Psychology is built around the study of the mind, which many prominent psychologists have thought to be influenced by the unconscious.
Below, we’ll explore depth psychology, its history, and how it might benefit you when you work with a licensed therapist with training in this area of psychology.
What Is Depth Psychology?
Through the study of dreams, symptoms, images, slips of the tongue, meaningful coincidences, and our interpersonal interactions, a depth psychologist attempts to understand the language and dynamics of our unconscious and how it manifests in us.
Paul Eugen Bleuler, a University of Zürich professor of psychiatry, coined the term depth psychology in the early 1900s. This type of therapy tends to explore the unconscious and often looks at how dreams, complexes, and archetypes influence the human experience. Depth psychology typically looks to explore the deeper areas of human experiences, working to look at these moments from a holistic perspective as opposed to taking them apart.
Not A “Quick Fix” Form Of Therapy
Depth psychologists often see the human psyche as both conscious and unconscious, and psychoanalysis is typically the main therapeutic approach. It explores the underlying motives that could be the key to psychological distress. There is a belief that uncovering those motives can be intrinsically healing. The analysis often seeks the deeper layers beneath our conscious awareness, behavior, and thoughts.
This is typically not a quick fix but is instead an in-depth form of therapy meant to uncover a client’s deeper concerns. Depth psychology is usually one of the more non-pathologizing and strength-affirming forms of psychology. Using a range of approaches, this type of therapy is not usually focused on one specific modality. Instead, it is often based on the idea that each of us possesses traits or elements of nature that may influence our natural processes, particularly on the unconscious level.
Therefore, this type of therapy does not typically focus on a few surface issues. Instead, it often involves building a deeper analysis of who you are underneath your present level of consciousness and developing a deeper understanding of how that impacts your decisions in various circumstances or experiences.
Several Models Of Therapy
Depth psychology can describe several models of therapy, but it is typically divided into three main schools: psychoanalysis, individual psychology, and analytical psychology.
When it comes to psychoanalysis, the process is usually based primarily on Sigmund Freud's ideas. Individual psychology is largely based on Alfred Adler's ideas, and analytical psychology is based on Carl Jung's ideology.
Alfred Adler worked with Freud, but over time, he developed his own approach to psychology, one that typically focuses on the belief that people's relationships with society are integral to their individuality. The foundation of his theory revolved around a person's pursuit of superiority, and his school of psychology explored this motivating force in the development of human behavior.
Carl Jung was among the first psychologists to explore the spiritual/religious nature of human psychology. As part of his work, he believed in a deeper collective unconscious and representative archetypes.
Underlying this combination is the idea that the human psyche is partially conscious and partially unconscious, storing experiences and concerns that may have been repressed, along with collective and archetypal forces. As part of this type of psychology, there is a consideration of the soul, which might be seen as the point of interaction between the transpersonal and personal aspects of the psyche.
How Does It Work?
Depth therapy tends to focus largely on the individual. A therapist who practices depth psychology may help you explore your unconscious, offering you support and guidance as you examine and ponder what you discover. The new information you gather from these sessions may help you develop more positive traits, from elements that you integrate on a conscious level before eventually finding that they have integrated on the unconscious level. Below are a few of the techniques that a therapist may use to assist you in this process.
The therapist typically asks you a series of warm and gentle, but also challenging, questions. With these questions and your answers to them, you may develop an increased awareness of your unconscious motivations, as well as your earlier experiences that you may have put out of your mind or even repressed. This type of questioning may be used later to help you identify alternative plans of action, particularly when those actions might be heavily influenced by your unconscious or factors related to it.
Your therapist may guide you through a full sensory exploration of your early memories, particularly experiences that may have led to feelings of inferiority or discouragement. Your therapist can then offer you support as you remember those images and learn how they may have influenced how you cope with aspects of your life now.
Role-Playing Future Scenarios
Therapy can be a safe place to practice new ways to act in various situations, allowing you to practice new behaviors and ways of thinking without feeling that you are being judged for not getting it right. Your therapist can offer support as you make changes in how you react and can assist you with progressively challenging scenarios.
What Concerns Can Depth Therapy Address?
For many patients, depth therapy can be a way to address deep-rooted emotional challenges, as well as trauma. Also, there may be behaviors that you continue to repeat even though they are damaging to you. Depth therapy may help uncover the potential reasons why you behave a certain way in specific circumstances and help you better understand the causes of these behaviors.
This highly personal type of psychotherapy may be more likely than other approaches to have long-lasting results, but the process may also mean more of a commitment regarding time and effort. The point of depth therapy is typically not to focus on just one specific concern but instead to address the entire scope of your conscious and unconscious emotions.
One of the most important outcomes of this type of therapy may be coming to a greater understanding of yourself, as well as a deeper sense of self-awareness. Many individuals feel that they have a better understanding of why they act the way they do in specific situations, and they feel that they can address those behavior patterns from a place of knowledge.
A greater understanding of yourself may lead you to discover your life purpose and help you feel a sense of insight that positively impacts your relationships. You might experience a sense of liberation from your previous concerns because you have been able to address them effectively.
Depth therapy often requires individuals to use abstract thinking, as well as multiple meanings for various concepts. Doing so may help you to explore patterns in your behavior. Given the typical use of abstract thinking, depth therapy might not be ideal for those who prefer a more concrete therapeutic approach. Also, if you are looking for a more solution-oriented treatment, then it might be worth exploring other options.
Online Depth Therapy
If you’re interested in exploring depth therapy, you might find a therapist in your community who practices this type of therapy. However, it may be easiest to find an online therapist who practices this method. BetterHelp has a network of more than 25,000 licensed therapists, and you can be matched with someone who has knowledge of depth therapy.
Numerous studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of online therapy, and it tends to be more convenient than in-office therapy. With online therapy at BetterHelp, you can connect with a therapist at a time that suits your schedule via phone, live chat, or videoconferencing. You can also contact them in between sessions via in-app messaging, and they’ll get back to you as soon as they can. This feature may be especially helpful if you want to ask questions that arise in between sessions.
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Is depth psychology real?
Yes, depth psychology is a fundamental psychoanalytic treatment approach used in a clinical setting for helping patients with various mental health difficulties. Many graduate programs worldwide offer a concentration in research and practice of depth psychology, including the Pacifica Graduate Institute.
What is depth psychology therapy?
Depth psychology therapy, sometimes called depth therapy, psychodynamic therapy, relational psychoanalysis, and interpersonal therapy, is a form of "talk therapy" that explores the unconscious aspects of the human psyche to understand and address psychological issues and emotional challenges. It is based on the theories and concepts developed by influential psychologists like Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. It is often used in tandem with other psychological approaches.
Critical features of depth psychology therapy include:
Exploration Of Unconscious Processes
Depth therapy aims to mine the unconscious mind for memories, experiences, and emotions that have been repressed or are not readily available to conscious awareness. This exploration often involves dream analysis, free association, and exploring symbols and metaphors.
Symbolism And Metaphor
In depth psychology, therapists pay attention to symbols and metaphors present in a patient's experience. The belief is that these symbols and metaphors may provide insight into the individual's inner world and can be used as tools for self-discovery and understanding.
Personal Growth And Transformation
By "making the unconscious conscious," depth psychology allows individuals to gain insight into their thoughts, emotions, and behavioral patterns to change the things that cause mental distress, facilitate personal growth, and cultivate better mental health.
In the tradition of Jungian psychology, depth therapy may explore archetypes-- universal symbols and themes believed to reside in the collective unconscious, to help individuals understand their life narratives and challenges. Jung's social psychological meanings have been used in social psychology to understand how people's thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and beliefs influence one's interaction with others.
Depth psychology therapy may involve therapeutic techniques like psychoanalysis, dream analysis, active imagination, and exploring the transference and countertransference dynamics between therapist and client.
Depth therapy is often seen as a long-term process that requires commitment and dedication from both the therapist and the client to uncover deep-seated issues over time.
Depth psychology therapy aims to help individuals integrate their unconscious material into their conscious self, fostering self-awareness, self-acceptance, and personal growth.
What are the benefits of depth psychology?
Depth psychology offers several therapeutic benefits that help individuals address psychological and emotional challenges. These therapeutic approaches can be particularly effective for individuals with complex and deep-seated mental health disorders.
Other benefits of depth psychology may include:
Depth psychology encourages individuals to explore their unconscious thoughts, feelings, and motivations. This self-exploration can lead to a deeper understanding of oneself, including unresolved issues, traumas, and conflicts that may affect one's thoughts and behaviors.
Healing And Self-Growth
By uncovering and addressing unconscious issues, depth psychology can promote healing and personal growth. It can help individuals work through past traumas, overcome inner conflicts, and develop a more integrated and authentic sense of self.
Depth psychology can enhance interpersonal relationships by helping individuals understand their unconscious patterns and projections onto others. This awareness can lead to healthier and more fulfilling interactions with friends, family, and romantic partners.
Many artists, writers, and creative individuals find depth psychology a valuable source of inspiration and self-expression. Exploring the depths of the unconscious mind can unlock creative potential and provide rich material for artistic endeavors.
Coping With Challenges
Depth psychology provides tools and techniques for coping with life's challenges and crises. Individuals can develop healthier coping strategies and better navigate difficult situations by understanding the underlying psychological dynamics.
For some people, depth psychology can serve as a bridge between psychology and spirituality. It can help individuals explore questions of meaning, purpose, and the transcendent aspects of human experience.
Depth psychology empowers individuals to take responsibility for their own psychological well-being. By becoming aware of and addressing unconscious patterns and behaviors, people can regain a sense of control over their lives.
Depth psychology seeks to integrate the various facets of the self, including the conscious and unconscious, the personal and the collective. This integration can lead to a more balanced and harmonious life.
What is depth psychology of adults?
Like other psychotherapies, depth psychology of adults is often an interdisciplinary endeavor with a concentration on psychoanalytic inquiry and treatment specifically tailored to adults. It may incorporate the unconscious nature of childhood experiences, relationships, physical experiences, and other components to create a holistic portrait of the patient's mental state.
What is the principle of depth psychology?
The principle of depth psychology is to uncover and explore the hidden or less conscious aspects of an individual's thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that may be contributing to their current difficulties. It explores these subconscious elements in different ways, sometimes incorporating subtle idiosyncrasies such as spontaneous humor, dreams, coincidences, and slips of the tongue.
What is depth perception in psychology?
According to the definition offered by the American Psychological Association (APA), depth perception is the "awareness of three-dimensionality, solidity, and the distance between the observer and the object." It goes on to state that "depth perception is achieved through such cues as atmospheric perspective, motion parallax, visual accommodation, binocular disparity, and convergence."
Does depth therapy work?
Much research indicates that depth psychology works for various mental health challenges. For example, information gathered through a pragmatic randomized controlled trial known as the Tavistock Adult Depression Study found that long-term psychoanalytic psychotherapy can be effective in helping individuals with treatment-resistant depression.
Studies on Jungian psychotherapy (a common form of psychodynamic psychotherapy) suggest that long-term treatment using methods of depth psychology can reduce problematic symptoms associated with several mental conditions, such as phobias, depression, anxiety, and more.
Finally, several meta-analyses presented in publications such as the World Psychiatry Journal and the American Journal of Psychiatry consistently show that information acquired from hundreds of studies on psychodynamic therapies indicate the technique is effective for treating a wide range of psychiatric disorders, and is sometimes as effective as methods like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and pharmacotherapy for treating common symptoms of mental disorders.
Why is psychoanalysis called depth psychology?
Psychoanalysis is one of three schools of depth therapy, along with individual psychology and analytical psychology. Psychoanalysis was developed based on the theories of Sigmund Freud; individual psychology is associated with the work of Alfred Adler, and analytical psychology is related to the work of Carl Jung.
What is depth psychology and creativity?
Depth psychology is often used to uncover an individual's inner creativity through exploring the unconscious mind. The relationship is often bi-directional, with some therapists using expressive therapy to gain insight into the patient's unconscious. Forms of creative work in depth therapy may include music, visual art, writing, sculpting, theater, and dance.
What is depth counseling?
Depth counseling is another term used to describe the use of depth psychotherapy in helping individuals with mental health issues. A depth counselor typically approaches depth therapy in the same way as a depth psychologist.
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