Improving the doctor-patient relationship in China: The role of balint groups

Wei Jing, Heide Otten, Leonie Sullivan, Laurie Lovell-Simons, Martine Granek-Catarivas, Kurt Fritzsche*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Doctor-patient relationships in China have been deteriorating for the past 10 years. Many Chinese doctors are involved in tense and conflictual doctor-patient relationships. Most patients do not trust doctors or other medical staff and physical attacks on these professionals have become a common event. The Balint group offers a better understanding of the doctor-patient relationship in a safe environment and relieves the doctors from the daily stress. Method: This article (1) describes the specifics of Balint work in China, (2) reports experiences from the first International Balint Conference in China, and (3) compares these experiences with the doctor-patient relationship described by Michael and Enid Balint in the 1950s. Results: Chinese doctors have a great need to communicate, to share their own feelings of powerlessness, helplessness, frustration, and anger. The Balint method is highly appreciated in China. All participants experienced the 2 1/2-day meeting as very helpful. Also, in China, Balint work as relationship work in the analytical group process fosters the ability for introspection alongside openness, unconscious processes, "thinking outside the box," "courage of one's own stupidity," and "beginner's spirit," thus promoting the individuation, the "small but significant change in the personality of the doctor." Conclusions: Perhaps Balint work in China is a contribution to the integration of traditional Chinese virtues: benevolence, tolerance, magnanimity, and prudence with modern medicine. Balint work could be an alternative to the outcome-oriented pressure to perform and to the machine paradigm of biomedicine.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)417-427
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Balint group
  • China
  • difficult doctor-patient relationship
  • sculpture work


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