Difficult Conversations Podcast

Lessons I Learned as an ICU Physician

Episode 109 | September 15, 2020

The Power of Empathy

Dr. Helen Riess

Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School

Helen Riess

Welcome to the Difficult Conversations with Dr. Anthony Orsini. Our special guest today is Dr. Helen Riess, a Psychiatrist and Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, Director of the Empathy and Relational Science Program at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and the leading expert on the topic of empathy. She founded Empathetics.com, which is an organization that provides empathetic training for healthcare, business, and law enforcement. Her groundbreaking empathy training research was the first study to demonstrate that empathy can indeed be taught. Find out why Helen says, “The face is a roadmap of emotion and it’s the only part of our bodies that we don’t routinely cover.” Dr. Orsini keeps his promise about two things, that you will feel inspired, and you will have learned valuable lessons to be a better and more compassionate communicator.

Dr. Riess explains how she defines and perceives empathy, sympathy, and compassion. Imagination is the key word spoken here, and Dr. Orsini asks how we can train physicians to just imagine for a second that they are the patient, and go from sympathy, to empathy, to compassion. She lets us know one of her favorite sayings. In Helen’s book, The Empathy Effect, she explains the neuroscience of empathy and the evidence that the origins of empathy are based on evolution and survival. Helen shares with us her special relationship with Alan Alda, and then tells us how she teaches doctors to feel empathy. We will learn some great tips and techniques using the “E.M.P.A.T.H.Y” acronym and how important your tone of voice is in relationships with patients, family members and in business associates. Dr. Riess discusses empathy and the concept of “in grouping” which she talks about in her book. Dr. Orsini shares some great advice and makes a point to say that it’s so important to train people to be more empathetic, to be better communicators, and to find commonality. We’re in a very critical time in the world now because more empathy is needed now than ever before. Listen as Dr. Orsini discusses with Dr. Riess his concept of the “the second second” We learn about the last chapter in Helen’s book, “Self-Empathy” and how if we don’t treat ourselves with proper care, we will get depleted and result in burnout. Learn about Dr. Riess’s next big project: working with law enforcement to help police humanize and make a difference. If you loved this episode, please hit the subscribe button to find out more about what we do and how we teach communication. Go ahead and download this episode now!

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