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Book review
Mental Health, Psychiatry and the Arts: A Teaching Handbook
  1. Lisetta Lovett
  1. Correspondence to Dr Lisetta Lovett, Bennett Centre, Richmond Terrace, Shelton, Stoke on Trent ST1 4ND, UK; lisetta.lovett{at}northstaffs.nhs.uk

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Edited by Victoria Tischler. Published by Radcliffe Publishing Ltd, 2010, paperback, 162pp, £29.99, ISBN 1846193736

Mental Health, Psychiatry and the Arts is a teaching handbook edited by Victoria Tischler, a chartered psychologist, who has taught behavioural sciences to medical students at the University of Nottingham since 2002.

The central intention of the book is to ‘inspire, guide and encourage’ other educators to establish courses that use the humanities to help students develop their humanity and empathy while encountering patients with psychiatric problems. Although this book appears to be targeted only at educators of medical students, it could be equally used by educators of other mental health disciplines, pharmacists and social workers. Coloured illustrations, resources and comprehensive references are included. Many of the chapters suggest how to plan and/or deliver teaching and what tasks and questions to set for students.

Anyone with an interest in the medical humanities will not need to rehearse the arguments that are presented in the foreword by Allan D Peterkin, editor of ARS MEDIA, professor of psychiatry and lead of a programme in Narrative and Healthcare Humanities at Mount Sinai Hospital. But sceptics should certainly sacrifice 5 minutes to read this eloquent and convincing mission statement for the medical humanities. Victoria Tischler expands on his arguments in the first chapter pointing out that humanities teaching may act as ‘an antidote to the reductionist and technical learning which predominates in mental health education’. I would echo this point as someone whose initial training in the speciality was some 30 years ago when the psychotherapies played such a prominent part in our education. Their diminution and the move to more biological models of understanding psychiatric disorders have resulted in students of psychiatry (postgraduate as well as undergraduate) falling into the trap of other specialities of treating the medical condition and not the person. I think the authors missed some further reasons for studying psychiatry (indeed …

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