By David A. Crenshaw, Ph.D., ABPP
Are the days of the empathic healer numbered? Is the empathic healer an
endangered species? This question was raised in the title of a thought-
provoking book by Harvard psychiatrist Michael Bennett (2001). In a fast
paced world seeking quick fixes to all that ails them and a managed
health care system forever trying to squeeze the health care providers
and patients to wring out costs to maximize corporate profits, has the
heart gone out of the health care system?
My colleague Kenneth V. Hardy, Ph.D., Director of the Eikenberg
Institute for Relationships in New York City and I (2005) have addressed
this issue in a recent book chapter on traumatized and aggressive youth
in the child welfare system. We do not deny that a significant number
of people are helped by psychiatric medications that have been
developed, especially in the last two decades, and we recognize these
medications have relieved the mental suffering of countless people. We
believe with great conviction, however, that children and youth (not to
mention adults) still need and perhaps, more so in todayís world, an
empathic healer to listen to their story.
We have learned through our clinical experience that children,
adolescents and families will only tell their story in the presence of
an empathic healer. Children, and even animals, can tell when someone
really cares and when they donít and they are never fooled. As far as we
know there is no pharmaceutical remedy, no pill of any kind that can
heal a hole in the heart of a child, the crushing of the spirit of
youth, the most devastating of all injuries. We believe as long as there
is violence in our world, hatred among humans, poverty, crime, racial,
class, and gender bias, there will remain the need for an empathic
(2001). The empathic healer: An endangered species. San Diego, CA:
Crenshaw, D. A.
& Hardy, K. V. (2005). Understanding and treating the aggression of
traumatized children in out-of-home care. In N. B. Webb (ed.), Working
with traumatized youth in child welfare, pp. 171-195. New York: Guilford
Copyright © 2006 by David A.
Crenshaw, Ph.D., ABPP. All rights reserved.