Teaching Clinicians About Affect

  • Tamara ZecEmail author
  • David Forrest


Can the concept of affect be taught and is this even an important task to master in medical education? In this chapter, we say yes to both. Drawing on many years of work with medical students, residents, and fellows, as well as psychoanalytic theory, we show that affect awareness and recognition often remains an elusive and intimidating challenge for both trainees and practicing clinicians. Frequently, there is an overall aversion to engaging with patients (and themselves) emotionally. Most trainees focus instead on obsessively describing various parameters of affect; a defense against experiencing themselves and their patients as emotional beings first and foremost, and therefore, ultimately vulnerable to suffering and death. We demonstrate that understanding how to engage emotionally with patients helps reflect back affect more accurately during physician–patient interactions. It is important for physicians to be able to do this well as it builds empathy and patient rapport, cooperation, and confidence. This in turn leads to a more effective and nuanced appreciation of the patient and their concerns, ultimately leading to better quality of care, as well as a sense of empowerment for the physician.


Affect Training Empathy Rapport Physician–patient relationship 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral HealthFlorida International University, Herbert Wertheim College of MedicineMiamiUSA
  2. 2.Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and ResearchNew YorkUSA

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