Donald W. Winnicott first used the term ‘holding’ (1953, 1971) to describe the state of mind of the mother and her construction of an environment that enables an infant to feel safe and content. The therapeutic environment can also be described as a ‘holding’ environment. ‘Holding’ in therapy is understood by Winnicott to be the construction of environment where a patient feels held in an analogous way to how a baby is held by their mother: gently and attentively.
The adoption of ‘holding’ by Psychotherapists and Psychologists as a way of being with and attending to the needs of our patients, provides an environment where damage done by not having a good enough holding environment during childhood can be repaired. Over time regular sessions during which the patient’s well being is the central focus provides this person with a second ‘parenting’ where psychological damage can be addressed and emotional regulation can be achieved. This supportive and nurturing environment provides a patient with the opportunity to think new thoughts about their own psychological issues. and ‘mentalise’ previously disturbing psychological experiences.