Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 201–207

Teaching personal awareness

  • Robert C. Smith
  • Francesca C. Dwamena
  • Auguste H. Fortin

DOI: 10.1111/j.1525-1497.2005.40212.x

Cite this article as:
Smith, R.C., Dwamena, F.C. & Fortin, A.H. J GEN INTERN MED (2005) 20: 201. doi:10.1111/j.1525-1497.2005.40212.x


Educators rarely consider the attitudes that determine whether a learner will use the clinical skills we teach. Nevertheless, many learners and practitioners exhibit negative attitudes that can impede the use of patient-centered skills, leading to an isolated focus upon disease and impairing the provider-patient relationship. The problem is compounded because these attitudes often are incompletely recognized by learners and therefore are difficult to change without help.

We present a research-based method for teaching personal awareness of unrecognized and often harmful attitudes. We propose that primary care clinicians without mental health training can follow this method to teach students, residents, faculty, and practitioners. Such teachers/mentors need to possess an abiding interest in the personal dimension, patience with a slowly evolving process of awareness, and the ability to establish strong, ongoing relationships with learners. Personal awareness teaching may occur during instruction in basic interviewing skills but works best if systematically incorporated throughout training.

Key words

self-awareness countertransference attitudes provider-patient relationship communication medical education 

Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert C. Smith
    • 1
  • Francesca C. Dwamena
    • 1
  • Auguste H. Fortin
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of General Internal Medicine, College of Human MedicineMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  2. 2.Yale University School of MedicineNew HayenUSA

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