The holding environment and intersubjectivity

Psychoanal Q. 2001 Apr;70(2):417-46. doi: 10.1002/j.2167-4086.2001.tb00606.x.


The holding environment is explored in the context of the analytic dyad, where it is seen as rooted in the patient's need to be experientially known through the intersubjective interaction. In examining previous emphasis on holding as an optimally attuned empathic environment provided by the analyst, a broadened view of what constitutes a holding environment is presented, underscoring its interactional nature. A distinction is made between empathic holding based on the patient's expressed material, and holding that is generated through the analyst's intersubjective knowledge, gained via ongoing intersubjective engagements and enactments. It is argued that the unmediated connection to the patient's internal representations resulting from these intersubjective interactions, and the ensuing verbal exploration of them, can create a profound sense of being understood and thus held. A clinical process depicting the experience of holding in an intersubjective context is presented.

MeSH terms

  • Environment*
  • Humans
  • Psychoanalytic Theory
  • Psychoanalytic Therapy*