The pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine evokes a lot of empathy among citizens, but also intolerance and aggression. It leads to empathic helping behavior that is not always efficient, and sometimes raises moral questions. How can we understand this? And does this possibly also play a role in the psychotherapy room? I first reflect on the lack of unambiguity of the empathy concept. Next, I address the risks and pitfalls that go sometimes with a limi- ted view of empathy, sometimes with the reduced functioning of a number of subcircuits of the empathic neuronal networks. Also discussed are some risks inherent in empathy such as ineffective long-term helping behavior and the tension between empathy and moral principles. Finally, I discuss the implications this has for psychotherapy.
The tPeP (Journal Person-centered experiential Psychotherapy) is the scientific journal for Dutch and Flemish psychotherapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists, that work from, or are interested in a client-centered perspective.