Getting Connected: The Virtual Holding Environment

Kari L. Fletcher, University of St. Thomas, Minnesota
Sally Davis Comer, East Carolina University
Andy Dunlap, Elizabethtown College


This article introduces and describes the virtual holding environment-a space where supportive relationships can be developed and maintained through the use of technology over time-and its role in helping us thrive during our doctoral program, dissertation process, and subsequent career transitions. Here, we present concepts related to computer-mediated communication, distance education, and psychodynamic theory (Winnicott's holding environment, Bowlby's attachment theory, and Fonagy's mentalization/intersubjective process) that have helped shape this virtual holding environment. Also, we present individual vignettes that illustrate the role this virtual holding environment has played in our shared successes. Our partnership offers collaborative principles that may be applied to other forms of education and training which require independent work, yet benefit from mutual ongoing support. We provide several recommendations for strengthening learning experiences and computer-mediated communication across distance. © 2014 © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.