OPEN PDF TO VIEW & READ: ‘Is Low Helper Empathy Toxic‘ [Paul Burke’s MI TIP #1822]

INTRO COVER LETTER:  Greetings MI Learners – from Whitehorse, Yukon

This week I find myself in Whitehorse, Yukon, teaching a group of healthcare folks various applications to using MI for better treatment plan adherence. I’ve done a lot of projects in this beautiful northern city, and there just doesn’t seem to be a bad time of year to come here! I’ll be in this – the land of the midnight sun – for the summer solstice – and even now, a full week early, the “midnight sun” is an incredible sight! It gets “dusk-like” from about 1am until 3, and then back to daytime for the other 22 hours of every day! It’s really something to experience!

This photo was taken at 1:00 A.M – when there is still daylight enough to read. Thank heavens that I have black-out drapes or I’d never sleep

On the plane on the way up here, I was re-reading a journal article by Miller and Moyers called “Is Low Therapist Empathy Toxic”?  It’s fascinating – and they answer their question with an emphatic “yes”!  There is very good research to show that low-empathy helpers get significantly reduced outcomes with their clients.

The full article from the journal “Psychology of Addictive Behaviour (2013 Sep: 27(3) 878-884 is published online and is available at:

Skillful facilitation of the engaging process, along with strategic use of listening with accurate reflection is a key part of the mechanism that produces results in MI practice. Those MI skills not only produce empathy, but they also enable us to prove to clients that we understand them; that we “get it”. Give TIP 1822 a read. You’ll learn why low empathy is not just annoying to clients – it’s also toxic.