Intended for healthcare professionals

Editorials Christmas 2017

Hope is a therapeutic tool

BMJ 2017; 359 doi: (Published 13 December 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;359:j5469
  1. Rodrigo A Bressan, professor of psychiatry1,
  2. Eduardo Iacoponi, honorary senior clinical lecturer1,
  3. Jorge Candido de Assis, vice president2,
  4. Sukhi S Shergill, professor of psychiatry and systems neuroscience1
  1. 1Department of Psychosis Studies, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London, London, UK
  2. 2Brazilian Association of Families, Friends and People with Schizophrenia, São Paulo, Brazil
  1. Correspondence to: R A Bressan rodrigo.bressan{at}

Don’t be afraid to use it

Everyone who has been a patient, or accompanied a relative to see a doctor, recognises the importance of the doctor-patient relationship. At its heart is the patient’s need to understand what is wrong, be understood, and be offered hope. Although it is common sense that hope is a fundamental element of overcoming any illness, the clinician’s role in encouraging hope has been framed as one of the distinctive elements of the “art of medicine,” relying on personal experience and instinct.1234 However, hope is in fact a practical therapeutic tool that can be optimised just like any other management approach.

Despite the considerable attention given to the doctor-patient relationship during medical training, hope has traditionally been neglected. Many doctors still don’t have a clear idea about how to use hope as therapy while at the same time being realistic and truthful about uncertainty and the potential for poor outcomes. …

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