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 

Tags: definition, depth, psychology

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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. 

I’ll chime in to add to the rich variety of perspectives here!  While I could probably muse for days on end about just what a definition could be, here are a few things that I’d include.  First, my particular bias and allegiance is toward the Archetypal realm of depth psychology (part Jung, part Hillman, part Caroline Myss, part me).  In this context, I've come to understand depth psychology as a psychology of the soul.  This means it’s a psychology of the unseen, a psychology of the image (“Image is psyche; psyche is soul.”), and therefore a psychology of the imagination.  It holds an expansive view of how we are each uniquely designed, yet uses symbols and images and myth from a shared collective consciousness.  It is not a literal psychology the way modern psychology has tended to amass virtually its entire perspective into the world of linear time and causation ("Flatland," as I've come to call it), but a psychology that brings a dignity and inherent respect to *every* aspect of the psyche. 

Shane, this is wonderful. Thank you for posting. My own preferred definition certainly places an emphasis on soul. And I like your flatland reference..!

Warmly, Esther

Shane -- I appreciate that you've included Hillman and Myss, such strong voices, and your emphasis on soul. Love the Flatland concept ~

Great discussion. I am a creative writer, wellness practitioner, and student of shamanism. I've spent much of my life studying Jung's work privately, although I have no formal training in Jungian psychology. For me, depth psychology has meant healing from a Transpersonal (mind/body/spirit) position, as Pamela DeRossitte mentioned in her original post. This includes the non-rational experience of and reaction to the sacred -- Rudolph Otto's concept of numen -- as a source of healing. As a writer, that ineffable quality of the sacred, in turn, brings to mind the challenge and efforts of Deep Image poetry, the tradition I follow. Poets like Robert Bly, Rainer Maria Rilke, Denise Levertov, and William Stafford, brought elements of depth psychology to their poetry. As art connects us to our unconscious selves -- and to the collective unconscious -- I thought I'd share this article as a means to enrich the depth psychology definition.

Leaping Into the Unknown: The Poetics of Robert Bly's Deep Image

"Deep image poetry...has contributed to the advancement of American poetry in several key ways. It is the first attempt in American poetry to incorporate fully the theories of Freud, Jung and other depth psychologists into the poet's expression..."

Hello Rachel,

Your thoughts and the 'deep image' article are a treat to read, especially as I love Bly's poetry (one of my prized possessions is a signed copy of 'Eating the Honey of Words' :). It is so interesting to hear this new aspect of the definition of depth psychology... Thank you so much for posting. 



Rachel -- you hit the nail on the head by including the idea of the numen and image as sources of healing. Also thanks for the link to Bly's  "Leaping ..." A friend (Kathee Miller) says, "We must let art heal us."

Oh yeah, I get the blank look constantly. And I was bashed by more than 500 people on the crazy, mainly for having no meaningful credentials since my degree is in depth psychology. I get tired of it.

Usually, I just tell people that DP is a way of accessing the unconscious, mainly through images, to find meaning and purpose in their lives. DP is also about the stories that shape our lives.

I do agree with Ginette Paris' that depth psychology belongs more with the humanities than with science and should give up trying to compete with neuroscience. That quickly became my own view after practice for a few years. It's also one reason Freud and Lacan are much more discussed in literature programs than psychology classes at many schools.

Freud himself acknowledged that it was writers and artists who best understood his work, as Hillman cites in "Healing Fiction." It's also true that Freud's case histories were fictionalized accounts of composite characters.

Many thanks for contributing so thoughtfully, Cliff. Who else has a definition of depth psychology they'd like to share? It would be especially lovely to hear from quieter members who don't usually reply to discussions. Everyone's voice is welcome and valued here.
Warmly, Esther.

Good afternoon Alliance board - I love this piece and may I ask who is the artist?  I need to review all these posts and then, I may have an offering.  This is such good conversation!!  I came into depth psychology via a back door - intensive care, life/death trajectories, the black hole experiences and accompanying moral dilemma's.  This trauma nurse retired after 25 years of critical care [intensive] nursing and ventured out into the disciplines within my reach in the world to find a way to be trained, credentialed and acceptable in the helping professions world of regulated/private and multisystem approaches to the care of deep suffering with humanity!!!  My PhD process spanned 13 years [psychotraumatology], before I felt comfortable enough to provide service to survivors of traumatic lifetime events. 

The study of the depths, complexity of psyche [soul of the matter], belongs to all schools of thought. While working In the depths, there are no sacred cows!  Regards Linda?

Regards Linda 

After reading the above posts, I went on Google to see what comes searching 'Depth Psychology.' The board/memberships engagement in this task of 'defining' presents, synchronicity with great timing for DPA, as Goggle has created and posted an initial definition, and is asking for 'edits.' Sounds like DPA can be on the defining ground floor with the other - the wheels are in motion.  Regards Linda




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