Balint groups and reflective practice

Balint groups have been established in the UK for over 50 years and provide an effective setting for health professionals to reflect on their practice.

What is a Balint group?

  • This is small group of 6 - 12 doctors sitting in a private room for 60 - 90 minutes discussing their patient and client interactions.
  • The discussion is usually facilitated by at least one, but often two, specially trained leaders. The leaders ensure the focus of the discussion is on deepening understanding of the relationship between doctor and patient.
  • Particular attention is given to acknowledging the feelings aroused by these professional encounters; both within the consultation presented, as well as during group discussions.
  • This helps practitioners to understand their patients as well as themselves.
  • All discussions are totally confidential.

Most importantly the group discussion does not aim to solve problems, give specific advice, or judge the quality of care. Discussions avoid any approach of judging the care described to be ‘good’ or ‘bad’, and does not tell the practitioner how to do their job.

Potential benefits of a Balint group

  • These groups provide an opportunity for doctors to reflect on their work in a safe and supportive setting.
  • It can also provide an outlet for stresses and frustrations associated with their work.
  • Many doctors report a renewed interest and understanding of their patients, especially those who may be perceived as ‘difficult’.
  • Balint group discussions may open people’s minds to other possibilities in terms of diagnosis and management, and to improved communication with patients and other professionals.
  • Many doctors report improved job satisfaction as a result of group discussion. This could help to prevent burn out.