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Empathy in Support Work

by AJP Dreams

Alexander Warren of AJP Dreams has been working with support from EDG to research and develop empathy training for support workers. Alexander got funding from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation to carry out this work. You can check out his application video here.


The project took 18 months to complete. We spent 9 months interviewing support workers, people with learning difficulties who receive support and service managers about what helps to grow empathy among support workers for the people they work with. We also found out a lot about what gets in the way of empathy happening.


If you want to know more about our research findings you can look at our report page.


We discovered that for support workers to grow their own empathy, others must have empathy for them. Makes sense when you think about it!  We also found out that research shows empathy can be learned and improved (if you are interested this book provides some information about the research). An empathic workforce can benefit your business.


Using our direct research with support workers and considering the research of others, we have developed two packages to support and enhance a culture of empathy in your organisation:


The Empathy Training Package:

We create an empathic and non-judgemental atmosphere in our training  which involves:

  • role play

  • art

  • personal reflection

  • interactive exercises

With the aim of increasing understanding of

  • empathy and what it is

  • overcoming barriers to empathy

  • how to engage in self-care

  • the importance of listening

  • the link between empathy and supporting service users to live their dreams

We offer this as a half day training or two half days.

Peer Support for Empathy: Bonding, Reflecting, Recharging


One of our main findings was that support workers would really value regular opportunities to get together, talk openly and to support each other with best practice, especially in relation to empathy. Everyone who suggested this felt it was a good idea to have this facilitated by people outside of their organisation. AJP Dreams and EDG have many years of experience in facilitating workshops around connection and peer support. We have combined our knowledge and experience of what works best with the insights from the people who contributed to our research to create this package. 


Our peer support package involves 2-3 hour meetings every 6-8 weeks where we facilitate opportunities to

  • bond and foster a sense of community among workers

  • reflect on knowledge and share best practice around empathy

  • learn more about self-care as a support for empathic practice, including practical tips and techniques


We will work with your organisation to consider how best to structure the meetings around the needs of staff. 


A combined Empathy Training and Peer Support package is also available. 


If you are interested in finding out more about this package, please email Gillian Allan: or call 0131 476 0522. 

About Alexander


I feel strongly about encouraging people to follow their dreams no matter how big or small.

I have been running my own business AJP Dreams for many years, offering consultancy to support professionals, families and young people with learning disabilities to discover their gifts and contribution, explore dreams and aspirations and understanding person centred planning.

With my work you will always get, genuine lived experience, a unique person’s perspective, inspiration.

About Gillian


It has been a pleasure to support Alexander with his research into empathy and support work and to work with him developing this training!


My background is in research and I have recently trained as a gestalt therapist.  I have worked with EDG for nearly 5 years now as a development coordinator working towards inculsion of people with learning disabilities in the community. One of my proudest moments working for EDG has been running the Edinburgh Festival of Empathy 2016.

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