“E” is for empathy – an essential characteristic of occupational therapists.
Empathy is the ability to understand and/or share what others are going through or feeling. The ability to be empathetic is a key characteristic for OTs in order to develop rapport with clients. Actively listening to an individual’s worries about their current level of function or their sudden loss of independence is a distinguishable aspect of OT practice.
OTs often see clients in some of the scariest times of their lives. Sudden injuries, trauma, and functional changes, among other things, become the forefront of stress and worry for both the individual impacted and their loved ones. Recognizing these stressors and worries allows us to develop trust with our clients and their families so that we can work diligently to help them regain independence.
Often OTs use what is known as “therapeutic use of self” which is synonymous with empathy in some instances. OTs can provide therapy just being themselves by simply taking the time to fully understand and listen to what someone is going through.
It doesn’t take much to be empathetic but it sure can mean a lot to someone when they need it most.