Open Access Open Badges Research article

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

Kaatje Van Roy*, Stijn Vanheule, Virginie Debaere, Ruth Inslegers, Reitske Meganck and Julie Deganck

Author Affiliations

Department of Psychoanalysis and Clinical Consulting, Ghent University, H. Dunantlaan 2, 9000 Ghent, Belgium

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BMC Family Practice 2014, 15:49  doi:10.1186/1471-2296-15-49

Published: 21 March 2014



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.

Balint group; Qualitative research; Subject; Lacan; General practitioner