When Should an Analyst Talk?

When I went in to see Dr. Spotnitz the first time he said, “Tell me your life story, minute by minute, moment by moment” and he didn’t say a word for two years. When I asked him a question he would say, “Keep talking.” Those were the most frustrating years of my life. I don’t do that to my patients. When I was being trained I had the idea that it makes more sense to get the patient comfortable with the process before you start to say less, as the analyst.

I try to be the analyst the patient needs. I don’t stop talking completely with any patient, even if I think they can tolerate it. I have some patients who talk 10 or 15 minutes without addressing or contacting me. I have other patients that want to hear my voice every two minutes. I try to respect both types of patients. The less I say, I find, the more the patient will ultimately say. Every time I venture forth with words, I direct or redirect the patient. I think it’s important to be careful what one says as an analyst and how often one says it. If somebody needs contact with me and asks me a question, I’ll try to answer it. Yes, I do reflect many questions so that I remain a little more anonymous. “Gee, when’s your birthday? When do you think my birthday is? February. Oh that’s close.” A lot of patients hate when you reflect a question, so occasionally I’ll give an answer if I think they need it. I’m asked “Do you have a family? Are you married? What kind of car do you drive?”

When I was being trained, an analyst who is quite good, one of my professors, tells the story about a patient asking what her birth sign was. She thought, how harmful could that be? She says “Scorpio.” The patient never came back. The funny part is years later, when I am with a patient, they ask me my birth sign and that story flashes in my head. I think, I’m not a Scorpio. So I could answer…and I did answer…this person was into astrology and had to know if it was going to work with me. So I said, “I’m a Libra”. They said, “Great. This will work.” ~ Rafael Sharón, NCPsyA, SCPsyA, Psychoanalyst in Princeton NJ