Seminar highlights theoretical perspectives of empathy and communication

Posted on May 28, 2015

The Department of Educational Psychology in the Faculty of Education held a seminar on 21 May 2015, themed ‘The art and science of emphatic communication’.

The purpose of the seminar was to discuss the concept of empathy by highlighting theoretical perspectives relevant to empathy and communication. Components of empathic communication were highlighted and applied to three different social dimensions, namely communicating with people with disabilities, people with dementia and communicating with people across cultural divides.

The past decade have seen an upsurge in research and training in empathy across various disciplines. The reason for this increase in interest relate in large part to the recognition of the importance of the ability to “feel with another” as a basis for building understanding and compassion not only within local school and social communities, but also in deepening cross-cultural and global understanding. This is what the seminar focused on.

Prof Ronél Ferreira, Head of the Department of Educational Psychology, welcomed the seminar participants, after which Prof Erna Alant, PhD Professor and Chair in Special Education at Indiana University, USA, delivered an address on emphatic communication, with a focus on clinical empathy and emphatic communication for daily living. Prof Alant spesialises in working with children and adults with severe communication problems and their families.

After a tea break, Dr Beth Lewis Samuelson, Assistant Professor of Literacy, Culture and Language Education at Indiana University, and Prof Alant addressed the seminar on the topic of empathy in different social dimensions, focusing on cross-cultural communication, disabilities and aging. Dr Samuelson’s research is focused on literacy, intercultural and international issues and she has extensive experience working in Africa.

Ms Lindsey Ogle, a doctoral student in Special Education at Indiana University who obtained her master’s degree in child development, then took the stage with Prof Alant, leading a video discussion of caregiver interactions. All three the presenters finally addressed the topic of research in empathic communication, after which Ms Safia Mohamed closed the seminar.

View the seminar's photo gallery.

- Author Petronel Fourie
Published by Thabo Masenamela

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