Looking for Ground: Countertransference and the Problem of Value in Psychoanalysis, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Looking for Ground

Countertransference and the Problem of Value in Psychoanalysis, 1st Edition

By Peter G. M. Carnochan


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Despite a half-century of literature documenting the experience and meanings of countertransference in analytic practice, the concept remains a source of controversy. For Peter Carnochan, this can be addressed only by revisiting historical, epistemological, and moral issues intrinsic to the analytic enterprise. Looking for Ground is the first attempt to provide a comprehensive understanding of countertransference on the basis of a contemporary reappraisal of just such foundational assumptions.

Carnochan begins by reviewing the history of the psychoanalytic encounter and how it has been accompanied by changes in the understanding of countertransference. He skillfully delineates the complexities that underlie Freud's apparent proscription of countertransference before tracing the broadening of the concept in the hands of later theorists. Part II examines the problem of epistemology in contemporary analytic practice. The answer to this apparent quandary, he holds, resides in a contemporary appreciation of affect, which, rather than merely limiting or skewing perception, forms an essential "promontory" for human knowing. The final section of Looking for Ground takes up what Carnochan terms the "moral architecture" of psychoanalysis. Rejecting the claim that analysis operates in a realm outside conventional accounts of value, he argues that the analytic alternative to traditional moralism is not tantamount to emancipation from the problem of morality.

With wide-ranging scholarship and graceful writing, Carnochan refracts the major theoretical and clinical issues at stake in contemporary psychoanalytic debates through the lens of countertransference - its history, its evolution, its philosophical ground, its moral dimensions. He shows how the examination of countertransference provides a unique and compelling window through which to apprehend and reappraise those basic claims at the heart of the psychoanalytic endeavor.


"Looking for Ground is a sophisticated, theoretically rich revisiting of some old and beloved haunts - neutrality, abstinence, analytic subjectivity, and cure by love - in order to get a new purchase on the question of therapeutic action. By appreciating the virtues of a wide range of clinical strategies in countertransference work, this book has the potential to take the field of clinical psychoanalysis beyond the reductive opposition of analytic disclosure and analytic deprivation."

- Adrienne Harris, Ph.D., Author, Gender as Soft Assembly (Analytic Press, 2005)

"It is a valuable, extensive, and comprehensive exposition of the history, development, theories, and practice of psychoanalysis…Carnochan has made a contribution that is modern and controversial. While he surely is not the last word on countertransference, his book should stimulate valuable discussion of a much neglected topic."

- Ernest S. Wolf, M.D., Psychoanalytic Quarterly

“There can be little doubt that the subject of countertransference has moved to center stage in current psychoanalytic discourse. This shift raises extraordinary challenges involving epistemology, technique, and theory. In this superb new contribution, Peter Carnochan addresses those challenges. With meticulous scholarship and admirable even-handedness, he investigates the implications of our current emphasis on countertransference for contemporary psychoanalysis. Both candidates and experienced analysts will find this book a valuable resource.”

- Glen O. Gabbard, M.D., The Menninger Clinic

"Looking for Ground is a brilliantly conceived, thoroughly researched, and superbly written historical-conceptual study of psychoanalytic technique that becomes profoundly illuminating of psychoanalysis in general. One might have thought there were no new, imaginative ways to approach the historical and conceptual issues involved in psychoanalytic technique and, more specifically, in the actual participation of the analyst in the treatment process. But the author of this book has accomplished just that! By choosing countertransference and its vicissitudes as the thread around which to organize his novel insights about the analyst's role and function in treatment, he found the ground he was looking for. Carnochan presents his ideas in a narrative that is not only clinically and philosophically sophisticated but also highly readable. He is at the cutting edge of contemporary psychoanalysis and takes the reader along on his exciting journey."

- Paul H. Ornstein, M.D., Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis, University of Cincinnati

Table of Contents

Atlas's Perch. Freud and the Advent of Psychoanalysis. Freud: Gratification, Virtue, and the Therapeutic Process. Freud: Reality Testing and the Pleasure Principle. The Evolution of Psychoanalytic Technique after Freud. The Move to Modernity. Knowing and Analysis. Verification and Disclosure. Stillness and Provision: Theories of Virtue in Psychoanalytic Practice. Constructed Virtue: The Architecture of Psychoanalytic Morality.

About the Author

Peter G. M. Carnochan, Ph.D., is a psychologist in private practice in San Francisco. He studied philosophy at Harvard University and is currently a candidate at the Psychoanalytic Institute of Northern California. He has written articles on the development of emotion and cognition, and presented psychoanalytic papers at American Psychological Association conferences. Dr. Carnochan has served as the associate editor of the Psychologist Psychoanalyst and currently serves on the board of the Childhood and Adolescence Section of the Psychoanalysis Division of the APA.

About the Series

Relational Perspectives Book Series

The Relational Perspectives Book Series (RPBS) publishes books that grow out of or contribute to the relational tradition in contemporary psychoanalysis. The term relational psychoanalysis was first used by Greenberg and Mitchell (1983) to bridge the traditions of interpersonal relations, as developed within interpersonal psychoanalysis and object relations, as developed within contemporary British theory. But, under the seminal work of the late Stephen Mitchell, the term relational psychoanalysis grew and began to accrue to itself many other influences and developments. Various tributaries—interpersonal psychoanalysis, object relations theory, self psychology, empirical infancy research, and elements of contemporary Freudian and Kleinian thought—flow into this tradition, which understands relational configurations between self and others, both real and fantasied, as the primary subject of psychoanalytic investigation.  

We refer to the relational tradition, rather than to a relational school, to highlight that we are identifying a trend, a tendency within contemporary psychoanalysis, not a more formally organized or coherent school or system of beliefs. Our use of the term relational signifies a dimension of theory and practice that has become salient across the wide spectrum of contemporary psychoanalysis. Now under the editorial supervision of Lewis Aron and Adrienne Harris with the assistance of Associate Editors Steven Kuchuck and Eyal Rozmarin, the Relational Perspectives Book Series originated in 1990 under the editorial eye of the late Stephen A. Mitchell. Mitchell was the most prolific and influential of the originators of the relational tradition. He was committed to dialogue among psychoanalysts and he abhorred the authoritarianism that dictated adherence to a rigid set of beliefs or technical restrictions. He championed open discussion, comparative and integrative approaches, and he promoted new voices across the generations.  

Included in the Relational Perspectives Book Series are authors and works that come from within the relational tradition, extend and develop the tradition, as well as works that critique relational approaches or compare and contrast it with alternative points of view. The series includes our most distinguished senior psychoanalysts along with younger contributors who bring fresh vision.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Applied Psychology
PSYCHOLOGY / Psychotherapy / General
PSYCHOLOGY / Mental Health