In my view empathy is a necessary but not sufficient condition for CBT. When Aron Beck describes the kind of relationship desired for CBT he talks about a collaborative relationship in which both therapist and client cooperate in analysing and then hopefully solving or at least reducing the problems of the client. A collaborative relationship assumes empathy.
Cognitive therapists differ however on the degree of importance of empathy. Albert Ellis would not negate the role of empathy but does not believe it is a very important factor. In his view too much empathy can make the client too dependent on the therapist, which he does not believe is very helpful.
From a cognitive point of view, empathy is amongst others the skill taking another's perspective. By being empathic therapists can be very good role-models to clients who sometimes lack this skill. We can teach them to be empathic by being empathic ourselves.
A very good book to consult on the role of relationship factors in Cognitive Therapy is: Schaap and others (1993)
The Therapeutic Relationship in Behavioural Psychotherapy. New-York: J. Wiley and Sons. See also in: P.Salkovskis ed. (1996). Frontiers of Cognitive Therapy.( Chapter 7: Therapeutic Empathy.) New-York: the Guilford Press.
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