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FAQ > Sessions > How long is a "therapy hour?"

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Most psychotherapy sessions last 45 minutes, commonly called a "therapy hour."  This is reinforced by the medical insurance industry which reimburses individual therapy sessions for a 45 minute psychotherapy procedure.  It has more to do with the business aspects of therapy rather than any magic in the time-frame.

In my practice, I add on an additional 5 minutes at the start of the hour to handle administrative issues, increasing our meeting time to up to 50 minutes.  But most people wonder what I (and other therapists) do in that 10 minute break between sessions.  What most clients don't realize is that this is not the kind of break where one relaxes and, perhaps, has a cigarette.  It is the busiest time of the therapist's hour!  

Speaking for myself, during that 10 minutes, I furiously write down notes of the previous session while they are fresh and I am actively thinking about my previous client and their issues.  I then put the file back into my file drawer and prepare the next file for the upcoming session.  I also read the notes from the previous session so that I may refresh my memory about issues we are working on, homework assignments, and any other business or therapy items that may need to be considered or discussed.  I also straighten up the office from the previous session, remove trash and paperwork, get a bottle of fresh water for my upcoming client, and put the space back to a starting position. But, that isn't all!

This 10 minutes is also the only time I have to use the restroom, have a quick bite to eat, and/or return phone calls, emails, or texts.  Because this time is so limited, it is rare that I can actually get to return all phone calls, emails, and texts. Often times these communications are put off until much later that day, or the following day, as my treatment days do not end until after 9:30 p.m.  And this is just the routine stuff.

Sometimes a complication may arise that throws the schedule off, but this is very rare.  I do everything possible to start my sessions promptly at the start of the appointment time, create a welcoming physical space, and give my full attention to my clients and their issues.

Last updated on February 8, 2013 by Gregory L. Cason, Ph.D.