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Modell, A.H. (1976). "The Holding Environment" and the Therapeutic Action of Psychoanalysis. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 24:285-307.

(1976). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 24:285-307

"The Holding Environment" and the Therapeutic Action of Psychoanalysis

Arnold H. Modell, M.D.

AT THE CONGRESS IN MARIENBAD in 1936, Glover (1937) observed that "it is essential that our theory of therapeutic results should keep pace with the complexity of ego development and with the complexity of our etiological formulae" (p. 127). This paper is an attempt to respond to Glover's succinct advice, for, as we enlarge the scope of psychoanalysis to include an ever-increasing range of people who are said to suffer from disorders of ego development, we are forced to consider for these people a theory of the therapeutic action of psychoanalysis different from that we use with the so-called "classical case."

The isolation of those factors which underlie therapeutic change in psychoanalysis is not a secure area of knowledge; it is easier to identify the forces that interfere with the progress of an analysis than to understand what contributes to its therapeutic success. Our theory of therapeutic change in psychoanalysis may itself be constantly changing due to the changing nature of the neuroses. This theory is obviously linked to the subject of transference where a final understanding also seems continually to elude us. A thorough examination of the theory of therapeutic action of psychoanalysis is beyond the scope of this paper: it should be understood that the following account is necessarily cursory and simplified.


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