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Ehrenberg, D.B. (1996). On The Analyst's Emotional Availability And Vulnerability. Contemp. Psychoanal., 32:275.

(1996). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 32:275

On The Analyst's Emotional Availability And Vulnerability

Darlene Bregman Ehrenberg, Ph.D.

A SUPERVISEE REPORTED A SESSION in which she found herself feeling like she was having a "stroke." Her experience was that she could not follow what her patient was saying, the words were all in a jumble in her mind, and she could not comprehend at all. She felt she could not go on listening. With some trepidation, but emboldened by her work with me, she decided to take a risk and told her patient, "I have to share with you what is happening because I don't understand it"; she then described to her patient how she found herself unable to comprehend, that she felt confronted by a jumble of words and didn't know what was happening to her mind. To her surprise, her patient's mouth fell open in response. The patient then reported with great emotion, "you have just described to a T what I experience most of the time." The patient went on to say that this has been characteristic of her experience for as long as she could remember, and that she has always struggled to present a semblance of being able to function coherently, even when her own experience remained a jumble. She elaborated that she sometimes remained in this state for long periods—days, weeks, not just moments—and expressed her relief in being able to talk about it. The patient went on to say that she had never discussed this with anyone before, and how much the therapist's revelation meant to her. She felt "safe" for the first time in the treatment.

My supervisee was relieved and surprised. She

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