Of course, professionally provided treatment is supposed to have an endpoint. The primary goal of any level of treatment should be to help clients progress to the point where treatment becomes unnecessary. One of the criteria that defines success for treatment programs and providers is for clients to improve—in whatever area(s) of their lives brought them to treatment in the first place—enough so that they no longer need professional treatment; to effectively “graduate” from it. But no matter how high quality the treatment services provided to clients might be; no matter how impressive the improvements they present in session are, it can be difficult at best to maintain those gains in the face of the stresses, strains, and dysfunctions embedded in many family, social, neighborhood, and work environments. The reality is that people naturally and appropriately spend much more of their daily lives in these environments than they ever will in treatment. The functional improvements clients make during treatment are mitigated if not undone through contact with these frequently countertherapeutic influences. This gooses the potential risk for a relapse of symptoms, or unhealthy behaviors—which, for anyone struggling to recover from active addiction includes drug use. Treatment providers regularly express the wish for an easily accessible and affordable community-based resource that can supplement professional treatment by providing social and emotional support, as well as a good enough “holding environment.” Such a resource could provide clients with opportunities to consolidate and sustain the gains they’ve made, both between counseling sessions and after the conclusion of treatment. The concept of the “holding environment” comes from D. W. Winnicott, the British pediatrician turned psychoanalyst. Winnicott viewed relationships and interactions with other people, along with how individuals saw themselves vis-à-vis their most important relationships, as the key factor in healthy development. He extrapolated his original holding environment—the physical and psychological relationship and interactions between primary caregiver (usually the mother) and infant child—to the relationship and interactions between therapist and client. Part of the therapist’s task is to create a quality holding environment to assist the client’s growth and development. The holding environment paradigm has since been applied to the family as a whole, in addition to other settings—such as school, recreational programs, church, synagogue, mosque, etc., and various social support systems—that surround us at any given point in our lives. It didn’t occur to me until I began my own recovery that twelve-step programs can provide that very resource. The holding environment of my twelve-step program gave me shelter from the heavy weather of my early recovery and supplied the support I needed to withstand its most extreme storms. A quality holding environment promotes feelings of physical safety and emotional security, of being understood and unconditionally accepted. It brings about such supremely humane and salubrious effects through consistency, reliability, attunement to one’s needs, and by responding to those needs compassionately and empathically. By generating the experience of being emotionally “held” in these ways, this type of environment facilitates healthy physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual development. A healthy holding environment gifts its occupants with what Carl Rogers, the founder of Client-Centered Therapy, referred to as “unconditional positive regard”—the absolute, unequivocal respect for and appreciation of others encompassing such qualities as acceptance, nurturance, compassion, equanimity, empathy, and love. Being on the receiving end of unconditional positive regard, of feeling accepted for who one truly is, is a powerful cathartic. For those of us afflicted with addiction, it is an especially therapeutic experience. This blog post is an excerpt from Some Assembly Required – A Balanced Approach to Recovery from Addiction and Chronic Pain by By Dan Mager, MSW; Published by Central Recovery Press (CRP).