Writing, painting, creating: How can the arts augment psychiatry training?


  • Jennifer Nicole Harris Cornwall Foundation Trust University of Plymouth




The humanities have recently enjoyed a position in medical school curriculums, but once a graduated doctor, its importance and value appears to diminish in the eyes of the profession. Psychiatry, as the study of the human condition where one must identify the inner worlds of patients, lends itself to creative pursuits encompassing observation and communication.  As a specialty, psychiatry continues to suffer stigmatised opinions within the medical profession and poor recruitment across many countries. Incorporating the humanities, including literature, music and art into the training of postgraduate doctors could remedy tired perspectives and busy working lives, as well as providing new and dynamic ways to learn about and connect with patients on a more profound level.

Author Biography

Jennifer Nicole Harris, Cornwall Foundation Trust University of Plymouth

Dr Harris is a CT2 psychiatry trainee and music graduate based in Cornwall (UK) currently undertaking a masters in clinical education and membership exams for the Royal College of Psychiatry.


Oxford Dictionary. oxforddictionaries.com. [Online] 2018. [Cited: 12 December 2018.] https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/art.

Fenner P, et al. Provision of arts therapies for people with severe mental illness. Current Opinion in Psychiatry. 2017: 30 (4): 306-311.

Nayak A. Changing Medical Students’ Attitudes to Psychiatry through Newer Teaching Techniques. Mens sana monographs. 2015: 13 (1): 180-186.

Educacion Medica. educacionmedica.net. [Online] February 2003. [Cited: 12 December 2018.] https://www.educacionmedica.net/pdf/documentos/modelos/tomorrowdoc.pdf.

General Medical Council. gmc-uk.org. [Online] June 2018. [Cited: 12 December 2018.] https://www.gmc-uk.org/-/media/documents/dc11326-outcomes-for-graduates-2018_pdf-75040796.pdf.

Royal College of Psychiatrists. rcpsych.ac.uk. [Online] 01 July 2013. [Cited: 12 December 2018.] https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/docs/default-source/training/curricula-and-guidance/curricula-core-psychiatry-curriculum-april-2018.pdf?sfvrsn=881b63ca_2.

Hall J, Woods N, Hanson M. Is social sciences and humanities (SSH) premedical education marginalized in the medical school admission process? A review and contextualization of the literature. Academic Medicine, 2014: 89 (7): 1075-1086.

Rutherford BR, Hellerstein DJ. Divergent fates of the medical humanities in psychiatry and internal medicine: Should psychiatry be rehumanized? Academic Psychiatry, 2008: 32 (3): 206-213.

Cameron D, Biobabble. Crit Q, 2007: (1); 124-129.

Lewis B. Narrative and psychiatryCurrent Opinion in Psychiatry, 2011: 24 (6): 489-494.

Angell M. The illusions of psychiatry. New York : s.n., 2011.

Charon R. Narrative medicine: a model for empathy reflection, profession and trust. JAMA 2001: 286: 1897-1902.

Sachdev P. The narrative in neurology and psychiatry. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 2011: 24 (3): 215-218.

Kumar S et al. Creative practitioners., Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 2014: 48: 69.

Mula M, Trimble MR. Music and madness: neuropsychiatric aspects of music. Clinical Medicine (London, England), 2009: 9 (1): 83-86.

Schlozman, SC.The Humanities and the Practice of Medicine. Behavior & Medicine, 2006: 4: 261-649.

Frich J, Fugelli P. Medicine and the Arts in the Undergraduate Medical Curriculum at the University of Oslo Faculty of Medicine, Oslo, Norway. Academic Medicine, 2003: 78 (10): 1036-1038.

Mullangi S, The synergy of medicine and art in the curriculum. Academic Medicine, 2013: 88 (3): 921-923.

Leonhardt BL, et al. Allowing for psychosis to be approachable and understandable as a human experience: A role for the humanities in psychotherapy supervision. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 2015: 69 (1): 35-51.

Kan C, et al. How we developed a trainee-led book group as a supplementary education tool for psychiatric training in the 21st century. Medical Teacher, 2014: 37 (9): 803-806.

Taylor A. Guardian.com. [Online] 2014. [Cited: 19 February 2018.] https://www.theguardian.com/social-care-network/social-life-blog/2014/jun/06/social-work-book-group.

Lal R, et al. Reading the mind: A social media-facilitated collaboration of US and UK graduate psychiatry trainees. Academic Psychiatry, 2016: 40 (1): 141-144.

Valenti MP, Mehl-Madrona L.Humanizing Patients through Narrative Approaches: The Case of Murphy, the "Motor-Mouth". The permanente journal, 2010: 14 (2): 47-50.

Ruskin TA. Using artwork to understand the experience of mental illness: Mainstream artists and Outsider artists. GMS Psycho-Social-Medicine, 2008: 5: 1-14.

Rosen A. Return from the vanishing point: A clinician's perspective on art and mental illness, and particularly schizophrenia. Epidemiologia e Psichiatria Sociale, 2007: 16 (2): 126-132.

McDonald J. Psychiatry rocks. The british journal of psychiatry, 2013: 453: 200.

Reilly TJ. Hip-hop and psychiatry: a fair rap? The british journal of psychiatry, 2013:203: 408.

Egan WH. Teaching medical student psychiatry through contemporary music. J Med Educ. , 1977: 52: 851-853.

Blasco PG, Moreto G, Levites MR. Teaching humanities through opera: leading medical students to reflective attitudes. Fam Med, 2005: 37: 18-20.

Greenhalgh T, Hurwitz B. Narrative Based Medicine. London: BMJ, 1998.

Beverage A. Should psychiatrists read fiction? The British Journal of Psychiatry, 2003: 182 (5) 385-387.

Douglas BC. Dickens’ characters on the couch: an example of teaching psychiatry using literature. Medical Humanities, 2008: 34: 64-69.

Manheim L. Dicken's fools and madmen. Dickens studies annual, 1972: 2: 69-359.

Kelly BD. Alice in Wonderland: The psychiatric perspective. Journal of Developmental and Behavioural Pediatrics: 2008: 29 (3): 239.

Vance, MA. Incorporating Music into Health Care Education: Experience at a College of Pharmacy. Education for health: Change in learning and practice, 2006: 19 (2): 251-255.

Senior, T. Can music be used in medical education? British journal of general practice, 2012: 62: 604.

Harris A, Flynn E. Medical education of attention: A qualitative study of learning to listen to sound. Medical Teacher, 2017: 39 (1): 79-84.

Pellico LH, et al. Artwork and music: Innovative approaches to physical assessment. Arts & Health: An International Journal of Research, Policy and Practice. 2014: 6 (2): 162-175.

Di Matteo B, et al. Art in Science: Giovanni Paolo Mascagni and the Art of Anatomy. Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2015:473 (3): 783-788.

Bleakley A. Medical Humanities & Medical Education: How the Medical Humanities can Shape Better Doctors. London : Routledge, 2015.

Deen S, Mangurian C, Cabaniss D. Points of contact: using first-person narratives to help foster empathy in psychiatric residents. Academic Psychiatry. 2010: 346: 438-441.

Bleakley A, Marshell R.The embodiment of lyricism in medicine and Homer. Medical Humanities. 2012: 38 (1): 50-54.

Keville S, et al. So many lifetimes locked inside: reflecting on the use of music and songs to enhance learning through emotional and social connection in Trainee Clinical Psychologists. Reflective Practice. 2018: 19 (3): 376-388.

van Roessel P, Shafer Ay. Music, Medicine, and the Art of Listening. Journal for learning through the arts. 2006: 2 (1): 14.

Ortega R, Andreoli M, Chima S. Is there a place for music in medical school? Medical teacher. 2011: 33 (1): 76-77.

Davidoff F. Music Lessons: What Musicians Can Teach Doctors. Annals of Internal Medicine . 2011: 154: 426-429.

van Ark A, Wijnen-Meijer M. “Doctor Jazz”: Lessons that medical professionals can learn from. Medical Teacher. 2018: 1-6.

Thys E, Sabbe B, De Hert M. Creativity and psychiatric illness: The search for a missing link - A historical context for current research. Psychopathology. 2013: 46 (3): 136-144.

Pembroke, L. Recovery and arts as activism. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing. 2007: 14 (8): 768-770.

Bradley Smith S. This sylvan game - creative writing and GP wellbeing. Australian Family Physician. 2008: 37 (6): 461-462.

Baste V, Gadkari J. Study of stress, self-esteem and depression in medical students and effect of music on perceived stress. Indian journal of physiology and pharmacology. 2014: 58 (3): 298-301.

Herlekar S, Doizode A, Siddhangoudar S. Stress perceived and its effect on concentration in first year medical students of different ethnicities. Can instrumental background music act as a common coping strategy? A randomised controlled trial. Biomedicine (India), 2017: 37 (2): 256-261.

Latha R, Sairaman H. The role of classical music on stress alleviation and autonomic functions in medical students. Biomedicine (India). 2015: 35 (1): 90-94.

Srikanth S, et al. Effect of music on stress and academic performance of undergraduate medical students. National Medical Journal of India. 2014: 27 (6): 351-352.

Hazelton L, Delva N. Exploring the intersection of mental health and humanities: The Dalhousie psychiatry student writing competition. Academic Psychiatry. 2016: 40 (2): 337-338.

Leonpacher A, Chisolm M. Mentored writing: An arts-based curriculum for first-year psychiatry residents. Academic Psychiatry. 2016: 40 (6): 947-949.

Burruss J. The first annual AAP humanism in medicine medical student essay contest. Academic Psychiatry. 2006: 30 (1): 79.

University of Exeter. exeter.ac.uk. [Online] 2018. [Cited: 12 December 2018.] https://www.exeter.ac.uk/staff/policies/calendar/part2/prizes/.

van Roy K, Vanheule S, Inslegers R. Research on Balint groups: A literature review. Patient education and counseling 2015:98: 685-694.

Bronowski J. The Ascent of Man. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. 1974.

Phillips R. The Healing Power of Art and Artists. [Online] 2015. [Cited: 26 November 2018.] https://www.healing-power-of-art.org/benefits-of-art/.

Sacks, O. Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain. Reprints edition. New York : Picador, 2011.





Full Length Articles