Today I attended my first Balint Group, a psychotherapeutic approach to mental health, aiming to review conditions from an alternative point of view, to provide insight into the roots of mental illness.
It was fascinating; though largely silent, the group relies on input from whoever attends. Despite fits of giggles occasionally permeating the social tension, we explored two patient scenarios in depth.
Given Freud's recent 150th birthday celebrations, it would have been poor form to omit him from our analyses, and my patient ended up neatly fitting into a theory regarding subconscious sexual repression, resulting in a social phobia, depression, alcoholism, gambling, hypochondriasis/somatoform disorder, topped off with a bizarre facial tic.
Thinking about his problem stemming from a particular incident in his childhood made me reassess his whole situation, which proved quite saddening, given its chronic course and its negative affect on his life. He now attends a social group but seems unable to break his lifetime habits and still finds it near impossible to approach others.
I have so far found Psychiatry to be embracing of alternative therapies, especially Art, Music, Movement and Cookery, which the patients regularly attend, whether hospitalised or at Day Centres in the community. Indeed, regular attendance at groups can be enough to merit leave for patients under section. On the other hand, given that patients have little to do whilst under section (other than play table tenning and watch TV), any kind of activity would be welcome.
There are regular Balint groups for doctors of every level, from Consultant to student doctor. Click here for a paper on the merits of a Balint Group.