Criteria for making empathic responses in client-centered therapy


Barbara T. Brodley


The criteria for communicating empathic understanding described in this paper are based on my work as a client-centered therapist. As my therapy evolved, I only gradually identified these criteria and recognized that they express the nondirective attitude that informs my practice. An early version of the paper was prepared for the First International Forum on the Person-Centered Approach in Mexico in 1982. An excerpt was published in the ADPCA newsletter, Renaissance, in 1984. In 1986 Carl Rogers published his article on "reflection of feelings" which gave support to my thesis that the client-centered therapist's intention in responding empathically is to verify understanding, not to manipulate the client's process nor to foster any therapist goal for the client. The fundamental nondirectiveness in client-centered work seems to be difficult for some students to understand or, perhaps, to believe. My hope that this paper will help to clarify the meaning of the nondirective attitude in empathic interaction process as well as clarify the criteria for overt empathic responding in client-centered therapy.