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Virtue, M. (2020). Balint matters: psychosomatics and the art of assessment: by Jonathan Sklar, London, Karnac Books, 2017, 232 pp., £30.99, ISBN 9781782204862. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 101(4):838-842.

(2020). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 101(4):838-842

Balint matters: psychosomatics and the art of assessment: by Jonathan Sklar, London, Karnac Books, 2017, 232 pp., £30.99, ISBN 9781782204862

Megan Virtue

The title of Jonathan Sklar’s book on psychosomatics and assessment plays on the word “matters”. “Matter”, as significance, points to the particular value of Balint’s work for the psychoanalytic canon, whereas the intimation of materiality is suggestive of the mind–body problem that lies at the heart of Balint’s work in general medicine. This polysemic play on words in the title announces a core theme running the length of the book, which is the value of imaginative free association, unconstrained by compliance or dogma, and the central task of every patient and analyst-in-formation to find their own voice. This important book roots core aspects of Independent clinical technique in their historical context. It also demonstrates the value of psychoanalysis applied to medical education.

History: Ferenczi and the Balints

The initial chapter of the book describes the lives of Michael, Alice and Enid Balint. Michael Balint’s contributions to psychoanalysis are elucidated, including: the significance of the environment, trauma, regression, ideas about creativity and his own concept of “new beginning”. The writer also recognizes the important contribution that Enid Balint made to Michael Balint’s work. There is a chapter giving Balint’s views on psychoanalytic training and supervision, followed by three chapters on the history of Balint groups and their clinical applications. The final section of the book includes seven richly illustrated chapters on psychoanalytic assessment emerging out of the clinic.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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