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Dornan, T. (2015). Learning about emotions in illness. Integrating psychotherapeutic teaching in medical education. Psychoanal. Psychother., 29(4):434-435.

(2015). Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, 29(4):434-435

Learning about emotions in illness. Integrating psychotherapeutic teaching in medical education

Tim Dornan

An unbroken line of inheritance connects this book to what may have seemed, at the time, an inconsequential event. Michael Balint arrived in Britain on a pre-war tide of refugees. But this Hungarian physician-psychotherapist was no ordinary refugee. With his third wife, Enid, he went on to inspire generations of physicians worldwide. This book shows how Balint went beyond coining the adjective ‘patient-centred’ to showing what it could mean in thought and deed. And in educational systems, which have stood the test of time. Shoenberg, Yakeley, and colleagues tell us how they have continued a tradition of educating medical students to be patient-centred in the institution where Balint did so half a century ago.

Centring on one member of a dyad risks decentring on the other, as shown by the attrition of today's GPs in the name of ‘patient choice’ and ‘7-day access’. In reality, social dyads are part of more complex relational structures. The espoused centrality of patients in the UK today has, arguably, less to do with enriching the human condition than putting clinicians to the task of shoring up a politicised healthcare system. Balint's inspiration was to locate physician–patient dyads within the social structure of group supervision, co-supported by a psychotherapist and physician. That form of patient-centredness was not just deeply humanistic, but democratic in the sense that all parties invested their individual power towards a common good.

[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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