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01.12.2014 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2014 Open Access

BMC Family Practice 1/2014

A Lacanian view on Balint group meetings: a qualitative analysis of two case presentations

BMC Family Practice > Ausgabe 1/2014
Kaatje Van Roy, Stijn Vanheule, Virginie Debaere, Ruth Inslegers, Reitske Meganck, Julie Deganck
Wichtige Hinweise

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

KV and SV designed this study. KV gathered the data: she contacted the Balint groups, observed the Balint group meetings, audio-recorded them, and made notes about observations and impressions during and after the meetings. KV did the initial coding of the transcripts. KV, SV, VD, RI, RM and JD formed the research group: they repeatedly discussed the coding, as well as the theoretical concepts that ultimately guided the analysis. KV drafted the manuscript, which was extensively commented upon and rewritten by SV. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.



GPs’ subjectivity is an intrinsic instrument in their daily work. By offering GPs a platform to present and discuss difficult interactions with patients, Balint group work be might provide them an opportunity to explore and articulate aspects of their subjectivity. In order to get a more profound understanding of what participation in a Balint group can offer, we focused on the process of change that can be observed during Balint group meetings. To that end, this study scrutinized two Balint group case discussions on a micro-level.


Two cases were selected from a larger data set of 68 audio-taped case discussions in four Balint groups. In order to shed light on the type of change that characterizes the presenter’s narrative, we used Lacan’s theoretical distinction between imaginary and symbolic modes of relating to the other.


In both case discussions, the GPs presenting the case initially appeared to be stuck in a fixed image of a situation, referred to as ‘imaginary relating to the other.’ Through a range of interactions with the group, the presenters were encouraged to explore different subject positions, which allowed them to broaden their initial image of the situation and to discover other issues at stake. This was referred to as a more symbolic way of relating to the other.


This study throws light on the type of change Balint group participation allows for and on the way this might be achieved. We conclude that Balint group work is potentially beneficial to the participating GPs as well as to the relationship with their patients.
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