The Juice is Worth the Squeeze: Psychiatry Residents' Experience of Balint Group

Int J Psychiatry Med. 2022 Nov;57(6):508-520. doi: 10.1177/00912174221127084. Epub 2022 Sep 14.


Introduction: Balint Groups provide physicians with a forum to develop their capacity to empathically engage with patients, through exploring patient-provider relationships. The Dalhousie University Department of Psychiatry implemented a mandatory Balint Group as part of the junior resident curriculum. The purpose of this study is to explore how residents describe their experience of participating in this Balint Group.

Methods: Psychiatry residents in their first year of training participated in a focus group to discuss their experiences of the Balint Group. Data was analyzed using content analysis.

Results: Three main categories were identified: the purpose of, the process of, and participation in the Balint Group. Process was subdivided into <i>Balint Frame</i> and <i>Institutional Factors</i>. Participation was further subdivided into <i>vulnerability</i>, <i>reflection</i>, <i>fellowship,</i> and <i>validation</i>.

Conclusion: Residents attributed fellowship with their peers, self-efficacy and hope in their work to their participation in the Balint Group. While there was an adjustment period, residents grew to accept, and even appreciate the group. Lack of problem-solving became accepted as part of the purpose of the group and this acceptance was attributed to having other avenues within the program to address problems raised in the discussion. Feeling disconnected when the session ended was described and was related to the abrupt termination of the virtual session or having to exit the group early to return to clinical duties. While the virtual nature of the group was not explicitly identified as a challenge, having to leave early was. While these institutional factors can be mitigated through programmatic implementation, they are not a deal breaker to implementing a Balint Group in a residency training program. Even in a lunch hour or virtual environment our data suggests that the juice is worth the squeeze.

Keywords: Balint group; burnout; medical education; psychiatry; residency.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Curriculum
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Peer Group
  • Physicians*
  • Psychiatry*