An Intro to Balint Work

All about what we do and why we do it

What is a “traditional” Balint Group?

It consists of 6-12 doctors with 1-2 leaders and it meets regularly. Meetings usually last for 1-2 hours and the group continues for 1 or more years. The method is that of case presentation without notes.

What happens in a Balint group?

The leader asks “Who has a case?” The presenter who volunteers tells the story of a consultation, this is not a standard case presentation, but a description of what happened between the doctor and the patient. It need not be long, complicated or exciting but something that is continuing to occupy the presenter’s mind. It may be puzzling, or has left the presenter feeling angry, frustrated, irritated or sad.

The group discusses the relationship between the doctor and patient and tries to understand what is happening that evokes these feelings. The feelings which the patient evokes are significant and may be reflected in the presenter or in the group. This facilitates the understanding of the patient.

What can a Balint group do?

  • It provides an opportunity for doctors to reflect on their work
  • It can provide an outlet for anxieties and frustrations generated by their work
  • It can arouse a doctors’ interest in patients whom they have previously found upsetting, annoying or “difficult”
  • It can open minds to other possibilities, both of diagnosis and day to day management
  • The group provides support and improves communication with patients and other professionals
  • It can improve job satisfaction, the patient’s perception of care and help to prevent burn-out

What does a Balint group not do?

  • It does not tell the doctors “how to do” their work
  • It does not provide easy answers
  • It will not solve all doctors’ problems with patients
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