The capacity for empathy is a key factor in mental healthcare … because there is a world of difference between engaging directly and empathically with a person as compared to seeing them as someone on whom to apply “interventions”.
The capacity for empathy is also something that can be taught or developed. For example, see Zero Degrees of Empathy by Simon Baron-Cohen (neuropsychologist and Professor of Developmental Psychology at Cambridge University).
This brings us to The Empathy Museum, which is:
“… a series of participatory art projects dedicated to helping us look at the world through other people’s eyes.
With a focus on storytelling and dialogue, our travelling museum explores how empathy can not only transform our personal relationships, but also help tackle global challenges such as prejudice, conflict and inequality.”
The Empathy Museum doesn’t have a permanent home: “All our projects are travelling, nimble pop-ups – they’ve been across the UK and to Belgium, Ireland, the USA, Australia, Brazil and Siberia.”
The project includes A Mile in My Shoes. This is:
“… a shoe shop where visitors are invited to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes – literally. Housed in a giant shoebox, this roaming exhibit holds a diverse collection of shoes and audio stories that explore our shared humanity. From a Syrian refugee to a sex worker, a war veteran to a neurosurgeon, visitors are invited to walk a mile in the shoes of a stranger while listening to their story. The stories cover different aspects of life, from loss and grief to hope and love and take the visitor on an empathetic as well as a physical journey.”
Here is a 5-minute video about the experience:
The video also explains their “A Thousand and One Books” project.