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The value of empathy in dietetic consultations. A pilot study to investigate its effect on satisfaction, autonomy and agreement

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Forty individuals with diabetes and three dietitians completed a questionnaire concerning their consultation. Empathy was examined using the Empathic Communication Coding System (ECCS) ( Bylund & Makoul, 2002). The more empathic the professionals’ response to emotional opportunities, the more satisfied patients were with their consultations (r = 0.41, d.f. = 15, P = 0.05). There was a nonsignificant trend that the more empathic opportunities that arise during a consultation, the higher the agreement between patient and dietitian on what was discussed (r = 0.28, P = 0.07). The data also suggest that patients reported more autonomy support when they created more empathic opportunities during their consultation (r = −0.29, P = 0.07). This preliminary study suggests that professionals’ responses to empathic opportunities may be a useful component of dietetic consultations.

Keywords: communication; diabetes; dietetics; empathy; satisfaction

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: School of Psychology, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, UK 2: School of Psychology, University of Southampton, UK 3: Diabetes Centre, Queen Alexandra Hospital Portsmouth, UK

Publication date: June 1, 2005


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