Our Guiding Questions:
Love & Healing
How does such love prevent illness and contribute to the art of healing?
Love heals. Patients who report empathic and compassionate care are more able to adhere to difficult treatments, better able to disclose information about themselves that is helpful diagnostically, and they are more satisfied with their caregivers. Empathic love involves cognitive dimensions and learned skills in its early stage. It starts with asking the right questions about how a patient is experiencing an illness subjectively, reflecting responses back in the mode of attentive listening, and making affirming comments that allow the patient to feel at ease. Hopefully, this initial more routine phase comes to a more affective dimensionality, as empathy is generally assumed to be emotionally grounded. Care as an external activity is grounded in the expectations of the clinical environment in a very task-oriented sense, and can be disconnected from the underpinnings of empathic concern. Some healthcare institutions do not emphasize these underpinnings, or even trivialize their significance to the patient experience. Or it may be that clinicians are engaged in empathic care at the beginning of the shift when all things are fresh, but not when they are tired and have perhaps experienced one ungrateful, non-adherent, or perhaps “difficult” patient too many. They can go through the technological procedures of care, but are not caring from the underpinning of empathic concern. We propose a model in which compassion is not redundant with care, but a special modulation and intensification of it under conditions of suffering as follows:
CARE → COGNITIVE EMPATHY → AFFECTIVE EMPATHY → COMPASSIONATE CARE
There are many students and clinicians who are as though by nature (and/or nurture) at the level of “compassionate care” before they arrive in healthcare settings, but for many this is a growth process in the clinical setting and they may or may not arrive at “compassionate care,” although most everyone can be taught “cognitive empathy” through communicative exercises.