Therapy Buzzwords: Empathy. by Heart and Harmony Music Therapy

Therapy Buzzwords: Empathy

by Taylor Cockrum, MT-BC


What is Empathy?


Empathy is:

  • The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, AND vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experiences of another person.
  • The ability to share someone else’s feelings or experiences by imagining what it would be like to be in that person’s situation

Empathy vs Sympathy

  • While sympathy involves acknowledging another’s emotional or physical struggle and showing concern, pity, or support for them, empathy goes a step further. i.e. “I’m sorry you’re in pain.”
  • Empathy involves understanding a person’s situation by putting yourself into their shoes, often feeling emotions *with* the other person. i.e. “I know how you feel” or “I feel your pain.”

Pros and Cons of Empathy


  • Enables deeper connections
  • Attune to others’ emotions or experiences
  • Builds trust (all types of relationships)


  • Higher exposure to distressing info/experiences
  • Secondary trauma
  • Feeling overwhelmed or burned out (see compassion fatigue)

“Empathy is the most mysterious transition that the human soul can have, and it’s accessible to all of us, but we have to give ourselves the opportunity to identify, to plunge ourselves in a story where we see the world from the bottom up or through another’s eyes or heart.”

– Sue Monk Kidd


Chime in!

What other therapy buzzwords should we discuss? We’d love to hear from you.

Taylor Cockrum, MT-BC

Music Therapist – Board Certified

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