Pioneers in Object Relations Clinical Thinking:
Michael Balint (1896 – 1970)

On December 3rd, we celebrate the birthday of Michael Balint, Hungarian psychoanalyst, neuropsychiatrist, philosopher, biologist, biochemist, as well as a distinguished Object Relations thinker, who became a president of the British Psychoanalytical Society in 1968. Michael Balint was a student and a follower of Sandor Ferenczi, as he continued to work on Ferenczi’s ideas on trauma theory, empathy in therapy,therapeutic regression, and countertransference. Balint developed “self-help” groups (now called “Balint groups”) for health professionals who were interested in discussing patient-doctor relationships.

Here are some famous Balint’s phrases from those group meetings:

“The drug ‘doctor’”
(i.e. the doctor herself/himself is a powerful medication)

“The collusion of anonymity”
(patients may bounce from one specialist to another with nobody taking responsibility for the patient as a person)

“The courage of one’s stupidity”
(Go on, say it, you may be absolutely right and if you are not, we will probably still talk to you)

“The mutual investment fund”
(All the shared experience and trust that doctor and patient accumulate over many years in general practice)

“The doctor’s apostolic function”
(The doctor’s tendency to have unrealistic expectations of the patient based on the doctor’s own values. ‘You
should give up alcohol. I never touch it’)