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Albert Lichtenstein
Emeritus Councilor
2018 - present

My love affair with Balint and the people who do Balint work began in 1993, when I was fortunate enough to be recruited to the Behavior Science Director position at the Guthrie Family Medicine Residency. Dr Frank Dornfest, the first President of the American Balint Society (ABS) and eventually President of the International Balint Federation (IBF), was the program director who began the Guthrie residency program.

I had the amazing opportunity to co-lead with Frank and watch him work for months before he insisted that I open my mouth. At first, I thought the framework was limiting, coming from a psychotherapy background. However, after some months and supervision by Frank, I came to see that the safety provided by sticking to a case and staying away from personal dynamics was a key to group development in a medical setting. I also came to believe that the nonjudgmental focus on the doctor–patient relationship, and the often universal struggles involved in that relationship allowed participants to voice internal feelings and thoughts that are demoralizing and can lead to burnout. In Balint groups, everyone is presumed to be competent in their field. The relationship struggle, that could affect any of us, is the issue at hand. I also found that, by in large, the people who populate the Balint world give others the warmth and respect that form the basis for the work.

Given the welcoming atmosphere of the organization, my role in the ABS and eventually in supporting Balint work in other countries began to grow. I served on the ABS Council from 1998 to 2001 and as Secretary from 2001 to 2005. In 2013, I became President of the ABS, which goes to show just how accepting the ABS is. I believe the Society continued to grow during those years. The first African-American and Latino members joined the Council. We invited an organizational consultant, Mary Beyers, to a business meeting who pushed us to find administrative help and use our volunteer hours wisely.

Being part of the ABS has provided me the opportunity to help societies in many countries develop. Through a series of involvements I was able to help Australia and New Zealand develop Balint training and eventually their own society. I first traveled to Australia at the behest of Marion Lustig, MD, with whom I eventually co-authored an article about how Balint work helps medical decision making. I helped co-lead groups at the Royal College of General Practitioners conference in Darwin. I also presented to the Victorian Psychoanalytic Society in Melbourne. It impressed me that people came from quite a distance to Melbourne, hungry for Balint work. I was part of the planning committee for the first Balint Leadership Intensive to be held in Australia in 2007 and participated as part of the faculty in the second intensive in 2008 in Sydney. I returned to Australia in 2011, as a consultant when the new Balint Society of Australia and New Zealand held their first intensive with an all Balint Society of Australia and New Zealand faculty. The ABS provided a great deal of guidance and structure to make this successful.

For a narrative of Dr. Lichtenstein's work with the ABS, consult his Emeritus 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