We make good care better

"At the center of medicine there is always a human relationship between a patient and a doctor."
Michael Balint

Alec Chessman, MD
ABS Secretary

I first participated as a member of a resident Balint Group in the mid-1980s, with Clive Brock and Mary Hall as co-leaders for that group. I recall vividly presenting a patient who was difficult for me. And, after the group met, I felt unsupported and misunderstood. I felt like quitting the group. Clive told me to bring that concern back to the group, and I did. When I told them about my reaction, they disagreed with me, and challenged me to recall concrete examples of what they had done to misunderstand me. I realized in a flash that I was having a parallel reaction to what my patient likely experienced every day. On a deep, emotional level, I suddenly understood.

I was witness to the creation of the American Balint Society around 1990. I have served as faculty in several Balint Intensives. I served as Vice President of the American Balint Society, when that office still existed, and I currently serve as Treasurer. I participated in the inaugural event for credentialing Balint leaders, and co-led resident Balint groups in the 1990s and 2000s. More recently, I co-led a faculty Balint group. And, this year, I am returning to co-lead a resident group.

I like Balint group work because a session can transform uncertainty and confusion into meaning. The dialogue is creative and shared – and the images and stories enrich my mind and touch my heart. And, as with my story about a case presented during my first experience of Balint, I feel like I’m actually living within the stories we craft together.