Balint groups create safe space for peer support

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Kate Hoppe/Manager, Marketing, Communications & Strategic Projects
2 mins read·January 21st, 2021

Have you ever wondered what happens in a Balint group?

Now is a great time to find out with many MHPN-supported Balint groups looking for new members, from all health disciplines, to kick off the year.

The start of the year is an ideal time to find and join a Balint group with several MHPN-supported Balint groups currently looking for new members. Members benefit from the insights of other health practitioners in a safe environment as well as relief from professional isolation.

A Balint group is a small group of clinicians who meet regularly, with the guidance of trained leaders, to discuss challenging cases from their practices. The focus is on the emotional aspects of their work and particularly the clinician-patient relationship.

Psychiatrist and Balint group leader Dr Marion Lustig says, ‘MHPN has been a great support especially in publicising groups and attracting new members’.

The Balint Society of Australia and New Zealand supports more than 50 Balint groups and several groups are also supported by MHPN’s network program.

‘Groups are stimulating, refreshing and enlivening. Participants may avoid or recover from burnout and compassion fatigue; and many participants report increased confidence, professional satisfaction and self-esteem’, she says.

Marion has been leading Balint groups for 22 years and was the inaugural president of what is now the Balint Society of Australia and New Zealand. She says Balint groups are suited to any health professional who does clinical work with patients, not just mental health practitioners.

‘Cases discussed are not limited to patients with a mental health issue. Groups can consist of practitioners from a single profession or can be multi-disciplinary. Professions include GPs, psychologists, social workers, counsellors, nurses, specialist doctors, occupational therapists and medical students’.

Marion says participants benefit from a trusted space in which they can share their feelings; and understand that strong feelings are part of the challenge of doing good clinical work. They may experience relief when they realise that their colleagues also struggle with such painful experiences as self-doubt, guilt, anger, hopelessness, impotence, dislike and fear.

‘Thoughtful, new perspectives often emerge because group members have diverse personalities, sensitivities and blind spots. The group is discouraged from criticising the presenter or offering advice. The focus is not on didactic teaching but on learning from one’s own and other group members’ experiences’.

Balint groups are experienced with meeting online which has expanded since the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on face-to-face meetings.

‘Online Balint groups have existed for many years. However, 2020 has stimulated greater interest in working online. This provides great opportunities for practitioners who do not have access to face-to-face groups; and especially for those in rural and remote areas who may be quite isolated’, says Marion.

MHPN is proud of its strong relationship with the Balint Society of Australia and New Zealand and looks forward to collaborating through networks over the coming year.

Get involved

Want to join a Balint group? Please send an email to networks@mhpn.org.au

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The Mental Health Professionals’ Network (MHPN) respectfully acknowledges the Wurundjeri and the Boon Wurrung people of the Kulin nation, the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the land on which our office is situated. We also acknowledge Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and pay our respects to their Elders past and present.