The so-called Balint groups, originally developed by the Hungarian-British psychoanalyst Michael Balint for doctors and social workers, are in my view one of the most convincing methods for understanding complex interactions between counsellors and their clients in the various professional sectors.

The members of a Balint group are asked to react by free association to a counsellor-client relationship as presented by one of the group members. The free association method derives from psychoanalytical work and serves to suspend the separation of conscious and unconscious as far as possible, to relax the defences and control functions of the group and facilitate its members´ access to their own and the others´ unconscious processes. One may also speak of the Balint group as a resonance chamber, which in its readiness and ability to tune in emotionally on the case histories concerned develops a deeper understanding of the conscious and unconscious elements and specific qualities of the client-counsellor interactions. The Balint group as a whole and each individual participant therefore have the task of training themselves as instruments for perceiving emotions, affects, phantasies and inner representations with respect to the case in question. The multi-level character of the emotional aspects as reflected in the group can be experienced and then analysed in a further step of the group work.

In Balint group work nowadays the institutional embedment and the interaction of clients with their organisation is also taken account of. Here, too, the participants of a Balint group evince different resonances, the interpretation of which, guided by the mirroring phenomenon, offers essential insights into the case presented.

In general I offer Balint groups lasting for a period of at least a year, frequently as a block seminar (4 sessions of 90 minutes each).

Balint groups are open to members of all professional groups which in the widest sense are involved in counselling people, e.g. social workers and social pedagogues, psychotherapists, supervisors, physicians, priests or ministers, teachers and educators, family lawyers and judges, mediators etc.