Empathy Circle

  • A sharing and listening circle for understanding ourselves and others.
  • Where people with mental and emotional challenges can find support.
  • For people who value difference and mutual respect.

What is Empathy?

To know that you are different from me, and to want to know what it is like to be you, is part of my capacity for empathy. It’s the part of me that’s interested in you.

Often that interest is enough to help both you and me be more accepting about ourselves. The difference that initially may have been a barrier, that made us awkward or cautious, even fearful, of each other has now become a thing we want to explore.

When mistrust changes to interest, possibilities never imagined begin to appear. Imagination and excitement suddenly re-emerge.

Empathy works a magic that rewards both those who offer it and those who receive it.


The Southern Highlands Empathy Circle developed out of a seven-week course, held at the Wingecarribee Family Centre, for individuals with depression.

During the course, it became clear that the listening of one member to another was having a positive effect. Being listened to changed the way some participants felt about themselves. Feeling different, and therefore not okay, changed into a sense of one’s essential worth.

We have grown into a more inclusive group. We welcome anyone who experiences a lack of acceptance because of a mental condition (depression, anxiety, bipolar, schizophrenia etc.) or because of race, religion, sexual preference, gender, ethnicity or age.

It is a fundamental principle of the circle that we grow stronger in our emotional life when we are prepared to experience the feelings of others. We are engaged in learning how to enter into the experience of a person different from ourselves whether they be a family member, friend or stranger.

We are also called upon to practice self-empathy, to be understanding of ourselves when we don’t live up to our own expectations. We discover that it is the expectations that are “wrong” rather than us.

We become more forgiving of others when we learn to forgive ourselves.

What We Do

  • Maintain a safe, non-judgemental environment, with the help of a professional counsellor/facilitator, for individuals to express themselves in a group conversation.
  • Offer guidance and exercises to help members practice empathic listening as a first step in understanding themselves and others.
  • Use diverse artistic activities to help members express complex thoughts and feelings that are difficult to access with words.
  • Refer individuals to other community services.
  • Offer the opportunity to experience how personal growth is entwined with the growth of others in the circle.
  • Offer the chance and challenge to grow through the exercise of personal freedom and responsibility.
  • Offer a sense of belonging to a community that values who you are.

Wednesday evenings, 7:00 – 9:00 pm
Highlands Family Centre, 2 Holmhale Street, Bowral

For more information contact David Shapiro del Sole (02) 4862 3595