The art of psychiatry

  • van Niekerk J
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Psychiatrists would undoubtedly support the notion of promoting such qualities as empathy, sensitivity and caring in the pursuit of good clinical practice. However, cultivating what we may call the "art of psychiatry" is not straightforward, since the qualities that constitute it are elusive. I propose that the means by which we can accomplish the goal of relating empathically and compassionately to our patients and their families is by regarding the humanities and the sciences as of equal relevance and as complementary. The humanities, particularly literature, the visual arts, film and music, are most suited to promoting empathic skills when they are woven into the clinical scenario. Examples are provided to demonstrate how this may be achieved. Were we to succeed in highlighting the art of psychiatry in our educational programs, and as part of continuing professional development, I surmise that our patients and their families would be the beneficiaries. We cannot merely vow to act empathically and sensitively. Instead, we should embark on a lifelong journey through the wonderful world of literature, the visual arts, film and music. The experience will not only prove appealing and engaging, but it will also go far to enrich our personal and professional lives.




van Niekerk, J. (2008). The art of psychiatry. Psychiatric Bulletin, 32(4), 152–152.

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