Letters from the Clinic: Letter Writing in Clinical Practice for Mental Health Professionals

Letters from the Clinic: Letter Writing in Clinical Practice for Mental Health Professionals

Letters from the Clinic: Letter Writing in Clinical Practice for Mental Health Professionals

Letters from the Clinic: Letter Writing in Clinical Practice for Mental Health Professionals

Synopsis

In every field of therapeutic practice a significant amount of time is spent writing letters about and to patients. In Letters From the Clinic Derek Steinberg applies detailed literary and psychological analysis to over 40 letters, highlighting why certain words or phrases were used, how they could have been put better, and builds around them principles and theoretical positions based on narrative therapy, consultative approaches and the psychological impact of words and phrases.Using the context of child, adolescent and family psychiatry, while also applicable to all therapeutic work, the book deals with issues such as* explaining clinical conditions and treatments* confirming clinical contracts* conveying difficult advice and painful news* missed appointments and other practicalitiesEach letter is followed by detailed annotations and discussion.Letters From the Clinic will prove a valuable tool to all those working in clinical and therapeutic practice.

Excerpt

Many clinicians including, I regret to admit, myself have regarded letters as a necessary but largely irrelevant distraction from the main business of the clinical treatment of patients. What Steinberg does in this book is to get us to bring the letter into the main frame of our clinical work. He shows us that this is important, that it is as much part of the clinical treatment of a patient as anything else we do.

There is a very long tradition of doctor writers. Some like Chekhov or Conan Doyle used their talents away from medicine. Others have used their interest and ability to write in the furtherance of their main profession through research or teaching. Steinberg is one of this kind and has written extensively on a wide range of subjects within his speciality. He is thus an experienced clinician and a writer. He has an interest in the written word and how it affects those who read it. He knows that for patients who come to possess our written words as something independent from the clinical encounter there is a kind of separateness or distance of the subject from the clinician. He knows how the written word can be valuable in a rather special way but also how it can be a problem, sometimes even dangerous, when taken out of context and misunderstandings cannot be corrected as they can in a face-to-face meeting.

What is interesting and quite unique about this book is that we do not simply have a good writer using his talent to communicate professional knowledge, we have a medical writer, a word-smith using his dual crafts to help us. We all have to be medical writers even though most of us are not very good ones. We often deal with this by concentrating on what we do well and what interests us and neglect this whole section of our professional lives and, by that useful defence of denial, fail to notice how our letters affect our patients and our colleagues often in ways that would shock us if only we knew it. Steinberg helps us to be sensitive to our patients’ experiences when they receive our letters. When we know this we can use our letters to help our patients to prepare themselves, to upset or even traumatise them less. By turning his attention to this whole area of clinical practice Steinberg not only helps us rescue a neglected area but also really extend our clinical effectiveness. He shows us that we have a powerful clinical tool which we can use as a real adjunct to our usual ‘in the consulting room’ clinical practice. Many of us have a long way to go and it does take practice to develop letter-writing skills but Steinberg gives . . .

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