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J Psychosom Res. 2014 May;76(5):426-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2014.03.005. Epub 2014 Mar 28.

Appropriate training based on Balint groups can improve the empathic abilities of medical students: a preliminary study.

Author information

1
Paris Descartes University, Sorbonne Paris Cité, Paris, France; Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris, Hôpitaux Universitaires Paris Ouest, Service universitaire de Psychiatrie de l'adulte et du sujet âgé, Paris, France.
2
Paris Descartes University, Sorbonne Paris Cité, Paris, France; Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris, Hôpitaux Universitaires Paris Ouest, Service universitaire de Psychiatrie de l'adulte et du sujet âgé, Paris, France. Electronic address: silla.consoli@egp.aphp.fr.
3
Private Practice GP, Paris, France.
4
Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris, Hôpitaux Universitaires Paris Ouest, Service universitaire de Psychiatrie de l'adulte et du sujet âgé, Paris, France.
5
Paris Descartes University, Sorbonne Paris Cité, Paris, France; Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris, Hôpitaux Universitaires Paris Ouest, Service universitaire de Psychiatrie de l'adulte et du sujet âgé, Paris, France; INSERM U894, Centre Psychiatrie et Neurosciences, Paris, France.
6
Paris Descartes University, Sorbonne Paris Cité, Paris, France.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

Although empathy is critical in a doctor-patient relationship, empathic abilities seem to decline throughout medical school. This study aimed at examining changes in empathic abilities of fourth-year medical students who participated in an optional certificate based on Balint groups.

METHODS:

Thirty-four students were included in the "Balint group" certificate and compared with 129 participating in other certificates. Before the training sessions and 4 months later, they filled up the interpersonal reactivity index (IRI) and were asked to rate their emotional reactions in response to two case-reports: the first described a woman with diabetes, borderline- personality traits and a history of childhood trauma; the second, a woman with histrionic traits suffering from multiple sclerosis and hospitalized for functional symptoms. A principal component analysis extracted four factors from the 8 questions asked: empathic-approach (e.g. finding the patient touching), rejecting-attitude, intellectual-interest and fear of emotion contagion.

RESULTS:

At baseline, there were no socio-demographic or psychological differences between groups. At follow-up, an increase of IRI fantasy-scale (p=0.02) and a decrease of IRI empathic-concern (p=0.006) were observed, regardless of the group. Empathic-approach only increased in the "Balint group" and for the first case-report (p=0.023), with a difference between the groups at follow-up (p=0.003).

CONCLUSION:

Results suggest that Balint groups may enable medical students to better handle difficult clinical situations such as those presented by borderline personalities. Our findings encourage assessing training initiatives designed at helping young medical students to take into account the emotional component of a doctor-patient relationship.

KEYWORDS:

Balint groups; Doctor patient relations; Empathy; Medical school; Questionnaires; Teaching methods

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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