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Michael Balint

Born 1896
Died 1970

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Hungarian psychoanalyst and biochemist, 1896-1970.

Biography of Michael Balint

Michael Balint was born Mihály Maurice Bergmann, the son of a practising physician in Budapest. It was against his father's will that he changed his name to Michael Balint. He also changed religion, from Judaism to Unitarian Christianity.During World War I Balint served at the front, first in Russia, then in the Dolomites. He completed his medical study in Budapest in 1918. On the recommendation of his future wife, Alice Székely-Kovács, Balint read Sigmund Freud's "Drei Abhandlungen zur Sexualtheorie" (1905) and "Totem und Tabu".

He also began attending the lectures of Sándor Ferenczi, who in 1919 became the world's first university professor of psycho analysis.

Balint married Alice Székely-Kovács and about 1920 the couple moved to Berlin, where Balint worked in the biochemical laboratory of Otto Heinrich Warburg (1883-1870), the later (1931) Nobel Prize recipient. His wife worked in a folklore museum. Balint now worked on his doctorate in biochemistry, while also working half time at the Berlin Institute of psycho analysis. Both Michael and his wife Alice in this period were educated in psycho analysis.

In 1924 the Balints returned to Budapest, where he soon assumed a leading role in Hungarian psycho-analysis. During the 1930s the political conditions in Hungary made the teaching of psycho therapy practically impossible, and they emigrated to Manchester, England. Here Alice died in 1938, leaving Balint with their son John. In 1944 Balint remarried, but the relationship soon ended, although they were not divorced until 1952. In 1945 his parents, about to be arrested by the Nazis in Hungary, committed suicide. That year Balint moved from Manchester to London, continuing his group work with practicing physicians, and obtaining the Master of Science degree in psychology.

In 1949 Balint med his future wife Enid Flora Eichholz, who worked in the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations with a group of social workers and psychologists on the idea of investigating marital problems. Michael Balint became the leader of this group and together they develop what is now known as the Balint group. The first group og practicing physicians was established in 1950. Michael and Enid married in 1958. In 1968 Balint became president of the British Psychoanalytical Society.

The Michael-Balint-Institut für Psychoanalyse, Psychotherapie und analytische Kinder- und Jugendlichen- Psychotherapie in Hamburg is named for him.


  • Franz Sedlak und Gisela Gerber:
    Beziehung als Therapie Therapie als Beziehung. Michael Balints Beitrag zur heilenden Begegnung.
    Ernst Reinhardt Verlag 1992.

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