Vladimir Vinokour «Balint in Russia»

Since 1995, when St. Petersburg Balint Society was established and registered with the regional administration, it is gradually spreading activities in other parts of the country. As there are no either all–national Balint Society or other relevant regional Societies in Russia we feel ourselves to be responsible for the promotion of this work to other parts of the country. In 2000 we took part in the carrying out Balint groups in social professionals within the European TACIS program “Work-related stress in Russia and it’s prevention”.

In 1995 Balint groups were implemented into postgraduate educational and training curriculum for physicians and medical psychologists in St. Petersburg Medical Academy (first — in the Department of General Practice, later in Departments of Medical Psychology, Psychotherapy, Childs’ Neurology and Family Medicine). The special relevant course was developed in 2001 for psychologists in Law and Police Academy, in 2002 – for school psychologists and teachers in their postgraduate training. Now the Institute of practical Psychology in St. Petersburg in cooperation with our Society provides short courses on Balint groups development and promotion for physicians and medical psychologists from different regions of the country and so brings a new energy into this process.

We are very satisfied that the number of new groups was created in St. Petersburg and other regions with our support and under the supervision of the Society, so we keep the effective cooperation. We are convinced the core aim to be realized in this process is to keep the correspondence of their activity with the Guidelines of the International Balint Federation especially with regard to the appropriate styles of leadership in Balint groups and to their basic psychoanalytical ground. So we have started the short but repetitive training courses for leaders in different regions to help them to obtain relevant knowledge and effective skills how to run the group and to prevent people from inappropriate leadership. These training courses are provided twice a year and are supported by the Institute of Practical Psychology in St. Petersburg. To some degree our leadership seminars look similar to relevant system in other countries, the peculiarity is the essentially bigger volume of theory on professional burnout, physician-patient communication and Balint work, presented there. It is very helpful and encouraging that annually we provide regular meetings with our colleagues from the Russian Group–Psychoanalytical Association where we use to share our ideas and experiences on the Balint group grounds, content and the process.

The evaluation of the effectiveness of Balint groups becames gradually the subject of our scientific researches. The paper on this subject in Balint work in different social professionals was published in the proceedings of XIII International Balint Congress (Berlin, 2003). The new research related to this topic was successfully conducted last year and it has been awarded by the Ph.D. degree from Psychological Department of St. Petersburg State University. Other our current studies are aimed at investigation of psychological grounds and symptoms of burnout in health care professionals and at different aspects of doctor–patient relationships in psychosomatic clinic because from the very beginning the Society was closely related to the Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and still keeps the cooperation with it. We are aware these researches should apply to evidence-based science principles. That means the necessity to find out the variables which are reflecting the effectiveness of Balint groups appropriately and define the tools (inventories and scales) to measure them.

Now we are planning new steps in these researches and we believe they will be fruitful in the scientifical and practical dimensions.

Vladimir Vinokur, Ph.D