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Empathic curiosity: Resolving goal conflicts that generate emotional distress

McEvoy, P., Baker, D., Plant, R., Hylton, K., & Mansell, W

Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing. 2013;20:273-278.

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The quality of the therapeutic alliance between therapist and client is consistently identified as a key component of cognitive behavioural interventions. However, relatively little is known about the causal mechanisms that generate the effects that are ascribed to the therapeutic alliance. This paper outlines how one such causal mechanism, empathic curiosity, may operate. The explanation is rooted in control theory, a theory that explains the link between our experiences and our goal-directed behaviour. Empathic curiosity is underpinned by the core skills of empathic listening and maintaining a curious attitude. From a control theory perspective, the value of this type of listening may be reinforced when speak to people about their salient concerns, as they perceive them in the current flow of their conscious thoughts. This can be facilitated by linking curious questions to the non verbal disruptions in their body posture and conversational flow. The approach is illustrated using three case examples. In all three examples, the clients involved were able to reflect upon and reorganise conflicting goals that had been a source of significant emotional distress.

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Created by:
Mansell, Warren
18th April, 2012, 07:57:06
Last modified by:
Mansell, Warren
Last modified:
19th April, 2013, 11:02:02

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