Balint group gives clinicians an opportunity to explore and express their personal experience in day-to-day practice. Balint groups were created in the 1950s in London by the renowned figure in the field of medicine and psychoanalysis, Michael Balint. By working in groups with GPs he recognized the therapeutic and diagnostic significance of clinician-patient relationship and created a training method named after him, the Balint groups.
Unlike other doctor training programs, Balint puts emphasis on clinician-patient relationship and enables learning and honing of ’’doctor skill’’ i.e., professional and therapeutic communication with the patient which is based on psychotherapeutic notions.
As a doctor and psychoanalyst, Michael Balint connected psychoanalytic concepts and clinical medicine throughout his life primarily on Freudian basis and pointed out the importance of psychological understanding of patient by doctor. Balint managed to put the long suppressed human relation back at the center of doctor’s work when a patient was at risk of losing his completeness due to rapid advances of technological medicine and the division of work into ‘’somatic’’ and ‘’psychological’’. Balint training method ‘’Balint Groups’’ became an institutionalized education method, well known and accepted professional development training worldwide. In 1972. the European Council recognized The International Balint Federation a as non-governmental agency which gathered national Balint societies from 21 countries.
Balint groups are designed to enable doctors to explore difficult interactions with patients through presentations and discussions. Some groups are exclusive for GPs and other specialists. However, there are groups for participants from the fields of expertise similar to medicine. Typically, Balint groups consist of six up to twelve participants and one or two Balint leaders who meet once or twice a month for a number of years. The skill of therapeutic relationship with the patient is learned and practiced through personal experience and verbal ’’case presentation’’ from every day practice. The group starts by case presentation of volunteer who presents interaction with the patient which is difficult.
Case presentation is followed by a group discussion which focusses on thought, emotions and subjective reactions that arise during consultation. The goal of Balint group is to stimulate a process similar to psychoanalytic ’’free associations’’. Therefore, the participants are asked to present their patients without notes and the whole group is encouraged to share their ideas, associations, images and emotions that arise during the discussion. This work method engages diverse viewpoints that can shed some light on the initial problem. What’s more, group participants can become aware of their unconscious attitudes about patient or the situations which help them recognize their own psychological content. Research into Balint groups is relatively rare. A small number of studies show the actual process of case presentation and discussions in Balint groups. While Balint believed that long term participation in such groups leads to limited yet significant change in doctors’ personality it remains unclear what type of change occurs in clinicians who take part in this group. Even though Balint groups were not designed to be therapeutic they can have therapeutic effects to a certain degree. Balint groups proved to be very efficient and necessary in the ego strengthening process and self-awareness of group participants. Kulenovic and Blazekovic-Milakovic in harmony with Enid Balint state that there are considerable similarities between psychoanalysis and Balint groups but one, Balint groups insist on clinician-patient relationship without exploring the subconscious of the doctors’ preoccupations. In Balint groups, patients are trained to implement basic psychodynamic principles with special care to doctor-patient relationship. The goal of these groups is to improve doctors’ skills in their work with patients while at the same time they control their personal engagement and raise awareness about their feelings during consultation with patient. Balint training is with its specific goal and methodology beneficial for the doctor, patient and institution. It makes the doctor more pleased, work with patients more efficient and it contributes to a better doctor-patient relationship.
Doctor gets a better perspective of patient and sensibility to recognize psychological and somatic traits in patient much faster and easier. Since patient understands that not only he is recognized as illness but also as personality he puts more trust in doctor, feels safer and more satisfied with treatment quality, adheres to recommended treatment methods so therapy result is better.