Jefferson Journal of Psychiatry


The subject of empathy has been increasing in popularity and importance; correspondingly, the theoretical aspects of empathy are in need of further development. This paper outlines key concepts and processes related to empathy, particularly the mechanisms of identification and regression as they are discussed in the models of empathy articulated by Fleiss, Greenson, and Jordan. Similarities and differences of the models are examined, in addition to each model's description of the roles of identification and regression. Although each model has made significant contributions towards a theoretical perspective of empathy, none of them have distinguished pathological from non-pathological uses of identification. Also, none of the models offered descriptions of the pathological or non-pathological uses of regression in empathy. In response to these differences, a new model of empathy is proposed. This new model emphasizes the non-pathological roles of identification and regression, which make empathy a creative process involving a therapist's highly developed ego and ego functions.

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