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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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