Dear members, 
We've all been there: you're having a conversation, waxing lyrical to someone about your profession or passion, and you mention the term 'depth psychology'....only to be met with a blank, quizzical look.
For sure, depth psychology has transformed since Freud, Jung, Bleuler and others developed it over the course of the past century. Right now, we (the Alliance board members) are having a conversation about what depth psychology actually is.
In the spirit of opening up the conversation to you, our members, we would like to know:
How do you define 'depth psychology'?
Do you have a favourite/preferred definition?
How would you define the term 'depth psychology' in, say, 30 seconds?
Please post your definition for us to see here - and feel free to comment on each other's responses! 
Your answers will help us in a little exercise we're engaging in to make the Alliance grow and flourish.
The Alliance board 

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  1. Of all the approaches to Depth Psychology that I have seen in  this forum,  James Newell´s is by far the one that I feel closest to my own perspective.
  2. This leads me to the following question:  besides personal therapy what are the most efficient ways   to " perform this vital (compensatory) function by allowing dissociated modern centers of consciousness to reconnect with their own ground of being "
  3. I tend to be skeptical about the usefulness in this respect of trying to go back to the traditions of indian tribes in North and South America and the likes.

Best regards,


Chris, thanks for your kind words.  I appreciate you perspective of including the purpose of the therapist and the theory as an analyzing instrument.  The peculiarities of personality, training, and an understanding of the transcendent function seem to be key elements here.  I think the current resurgent interest in Jung will provide a hungry audience of both therapists and "seekers."  Let's keep our definition going!

Ah, someone with a Freudian/Kleinian background, Hallelujah! Although my inclination was always more Jungian, I had the feeling it was just other Jungians on this board and that we may have started to possess or misappropriate the term 'Depth Psychology', perhaps using it as an umbrella term for Jungian 'derivatives'. I'm hoping your presence will help re-balance things. Know any Adlerians? ;)

Hi John, I am excited about finding the Alliance website. I have had Jungian supervisors and am interested in comparative approaches, especially between my Freudian/Kleinian training, the Jungian, and the Transpersonal. By the way, I DO have a friend who is trained as an Adlerian, I will try to get her interested!

I love how you put it, Chris, "depth psychology works to unfold the layers of meaning beneath experience."  As a therapist, I feel that the most useful definitions depth psychology are ones that are accessible enough to strike a chord in the layperson.  

I do struggle with how to describe depth work with prospective clients, and I think I have boiled down the reason for my struggle to this: depth work recovers something that many people don't realize is missing from their awareness-- soul.  The challenge is to describe our work in such a way that something inside the other sparks in recognition, even if it is only recognition of what has been missing, or what they have been hungry for without realizing it.  

Hi Joy, Yes, I think you're right. How do you talk about something when the other person doesn't realize it exists. Hopefully potential clients have an awareness that something is missing, just as an aspect of what brings them to us. Loneliness, apathy, anhedonia; it seems like we have a lot of words for "something's missing".

When I teach classes, I frequently encourage discussion by bringing up optical illusions; the ones where it looks like one thing; then the other, previously invisible object suddenly becomes apparent. Even that example would seem to me to be artificial when talking with a potential client, and this is very simplistic compared to a psychoanalytic process, but there is something about the surprise that is important for me to hold in my mind. I always experience that surprise when something new is learned with a client; I find myself excted about that aspect of the work.

I wonder if other members have that sense of surprise, or other kinds of usual affective experiences, when growth occurs?

Speaking of optical illusions: nothing beats Escher.          

Decision making? Parts and the whole? Interdependence? Play? Escher has it all.

I really appreciate depth psychology because it looks at psyche through the lens of alchemy, archetypes, active imagination, and body mind. Thanks!

Richard -- that'll do it!! Pretty much says it all ~

Personally I always assumed it refers not to something strictly 'Jungian', but psychology that is topographical and psychodynamic in nature (note that I don't mean Psychodynamic with a capital 'P', which in modern terms seems to be synonymous with Freudian theory).

I think the ability to love and be loved, and the related ability to create, is intrinsic to health in the depth psychology perspective.

Chris - that's a good and point and not to be thought of a given or a simplistic notion. Science does a good job of eliminating eros from most equations (except in diagnosing!), and love and creativity are at the very heart of being human. I am reminded, too, of Wolfgang Pauli's criticism of the divergent pathway both science and Jungian psychologists took when they cut off that element of soul as reality. 


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