The role of empathy in work with women offenders

Shulamith Lala A. Straussner, Norma Kolko Phillips

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Research has validated the crucial aspect of empathy in effective clinical practice. Empathy requires the identification of the helping professional with the emotional experience of the client. However, in their work with women offenders, clinicians can encounter a number of obstacles to appropriate empathic interventions: the workers may over-empathize with their clients; the offenders may be resistant to being helped; and there may be institutional and social dynamics that may discourage empathic helping by staff. This paper discusses the concept of empathy and the difficulties encountered by social workers and other clinicians in their efforts to provide appropriate empathic approaches to this population. Effective strategies that will allow for appropriate use of empathy by clinicians working with female offenders are offered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)255-262
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Prisoner Health
Issue number2-4
StatePublished - 2005


  • Criminal justice
  • Empathy
  • Social work intervention
  • Women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Professions (miscellaneous)


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