Journal Article

To Have and to Hold: Questions about a Therapeutic Service for Children

John Sudbery, Steven M. Shardlow and A. E. Huntington

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 40, issue 5, pages 1534-1552
Published in print July 2010 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online July 2009 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI:
To Have and to Hold: Questions about a Therapeutic Service for Children

Show Summary Details


Therapies for children and young people that using ‘holding’ as an intervention for severe difficulties with attachments are controversial and raise many questions. At least one major professional organisation has stated that these therapies should be banned. This paper discusses the implications of a study of a service for children (and their families where appropriate) described as having attachment difficulties or a diagnosis of attachment disorder and where ‘holding’ techniques are employed as part of the therapeutic intervention. The views of a range of stakeholders (including children, young adults who had previously used the service, purchasers, outside professionals, and staff) about this service were collated directly by interview. The article identifies how this study can refine and inform the broader questions about ‘attachment and holding’ therapies. Proponents argue that the service offered provides effective assistance for some of the most hurt and difficult children in society. Opponents state that some of the techniques involved have not been evaluated, are ethically questionable and are not based on a validated theoretical mechanism. This paper highlights a number of core questions about attachment and ‘holding’ therapy and the findings of the study provide a commentary on these questions.

Keywords: Social work; children and young people; attachment; holding therapy; residential care

Journal Article.  6719 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.