Michael Balint’s pioneering work in primary care was not simply the application of psychodynamic theory to the complex problems and relationships encountered by clinicians. Rather, Balint’s work was part of a wider conversation in Western epistemology that had already begun to break down the enlightenment rationalist agenda. Since the time of Descartes, we sought to find certain truth through decontextualizing and abstracting problems, and through separation of the observer from the thing observed, with a focus on finding universal timeless laws that could be generalized. By the mid-1950s, it was clear that this agenda was insufficient to answer important questions about what it means to be human and to live a healthy and happy life. Balint’s experiment was a return to a method of knowledge creation that is case based, narrative, local, timely, particular, and especially considers specific contexts for finding solutions to problems. For current healthcare reform efforts to be effective, we must include Balint's focus on the context of the doctor, patient, and their relationship, as well as development of practical wisdom (i.e. Aristotelian phronesis) that we know in medicine as professional judgment. The case study method of the Balint group is one of the few and best formal methods to teach and practice this way of knowing.
- phronesis, balint, epistemology, clinical judgment
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Psychiatry and Mental health