What is Depth Psychology?


What is Depth Psychology?

The term "depth psychology" was coined at the turn of the twentieth century by Eugen Bleuler, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Zürich and director (1898-1927) of the Burghölzli Asylum in Zürich, where C. G. Jung began his career as a psychiatrist. It has become used by Freudians and Jungians to indicate those psychologies that orient themselves around the idea of the "unconscious."

Initially the unconscious was conceived in structural terms with much attention to the content, especially symbolic meanings; in the contemporary world this notion has been expanded to include the study of processes which operate outside conscious awareness. In general these psychologies see the human being as often divided against him or herself, with some thoughts, feelings, wishes, and memories accessible to awareness, and others hidden beneath the surface. By focusing on the unconscious, C. G.Jung, Sigmund Freud, and their followers worked to chart and delineate what lies outside of conscious awareness, and to illumine the dynamics between consciousness and what is extruded or not admitted to it, including collective aspects with cultural and archetypal dimensions. Through the study of dreams, images, symptoms, slips of the tongue, spontaneous humor, meaningful coincidences as well as interpersonal engagements, depth psychologists attempt to understand the language and the dynamics of the unconscious as it manifests in their work with clients and in the world. Depth psychological approaches to psychological suffering attempt to help individuals become aware of what has been cast out of consciousness or not yet able to be known. Healing is associated with allowing what has been repressed, rejected, denied or ignored to come forward so that the person can understand, explore its significance and integrate it, allowing for a transformation in consciousness. Depth Psychology also attends to the way unconscious processes express themselves in society and culture, and how culture affects the psyche.

The Core Ideas Behind Depth Psychology

Depth Psychology is an interdisciplinary endeavor, drawing on literature, philosophy, mythology, the arts, and critical studies. Concepts and practices at the core of depth psychology are central to Pacifica's degree programs and each graduate degree's curriculum is enlivened and deepened by the integration of its ideas.

A Fertile, Expanding Field

Evidence for the efficacy of depth psychological approaches to psychotherapy is growing, as studies show that depth psychology has a longer-lasting and more profound impact than cognitive or behavioral psychologies alone. Depth psychological approaches to psychotherapy are now joined by depth psychological approaches to community, cultural, and ecological issues. Pacifica students and graduates help dream the field forward through their scholarship, creative work, and actions in the world.

Alumni and Faculty Reflections on the Work of Depth Psychology

"Depth psychology could be seen as a long process of exploration and listening at the margins of all collective thought that now involves practitioners on every continent." Jungian Analyst Helene Shulman Lorenz

"The study of myth and depth psychology opens the full range of the human senses and psyche -- for me it has enabled an ability to listen with more than my ears, to see with more than my eyes, and to engage life with passion and compassion." –Dana White, Alumnus Ph.D. Mythological Studies

"...this long marriage between myself and depth psychology has been possible because I found in depth psychology a basic orientation to being that seeks to allow what is to be present in its animation and its difference. It is a desire for the liberation of being."-–Pacifica Faculty member Mary Watkins Ph.D., Seeding Liberation; A dialogue between Depth Psychology and Liberation Psychology

"Depth psychologists…love to look for signs that 'psyche' is speaking to us, and one way we hear her voice is through the presence of synchronicities." –Pacifica Faculty member Jennifer Selig Ph.D., excerpted from the compilation Occupy Psyche: Jungian and Archetypal Perspectives on a Movement

"I find that I have access to a deep sense of compassion because of depth psychology's understanding of how the psyche is affected by every experience, by our memories, culture, ancestry and even our biology." –Tayria Ward, Alumna Ph.D. Depth Psychology

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