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Ehrenberg, D.B. (1990). Playfulness in the Psychoanalytic Relationship. Contemp. Psychoanal., 26:74-94.

(1990). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 26:74-94

Playfulness in the Psychoanalytic Relationship

Darlene Bregman Ehrenberg, Ph.D.

IN THIS ESSAY I FOCUS ON the ways in which playfulness can be of value in the establishment, maintenance, and advancement of a viable analytic process; and can serve as a measure of analytic achievement as well.

Literature from all psychoanalytic schools of thought, citing clinical data, indicates that specific kinds of more direct affective engagement on the part of the analyst can be constructive in establishing an analytic possibility in some instances in which it might not ordinarily exist, or in advancing the analytic effort beyond what might have been possible otherwise. There is a growing body of data documenting the fact that to keep the work alive and vital with more disturbed patients, or even to establish an analytic relationship, there are times when the analyst must be innovative and creative. I believe playfulness can be useful toward this end, and that it is an underused medium, the potential value of which may not be fully appreciated.


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Copyright © 1990 W. A. W. Institute

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Contemporary Psychoanalysis, Vol. 26, No. 1 (1990)

1 I would like to express my appreciation to Dr. Arthur H. Feiner for his generosity in reading the various drafts of this evolving paper, and for his trenchant comments and editorial suggestions.

Earlier versions of this paper were read at the meetings of the Division of Psychoanalysis (Division 39) of the American Psychological Association on April 7, 1989 in Boston, Massachusetts; and at the Clinical Services Conference at the William Alanson White Institute, New York, New York, on October 10, 1989. It was also read to The Westchester Center for the Study of Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy on November 15, 1989. I would like to thank all the participants for their helpful comments, particularly Dr. Edgar A. Levenson. I also want to express my appreciation to the patients who gave permission to use the clinical material included in this paper.

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