Reflection Paper — Empathy Versus Sympathy

In the book, To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee (1960) wrote, “You never really know a man until you understand
things from his point of view until you climb into his skin and walk around in it” (p. 30). As a social worker, you
are called upon to walk in the skin (or shoes) of your clients, understanding their lives and circumstances so
that you can help them toward wellness. This empathic quality is a hallmark of the profession.
There is a difference, however, between empathy (feeling with the client) and sympathy (feeling for the client).
Empathy promotes a relationship—in other words, a sense of togetherness—whereas sympathy indicates a
In this Assignment, you reflect on a situation where others approached you with empathy or sympathy and
examine the effect of that interaction.
Reference: Lee, H. (1960). To kill a mockingbird. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott.
Write a 2-page paper in which you:
• Explain a time or event in your life when you were struggling.
• Identify some of the statements those around you said to you.
• Determine whether the statements were ones of empathy or sympathy, and explain why.
• Describe how these comments made you feel.
• Identify two statements that someone could have said to you that would have given you comfort.
Below is the required textbook.
Cummins, L., K., & Sevel, J., A. (2017). Social work skills for beginning direct practice: Text, workbook, and
interactive web-based case studies (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.
• Chapter 7, “Common Errors in Direct Practice (Pitfalls) ” (pp. 135-161)
• Chapter 8, “Intake and Engagement” (pp. 172-176)
Engelberg, E., & Limbach-Reich, A. (2015). The role of empathy in case management: A pilot study. The
International Journal of Social Work Education, 34(8), 1021-1033.

Sample Solution