Understanding the emotional content of the therapeutic relationship

The basic two-year training in Balint groups

Balint groups constitute a method of training and research (“training-cum-research” groups) that provide to health/mental health professionals (doctors, psychologists, nurses, midwives, social workers etc) a space to narrate their experiences from their clinical practice within a group of peers with the aim of better comprehending the psychological aspects of their work and cultivate personal skills like understanding, empathy and active listening towards their patients.

The participants, based on a case from their clinical practice, have the opportunity inside the group and with the help of the group leader, to try to understand the difficult aspects of the therapeutic relationship with certain patients (communication problems, non-compliance to treatment, boundary crossings etc). Just like the clinician-patient relationship occupies a central position in healthcare provision, equally in the group this relationship is placed in the centre of interest of the members in order to become an object of elaboration for them.  In this elaboration, the complexity of the clinical relationship emerges (emotions, psychological defenses, limitations) as well as the role of illness (or the medical problem/symptom) and the environment (patient’s family, clinical setting etc) in the interaction of the doctor/clinician with his/her patient.

Through their work in the group, the participants cultivate their ability to listen to their patients in a more effective and meaningful way. This improves the communication that they maintain with them and at the same time it helps them in their clinical work and contributes to a better personal mental state in and out of work. Moreover, by observing him/herself in the group which gives a feedback through their statements and opinions on the case presented, the clinician (doctor or other health/mental health professional) can trace any possible “blind spots” s/he may have and may render his/her communication with certain patients difficult, thus cultivating his/her capability for self-observation and reflective practice.

*The Hellenic Balint Groups function under the auspices of the British Balint Society and the participation in them counts in the credits that are needed for the Balint group leader accreditation (see below). 

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