Balint, Michael

views updated


BALINT, MICHAEL (1896–1970), psychoanalyst. Born Mihaly Maurice Bergmann in Budapest, the son of a physician, he changed his name to Michael Balint against his father's wishes. He also changed religion, from Judaism to Unitarian Christianity. In the 1930s Balint settled in Manchester, England, moving to London in 1945.

Balint devoted a lifetime of research and practice to the development of psychoanalysis as a science. Entering the field while it was still young and taking on form, Balint spent much time studying psychoanalytic technique as well as the patient's response to various forms of therapy. This work is discussed in his books The Doctor, His Patient, and the Illness (1957) and Psychotherapeutic Techniques in Medicine (1961). Balint also devoted much research to understanding the mechanisms of human sexuality, concentrating in large part on sexual perversions and their relation to neurotic and psychotic symptoms. In addition to writing Problems of Human Pleasure and Behavior (1957), he edited many anthologies on the subject of sexuality. In 1968 he was elected president of the British Psychoanalytical Society.

The Balint Society was founded in 1969 to continue the work begun by Balint in the 1950s. The aim of the society is to help general practitioners attain a better understanding of the emotional content of the doctor-patient relationship. The Balint method consists of regular case discussion in small groups under the guidance of a qualified group leader. Their objective is to reveal feelings unwittingly harbored by the doctor towards his or her patient, usually engendered by purely subjective factors, which interfere with the doctor's approach to a patient, thus jeopardizing not only the patient but also blurring or blinding the doctor's mind with regard to proper diagnostic procedures and further treatment. Balint societies have been formed in a number of countries. In 1972 the first international Balint conference was held in London.

[Maurice Goldsmith /

Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)]