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Levine, A.R. (2009). Bending the Frame and Judgment Calls in Everyday Practice. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 57(5):1209-1215.

(2009). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 57(5):1209-1215

Bending the Frame and Judgment Calls in Everyday Practice

Alisa R. Levine

The purpose of this panel was to further our understanding of the psychoanalytic frame, both through general discussion and by examining clinical instances of frame bending that seemed fruitful or disruptive, as viewed by the analyst in retrospect. The panel was divided into three segments. The panelists—Dale Boesky, Adrienne Harris, and Peter Goldberg—first presented their views of the psychoanalytic frame. In the next segment, they presented clinical vignettes where a decision to bend the frame had enhanced the analytic process. In the final segment, they provided examples of frame bending that was unsuccessful. In all of these instances, the analysts discovered in retrospect how their choices made implicit assumptions explicit. The clinical experience crystallized for them how they had tacitly defined their analytic practice.

Nancy Chodorow, who chaired the panel, noted at the outset that the psychoanalytic frame has often been characterized as behavioral “rules” imparted by the analyst to the analysand. Yet these rules, regarding fees, the couch, the schedule, and self-disclosure, do not begin to define the actual doing of psychoanalysis. Every analyst, she said, holds tacit preconscious assumptions about what constitutes a psychoanalytic frame, in general and with each patient. The frame is established and reestablished daily as analysts use their clinical judgment and carry out the treatment. We discover our assumptions about the frame only by examining our actions after the fact. Each analyst makes judgment calls preconsciously and consciously and, in so doing, contributes to the evolution of analytic practice. Such clinical choices, which are instantiations or reproductions of the frame, in fact define the practice of psychoanalysis.


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