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Humanities-Based Clinical Case Conference


The Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences instituted a seminar series in 2012 examining critically works of art and literature, with a focus on how these works relate both to the practice of psychiatry and to an understanding of the human condition more broadly. The seminar is a required experience for third-year residents who spend 6 months meeting weekly with an attending psychiatrist/moderator, Dr. Andrew Furman. The seminar is divided into two component parts. The first part, conducted over 3 months, has a defined curriculum with works chosen by the attending psychiatrist to elucidate and highlight specific humanities-based ways of knowing. During the successive 3 months, the seminar participants’ individually select and present works of art and literature, highlighting how the individual piece contributes to our psychotherapeutic knowledge narrowly and to our appreciation of the human experience generally. Dr. Furman facilitates the discussion, after which the seminar becomes interactive and dialogic. Subjects have included diverse artistic works drawn from literature, music, and visual arts. Moreover, the seminar is conducted in conjunction and in parallel with an exploration of clinical material via a continuous psychotherapy case conference. An examination or “reading” of these artistic works is intended to enhance and deepen residents’ ‘listening” to the clinical process material while offering them an opportunity to hear and to experience patients’ struggles in novel and potentially therapeutic ways.


The seminar serves as a fundamental part of the residency curriculum and aims to achieve the following objectives: (1) promote an enriched understanding of theory of mind, (2) foster more nuanced and complex interpretations and understandings, (3) draw attention to those crucial aspects of a story that sit below the surface, (4) involve residents in the experience of the human condition in profound though not necessarily scientific ways, and (5) allow residents to engage with others’ emotions, thoughts, and desires, while doing so safely in an experimental, communal setting free of both the risks and constraints of real-world enactments and the worries entailed in working with psychiatrically ill patients.

Furman, AC, Hudson, WH Humanities Revisited: Integrating the Humanities in Psychiatric Residency Training. Academic Psychiatry Dec 41(6): 715-718, 2017

This course was highlighted in episode 4 of “Your Fantastic Mind:"