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Mary Hall
Emerita Councilor
2012 - present

A native New Yorker, I grew up on Long Island and received my education at a NYC Medical School that still does not have a department of Family Medicine. In 1983, I headed south for residency to see if they could teach Family Medicine.I chose the Charleston Family Medicine program because I knew it was a leader in behavioral medicine. What I did not know was that they were one of the earliest university programs training all residents in Balint seminars. 

Every Thursday afternoon at 5:30 p.m., we sat there looking at each other wondering what was happening. I still remember Dr Clive Brock, nodding at me, as if to say, “You know, Mary; you know what’s going on- come on. . .,” he prodded. “No, Clive, I screamed inside, I have no idea what to say.” What I had yet to discover was how to identify and put words to the multitude of feelings swirling around inside me. I did indeed know what was going on.Decades later, Balint still teaches me to intentionally identify my feelings, understand them and use them in my work, not only with patients but in many of my interactions in our large, complex healthcare environment.

On reflection, Balint work and colleagues taught me much more than the central importance of listening to, and understanding our patients. I learned about mentorship and development of others and how to create and grow an organization with people who share similar passions and goals. My leadership roles have been advancing throughout my entire career, nationally and in my home environment. Now as a senior leader in a large healthcare system, there are many days I feel as though I am swimming with sharks in turbulent waters, trying to decipher friend from foe. Perhaps a bit hyperbolic, but I am certainly playing chess and not checkers. 

As things become particularly gut wrenching, I stop and remember, hey, this is not about me! What is this situation telling me about the other person? What might it feel like to be in their shoes? How can I use the feelings bubbling up (and boiling over) in me to reach a deeper and new understanding of them and their environment? Without fail, the “Balint approach” has been a key to my success, or at least to my survival. I attribute my professional growth and development to my experiences and relationships in Balint. In the ABS itself we have built an organization together in a compassionate and relationship-centric manner.

For a narrative of Dr. Hall's work with the ABS, consult her Emerita Nomination.

 "Restoring the Core of Clinical Practice: What is a Balint group and how does it help?" by Laurel Milberg, PhD and Katherine Knowlton, PhD. Available in paperback or ebook. 

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The American Balint Society
, is a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to improving the therapeutic relationships between healing professionals and their clients/patients. The American Balint  Society is a member society of the International Balint Federation