Social Work Internships

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Empathy/Diversity Essays Jr’s

Essays on Empathy and Diversity


INSTURCTIONS:  Students will create an audio recording using http://evoca.com/ or http://www.utterli.com/ , and submit the audio link (URL) for grading. Students are also required to submit a written paper (transcript of their recording) -Also submit the link in the discussion board for peer review . (Failure to include the audio recording(podcast and transcript will result in a poor grade
).

  • Essay 1. – Students will be asked to assume the identity of a member of a diverse population.  In this role and in any format of their choosing,  Students will discuss in their essays what it is like to be this person in our contemporary  society.
  • Essay 2.- What memories of being poor do you recall from your own back ground or  from other people you have known?  In what ways do you think the experience of going to school is different for poor children than for others?
  • Essay 3.- Relate an experience that you regret where you treated someone badly because they were different.  What motivated you to behave as you did?  What did you do afterwards?afterwards?

What
is
the
difference
between
empathy
and
sympathy?

Both
empathy
and
sympathy
are
feelings
concerning
other
people.
Sympathy
is
literally
’feeling
with’
-
compassion
for
or
commiseration
with
another
person.
Empathy,
by
contrast,
is
literally
’feeling
into’
-
the
ability
 to
project
one’s
personality
into
another
person
and
more
fully
understand
that
person.
Sympathy
derives
from
 Latin
and
Greek
words
meaning
’having
a
fellow
feeling’.
The
term
empathy
originated
in
psychology
(translation
  of
a
German
term,
c.
1903)
and
has
now
come
to
mean
the
ability
to
imagine
or
project
oneself
into
another
  person’s
position
and
experience
all
the
sensations
involved
in
that
position.
You
feel
empathy
when
you’ve
 “been
there”,
and
sympathy
when
you
haven’t.
Examples:
We
felt
sympathy
for
the
team
members
who
tried
hard
 but
were
not
appreciated.
/
We
felt
empathy
for
children
with
asthma
because
their
parents
won’t
remove
pets
 from
the
household.
(source
http://dictionary1.classic.reference.com/help/faq/language/d23.html)

NASW Practice Snapshot:  Mincing Words: Empathy And Sympathy

Office of Social Work Specialty Practice

Have you ever tried to console a client who is upset, only to have them yell, “How could you possibly

know what I’m going through? You haven’t experienced what it’s like…” If so, you may want to think

about the distinction between the words “empathy” and “sympathy.”

The word “sympathy” seems to be more commonly used and understood, and most people use it when an appropriate situation arises. The American Heritage Dictionary (2002) defines sympathy as,  “The act or power of sharing the feelings of another. A feeling or an expression of pity or sorrow for  the distress of another; compassion or commiseration.” Use of the word “sympathy” however, whether accurately or not, is sometimes perceived as denoting a paternalistic or insincere attitude. The word can be disempowering for this reason, and so the preferred word is empathy.

Empathy is defined in the Social Work Dictionary as “The act of perceiving, understanding,  experiencing, and responding to the emotional state and ideas of another person” (Barker, 2003).  Merriam-Webster’s Medical Dictionary (2002) defines empathy as, “The action of understanding,  being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and  experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.” Oftentimes there is a misperception that one must actually have shared the same experiences in order to express empathy. In fact though, empathy can be used to express compassion for the actual feelings, and this is what we, as social workers, can offer our clients.

Properly distinguishing between these two words, however, is still not going to prevent you from ever hearing an angry outburst from a client who is upset because they assume that you think you know what they are going through. A client may become upset if you say you “sympathize” because they feel patronized, and they may become upset if you say you “empathize” because they think you cannot know what they are experiencing. But it is important, nonetheless, to understand exactly what you are saying, and also to understand that you can empathize without actually experiencing what another is going through. Often a client needs someone to whom they can vent, and a common response is to lash out at a person who is trying to help; so regardless of what you say, you may become the subject of this outburst.

Clients do not need sympathy or sorrow in most cases. They need someone to listen to them, support them, and to validate their emotions in a caring and empathic manner. Interestingly, sympathy is almost always used when consoling someone about a death. Card stores and displays have sympathy card sections, and the cards often use the word “sympathize” in their notes. Even if you have experienced the death of someone close yourself, “empathy” may not feel like the correct word. Perhaps then, this is an exception to the use of the word “empathy.” But as a general rule, social workers are understanding and sensitive to the problems that others are experiencing; they do not simply express pity or sorrow at another’s distress, but rather they empathize with their clients’ feelings.

Houghton Mifflin Company. (2002). The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language

(Fourth ed.). [Online]. Retrieved from http://dictionary.reference.com/ on 5/10/05 .

Barker, R. L. (2003). The Social Work Dictionary (Fifth ed.). Washington, DC: NASW Press.

Merriam-Webster, Inc. (2002). Merriam-Webster’s Medical Dictionary [Online]. Retrieved from

http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/mwwod.pl on 5/10/05.

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Written by tusksowk

June 2, 2009 at 12:16 pm

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