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Greenson, R.R. (1974). The Decline and Fall of the 50-Minute Hour. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 22:785-791.

(1974). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 22:785-791

The Decline and Fall of the 50-Minute Hour

Ralph R. Greenson, M.D.

WHEN I WAS TRAINED IN PSYCHOANALYSIS, all the analysts and candidates I knew in the then small Los Angeles Study Group worked with their patients on an hourly schedule. The typical psychoanalytic session was called an hour and consisted of a period of approximately 50 minutes of work with the patient with an interval of some 10 minutes between patients. The "50-minute hour" seemed to be a functionally sound division of time for performing the work of psychoanalysis and a traditional psychoanalytic routine in 1938.

Shortly after World War II and after I had become a training analyst, a bright and eager candidate in psychoanalytic training pursued me determinedly, inquiring whether I had a free hour to supervise his treatment of a patient he wanted to take into psychoanalysis. Eventually I did find a free weekly hour, and after some deliberation we agreed upon a time: Thursday, 10 o'clock in the morning. After an audible sigh of satisfaction, the candidate then paused momentarily and asked, "Is it all right if I get to your office a few minutes late?" At that time I merely shrugged, a few minutes early or late for a supervisory hour, announced in advance, would cause me no inconvenience. I did not realize, then, it was to be more than a singular, isolated experience.


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