The Dialogue Between Science and Art

June 1, 2005
Charles R. Joy, MD

In a variety of creative fields, psychiatrists have been portrayed in many ways. This Special Report is psychiatry's turn to address creativity with offerings as diverse as the creative arts themselves. From Shakespeare to rock 'n' roll, there's something for everyone.

Psychiatric Times

June 2005

Vol. XXII

Issue 7

Creativity and psychiatry: two rich themes of human endeavor, one a little deeper than the other. Creativity--the urge to adapt the materials and methods of existence toward the production of specific works addressing beauty and truth--is practically ageless as an activity, dating from prehistory: cave paintings in Europe, ancient African rhythms, Asian theatre, Aboriginal design. Psychiatry--the medical specialty addressing disorders of behavior and mind--is relatively young as a discipline, dating locally from the organization of the imperial 19th century system for institutions of asylum. The relationship of creativity and psychiatry provides a story of its own--a dialogue between science and art--and is the topic for this Special Report.

Creativity addresses psychiatry most powerfully through the narrative arts: theatre, screenplay, fiction. Consider the cast of memorable characters, from Dr. Jason Seaver (Alan Thicke) on Growing Pains to Dr. Katz, animated star of Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist, in any number of shows and books, from Equus (1977) to Regeneration (1997), by many celebrated authors, Anton P. Chekhov, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Woody Allen, Pat Conroy. Psychiatrists rise, to shine or glower at us, from these pages and stages and screens on a regular basis.

Psychiatry addresses creativity right here, in this Special Report, with thoughtful articles. "Are Genius and Madness Related? Contemporary Answers to an Ancient Question" examines the relationship between illness and art, a popular topic. "Through Hamlet to Narrative Medicine and Neuroscience: Literature as a Basic Science of Psychiatry" analyzes the relationships between characters, such as in Hamlet, and stresses the importance of narrative to effective psychiatric practice. "Telling The Truth in Fiction" is a gracefully written discussion highlighting the parallels between practicing psychiatry and writing fiction. Finally, "'Pop' Psychology: Putting Rock and Roll Music on the Psychoanalytic Couch" provides a fast-moving and engaging interpretation of several contemporary musical works.

Please enjoy this Special Report, a journalistic contribution to the expanding genre of psychiatry and art. In addition to psychiatry's fundamental attentions to suicide, violence, psychosis and severe personality disorder, psychiatry's relationship with creativity is one of the great reasons why psychiatry is cool.

Acknowledgement

It is with great appreciation that we recognize Dr. Joy for his guidance with this Special Report.

Dr. Joy is a community child psychiatrist and an accomplished poet. His next poem "Mount Suribachi" will appear in the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry News, where he is poetry editor.