Harold Searles Bibliography Meaning

(Biography written at time of nomination.)

Harold Searles, now living in retirement with his wife and former nurse Sylvia in Davis, California, is 87 years old.  He had loved California since his Army years there, and had kept his California license updated, although he has not practiced there during this past decade.  Born and raised in Hancock, New York, a bucolic little town nestled in the Catskill Mountains and on the banks of the Delaware River, Searles came very naturally to write his first monograph on The Nonhuman Environment: In Normal Development and in Schizophrenia.  However, family life was idealized but was filled with complicated and chronic anxieties and depression, as Searles describes in his dialogue with Robert Langs, Intrapsychic and Interpersonal Dimensions of Treatment.

Searles’s great contribution to the mental health field is his personal honesty – his openness to his responses to the other person, and his ability to articulate these responses.  In his writings and in his many demonstration interviews of patients (which he has said was his favorite clinical activity after leaving the Lodge), he set a very high standard for all of us.  The boundary between the pre-conscious and the conscious moves back, when we have the courage to face ourselves more fully.  When we hide behind a professional mask of warm-hearted dedication, aiming at being such good and empathic people, we diminish our access to our patients, and find one false self in pseudo-interaction with another person who then plays some part in an unreal drama: “…a healthy hopefulness needs to be distinguished clearly from an essentially manic repression of feelings of loss and despair.” (Searles, 1979, p. 483)  As Searles moves from clinical vignettes to theoretical explication, the reader often has the feeling, “I almost thought that, myself,” or, uncannily, “He knows me better than I know myself.”  Thus, Searles’s writings should be studied by each of us, aiming at developing our clinical skills and emotional capacities in general.  One’s countertransference responses gradually become one’s strongest therapeutic tools.  He says, after detailing the grinding isolation he experienced in years of work with a hebephrenic man, “To my enormous relief I realized that I could now be related to him without having either to kill him or fuck him.” (Searles, 1979, p. 431)  Like reading the works of Ferenczi and Winnicott, one senses his presence as a gifted supervisor of one’s ongoing clinical struggles; he is thus a perpetual vibrant supervisor and therapist.  A prolific writer, he gathered his many papers into books which have remained in continual print.  The topics include many aspects of psychoanalytically oriented work with patients suffering from schizophrenia, from manic-depressive illness and from the borderline condition.  While his books sold excellently, they do not turn up often in used book stores; their owners cherish them.  And when psychiatrists get together, recalling their residency training, they very often recall Searles’s “one-shot interviews” which so often revealed pivotal events in the interviewees lives, which their therapists had known nothing of, and which evoked volcanic emotional outpourings, which the therapists had thought were beyond the capabilities of their seemingly frozen and hopeless patients. Searles obtained his B.A. at Cornell University, in 1940, and his M.D. at Harvard Medical School in 1943.  He began his residency training at the New York Hospital and then served as a Captain in the Army’s medical corps, serving at the Washington DC Veterans Administration Mental Hygiene Clinic.  He began his psychoanalytic training while there, at the Washington Psychoanalytic Institute.  His analyst was Ernest Hadley.  Searles became a training and supervising analyst there and served as President of its Society from 1969 to 1971.  He was on the medical staff of the world-famous Chestnut Lodge Hospital from 1952 until 1964, working closely with Frieda Fromm-Reichmann.  His office was in the Frieda Fromm-Reichmann Cottage after her death in 1956.  Colleagues at the Lodge included Marvin Adland, Dexter Bullard, Sr., Donald Burnham, John Cameron, Beatriz Foster, John Fort, Robert Gibson, John Kafka, Ping-Nie Pao, Alberta Szalita, Otto Will and many others, all sharing their ideas, friendships and competitiveness.  Searles served as a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the Georgetown University School of Medicine, and contributed significantly to the residency training program at the Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital in Towson, Maryland, and the Columbia University residency program in New York City.  Additionally, he was a consultant at the National Institute of Mental Health, working on the project studying the Genain quadruplets. 

In each issue of the ISPS-US Newsletter, edited by Brian Koehler, PhD, this quotation from Searles is in the banner: “Innate among man’s most powerful strivings toward his fellow men…is an essentially psychotherapeutic striving.” (Searles, 1979, p. 459)  “More and more during the past several years, I have come at last to see something of how frequently the analyst has cause to feel gratitude toward the patient.” (Searles, 1979, p. 437) 

Ann-Louise S. Silver, M.D.


Langs, R. and Searles, H. (1980) Intrapsychic and Interpersonal Dimensions of Treatment: A Clinical Dialogue.  Jason Aronson.  New York and London.

Searles, H. (1960) The Nonhuman Environment: In Normal Development and in Schizophrenia. International Universities Press. New York.

-------. (1965) Collected Papers on Schizophrenia and Related Subjects. International Universities Press. New York.

-------. (1979) Countertransference and Related Subjects: Selected Papers. International Universities Press. New York.

-------. (1986) My Work with Borderline Patients. Jason Aronson, Northvale, NJ and London.




Harold Frederic Searles[1] (September 1, 1918 – November 18, 2015) was one of the pioneers of psychiatric medicine specializing in psychoanalytic treatments of schizophrenia. Harold Searles has the reputation of being a therapeutic virtuoso with difficult and borderline patients;[2] and of being, in the words of Horacio Etchegoyen, president of the IPA, "not only a great analyst but also a sagacious observer and a creative and careful theoretician".[3]


Searles was born in 1918[4] at Hancock, New York, a small village in the Catskill Mountains along the Delaware River, which was the subject of many of his reminiscences in his first book, The Nonhuman Environment.[4] He attended Cornell University and Harvard Medical School before joining the US armed services in World War II, where he served as a captain[4] After the war he continued his psychiatric training at the Chestnut Lodge, a private sanitarium in Rockville, MD from 1949–1951, then at the Veterans Administration Mental Hygiene Clinic in Washington, DC from 1951–1952.[5] In 1949 he started work at Chestnut Lodge, where he stayed for the next fifteen years.[4] His colleagues included Frieda Fromm-Reichmann,[4] to whose philosophy of treatment he acknowledged his personal debt.[6]

Searles retired from his private practice in Washington, D.C., in mid-1990's and moved to California in 1997, where both of his sons lived.[4][7] Searles' wife died in 2012, at the age of 93. Thereafter, Searles lived with his youngest son Donald, a Los Angeles-based attorney.[4] Searles' daughter is Sandra Dickinson, a London-based actress.[8] His eldest son, David Searle, is a Southern California motorcycle journalist. He died on November 18, 2015 in Los Angeles.[9] Searles is survived by three children, five grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.[4]


Arguably, Searles' work was largely ignored in the wider analytic community until the 1980s, when his radical views on the analyst's involvement through countertransference started to become more normative.[10] Since then Jungians in particular have paid increasing attention to his work, linking his findings both to those of Jung and to the work of another maverick analyst, Robert Langs.[11]

Searles has also been associated with Donald W. Winnicott and Hans W. Loewald as psychoanalytic figures who all emphasized the importance of the part played in psychic development by the external environment.[12]

On countertransference[edit]

Searles has been singled out as one of the pioneer investigators of the potentially useful role of countertransference, and of the therapist's use of his or her own self in treatment.[13]

In his 1959 article "Oedipal Love in the Countertransference", Searles wrote that he not only fell in Pygmalionesque love with his patients as they recovered, but also told them how he felt.[14] Searles argued that "the patient's self-esteem benefits greatly from his sensing that he (or she) is capable of arousing such responses in his analyst"[15]—a view which can be seen as a forerunner of intersubjective psychoanalysis with its emphasis on the spontaneous involvement of the therapist in terms of countertransference.[16]

In his later paper of 1975, "The Patient as Therapist to his Analyst", Searles argues that everybody has an urge to heal—something only distinguished in the psychotherapist in being tapped into formally.[17] Using the concept of what he called the patient's "unconscious therapeutic initiative",[18]—a precursor of much later thinking on patient/analyst interaction—Searles suggested that psychological illness is related to a disturbance of this natural tendency to heal others; with the surprising corollary that to help a patient the analyst/therapist must really experience the patient as doing something therapeutic for them.[19]

In his 1978-9 article, "Concerning Transference and Countertransference", Searles continued exploring intersubjectivity, building on his belief that "all patients...have the ability to 'read the unconscious' of the therapist".[20] Searles emphasized the importance of the therapist's acknowledging the core of truth around which a patient's transference materializes.[21]

On relatedness[edit]

Searles saw the schizophrenic individual as struggling with the question, not so much of how to relate, but of whether to relate to others. Searles, however, considered this merely as an exacerbated version of the same (if hidden) conflict that affects us all.[22]

Searles' interpersonal ideal – in the formulation of which he was indebted to Martin Buber – was of what he called a mature relatedness, something which involves connection without merging, or the loss of personal boundaries.[23]

On "The Effort to Drive the Other Person Crazy"[edit]

In an article of 1959, "The Effort to Drive the Other Person Crazy", Searles examined six modes of interpersonal communication, arguing that "each of these techniques tends to undermine the other person's confidence in his own emotional reactions and his own perception of reality".[24] Among these techniques were switching emotional wavelengths while discussing the same topic; and dealing with different topics (life and death/trivial) while remaining on the same wavelength.

Such attempts at crazy-making were often applied by patients to therapists, who had the task of enduring them without retaliation. Searles added moreover that it was important for the therapist to survive their own wish to kill the patient.[25]

Like many articles in psychoanalysis from the early and middle part of the 20th century Searles' work reflects an older version of views on homosexuality and transsexuality that are no longer part of the current mainstream of psychoanalytic thought. Whatever outdated views he may have expressed, like many of the revolutionary analytic writers, do not detract from the essential contributions he made to a revised understanding of the psychoanalytic treatment relationship and its complex processes.[26]


Further reading[edit]

  • Searles, Harold F.. Countertransference and related subjects; selected papers., Publisher New York, International Universities Press, 1979, ISBN 0-8236-1085-3
  • Searles, Harold F.: Collected papers on schizophrenia and related subjects, Imprint New York, International Universities Press, 1965, ISBN 0-8236-0980-4
  • Searles, Harold F: My Work With Borderline Patients, Publisher: Jason Aronson, 1994, ISBN 1-56821-401-4
  • Searles, Harold F.: The Nonhuman Environment in Normal Development and in Schizophrenia (New York, 1960)

External links[edit]

  1. ^National Library of Medicine Audiovisuals Catalog. U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Public Health Service, National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine. 16 November 1982. Retrieved 16 November 2017 – via Google Books. 
  2. ^"PEP Web". Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing. Retrieved 16 November 2017. 
  3. ^Etchegoyen, R. Horacio (2005). Fundamentals of Psychoanalytic Technique. London: Karnac Books. p. 173. ISBN 978-1-84940-465-5. 
  4. ^ abcdefghYoung, Robert M. (2005). "Harold Searles". The Human Nature Review. Retrieved 7 July 2010. 
  5. ^APA Biographical Dictionary (1977)
  6. ^Burston, Daniel (1991). The Legacy of Eric Fromm. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. p. 173. ISBN 978-0-67452-168-1. 
  7. ^Silver, Ann-Louise S. (2012). "Harold Searles". International Society for Psychological and Social Approaches to Psychosis. Retrieved 16 November 2017. 
  8. ^Swann, Yvonne (4 September 2009). "Sandra Dickinson was bullied for her fair hair at school but her life turned around when she discovered mascara". Daily Mail. London. Retrieved 5 September 2009. 
  9. ^Scharff, Jill Savege (23 November 2015). "A Tribute to Harold F. Searles, MD". International Psychoanalysis. Retrieved 1 December 2015. 
  10. ^Sedgwick, David (1993). Jung and Searles. London: Routledge. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-41509-698-0. 
  11. ^Sedgwick (1993), p. 1.
  12. ^Saari, Carolyn (2002). The Environment: Its role in Psychosocial Functioning and Psychotherapy. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-23112-196-5. 
  13. ^Foreword by Lewis Aron in Mahoda, Karen J. (2004). The Power of Countertransference (2nd revised & enlarged ed.). Hillsdale, New Jersey: Analytic Press. p. x. ISBN 978-0-88163-414-3. 
  14. ^Malcolm, Janet (1988). Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession. London: Maresfield. p. 168n. ISBN 978-0-94643-941-6. 
  15. ^Searles, quoted in Malcolm (1988), p. 168n.
  16. ^Grant, Jan; Crawley, Jim (2002). Transference and Projection: Mirrors to the Self. Buckingham: Open University Press. p. 57. ISBN 978-0-33520-315-4. 
  17. ^Symington, Neville (2003). Narcissism: A New Theory. London: Karnac Books. p. 36. ISBN 978-1-85575-047-0. 
  18. ^Searles, quoted in Casement, Patrick (1999). On Learning from the Patient. London: Routledge. p. 180. ISBN 978-0-41502-553-9. 
  19. ^Parsons, Michael (2000). The Dove that Returns, the Dove that Vanishes. London: Routledge. p. 42. ISBN 978-0-41521-181-9. 
  20. ^Searles, quoted in Young, Robert M. (28 May 2005). "Benign and virulent projective identification". The Human Nature Review. Retrieved 16 November 2017. 
  21. ^Klein, Josephine (2003). Jacob's Ladder : Essays on Experiences of the Ineffable in the Context of Contemporary Psychotherapy. London: Karnac Books. p. 193. ISBN 978-1-85575-936-7. 
  22. ^Phillips, Adam (2005). Going Sane. Australia: Hamish Hamilton. p. 172. ISBN 978-0-24114-210-3. 
  23. ^Klein (2003), pp. 191 & 194.
  24. ^Searles quoted in Laing, R. D. (1972). Self and Others (2nd ed.). Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. p. 139. ISBN 978-0-14021-376-8. 
  25. ^Scharff in Bergmann, Martin S. (2004). Understanding Dissidence and Controversy in the History of Psychoanalysis. New York: Other Press. p. 319. ISBN 978-1-59051-117-6. 
  26. ^Slavin, Jonathan H. (2007). "The Imprisonment and Liberation of Love: The Dangers and Possibilities of Love in the Psychoanalytic Relationship". Psychoanalytic Inquiry. 27 (3): 197–218. doi:10.1080/07351690701389262. 

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