Effectiveness of empathy enhancement programs for social workers working with older adults: A quasi-experimental study

Academic Article


  • Summary: Empathy is an essential attribute required for care providers to provide quality care and effective relationship-based practice. Cognitive empathy is understanding another person’s experiences, concerns, and perspectives, and affective empathy is sharing another person’s emotion. Cognitive empathy was found to be a significant protector to burnout and stress, while affective empathy was found to be a significant contributor to compassion satisfaction among social workers. This quasi-experimental study assessed the effectiveness of two empathy enhancement programs on 105 social workers working with older adults in South Korea. The experimental group (n = 52) received a simulation-based empathy enhancement program along with a brief mindfulness practice session, and the comparison group (n = 53) watched a 30-minute-long educational video about empathy. Data were collected prior to and two weeks after the intervention. Findings: The experimental group showed significantly lower levels of psychosocial stress compared to the comparison group. It also showed significantly higher levels of cognitive empathy and significantly lower levels of compassion fatigue at posttest. Furthermore, the comparison group demonstrated significantly higher levels of a unidimensional factor of empathy, compassion satisfaction, and caring efficacy at posttest. Application: Pre- and post-test differences, in different outcome measures from the groups, indicate the benefits of each empathy enhancement program on social workers working with older adults. In particular, the present study validates that the simulation-based empathy enhancement program can enhance the cognitive empathy of social workers and reduce burnout and stress. A further randomized controlled trial study is needed to examine the program’s effectiveness with minimal bias and confounding factors.
  • Authors

    Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Han A; Kim TH
  • Start Page

  • 913
  • End Page

  • 930
  • Volume

  • 21
  • Issue

  • 4