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Written by Marissa Robinson, Psy.D.


Depth psychology encompasses various domains of psychotherapy, which take an in- depth approach. Included in the realm of of depth psychology are: humanistic, existential, Jungian, psychodynamic, transpersonal and gestalt approaches to therapy. The term “depth” refers to our deeper selves, the parts of us which lies beneath the surface. The experience of freedom within and the deepening of self-awareness are cultivated through the process of depth therapy.

Exploring the interaction between conscious and unconscious aspects of our selves is emphasized in depth therapy. This exploration may help to reveal the underlying core behind our external reality. Depth therapy examines how our unconscious processes manifest in our behaviors, conflicts, dreams, family dynamics, and relationships.

It is through developing a relationship with the unconscious and deepening our self- awareness, that we become free to choose our ways of behaving and responding to the events in our lives. As we become free to choose more adaptive ways of being, we deepen our capacity for intimacy, compassion, and ability to live more authentically.

Although there are external circumstances we cannot control, we have the freedom to respond as we choose. Through cultivating self-awareness, we cultivate our capacity to choose our response to life’s circumstances, enabling us to adapt to change with an attitude of acceptance. Victor Frankl, existential psychologist and founder of logotherapy, captures the nature of freedom in our capacity to choose the way we respond to life.

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

Through grasping our freedom to respond to life with mindfulness, we can interrupt our destructive patterns. We can learn to derive meaning from our challenging life experiences. We can respond to suffering with compassion.

Illuminating the underlying dynamics that drive our habitual patterns of thought and behavior can enable us see to how we are stuck. When we are driven by unresolved emotional experience, we cannot tap into our freedom to choose a response that will help us to thrive. Existential-Humanistic psychologist Rollo May emphasizes that our freedom lies in our capacity to pause and reflect between stimulus and response.

To choose the one response toward which we wish to throw our weight. The capacity to create ourselves, based upon this freedom, is inseparable from consciousness or self-awareness.” (p. 100).

We are often unaware of the unconscious forces which drive the patterns of thought and behavior that constrict us. Our symptoms can manifest as an attempt to maintain a sense of balance or

aliveness. Even destructive behavior patterns may aim to relieve suffering or transcend our circumstances, though ultimately they fail to serve us.

Depth psychology aims to give voice to what has been repressed with respect to both culture, collective and individual consciousness. Carl Jung, depth psychologist and founder of Jungian analytical psychology maintains that “freedom stretches only as far as the limits of our consciousness.” It is from within that freedom is cultivated. Regardless of external circumstances, we may find meaning and freedom through cultivating our consciousness.

Through bringing unconscious material into conscious awareness, we can begin to integrate the various aspects of ourselves. Material that is repressed within oneself or the collective, may emerge in a distorted or inflated form. Such manifestations may occur as symptoms or destructive behavior patterns in the individual, or in events such as riots or acts of violence among a community. With this in mind, we can understand the significance of being able to illuminate aspects of ourselves that have been repressed or denied.

The capacity for dialogue between various parts of yourself, develops with the understanding of how your unconscious communicates to you, whether it be through your thoughts, dreams, body, somatic experience, or actions. The understanding of your unconscious develops as you can be present to these various aspects of yourself. Attending to these aspects of yourself without judgment, rather observing with acceptance and curiosity, allows a relationship with the unconscious to develop.

The process of depth therapy evokes our potential to cultivate freedom within. It helps us understand how our recurring thoughts, reactions, and behaviors may be connected to repressed unresolved emotional experiences. Throughout the course of depth therapy, parts of the self that have been neglected or feelings that have been denied are brought into the light. We can in turn, cultivate meaning for ourselves and the freedom to choose how to respond to life.

References Frankl, V. E. (1946). Man’s Search for Meaning. London, Rider Books.

Jung, C. (1966). Paracelsus the physician. In: Jung, C., Collected Works of C. G. Jung, Vol 15. New Jersey: Princeton University Press (p. 13-30).

Rollo, M. (1975). The Courage to Create. New York, W. W. Norton.

Featured Therapist


Dr. Benjamin Tong has maintained for many years a longstanding interest in mind-body health, cross-cultural studies and critical social inquiry.  One of the original group of faculty and students who shut down San Francisco State University in the late 1960s in order to demand creation of the first university-level ethnic studies program.

View the rest of Dr. Tong's profile...








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