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Logo of jroyalcgpracBJGP at RCGPBJGP at PubMed CentralJ R Coll Gen Pract at PubMed CentralRCGP homepage
J R Coll Gen Pract. 1979 September; 29(206): 520-522, 524, 528-529.
PMCID: PMC2159287

Balint, the doctor, and the fear of being unscientific


The current debate on the contribution of Michael Balint's work to general practice has been initiated by Sowerby's (1977) lengthy critique.

Sowerby's arguments, however, depend on one particular definition of science, simplify some complex issues, and have rigid and restrictive qualities. I give some examples to illustrate this.

Secondly, Sowerby's definition of the science of psychology leads to an intellectual separatism which Balint sought to reduce. The alternative diagnosis of `depressive illness' is neither more helpful nor precise.

Finally, criticisms of Balint seminars which Sowerby perceives as dangerous are challenged. I argue that Balint's approach in verifying and refuting hypotheses in the face of prospective observations and evidence was truly scientific.

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Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • Guntrip H. Psychoanalysis and some scientific and philosophical critics: (Dr Eliot Slater, Sir Peter Medawar and Sir Karl Popper). Br J Med Psychol. 1978 Sep;51(3):207–224. [PubMed]
  • Kelk N. Is psychoanalysis a science? A reply to Slater. Br J Psychiatry. 1977 Feb;130:105–111. [PubMed]
  • Kendell RE. The concept of disease and its implications for psychiatry. Br J Psychiatry. 1975 Oct;127:305–315. [PubMed]
  • Rosenhan DL. On being sane in insane places. Science. 1973 Jan 19;179(4070):250–258. [PubMed]
  • Slater E. The psychiatrist in search of a science. III--The depth psychologies. Br J Psychiatry. 1975 Mar;126:205–224. [PubMed]
  • Sowerby P. Balint reassessed: the doctor, his patient, and the illness: a reappraisal. J R Coll Gen Pract. 1977 Oct;27(183):583–589. [PMC free article] [PubMed]

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