Introduction to Art and Literature as Components of Person-Centered Care

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Ekaterina Sukhanova


The article brings the attention of mental health professionals to the theoretical framework underpinning the contemporary understanding of the dynamics of psychiatric art. Using the semiotics approach to art production and perception, the article makes the connection between the dialogical mechanisms of art and the potential uses of art to counteract stigma, including self-stigmatization. Creative works by patients have long been acknowledged a key source of information in the clinical diagnostic process. Furthermore, because all artistic activity is a communicative act, working with patient art aids the clinician to gain a better understanding of the preserved aspects of a patients’ personality, beyond the pathological syndromes, and build a better rapport, resulting in more successful therapeutic approaches. Gaining an insight into patient art allows the clinician to be more effective in planning specific medical and social rehabilitation strategies. At the community level, outsider art is a powerful tool in anti-stigma campaigns because the dialogic potential inherent in art is conducive to stopping the “vicious cycle” of stigmatization.

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Author Biography

Ekaterina Sukhanova, City University of New York (CUNY), USA

Dr. Sukhanova has been curating exhibits of art brut at many international venues, with the aim of using such exhibits as a vehicle for fighting stigma. She has organized a number of scientific symposia at major mental health colloquia around the world and served as the Chair of the Organizing Committee for an international cross-disciplinary conference on body image. She is the co-editor (with H-O Thomashoff) of a collective volume, The Person in Art: Conceptual and Pictorial Frames on Art and Mental Health (Nova Publishers, 2008). She is the Scientific Secretary of two SEctions of the World Psychiatric Association: Literature and Psychiatry as well as Art and Psychiatry. Dr. Sukhanova is the author of a research monograph, Voicing the Distant (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2004) and a number of scholarly articles.


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