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What is a Balint Group?

A Balint group is a disciplined form of case consultation developed in England after the second World War. First used by social workers and general practice physicians, they are now in use by trainees and practitioners in medical and mental health fields in more than twenty-five countries. Membership of a given group is fixed to allow trust to build. Confidentiality is also required. The frequency is regular but may vary to fit conditions.  

What happens during a Balint group?

To open a Balint group one of the leaders asks for a case. Member present cases in which the clinician-patient relationship is at issue. Presentations are spontaneous and without notes. Even where the case is medical, the physical facts are not central. Rather, the group focuses on the way the doctor and client get along and how they experience their collaboration. Typical questions are, "What is it like to be this person's doctor (or therapist)?"  "What is it like to be this patient?" Members offer speculations and possibilities. Without specific treatment planning the presenter may become able to think of new things to try or may see things in a new light because of the discussion.   

How do I find a Balint group to join?

Balint groups already meeting have set membership to help trust grow. That means the best time to join is at the beginning of a group. Groups open for sign on will be announced to all members of the Northwest Balint Circle through email. If you want to start one, contact us. If you are a credentialed leader, we'll announce your group. If you are not credentialed, we'll help you find someone who is to help get your group going. 

How do I become a Balint group leader?

If you want to start a group and plan to lead it yourself, we recommend you attend a Balint Leadership Training Intensive offered by the American Balint Society. Generally in the eastern half of the country in the fall and in the western half in the spring, these trainings carry CME credit. Attendance can become part of the requirements for formal credentialing as a leader. The Seattle Balint Circle includes credentialed leaders who may be available to co-lead a new group, supervise new leaders or otherwise consult.

How do a I get a first experience of Balint group work, if there's no intensive or weekend coming up or those don't fit my schedule?

There are several members available to give demonstration-lectures. These presentations have worked well for professional groups (e.g. specialty organizations) and for staff or faculty at medical or mental health facilities. Such an introduction may qualify for CE, if your institution provides that. A one-time introduction is usually free. Use the "contact us" feature to find out about our availability. Other possibilities include repeated visits to a facility to lead groups and review their impact in your setting. If you are planning a training schedule or conference and think Balint group work could fit your situation, just ask.

How do I introduce Balint group work at my agency or clinic?
Consider inviting a Northwest Balint Circle speaker for a staff development session. In as little as an hour people can get a first taste of what the method may do for them. We may have a member who can provide a demonstration/introduction for free, and we're happy to confer with you about what background and qualities would make a speaker credible to your group. Our offerings have earned CE for physicians and psychologists, so it may be possible for you to get continuing education credit for our visit.
What's happening?
Leadership Training

Boston, MA
November 4-7, 2021
Register at ABS website


     Available from Amazon books in paperback or ebook format:
Restoring the Core of Clinical Practice: What is a Balint Group and How does it Help?
by Laurel Milberg, PhD and Katherine Knowlton, PhD.