There are some open minded theories of psychology which discuss that it is really peoples feeling of separation that creates their suffering, it is that perception that we are alone in the universe. I am separate from nature; I am separate from anybody else. This is an illusion that is very, very strong, especially in American culture, yet how completely illogical this concept of boundaries is. Think about it! Does any living thing in nature have a strong boundary, where one thing begins and another ends? No! We are permeable! Everything about us is permeable! Our skin for example is a very important boundary; it keeps our insides from spilling out. But it is permeable to a certain degree. You can place a hormonal compound on your skin that has a small molecular structure and it will absorb through your skin straight to your bloodstream. Boundaries are permeable and that is what people misunderstand. So empathy is not a lack of boundaries, rather it is based on recognition that boundaries are permeable.
There is something really important about relationship, openness, the grace of listening, and the belief that the person is indeed whole. These qualities help the conversation to be safe and generous and caring, and you will eventually get to the place where you need to be. And that is a relational thing rather than an expert thing. The expertise is more about relationship than it is about knowing. There is also a deep power in recognition which is mobilized in the knowing that if someone says something it has deep meaning. Or choosing another metaphor, what people present with is the top of an iceberg and as you go down you realize that it is a lot larger than it appears on the surface.