Depth psychotherapy is applied in divergent usages in the professional literature. In this section, depth psychotherapy is referring to a collection of various approaches to therapy that value promoting a deeper understanding of oneself, increased insight, and more holistic views of human beings. This includes psychoanalytic, psychodynamic, Jungian, relational, humanistic, existential, gestalt, and many other approaches to therapy. Depth psychotherapy is consistent with what James Bugental refers to as life-changing psychotherapy.
The field of psychotherapy today is involved in a debate over which approach to therapy is best. The most heated of these debates is between the solution-focused therapies and the depth psychotherapies. This debate is problematic in many ways. While there is reason to be concerned about some approaches to therapy (i.e., rebirthing therapy), most approaches are valuable and, in general, psychotherapy has been shown to be effective (Wampold & Imel, 2015). Often, different approaches to therapy reflect different values about what life outcomes people desire. While most therapies share some values on therapeutic outcomes (e.g., decreased problematic symptoms, increased life satisfaction), what is meant by these outcomes differs.
The diverse therapy approaches also attain different outcomes. For example, the various depth psychotherapies value self-awareness much more than the solution-focused psychotherapies. While both approaches may decrease depression, they will achieve this differently which will bring different byproducts.
Existential-humanistic psychotherapy falls in the realm of being one of the many depth psychotherapies. Because it shares values with many other approaches, it is often possible to integrate aspects of other depth psychotherapies into an existential approach. Kirk Schneider (2015) advanced what he calls “existential-integrative” psychotherapy, which is rooted in existential-humanistic psychology. Schneider’s approach uses existential-humanistic therapy as a foundation and, from there, integrates while assuring what is integrated is consistent with the existential-humanistic foundation. This allows for greater consistency in the theoretical foundations as well as the applications. The existential-humanistic foundations serve to empower other strategies that are integrated into the approach. For example, when rooted in a genuine, authentic relationship, solution-focused strategies become more effective.
Original Version added 2004. Updated December 2020.