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HomeEmeritus Councilor - Don Nease

Emeritus Councilor - Don Nease

Don Nease is one of the first physician leaders of the American Balint Society to have been involved with the method throughout his entire career. His first exposure to Balint groups came in 1987 at the beginning of his residency in Family Medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. He is also the second ABS leader to have gone on to the Presidency of the International Balint Federation. In between those remarkable qualifications he directed the growth of the ABS with foresight, clarity and integrative strength.

Of his initiation to the Balint method, he writes, “I vaguely remember Dr. Clive Brock giving the barest of descriptions of how the group was to work before we got started. I was very intrigued by the group work as I had been trained as a peer support group facilitator in medical school at Kansas, so jumped in with a great deal of curiosity….I can still recall cases from those early groups.”

Near the end of his third year of residency, he attended the 1990 STFM Spring Meeting and was a part of the founding of the American Balint Society. “I wasn’t privy to the politics, but I do recall a sense that STFM wished to get us out from under its wing.”

Following residency, he took a fellowship position at the KU program in Kansas City followed by two years as faculty and began efforts to introduce Balint there. “It was fits and starts, but I had support from afar from Clive and Alan Johnson.” His next position at the Department of Family Medicine at UTMB Galveston had a warmer and more inviting climate for Balint work. He and his co-leader traveled to the first Intensive in Charleston, “which was a great refresher for both of us. It was very exciting to meet people from around the country doing Balint work, and I had the feeling of a movement coming into being.” He would prove to be powerfully instrumental in the growth of that movement.
“It was in Galveston that I had the idea to start Balint-L. Family-L was an active STFM listserv at the time, and it seemed to me that the Balint movement could benefit from a similar service. Being a bit of a geek, I managed to fire up the service using a spare Mac, and we were off and running. Balint-L provided my initial entre into the ABS Council, as it was decided that the service was important enough that the Balint-L moderator should have an ex-officio presence.” Balint-L was not Don’s last internet gift to the society: he found a platform for ABS business that could be managed by unsophisticated volunteers, such that the membership doubled and tripled from its earliest decade; and he pioneered videoconference Balint groups which the ABS now offers.

After creating Balint-L he hosted the first Intensive outside of Charleston, another substantive contribution to nationalizing the Balint movement. “We held it in 1997 at the Moody Gardens Hotel right on the beach (beaches being seemingly an important feature of those early Intensives), and despite losing money, as all Intensives did in those days, it was a success.” With willingness that would prove characteristic of him he “agreed to hold another Galveston Intensive the following year in the historic Hotel Galvez, also on the beach.”

In 1998 Don moved to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. After a few years he started a faculty group, which ran up through 2011 when he left U-M. During his 13 years at Michigan, he continued to shepherd Balint-L and was elected to Council, ultimately serving as President in 2007 and 2008. During his years as an officer in the ABS, he hosted a Council business retreat in 2006 in Ann Arbor, and a Credentialed Leaders Weekend in 2009.

He also began to attend International Balint Federation meetings, beginning with the 1998 International Balint Congress in Oxford, then the 2003 Congress in Berlin. “There was a growing sense on Council that the ABS needed to become more involved in the IBF, and the decision was made to support sending an ABS delegate to IBF Council meetings as well as Congresses. I became the first person selected for that role and began attending the twice a year meetings.” This involvement supported the ABS in hosting an IBF Council meeting in Chicago and an entire IBF Congress in Philadelphia in 2011. In this positive context Don put himself forward to be elected as an IBF Vice President for three two-year terms and then as President. At this writing in 2018 he is serving his final of three two-year terms in that post.

Over his career, which coincides so well with the growth of the Balint movement, he has seen the ABS develop from its beginning as an organization. He characterizes its current task as “really trying to decide what it wants to be when it grows up.” With typical succinctness he describes the choice as between mostly focusing “on training and supporting Balint leaders versus spreading the movement beyond educational settings. Of course, it’s not an either/or, but a shading of purpose between the two.” He balances that lofty overview with the personal,  stating that his most gratifying work within the ABS and IBF has been helping to encourage younger participants. One recent highlight was his introduction of Balint groups online in “the Balint 2.0 collaboration with the WONCA Young Doctors Movement….bringing the Balint process to young family doctors who might otherwise never be able to join a group.”

Don’s energy for Balint work remains strong: he still hosts intensives in Denver (2017, 2018), and contributes in other ways. His wide vision of the usefulness of what the society offers still influences policy and his ability to integrate the essentially interpersonal with the impersonal, e.g. the internet, has been transformative. ~ Approved by ABS Council July, 2018.

 "Restoring the Core of Clinical Practice: What is a Balint group and how does it help?" by Laurel Milberg, PhD and Katherine Knowlton, PhD. Available in paperback or ebook Order Now

The American Balint Society
, is a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to improving the therapeutic relationships between healing professionals and their clients/patients. The American Balint  Society is a member society of the International Balint Federation