Professional closeness: cultural empathy as the quintessence of psychotherapeutic treatment for ethnically diverse patients

Mario Braakman


Due to globalization and increasing mobility, western-educated psychotherapists in Europe are progressively confronted with ethnically diverse patients. Since these patients also take their cultural background into the psychotherapist’s office, the therapist has an additional challenge to master. Empathy is a fundamental aspect of successful psychotherapeutic engagement. An adequate empathic understanding is challenging if the cultural roots of patient and therapist are different. The more diverse these cultural differences are the more difficult it is for the therapist to grasp adequate empathy. Cultural empathy is the ability to sufficiently experience the cultural context of a patient. In this paper the most important competencies to achieve cultural empathy by the therapist are explained, both technical skills which can be learned as well as intra-psychic adaptations by the therapist himself or herself.


Empathy, psychotherapy, ethnicity, cultural competency


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Department für Psychotherapie und Biopsychosoziale Gesundheit an der Donau-Universität Krems