of ‘heart’ in the listening process could include ‘body’. In this way we might use the word ‘heart’ as a proxy for the data within our Body’s Felt Sensing that we experience when we attend to our clients.

For some, the concept of Right Brain comes closer to defining ‘heart’ in tuning into our clients. In this sense Right Brain may be appreciated as offering the more fluid, creative, intuitive aspects of our connecting with our clients and the meaning making process. In Issue 9 I touched on this a little when considering our clients’ verbal messages and pondered the idea of ‘whole-brained’ attention. If this fascinating aspect of communication interests you…and to read more about what it may sound like in your sessions with clients …read on.

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#active listening #empathy

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Issue 5: Being Warm and Real with our Clients

In this Issue of Practice Pavestones I am going to be discussing the core client centered attribute: genuineness and warmth. A subtle and sophisticated attribute, I’d like to start by considering this dilemma, I am sure familiar to many of you:

Your client comes in to session – all smiles and energetic. You are welcoming and reflect her positive state in your body and voice. You begin to explore together the reason for her coming to see you and she shares her enthusiasm for getting your help to ‘lose weight’.

You start by inviting some story telling. You might say… ‘Have you tried to lose weight before? Can you tell me a little about those experiences?’

What follows is a long tale of repeated failures, weight cycling, suffering and self blame……and yet the client seems completely unmoved – ready to go again, smiling ….

Something in you says ‘This doesn’t match!’ You are reflecting her positivity but hearing her desperation. You might be aware of a weird kind of strain or a sense of confusion in you. You know in yourself the client is incongruent. What she is saying and what she is feeling don’t line up.

At this point, as the Dietitian, we have a choice:

We can ignore what we feel and continue to fall into the client’s slip stream of blind faith. Result: two people pretending in the room!


We can recognise the opportunity to be genuine. We can lean into our sense that something isn’t right and be transparent with our client about what we are sensing.

I hope you enjoy pondering the benefits of being warm and real with our clients in this issue of Practice Pavestones…

Read Issue 5

#authentic #congruence #core attribute #empathy #warmth

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Issue 4: The Power of Empathy in Effective Dietetic Counselling

To underscore the importance of the therapeutic relationship in quality Dietetic work I would like to share with you a message I received from Joanne Ikeda:

‘I very much appreciate Issue 3 of your newsletter. For over 20 years, I taught nutrition education and counseling to dietetics majors at the University of California, Berkeley. The very first thing I taught my students was the importance of establishing an effective helping relationship with clients. I am glad to see this reinforced in your newsletter.’
Joanne Ikeda, MA, RD, Nutritionist Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley

In this Issue of Practice Pavestones I am going to be focusing in on one of the core attributes underpinning the formation of this effective helping relationship – Empathy. How does empathy play a role in practicing effective Dietetic counselling? Let’s to start this exploration by considering a recent real life scenario:

Dietitian: ‘Mary, I’m wondering as we near the end of your session today how it was for you to share with me the story of your ups and downs with eating so far?’

Mary: ‘It was good -…’

Dietitian: ..(gently) ……’Good?’

Mary: ‘Yeah you really understood where I was coming from. I think you can help me’

What Mary is really saying here is that the experience of being understood left her feeling that she could be helped.

This is the power of empathy in a nutshell. It enables a connection which sits in direct contrast to the sense of isolation that comes with a difficult problem. It is this isolation that often drives despair, shame and entrenchment of behaviours. With empathy, it is in our power to give our clients a new experience of relating to their problems. Can you hear the subtle motivational edge in Mary’s observation above? If this idea interests you, you are welcome to download the full issue….

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#empathy #reflecting #responding

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Issue 3: The Counselling Modality Layrinth; Where To Begin?

There are so many counselling modalities offered to Allied Health Practitioners to assist in helping their clients: ACT, CBT-E, MI…to name a few. Recently I was asked by a colleague which counselling modality was the ‘best one to start with’ for Dietitians. My short answer to this question is Motivational Interviewing (MI)- a great starting place for health professionals working in behaviour change. For a more comprehensive response there are some really important issues to consider beyond choosing a ‘best fit’ modality. Knowing where to start can be confusing and a tad overwhelming!

With the risk of actually adding to the confusion I am going to be quite challenging and say – take great care with how you begin with any of the modalities above! Let me share more…….

Read Issue 3

#client centered #congruence #core attributes #empathy #unconditional positive regard

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