Coping as an Empath – An Interview With Dr. Judith Orloff

Empath is a word used to describe people who take on the emotions of others. These absorbed feelings can create the effect of an “emotional sponge”, but empathic people may not know how to properly wring themselves out. Professionals such as Dr. Judith Orloff are embracing alternatives to mental health care such as energy healing, and underlining the benefits of spiritual treatment to help empaths find support.

Dr. Orloff is a clinical psychologist who combines clinical practice and energy work to offer healing to empaths and sensitive people. Dr. Orloff puts an emphasis on intuition in her teachings to encourage an alternative approach to traditional mental health treatment. I spoke with her about alternative healing of empaths with the release of her new book The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People.

Dr. Orloff at TEDx in 2012

Dr. Orloff is also a New York Times bestselling author,motivational speaker and a faculty member in the UCLA psychiatric department. She has written five books including Second Sight, Dr. Judith Orloff’s Guide to Intuitive Healing, Positive Energy, Emotional Freedom, The Power of Surrender, and most recently The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People.

I reached out to Dr. Orloff after reading her article titled “The Difference Between Empaths and Highly Sensitive People” which references her most recent book and goes into detail on how empaths differ from highly sensitive people on an energetic level. She offered her professional advice for those empaths who want to deal with their intense feelings.


  • From my research I understand that you specialize in intuitive and energy healing as well as alternative approaches to dealing with mental health issues. Could you explain that further for our audience who may be new to your practice?
    “As a psychiatrist, I combine my conventional medical skills with intuitive and energy healing. I listen to my patients with my intuition which comes in gut feelings, flashing, ‘ah-ha!’ feelings and knowings. I also read the energy fields around their bodies to help diagnose and treat them.”

  • What inspired you to become involved in spirituality and intuition as a part of mental health treatment? Were there any personal experiences that lead to you incorporating energy healing into your practice?
    “Working with one particular patient inspired me to go into these fields. When I first opened my private practice in psychiatry I had an intuition about a patient that she was going to make a suicide attempt. Because there were no clinical signs indicating this I didn’t pursue this with her. A few weeks later she overdosed on the medications I was giving her and ended up in a coma for a few weeks in the ICU until she recovered. This was my wake up call that to be a responsible physician I had to listen to my intuition as well as use the tools I learned in traditional medicine.”


  • What was your motivation towards specializing in working with empaths and sensitive people?
    “I specialize in treating empaths and sensitive people. I am a psychiatrist and also an empath—so I have a personal interest in learning skills to be an empowered empath.”


  • In your article on PsychologyToday you talk about how empaths “energetically internalize the feelings and pain of others”, would you be able to elaborate more on that?
    “An empath is an emotional sponge who absorbs the energy and emotions in the world, both positive and negative. Empaths often go on sensory overload and become overwhelmed easily. That’s why I wrote The Empath’s Survival Guide—to share with other empaths how to strengthen your sensitivities and not take on the angst of the world. Empaths internalize the emotional and physical pain of others. What I mean by this is that they literally take that energy into their bodies. This can lead to exhaustion, anxiety, panic, depression and other physical symptoms. Conventional medicine doesn’t know how to diagnose and treat empaths because they don’t believe that energy fields exist which is a travesty.”


  • In the research that you have done in your own practice, how can you apply this to coping with being an empathic person?
    “Empaths pick up energy from others and absorb it. The positive energy feels great, but absorbing the suffering in the world can lead to “dis-ease” in empaths. That’s why they need protection strategies such as grounding, shielding, setting clear limits and boundaries with people.”


  • You recently released the book “The Empath’s Survival Guide”, can you share a bit about what is in it and also who it is written for?
    “With the release of my new book “The Empath’s Survival Guide” I hope to give empaths and all sensitive people skills to cope in an overwhelming world. Empathy is the medicine the world needs. So we need empaths more than ever to be strong, empowered, and do good. Empaths are intuitive, loving, and giving—but they tend to over-give and burn out. In all my talks, I’m seeing a huge number of empaths coming out of the closet. The book helps them see that they are not “crazy” or “neurotic” but they need to learn self care techniques.”


  • In your words, what is energetic healing?
    “Empaths are able to sense energy so they are affected by crowds, loud people and get especially drained by energy vampires. In the book I teach them strategies not to be drained by energy vampires and combat them. Energy healing is the ability of the practitioner to send healing energy from their heart to other people. This activates the healing energy inside of others so they can deeply heal on a cellular level. It goes beyond “talk therapy” and gets to root energetic causes of “dis-ease”.”

  • With the new release of your book “The Empath’s Survival Guide”, what change do you hope to see for empaths in the future? Do you anticipate any changes in mental health treatment through energetic healing in the future?
    “I see conventional medicine slowly changing to incorporate energy healing into their paradigm. The challenges are that conventional medical doctors aren’t trained to believe in the energy fields around the body. But more and more health care professionals are becoming “integrative practitioners” who get further training beyond their conventional training to learn about energy systems in the human body. This is wonderful news for empaths because the mental health system will then gain a better understanding of them.”


  • Could you explain the empathic spectrum briefly for our audience?
    “In The Empath’s Survival Guide I talk about the empathic spectrum. The most highly empathic people are the empaths, towards the centre of the spectrum are wonderful people with empathy (but don’t absorb the emotions of others) and at the low end of the spectrum are narcissists who have ‘empathy deficient disorder’.”

Empathic Spectrum used in Dr. Orloff’s original PsychologyToday article.


  • In your new book you mention “empathic illness”, can your describe it and it’s symptoms? What are some quick ways you suggest to overcome empathic illness if someone feels that they are suffering from it?
    “I also write in the book about empathic illnesses where empaths literally take on the illnesses of others from back pain to depression and feel it in their own bodies. The secret to not doing this is to breathe negative energy out of your body the moment you feel it, practice shielding visualization where you picture a shield of white light totally around your body to protect yourself, and learn how to set clear limits and boundaries with the person you are absorbing from so that there is an energetic separation between you.”


  • Do you have additional resources or further readings for those who want to learn more about the topic?
    “Additional Resources: The Empath’s Survival Guide by Judith Orloff MD
    Essential Tools for Empaths—audio program by Judith Orloff MD
    Positive Energy by Judith Orloff MD
    Guide to Intuitive Healing by Judith Orloff MD.”



For more information, Dr. Orloff can be reached at and on Facebook at She also invites you to join her Empath Support Community here.

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