Balint (doctor/patient roles)

Last reviewed 12/2021

Michael Balint (1890-1970) was a psycho-analyst from Hungary who emigrated to Britain in the 1930s. After the war he practiced as a psychoanalyst at the famous Tavistock Clinic in London.

Michael Balint began a seminal discussion and support group for family doctors. His work contributed many useful concepts to our understanding of the doctor-patient relationship, including:

  • The Apostolic Function
  • The Drug 'Doctor'
  • The Sick Role
  • The Long Consultation

More information about Michael Balint and his work is available at the Balint Society website (


  • Balint was the first to recognise that the symptom offered by the patient might not be the real reason for their attendance and that the emotions triggered in the doctor could have a powerful effect on the course of the the consultation
  • Balint also introduced the concept of the doctor as a drug and likened the relationship of the doctor and patient to a ‘mutual investment bank’, interest growing over time as patient and doctor put more into the relationship
  • Enid Balint, also a psychoanalyst was Michael's (third) wife. She was his colleague and partner in the work with family doctors


  1. M Balint The Doctor, His patient and The Illness, 1957