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Dr. Suze Berkhout

Episode #13: Stay With The Mess

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Suze Berkhout, MD, Ph.D., joins us to discuss storytelling and why it matters, how to ethically share stories in an accessible and meaningful format, writing and other creative processes, learning to stay with the mess, and so much more!


Dr. Suze Berkhout is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto, and a clinician-investigator and practicing psychiatrist within the University Health Network. Her research explores how dimensions of self and social identity are shaped within medical and psychiatric practices, and the implications of this for the production and unintended consequences of biomedical knowledge. Her current overlapping and messy research projects explore these themes within Placebo and Nocebo Studies, First Episode Psychosis, and Transplant Medicine, and increasingly include methods that push at the limits of narrative convention.  



  • Dr. Berkhout’s path to being a double doctor and what drew her to Psychiatry

  • Storytelling in a meaningful way

  • What it means to be a narrative researcher

  • Answering methodological and epistemological questions with research

  • Feminist science and medicine, and how it relates to storytelling

  • Grappling with power dynamics in clinical work

  • Suze’s introduction to feminist philosophy in undergrad and it’s influence on her career trajectory

  • Intersectionality: all the axes of identity that need to be considered and why they matter

  • The importance of translating science out of jargon and into something meaningful

  • The writing process and using small pockets of time

  • Embracing the things that work for you

  • Using multiple notebooks to jot down ideas and map thoughts in an iterative way

  • Building momentum when returning to writing by leaving your last sentence unfinished

  • Giving structure but letting people have choice and control to explore or not explore things in research and clinical work alike

  • The difference between thinking about having “the story” and having “a partial truth” of something

  • Understanding the multiplicity of a story and the unintended consequences of not paying attention to it

  • Compartmentalizing: keeping track of when you’re wearing your different “hats” to understand the process and influences on what you do


  • Follow Dr. Berkhout on Twitter!

  • Read this article about her research: “Combining mental health care and feminist philosophy to help hard-to-treat patients” here!


  • Cognitive Dissonance: the feelings of discomfort that result when your beliefs are inconsistent with your behaviors and/or new information that is presented to you.

  • Intersectionality: the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.

  • Epistemology: the branch of philosophy concerned with the theory of knowledge; the study of the nature of knowledge, justification, and the rationality of belief.

  • Ontology: the philosophical study of being; it studies concepts that directly relate to being, in particular becoming, existence, reality, as well as the basic categories of being and their relations.

  • Placebo effect: a beneficial effect produced by a placebo drug or treatment, which cannot be attributed to the properties of the placebo itself, and must therefore be due to the patient's belief in that treatment.

  • Nocebo effect: negative expectations of the patient regarding a treatment cause the treatment to have a more negative effect than it otherwise would have.

Full Transcript of this episode available soon.