True to an understanding of human beings as bio-psycho-socially entangled, in our research, we understand the humanities and psychiatry (itself a heterogeneous set of clinical, scholarly and cultural practices and paradigms) as collaborating partners. This allows generating insights that are relevant within all the single disciplines involved, and to transcend disciplinary and paradigmatic boundaries by breaking with traditional dichotomies such as nature-culture or conceptual-empirical. Consistent with this collaborative understanding as well as with the Medical Humanities’ traditional focus on experience, we embrace a participatory approach to research as much as possible. Besides concrete research, it is part and parcel of this framework to “openly, evenly and creatively interrogate(…) and rework(…)” “the procedural norms and routines of the humanities, the social sciences, and the biological sciences” (Viney et al. 2015:3) in meta-reflective discussion. Naturally, such research depends on cross-disciplinary collaborations and the group is therefore closely linked with various humanities scholars and networks at the University of Zurich and beyond.

Our current research projects study language in the context of mental health. Specifically, we investigate how the experience of mental illness can be verbalised and thereby be shared with others. To this purpose, we gather speech data (natural and elicited conversations on mental illness experience) and analyse them using a variety of qualitative methods (content analysis, conversation analysis). We thus seek to identify communicative patterns and to compile them into a collection of strategies that can be used to communicate about mental illness in different contexts. We furthermore seek to evaluate the adequateness of specific communicative strategies by setting the qualitative findings in relation to psychometric data. Based on the narrative data gathered in this and other collaborating projects, the group is involved in the development of a module on mental illness for the Database of Individual Patients’ Experiences Dipex ( In the future, the compiled narrative and conversational data will allow secondary analyses, e.g. about the relationship between the phenomenology of mental illness and linguistic expression, about linguistic markers of pathology and resilience, and about communication between different stakeholders Further research interests involve the evaluation – both empirically and conceptually - and further development of participatory research processes.



Kristeva J, Moro MR, Ødemark J, Engebretsen E. Cultural crossings of care: an appeal to the medical humanities. Med Humanit 2018;44:55-58.

Viney W, Callard F, Woods A. Critical medical humanities: embracing entanglement, taking risks. Med Humanit 2015;41:2-7.




Phenomenological psychopathology

Medical Humanities



Qualitative research methods

Participatory science


Research Projects

  • Let’s talk about it! But how? On the verbalization of mental experience from psychiatric and linguistic perspectives (in collaboration with Dr. des. Yvonne Ilg, Deutsches Seminar, UZH.


Stiftung zur Förderung von Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie

Partizipative Wissenschaftsakademie UZH / ETHZ


  • Sharing stories of mental illness (Kollaborationspartner: Institut für Biomedizinische Ethik, UZH)


Hand und Marianne Schwyn Stiftung


  • Re-naming “schizophrenia”? Perspectives from service users, relatives and mental health professionals in Switzerland (in collaboration with Dr. des. Yvonne Ilg, Deutsches Seminar, UZH, und Prof. Dr. Johannes Schulz, Institute for Communication and Health, Universita della Svizzera Italiana)