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Acad Psychiatry. 2010 Nov-Dec;34(6):438-41. doi: 10.1176/appi.ap.34.6.438.

Points of contact: using first-person narratives to help foster empathy in psychiatric residents.

Author information

1
Department of Psychiatry at New York State Psychiatric Institute and with Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University in New York City, NY 10032, USA. sd2469@columbia.edu

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

The authors aimed to determine if writing narratives in psychiatric training can foster empathy for severely and persistently mentally ill patients.

METHODS:

One resident wrote first-person narrative pieces about three different patients at a community mental health clinic. She reviewed these pieces with a writing supervisor weekly. The supervisor and resident examined the style of writing, choice of words, and story line to help the resident learn about her feelings about the patient.

RESULTS:

In each narrative, different choices were made that provided clues about that particular resident-patient relationship. These writing exercises helped the resident become more connected to her patients, develop interviewing skills, and engage in more self-reflection.

CONCLUSION:

Narrative writing effectively fostered empathy in a PGY-1 psychiatric resident working with severely and persistently mentally ill patients. This exercise also fostered understanding of countertransference and improved psychiatric history-taking skills. Psychiatry training programs may want to consider incorporating narrative writing exercises into their curriculum.

PMID:
21041467
DOI:
10.1176/appi.ap.34.6.438
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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