Week 1: Reflection


After reading all the blog posts and comments from my fellow course participants, I felt the need to reflect and consider the opinions expressed and respect the complexity of human connection and personal preference or perception. I would like to end the week’s topic of empathy off by reflecting on and summarising my thoughts, before moving onto the next chapter, morality.


Avatar - I see you

This week’s topic of empathy made me think of Avatar the movie,
with it’s central theme of connection and understanding.

“Oel Ngati Kameie” – I see you (I see into your soul, I understand you)


What surprised me most was the difference of opinion on empathy, perception of vulnerability and it’s role in the management of our patients as health care professionals and most importantly as human beings. Noam talked about the “scale of empathy” and stated that “empathy is balance”, which made me realise that empathetic engagement and human connection is a choice.  It made me reflect on the relationships I have my my little patients and their families.  I must be especially cautious of the interrelation of empathy and sympathy when working in the sensitive fields of physiotherapy, as there is a dividing line: your professional objectivity and role as therapist and health care provider.  Mary summarised this so beautifully by sharing her volunteer work experience in times of disability, pain, resentment, heartache, disappointment, loneliness and death.  Furthermore, I was inspired by and drawn to the well written blog posts by Jackie, Marna and Charde, discussing interpersonal communication and the importance of empathy in practice and life. Furthermore, I came to realise after reading Thomas‘ blog post how important it is to reflect and learn from past experiences in order to grow as a human being and become comfortable with “feeling” and connecting with others.


A few of the student’s blog posts and Wendy’s opinion on the usefulness and necessity of empathy in practice, really made me take a step back and understand that personality, therapeutic environment (context) and personal preference, all influence how therapists choose to connect, engage and communicate with patients.


I am still of the opinion that  empathetic engagement is context-specific and central to human connection.  It remains a choice of when, if, how and to what degree one displays empathy whilst maintaining professional objectivity and respecting patient-therapist roles and boundaries.  I believe that altruism is universal and natural, but using empathy as a communication skill to connect with others requires development and nurturing.  For me, it is an essential part of holistic patient management and care.


As a spiritual being, I have chosen the Buddhist-philosophy and follow the Dharmapada (“the path of Dharma”).
I found this quote from an ancient Sanskrit script inspiring:

“Resolve to be tender with the young; compassionate with the aged;
sympathetic with the striving; and tolerant with the weak and wrong.
Sometime in your life, you will have been all of these.”

Gautama Buddha


For PHT402 Professional Ethics Course 

About Chantelle van den Berg

-Paediatric Physiotherapist (private practice owner) -Special interests: breastfeeding & lactation, respiratory therapy, neuromotor development and orthopaedic rehabilitation. -South African Society of Physiotherapy's Paediatric Group Committee (Western Cape Branch manager)

4 responses »

  1. Awesome combined thoughts and insight Chantelle! I would definitely advocate all that you’ve mentioned as I sincerely agree. As for the ending quote, it could not have been any better. 🙂

    “What you see may always be true but what you see through is most important.”


  2. Pingback: Reflections on Empathy, week 1 | wendywalker

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