Student Services Overview

DATE: Wednesday, August 1, 2012
TIME: 10:00 a.m.
PLACE: Studio, Lambert Road campus
CANDIDATE: Erik Jauire Welsh
DISSERTATION TITLE: "Alchemical Symbolism in Psychotherapy:The Occurrence of Psychic Trauma in Addiction"
CHAIR: Dr. James Broderick
READER: Dr. Christine Lewis
EXTERNAL READER: Dr. Steven Nouriani

Welsh, E. (2012). Alchemical Symbolism in Psychotherapy:The Occurrence of Psychic Trauma in Addiction (Doctoral dissertation, Pacifica Graduate Institute, 2012)


This hermeneutic, depth psychological study explores the clinical relevance of using alchemy as an interpretive lens to understand the intrapsychic experience of addiction. An alchemical hermeneutic approach was utilized in order to examine the intrapsychic experience of addiction from a theoretical standpoint based on Jungian psychology along with the post-Jungian theories of Schoen (2009) and Edinger (1994a), and the works of Krystal and Raskin (1970) Hartman (1958), and Winnicott (1965). The depth psychological translation of alchemy can inform analysts of the psychic trauma found within the experience of the addiction. Clinically, observing addiction through an alchemical lens allows for the therapist or analyst to explore how being consumed by addiction is a traumatic event involving a dissociative process. The study finds that an integral understanding of the elements encompassing psychic trauma within the addictive experience are crucial for the treating therapist to understand when working with the addicted client.

This study offers additional rather than alternative perspectives for understanding the addictive experience. The findings provide a more detailed, nuanced description of the addictive experience and track the emergence and afflictions of psychic trauma. When an individual is overcome by addiction, a dissociative component to this experience causes loss of psychic control. The complex constructed through the addiction dismantles the psyche. Alchemy is found to be a useful guide within the therapeutic setting for the therapist working with clients who suffer from addiction. The symbolism of each alchemical operation demonstrates the nature of addiction as first, an adaptation; second, a complex formation and trauma; and third, an opportunity for transformation that can occur within the therapy.


Please note: All oral defense attendees must shuttle from the Best Western Hotel in Carpinteria.