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Hook, J. (2015). Learning About Emotions in Illness: Integrating Psychotherapeutic Teaching into Medical Education edited by Peter Shoenberg and Jessica Yakeley. Published by Routledge, London and New York, 2014; 184 pp; £85 hardback. Brit. J. Psychother., 31(1):144-146.

(2015). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 31(1):144-146

Learning About Emotions in Illness: Integrating Psychotherapeutic Teaching into Medical Education edited by Peter Shoenberg and Jessica Yakeley. Published by Routledge, London and New York, 2014; 184 pp; £85 hardback

Review by:
John Hook

The practice of medicine is an art, not a trade; a calling, not a business; a calling in which your heart will be exercised equally with your head. (William Osler) This short book details the work pioneered at University College Hospital, London, teaching medical students about the role of emotions in illness through taking on patients with psychosomatic illness or with marked psychological responses to physical illness for psychotherapy and attendance at Balint groups. At first sight the book will appeal to a niche market of medical educators and medical psychotherapists interested in promoting understanding in medical students about how emotions play a significant part in generating physical symptoms and complicating physical illness. My view is that it deserves a much wider audience as the teaching methods described backed up through research are applicable, indeed one might say essential, to all health and social care professionals.

As the quotation from Osler (1849-1919) indicates, the problem of the emotions in medicine has been a longstanding one with which medicine and allied professions continue to grapple. This scheme, growing out of work started by Dorothea Ball and Heinz Wolff, psychiatrists at UCL some 50 years ago, is one of several aiming to address the issue by making students more aware of the patient as a person and how psychological responses impact on the presentation of illness. Through direct contact with patients and the reflective practice of the Balint group, the emotional impact that the patient's feelings about their illness may have upon the practitioner is explored, along with ways the practitioner can respond unhelpfully if this is not taken into account and the potential for helping the patient when it is.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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