The Availability of the Analyst

In this forum on the Availability of the Analyst, Janice S. Lieberman, PhD, discusses the physical (rather than emotional) availability of the analyst and the ethical implications of the analyst’s frequent vacations, conference travel, and personal time off for analytic work.  Introducing the idea of the analyst’s “work superego,” Lieberman asks, “what is the analyst’s responsibility to his or her patients other than analyzing?”  Joseph Cancelmo, PhD, and Claudia Heilbrunn, MA, offer responses to the issues raised by Lieberman.  How are our ideas of analytic availability and responsibility (“the frame”) being (re)shaped by new technologies including video calling and text messaging?  How much time away is too much?  Is it possible to separate physical availability from emotional availability?  What constitutes a “legitimate” reason for missing sessions?  Even or especially when the analyst becomes gravely ill, such questions and ethical dilemmas acquire great urgency. 

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The Availability (and The Responsibility) of the Analyst: ‘Above all, do no harm’

Janice S. Lieberman, PhD

Thank you to the Editors of The Candidate Journal for providing me with the opportunity to explore with the psychoanalytic community an uncomfortable topic, seldom discussed, but affecting all of us.  We at times discuss the patient’s availability to come to sessions, but not the analyst’s availability.  I would like to discuss the issue of the analyst’s physical availability and not so much his emotional availability or mental availability, even though these are all interrelated.

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The Analyst’s Availability: A Discussion

Joe Cancelmo, PsyD

I am grateful to the Editors of The Candidate Journal for inviting me to discuss Janice Lieberman’s essay, “The Availability (and Responsibility) of the Analyst.”  Janice’s writings, both academic and in popular press, are wide-ranging – from the external world of society, culture and art, to the internal, visceral world of body and character development and their intersections.  This complexity comes through in her creative musings in the form of questions about the curious absence of discussion on shifts in the analyst’s “availability” to patients.    

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Thoughts on Availability

Claudia Heilbrunn, MA

In her piece “The Availability (and the Responsibility) of the Analyst”, Janice Lieberman questions the practices “of those who electively take vacations or cancel blocks of sessions, not those who must take time off due to planned surgeries, cancer treatment, and the like” - those absences that are “uncontrollable.”  But how much do we really control when it comes to our availability?  Is not the distinction between physical and psychological availability in some ways false? Sure, we can skip vacations and days off, take emergency calls when needed, say no to an event...

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