Donald Winnicott and the "Holding Environment"
Winnicott came to psychoanalysis from a pediatric background, and his ideas were influenced by what he saw as the nurturing emotional environment that a loving mother provides to her child. From a Winnicottian perspective, a loving mother holds her baby, both physically and emotionally, and she is attuned and attentive to the baby's needs. Observing this, Winnicott extrapolated his ideas of how crucial it is that a psychotherapist develop a symbolic "holding environment" for psychotherapy clients.
|Donald Winnicott, psychoanalyst and pediatrician, wrote books for children and adults|
|Playing and Reality by Donald Winnicott|
A Therapist's Empathic Attunement to Clients:
Beyond maintaining the treatment "frame," the creation of a therapeutic "holding environment" also includes the therapist's empathic attunement to the client. When a therapist is compassionate and empathic, on the most basic level, the client feels cared about by the therapist in a way that maintains appropriate boundaries between client and therapist. This is crucial for any successful therapy.
For some clients, who were abused as children, being with a compassionate and empathic therapist allows them to feel safe and supported in the treatment. They will feel, often for the first time, that someone is there who puts their needs first. This can be a very healing experience. This is also generally true for clients who grew up with narcissistic parents who neglected them emotionally, who were not willing or able to meet their children's emotional needs.
For clients who might not be sure how to choose a psychotherapist, I usually recommend that, beyond choosing any particular treatment modality, that clients focus on whether they feel a therapist provides an emotionally supportive environment. This might be difficult to assess in the initial consultation when most clients feel anxious. But, over time, most clients can discern if the therapist is emotionally attuned to them and whether it's a good therapeutic match. I urge clients to trust their instincts about this and to continue their search for a therapist until they feel it's the right match.
You can also read my article: "How to Choose a Therapist".
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist. I also provide psychodynamic psychotherapy. I work with individual adults and couples.
To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist
To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006.
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