Depth Psychotherapy

Depth Psychotherapy

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 an in-depth approach. 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 large 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. Oftentimes, 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 some 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. An important and highly valued byproduct for the depth psychotherapies is an increased self-awareness.


Existential psychotherapy falls in the realm of being one of the many depth psychotherapies. Because it shares values with many of other approaches, it is often possible to integrate aspects of other depth psychotherapies into an existential approach. For example, James Bugental developed what he called existential-humanistic psychotherapy, which is an integration of these two theoretical approaches. Rollo May, the father of American existential psychotherapy, integrated heavily from psychodynamic and Jungian approaches. Stephen Diamond developed what he refers to as existential depth psychotherapy which is an integration of existential and Jungian thought. Similarly, relational psychoanalysis or relational psychotherapy integrates existential and humanistic themes into a psychoanalytic or psychodynamic approach.


Original Version added 2004. Never been updated.