Reflecting on the loss of empathy for a parent in family therapy sessions

Taylor, Mark. 2024. Reflecting on the loss of empathy for a parent in family therapy sessions. Ethics and Social Welfare, 18(1), pp. 88-93. ISSN 1749-6535 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Reflecting teams play a significant role in family therapy; they broaden perspectives on how family dynamics or problems can be understood. However, what happens when a reflector does not feel compassionate towards a particular family member? There is a risk of biased reflections: families can pick up negative signals, putting the therapeutic relationship at risk. In this paper, I explore how I was supported to explore my lack of compassion for Dad ‘John’. It was only after reaching out to an experienced supervisor who undertook an ‘internalised other’ interview with me – where I played the role of Dad – did my compassion increase. From an ethics of care perspective, I suggest that social professionals need to explore ways to increase empathy and compassion for clients they dislike. If they do not, they are open to valid criticism that they are behaving unethically as professionals. Therefore, there is a need to address deficits in empathy and compassion to sustain ethical social work practices.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):


Reflecting teams in family therapy; ethics of care; dislike of clients; internalised other interviewing

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Social, Therapeutic & Community Engagement (STaCS)


24 February 2024Accepted
22 March 2024Published Online

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

18 Mar 2024 11:38

Last Modified:

28 Mar 2024 11:14

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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