Using Hamlet to heal part of pilot project

U of C sociologist and Alberta Pastoral Care Association joined forces on pilot project

Shakespeare has long been celebrated for his insight into the human psyche.

On Friday, those gathered at Red Deer’s Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, 40 Holmes St., will look at the power of the bard’s work to help caregivers and patients open up about their experiences.

Hamlet in the Hospital is a pilot project headed by University of Calgary sociology professor and author Arthur Frank, and the Alberta Pastoral Care Association.

“Shakespeare moves people beyond the immediacies of illness to questions of life, death and how best to live,” says an overview of the event.

Frank has called Hamlet a “companion story,” a tale that people can carry with them to guide them.

“From the first scene, Hamlet teaches how to live in circumstances that seem to him to be insane. In that, he’s much like a hospitalized patient.”

Frank will make a presentation on the pilot project about using classical literature to build a support community among patients and caregivers. He is also presenting a workshop on using narrative therapy as tool for grief and bereavement counselling.

Pastoral Care Association President Virginia Battiste said a pilot group of eight of its members was formed to do a readers’ theatre using Hamlet, while reflecting on the themes and it how it impacts them as caregivers.

Through that experience, they hope to see whether the same approach can be translated for use with patients and long-term care residents.

“It’s a work in progress,” she said.

From her experience as a hospital chaplain, she has seen how patients seek an opportunity to talk about their lives as a patient and what effect it has on them.

“If you provide people with the opportunity to reflect from their own personal perspective it draws them into their own story,” she said.

“One of the therapeutic things and one of the healing things, I think, is for people to be able to share their story, own their story and have their story heard and validated by those around them.”

Also speaking via Skype will be Zinia Pritchard, a University of Alberta instructor and senior professional practice lead for spiritual care with Alberta Health Services. Among her topics will be the roles and responsibilities of spiritual health practitioners.

The event runs from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. To register go to or call Battiste at 1-403-933-2947.

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