A depth psychological approach assumes that a combination of conscious and unconscious aspects – feelings, thoughts, memories, impulses – co-exist in the mind, and that both the conscious and unconscious aspects influence our relationships, behaviors, and experience. Each of us has moments when an outward expression contradicts an inner desire or intention. Expressions such as “I wasn’t myself,” or “it just came out of my mouth,” or ”I don’t know why I did that,” convey the power of the unconscious mind to overtake our thoughts and our actions – as though we are seized by a part of ourselves of which we are unaware.
Depth psychology views moments like these as cues that the psyche is somehow out of balance. We may be aware that we are behaving in particular, troublesome ways in our relationships, but unaware as to why. We may be aware that we are feeling certain powerful emotional states, but unaware of the source or deeper meaning of these emotions, and so unable to cope with them effectively.
From this perspective psychological symptoms are understood to be important, meaningful communications from the deep layers of the mind. The darkness of a depression, the gnawing of an obsessive thought, the compulsion to eat or cut or count, the constant worry of anxiety – these are signs of internal conflict or mental pain, and they call for thoughtful attention.
But it isn’t necessary to have a specific problem to find depth psychotherapy useful and beneficial. It is, fundamentally, a process through which we come to know ourselves more deeply, evaluate our ways of thinking and decision-making, and understand our patterns and style of being in relationships. With this understanding we are opened to possibilities for new choices and positive changes – giving us the psychological grounding for creating more purposeful, meaningful, and satisfying lives.
Other terms used to describe depth psychology include psychoanalytic psychology, analytical psychology, and psychodynamic psychology. Find out more about depth psychology here.
A mind-body health perspective assumes a powerful connection between emotional and physical well-being. Mental states like panic attacks, chronic anxiety and depression are known to have deleterious effects on physiology. Body-centered ailments like sleep disorders, eating disorders, sexual dysfunctions and chronic pain are known to be related to mental life. Women’s health issues, in particular, are a focus of mind-body healthcare, insofar as they involve highly sensitive biological systems that react to anxiety and stress. For this reason the mind-body perspective may be applied to the treatment of reproductive issues, prenatal and post-partum mental distress and problems related to early mother-baby attachment.
The mind-body health approach aims to harmonize with other modes of healthcare treatment in order to reach a higher level of wellness or well-being than any mode of treatment might provide on its own. Common mind-body practices include mindfulness meditation, breathwork, and guided imagery. But beyond the use of specific techniques, the mind-body approach is understood as an attitude that views growth and healing in terms of the connection between tangible and intangible aspects of the self. Depth psychotherapy – which is centrally concerned with understanding the relationship between the conscious and unconscious, between the tangible and intangible – fits easily with the mind-body model, and may help to enliven the mental-physical connection.
“Meaninglessness inhibits fullness of life and is therefore equivalent to illness.
Meaning makes a great many things endurable – perhaps everything.”
- Carl Jung
“Man’s great task in life is to give birth to himself; to become what he potentially is.”
- Erich Fromm
“Experience is anchored in the ground plan of the body.”
- Erik Erikson