The Changing Place of ‘Holding’: From Winnicott to Contemporary Relational Psychoanalytically Informed Psychotherapy
Therapeutic ‘holding’ is a key concept that emerges from the psychoanalytic school of British Object Relations in mid 20th century. It is centred on the maternal metaphor in which Winnicott’s ‘good enough mother’ provides a safe yet responsive environment attuned to the infant’s nurture and development needs. While a ‘holding’ stance is often seen as the bedrock of the therapeutic relationship, the concept has been interpreted, extended, reconceptualised and critiqued by subsequent psychoanalytic thinkers. This thinking includes significant challenges from contemporary relational, feminist, intersubjectivist and postmodernist perspectives. This dissertation is a chronologically structured systematic literature review considering both the theory and practice of ‘holding’ with focused consideration of the contemporary debates. It clarifies the place of ‘holding’ in the therapeutic relationship, providing a basis to inform and reflect on practice. It argues that holding remains a useful and valid psychoanalytic concept, proposing that a developmental perspective allows reconciliation between holding and intersubjectivist positions.