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Balint 2022 > About

Soon after the end of the 2nd world war, in 1952, Michael Balint started the first “training cum research” group. The purpose was the observation of the doctor-patient relationship.

What is the Balint approach?

The fundamental belief of Balint is that a symptom – especially if repetitive and not responding to the usual treatment – contains a message which is humanly perceivable but not yet understood. 

This perception requires time and reflection. The hidden dimension of a patient’s request can be discovered through the analysis of the caregiver-patient relationship.  

In Balint groups we try to “create conditions which would enable the doctors to view their own methods and responses to their patients from some distance, recognize traits in their particular approach to their patients which were useful and might be understood and developed, and others which were not so useful, and, when their dynamic significance was understood, needed to be modified or even abandoned.” (Michael Balint 1957)

In Balint groups two leaders and the participants try to reach these goals together. The work focuses on a specific caregiver-patient relationship that questions, surprises, worries… The groups are composed of 10 to 12 participants. They sit in a circle so that everyone sees everyone else. One   participant presents a clinical situation. The setting, under the responsibility of the two leaders, makes it possible to create the needed reassuring atmosphere. This allows the presenting participant to report spontaneously his/her emotional involvement. Leaders are also mindful that the audience is active and critical in a friendly and constructive way.

There are however different variants of these groups and this congress gives you the opportunity to choose between several options.

Balint core values: cohesion and flexibility

Since 1952, Society has changed, our lifestyle has changed. Scientific and medical knowledge have evolved. Healthcare is different: balance of gender is no more determined as it used to be (male doctors, female nurses), the internet has deeply changed the access to information for the practitioner and for the patient as well, modifying the contact between these two. What about “the caregiver-patient relationship”? Is it still the same as in the early fifties? Are the core values of our movement the same seventy years later as they were for Michael Balint? Have they been transformed? And if so in which way?

Nowadays, the International Balint Federation (IBF) is composed of 28 Societies all over the world! Culture, historical background, language, healthcare systems, are such a patchwork! How can we maintain cohesion in our federation? To what point is flexibility acceptable taking account of our differences? Flexibility is also an ability to adapt ourselves to uncertainty and changes.

In 2017, in Oxford, our 20th congress was about “Diversity” (“Balint theory and practice: exploring diversity”). In the next, in 2019, in Porto, we were asking ourselves how we could “See medicine through other eyes”. Innovations on the way to lead a Balint group were proposed. In 2020 we also have become more familiar with new tools like videoconference because of the pandemic crisis with COVID.

An atom is composed with one core and electrons. It seemed obvious to us that it could represent our concerns: the deal with core values, cohesion and flexibility. The carbon atom which is represented in the monument “ATOMIUM” is an important element of life! This metal construction and the European Flag with its stars, are two of the symbols of our beautiful city of Brussels where the 22nd congress will take place. That’s why you can see them on our logo!