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 

You need to be a member of Depth Psychology Alliance to add comments!

Join Depth Psychology Alliance

Email me when people reply –


  • 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..."

    • 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."

  • 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 ~

  • 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. 

  • 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).

  • Thanks, Pamela. I agree with you that the word ‘sacred’ is not often bandied about in clinical psych circles (but, for that matter, neither are the words “Awesome dude”).

    But there are many ways that the sacred can be understood, and not all of them have to necessarily refer to any metaphysical claims. There is considerable evidence that human beings have been dividing the world into precincts of the sacred and the profane since before the beginnings of recorded history. It seems evident that practices related to this tendency to divide the world into precincts of the sacred and the profane, practices which are found in every human culture, have assisted human beings in regulating the energies of the psyche. For a Freudian, that may mean the regulation and sublimation of libido. For a Kohutian Self-psychologist, it may mean regulation of the energies of the grandiose exhibitionistic self organization, and, for a Jungian, it may mean the regulation of archetypal energies. However these activities are understood, religious and spiritual practices have helped human beings regulate anxiety and grandiosity for hundreds of thousands of years.

    In recent centuries we have witnessed the disappearance of what sociologist Peter Berger has called “The Sacred Canopy.” This sacred canopy had for thousands of years provided humans with a sense that we were mere mortals living in a world that is controlled by forces greater than ourselves. As modern people, we have lost this sense, and with that loss we have inherited a flood of uncontrolled grandiose exhibitionistic energies that threaten our very existence. Even for those who balk at the idea of bowing their heads to some metaphysical sacred power, we all have an existential ground of being from which our lives somehow mysteriously spring each day. Recognizing that reality on a daily basis seems to have helped the ancients to maintain some balance in the face of the grandiose psychological energies that pressed upon them from within. I think we moderns could learn much from the wisdom of the ancients. That is why I believe that some recognition of the human need to acknowledge and experience the sacred must be included in any truly effective Depth Psychology.

    All the best,

  • Thanks Esther -- let's keep it rolling.  I think the idea is needed - as a grad student in a traditional program, I often bring up depth psych. There is a huge population that knows nothing about this field --- and those are the people I hope to influence.  My background as an elementary school teacher is my touchstone for trying to keep things simple.  But every point of view is needed. A new depth community is out there, crying for info.

  • What a wonderful exercise, thank you for the opportunity!

    As a matter of introduction, I am a Freudian analyst in the US. My training was classical, although my perspective is now much more Kleinian.

    I love and agree with Pamela DeRossitte's elegant presentation. In my words, a depth psychology works to unfold the layers of meaning beneath experience. To me, the goal is a richness and freedom of experience.

    I would like to expand on the purpose of the therapist, or begin a discussion of the analyzing instrument. In my understanding of depth psychology, the instrument takes the form of perception, largely thru affective response and reverie. This is a honed instrument in the analyst, and is discovered (or developed, depending on the patient and/or theoretical stance) in the analysand. I am thinking of the use of countertransference, or in a more sophisticated theory, of Bion's container-contained.

    Pamela DeRossitte's Discussions
    Pamela DeRossitte's Discussions | Depth Psychology Alliance: A global community for finding depth psychology resources, connecting with likeminded ot…
This reply was deleted.