top of page

What is Depth Psychology?

Depth psychology traditionally refers to psychoanalytic (Freudian) and analytic (Jungian and post-Jungian) theories, which recognize the existence and profound influence of psychic unconscious factors in human life and experience. While cognitive behavioral therapies focus primarily on ego-strengthening and thought identification and correction (or the identification and correction of limiting or irrational unconscious cognitive schemas), depth psychotherapies attempt to integrate the unconscious and conscious elements of the psyche (as opposed to eradicating or rehabilitating the unconscious) to achieve an experience of non-fragmentation or wholeness (also referred to as “shadow-integration”). In the process, rather than being strengthened, the ego may be relativized or even negated to make way for the emergence of a more authentic identity.

An important difference between psychoanalysis and Jungian theory is that for the latter, in addition to the personal Freudian construct of the id-ego-superego or subjective psyche, there exists a larger, impersonal, objective psyche or "soul" inside of which the subjective psyche is always situated. For example, the helpful therapeutic relationship is typically imagined to consist of the relationship between two persons - patient and therapist ("I and Thou" as described by Buber). From a Jungian perspective, however, this configuration expands even further to take into account the "third" person, "the objective and impersonal It (the objective psyche, the 'great,' Psychologia) which is present along with the two other persons because it is their impersonal and larger aspect" (Wolfgang Giegerich, The Neurosis of Psychology, p. 61). This third factor is, of course, "the soul," or consciousness-at-large, the significance of which cannot be understated insofar as it makes possible the dialectical discourse necessary for transformation.

bottom of page