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Elmhirst, S.I. (1978). Time and the Pre-Verbal Transference. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 59:173-180.

(1978). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 59:173-180

Time and the Pre-Verbal Transference

Susanna Isaacs Elmhirst

In accordance with the instructions (in the President's Newsletter of February, 1976) for those submitting papers to the 1977 Congress, I hope to facilitate some reflexion on and discussion of an aspect of psychoanalytic technique. It is to the question of time, the time available for the psychoanalytic session, that I want to address myself. For this appears to be an aspect of technique about which there is thought to have been agreement since Freud first found that 50 minutes was a practicable length of time for a session, yet wide variations of practice and theory actually exist.

Common sense tells us what every scientist knows, that the techniques used inevitably affect the results of experiments. Hence the detailed accounts of techniques which are given in all reputable scientific papers for disciplines other than our own. In such papers it would be expected that particular attention be given to variations from former methods so that the detailed correlation of the new findings and the changed conditions can be facilitated. It is harder in psychoanalysis than in any other branch of science to standardize technique, there is such an enormous variety of factors involved. A serious contemporary tendency towards oversimplification does psychoanalysis little harm if it leads frustrated statisticians either to turn from quantification to descriptive delineation or to leave our ranks. It is when they continue to call themselves psychoanalysts, whilst not defining what they do, that we are in for gratuitous and sometimes grievous trouble.

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