What Is Depth Psychology?
Depth psychology is a term used to describe any psychological approach which explores the hidden or deeper aspects of human experience. It is a broad term that includes approaches which look at interpersonal dynamics and the development of patterns of behavior. The field of depth psychology originated in the work of Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, visionaries who called attention to the importance of what lies below the surface of ordinary awareness.
What is Psychoanalysis?
Depth psychotherapists regard the human psyche as being partly conscious and partly unconscious. Psychoanalysis, including Jungian analysis, is the main approach to therapy based upon depth psychology. This form of treatment aims at exploring underlying motives as an approach to psychological distress, with the belief that uncovering these motives is intrinsically healing. Analysis seeks the deeper layers that lie beneath our conscious awareness, behavior and thoughts.
Individuals can uncover these layers in psychoanalysis but they are also evident in literature, the expressive arts, dreams, and in the physical and psychological symptoms suffered by individuals and cultures.
The original theories of Freud and Jung have evolved continuously and creatively over the rich, hundred year history of depth psychoanalytic treatment. Despite our “quick fix” culture, psychoanalysis is still widely practiced in the United States. It remains the most in-depth form of therapy, with an unmatched understanding of the human psyche and the most rigorously and thoroughly trained therapists in the field of mental health. It is among the more non-pathologizing and strength affirming forms of psychotherapy.
Today, evidence for the efficacy of depth approaches is growing. Studies have shown that depth therapies have a longer-lasting and more profound impact than cognitive or behavioral psychologies alone. Contemporary scholars are expanding the field in the light of systems theories, ecological thought and neuroscience.
Who Benefits from Psychoanalysis?
A psychoanalytic or depth psychological approach is well-suited for people who want to understand themselves at a deeper level and to discover greater meaning, purpose and creative fulfillment in their lives. It’s recommended for those seeking to transform destructive or limiting patterns, especially when those patterns are long-standing and repetitive. It’s also helpful for people seeking to heal the effects of painful or traumatic past experiences and when previous, less intensive therapy or counseling has not been helpful enough.
Like other therapies, psychoanalysis is concerned with easing emotional suffering. But while it may include solving problems or coping with crisis, analysis aims at more lasting change by facilitating deeper psychological growth. This involves transforming problematic patterns, both in relationships with others and in relationship to ourselves, as well as uncovering blocks that prevent us from living our full creative potential.
By incorporating both inner and outer exploration, the individual discovers a more potent sense of meaning and purpose in life.
Many people find that depth psychology coherently explains life experiences and offers a path for individuation—that is, for developing one’s unique personality— while also allowing space for the mystery and creativity of life.
I specialize in a particular branch of depth psychology called Jungian psychology or Jungian analysis. This approach is at home with myth and symbol, with the religious and spiritual traditions of the world, with anthropology and archeology, with art, poetry, and literature.
Here are some resources to help you learn more about depth psychology and psychoanalysis:
A brief article in Forbes titled, “Why it’s time to take a new look at Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy.”
Jungian Analyst Lionel Corbett MD gives an excellent 30 minute video talk on the benefits of psychotherapy that is based on depth psychology.
This excellent Scientific American article by Jonathan Shedler discusses the research behind psychodynamic and psychoanalytic therapies.
If you don’t have time to read the article above, here is a short Psychology Today summary by the same author.