Genuine and fundamentally human: A qualitative study into Dutch humanist chaplains’ conceptualizations of empathy

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Empathy has been highlighted as a key concept in chaplaincy care, but its meaning has hardly been explored in depth within this field. This study aims to help develop stronger conceptual clarity by investigating humanist chaplains’ conceptualizations of empathy. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews with twenty humanist chaplains working in health care, military, and prisons. A qualitative design was employed to clarify which components and features constitute empathy in humanist chaplaincy care. Empathy emerges as a multidimensional concept that is “fundamentally human.” Chaplains distinguish between true and pseudo empathy based on different features including authenticity and concern. This article provides a conceptual model that combines the different components and features of empathy in humanist chaplaincy care and the relationship between them in light of empathy’s humanizing quality. It may be used for educational purposes and could function as a conceptual framework for future research efforts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Health Care Chaplaincy
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Jan 2023


  • authenticity
  • chaplaincy care
  • empathy
  • humanist chaplaincy
  • qualitative research

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