Leading a Balint Group
Balint group leaders need knowledge about:
- psychological processes in individuals and groups
- clinical practice
- the Balint method
Training involves some or all of the following:
- substantial experience as a Balint group participant
- working with an experienced leader as co-leader
- supervision of work as a Balint group leader or co-leader
- attending leadership workshops
- training in group processes, group facilitation, psychoanalysis, psychodynamic psychotherapy or group psychotherapy
There is a formal Balint Group Leader Accreditation Programme in Australia and New Zealand provided by the Society.
Information about leading Balint groups
The Balint group model is deceptively simple. However, creating and leading a Balint group is not a job for novices.
Leadership accreditation demands significant training and supervision, often taking over two years. Trainee leaders are required to learn how to build and maintain a safe group space to enable presenters and all members to explore their imaginative, emotional responses to case material. Accreditation as a group leader includes learning how to read and respond to powerful unconscious processes which affect group dynamics in many ways. Following accreditation, leaders are expected to continue seeking regular professional supervision to support their Balint work.
Sharing our difficult cases in a Balint group understandably stirs our vulnerabilities. We often ask ourselves questions such as: Did I do the right thing? Could I have responded earlier, better, more skilfully? Why don’t I like this patient? Why does that patient upset or disturb me?
Trained leaders encourage the group members to stay with complex, uncertain feelings, and to explore the anxieties cases can stir. It’s imperative for group leaders to keep in mind that Balint group members are able clinical professionals. Gently and knowledgeably leaders will steer group discussions away from criticism,
advice, suggested improvements, and diagnostic language. Such misdirections are common pitfalls for a naive leader.
Untrained people who attempt to set up or lead a Balint group – despite their good intentions – can cause great harm, leaving members feeling bruised and deskilled, rather than strengthened and validated, potentially stirring destructive conflict among members.
The Balint Society strongly advises untrained leaders against attempting to mimic a Balint group. Experience has taught us that such attempts bring grief on leaders and group members alike. Instead, we recommend people untrained as Balint group leaders explore a peer support model, such as the one described on the Community Toolbox website.
Clinicians seeking involvement in the community of the Balint Society might first consider joining an ongoing Balint group, to gain from its particular experience of collegial sharing. Should you wish to embark on the Leader Accreditation Pathway, our activities include leadership training, peer support and supervision. Naturally, we hope you will join our community!