Empathy is the opposite of ego. When I am full of ego, it is my own importance which matters. When I am full of empathy it is the other person who matters. Egotism, self-preoccupation, is the commonest barrier to empathy. Empathy is the most effective remedy for egotism.
~ David Brazier Empathy
This is from a paper that David wrote in 1993. It's a comprehensive discussion of what empathy is, particularly from a phenomenological point of view. The paper includes thoughts about the different facets of empathy, its relation to caring, and how it works and what it looks like in a therapy session.
Empathy involves the cognitive, perceptual, feeling, imaginative and creative faculties:
Cognitive means that I understand how the other person thinks about and makes sense of the world. This is a matter of beliefs and values.
Perceptual means that I can see things as if looking from the person's viewpoint.
Feeling means that I can feel in my own body what the other person experiences, their fear, anger, joy and so on.
Imaginative means that I use my imagination to enter into the client's world. As the client tells his story I bring it to life in my own mind as if I were participating in it in the same way that he has done.
An excellent paper for new therapists to get their teeth into, and to give experienced therapists a fresh view on a vital element of their practice. Check out the whole thing on the IZT Library here: Empathy.