Journeying Toward Wholeness

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3 Reasons to Seek More that Just “Help for Depression”

May 26th, 2013 · depression, help for depression

It’s essential for someone to seek help for depression but a person experiencing situational depression may well need more than treatment of depression symptoms.

help for depression

Here are 3 key reasons why this is true.

1. Human Beings are Not Modular

help for depression

In today’s world, we’re all too ready to use the metaphor of a computer to understand the human mind.  But it’s essential when considering depression to realize the ways in which the human individual is definitely not like a computer.

If something goes wrong with a computer — say, for instance, that the computer’s memory or hard drive fails — it’s a relatively easy matter to take out the particular component that has failed and replace it .

But humans are not modular!  When a human suffers from a situational depression, help for depression does not consist in removing a defective “module” and replacing it with a non-depressed element.  Similarly, an exclusive and laser-like focus on the symptoms of depression is not likely to take in the whole picture of what is going on with the individual.

Depression is connected in many important ways to the whole of the self.

2. Sometimes Depression Has to be Entered Into

To understand what is happening in the life of someone who is subject to situational depression, it’s often essential to actually listen to the depression–to genuinely understand where it’s coming from, what it means, and to clarify the feelings that underly it.

Metaphorically, we may speak of depression as representing a damming up of psychic energy, as Andrew Samuels tells us, which, when it is released, may take on a positive and life-giving direction.

3. “The Empty Stillness That Precedes Creative Work”

Depression can often be connected to a kind of regression and regeneration.  We have a tendency to think of regression as a bad thing, but sometimes the individual’s energy goes into the unconscious, because something profound is changing for the individual — if only he or she can become aware of it.

There are moments in human life when a new page is turned.  New interests and tendencies appear, which have hitherto received no attention, or there is a sudden change of personality.  During the incubation period of such a change, we can often observe a loss of conscious energy….  This lowering of energy can be seen most clearly… in the empty stillness that precedes creative work.

C.G. Jung, CW 16, para. 373

EXAMPLE: An IT consultant goes into a severe depression, and realizes that he simply can’t consult anymore.  He goes through a prolonged period of listlessness and introspection, after which he gives up the IT field and starts a business related to the fine arts, and divides his spare time evenly between socializing with his friends and writing.  His life is oriented in a whole new direction, but he could never have found it without confronting the feelings and longings at the heart of his depression.

True help for depression takes account of the symptoms, but looks at the meaning of the depression for the whole person.


PHOTO: Attribution Some rights reserved  rightee ; Foxtongue
© Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)


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4 Ways to Identify Good Individual Therapy

May 21st, 2013 · individual, individual therapy, therapy

Individual therapy can potentially be one of the most important undertakings in an individual’s life; so, how can a person find good therapy?


Here are 4 good ways to tell whether individual therapy will offer what you really need.

1.  Relationship with the Therapist

The most important factor in ensuring good individual therapy is the quality of relationship with the therapist.

Do I feel a good level of comfort with the therapist?

Does the therapist seem genuinely interested in my life?  My story?  Are they on my side?


2. Therapist Integrity

Integrity is fundamental in a therapist.  If the therapist isn’t honest or forthright, then the therapeutic relationship is not likely going to be very healing.

Here are some key ways to determine whether a therapist is acting with demonstrable integrity.

    • Can he or she admit when they don’t know something?  No one knows everything.  A responsible professional therapist will admit when they do not know or understand something.
    • Can he or she admit when they have made a mistake?  No one is perfect, as a therapist, or as a person.  A therapeutic relationship should be about enabling individuals to move beyond perfectionism to self-acceptance.  If a therapist cannot acknowledge mistakes, how can he or she create an appropriate climate for self-acceptance?
    • Does the therapist hide behind his or her authority?  A therapist should be an open and vulnerable person, rather than an inaccessible or closed-off authority figure.
    • Can the therapist confront you with hard truths?  Not everything in therapy is easy.  Sometimes a therapist has to say things the client doesn’t want to hear.  Does a potential therapist have the ability to do this?  That’s a key attribute.

3. Personal Work

Has the therapist done enough personal therapy to have a reasonable level of self-understanding?  Unless a therapist has insight into her- or himself, it’s less likely that they will have the capacity to have insight into you.

Theory-Driven, Or Person-Driven?

individual therapy

This matters a lot.  The key question here is whether the therapist can really take in who you are, as a unique individual, or is he or she desperately clinging to a theory, and feeling a compulsive need to shoehorn you into it?  As C.G. Jung puts it,

“The analyst will be assailed by secret doubts [if he is] confronting the human wholeness of the analysand with a theory or technique, instead of with his own living human wholeness.

It cannot be assumed that the analyst is a superman because he possesses a theory and a corresponding technique.  He can only imagine himself to be superior if he assumes that his theory and technique are absolute truths, capable of embracing the whole of the psyche.”

“The Problem of Types in Dream Interpretation”

Jung is asking therapists to take a truly scientific stance: to let in the full reality of the client, rather than viewing the person through dogmatic blinders.

This spirit of openness to the individual reality of the client is essential to good depth psychotherapy, and to good individual therapy in general.


PHOTO: Attribution Some rights reserved  rightee ; Rob Enslin
© Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)


4 Human Truths about DSM-5 & Individual Psychotherapy

May 14th, 2013 · individual, individual psychotherapy, Psychotherapy

Since 1952, the APA’s Diagnostic Statistical Manual [DSM] has been key to psychiatry and psychology in North America, and has had a profound influence on much individual psychotherapy.

individual psychotherapy

Yet, with the upcoming release of version 5 [“DSM-5”] the validity and scientific authority of this mainstay is under intense scrutiny.  What does this mean for individual psychotherapy?


1. NIMH: DSM Has Failed Patients

In recent days, Dr. Thomas Insel, the head of the NIMH, the largest funder of psychiatric research in the U. S., announced that NIMH would not fund research projects relying exclusively on DSM criteria, due to a lack of clarity and objectivity concerning the DSM’s categories.   Among other things, he stated that,

“Unlike our definitions of ischemic heart disease, lymphoma, or AIDS, the DSM diagnoses are based on a consensus about clusters of clinical symptoms, not any objective laboratory measure. [italics mine]…

While DSM has been described as a ‘Bible’ for the field, it is, at best, a dictionary, creating a set of labels and defining each….

Patients with mental disorders deserve better.”

This is a very serious blow to the DSM-5, a mere 2 weeks before its release.

2. But Biological Psychiatry Isn’t A Total Solution

Dr. Insel and NIMH have concrete suggestions as to how to overcome the  lack of true scientific depth in the DSM:

“Mental disorders are biological disorders involving brain circuits that implicate specific domains of cognition, emotion, or behavior;…

Mapping the cognitive, circuit, and genetic aspects of mental disorders will yield new and better targets for treatment.”

While all would welcome advances in neuroscience, it seems that Dr. Insel sees all “mental disorders” as reducible to biological states of affairs that can be mapped and described.  If so, many in his and related professions would not entirely concur.

Are “mental disorders” simply biological states of affairs that can be fully understood and addressed on that level alone?

3. Still Something Missing

It would certainly seem that there’s more.  There is the whole vast area of the individual’s subjective experience.

Dr. Eric Maisel regards the upheaval around DSM-5 as “the beginning of a movement in the direction of a smarter and more truthful understanding of human distress”.  However, as he states, that happy outcome can only occur if the science of the psyche takes adequate account of the inner states of the individual — his or her inner life.

He goes on to state what should be obvious: the central fact of individual therapy is that a human being is involved here.

From a specifically Jungian place, we might wish to add that to address a specific human being is to address a unique phenomenon, whose essence will never be completely classifiable.

4. The Irreduceability of the Human Individual

Key to the healing of psyche is the individual human being, with his or her unique journey.  Empirical science will no doubt continue its inquiries, but as Eric Maisel reminds us, the factor that must never be lost sight of is the inner life of the individual human being.  This is the heart and soul of individual psychotherapy from a depth perspective.


PHOTO: Attribution Some rights reserved  annrkiszt ; 
© Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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5 Key Issues in Depth Psychotherapy for Men, Part 2

May 10th, 2013 · men, Psychotherapy, psychotherapy for men

In the first part of this post on depth psychotherapy for men, I looked at the first 3 of 5 key issues that can often confront men in therapy; here are the other two.

psychotherapy for men

As I mentioned in Part 1, these issues have much in common with key issues for women in psychotherapy.  But the ways that they differ for men are tied up closely with the whole meaning of what it is to be male.

4) Competitiveness vs. Connection

It’s often difficult for men to acknowledge their own receptive dimension and weaknesses, due to the threat of competition and possible judgment from other men.  Very often, from the youngest age, boys are treated with shame for displaying vulnerability.

Often, self-shaming can get incorporated into the inner dialogue of a man, so that he shames himself when he is confronted with his own vulnerability.  So a man often develops a deep aversion to displaying anything that comes remotely close to vulnerability.  Sometimes the avoidance of intimacy and vulnerability becomes so acute that the only way that two men can express affection for each other is to trade insults.

Genuine connection between people requires vulnerability.  If as a male I crave intimacy, I have to accept that others will see my weaknesses and the places where I might have flaws.

Women, too, may reinforce male competitiveness and men’s lack of self-acceptance.  It’s not always easy for women to easily accept a man who departs from deeply culturally embedded stereotypes of so-called “rugged” masculinity.


5) Individuality vs Individualism

This key issue is crucially related to the last point, in that it is connected to the whole issue of men and competitiveness — but it also goes beyond it.

psychotherapy for men

Males are very caught up in individualism here in North America.  The myth evoked by the image of the Marlboro Man is very much alive in our psyches.  Our culture has the idea that men should not only have initiative, but should go beyond that: somehow the “real man” or hero figure is someone who goes it very largely alone.  Each one should pursue his own advantage, and interdependence or cooperation is somehow very suspect — perhaps effeminate?  This dynamic draws its energy from the archetype of the hunter.

What we don’t so easily see is that pursuing goals individualistically is not the same thing as individuation.  Men in our time need the courage to be genuinely individual, to be genuinely in ourselves, no matter what anyone else may think of it, as opposed to merely pursuing my own individual advantage in a competitive and comparatively unreflective way.

Some key questions: What is it to be genuinely individual?  What does that mean for you?  When are the moments that you feel truly, individually you, with no pretense?

Individual psychotherapy for men is about men truly taking in their own individual stories, and their own nature, and really living in the experience of who they are.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

Oakville, Burlington & Mississauga Ontario 


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PHOTO: Attribution Some rights reserved  familymwr ; Brianfit
© Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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A Jungian Psychotherapist & Suburban Life, 6: Cars

May 5th, 2013 · Jungian, Jungian psychotherapist, psychotherapist

The symbolic may be the commonplace, as a Jungian psychotherapist well knows; other than pets like dogs, what could be more commonplace in suburban life than cars?

jungian psychotherapist

Not only are cars commonplace in suburban life; they are common in our dreams.  The ancient gods had their vehicles or mounts that they typically rode; so our vehicles often appear in dreams as representations of our “way of getting through life”.

Automobile as Possibility

When Henry Ford mass produced the automobile, he created a world of transportation possibility that had been previously unimaginable.  So often the auto represents a real dimension of freedom in the lives of individuals.

The Car and Our “Drive”

It’s not accidental, in our culture that we refer to a highly motivated individual as “driven”.  We can easily relate driving to a way of being aggressively in control: driving can be a direct expression of aggression.  This association with aggression is at the root of many road rage incidents.

The Car and Persona / Identity

in North American society generally, and in suburbia in particular, the car that a person drives is seen as directly connected to a person’s social mask or persona.  In modern suburbia, the car one drives can easily mark one as an estimable, successful person… or not.  So one aspect of car ownership is that it can become something that we hide behind — as something that hides a person’s individuality.  A Jungian psychotherapist knows that cars in general, and especially in suburbia, are part of personal identity, and also hide it.

The Isolating Container

Most cars constitute a sealed off vessel that travels down the road.  This can lead to a sense of being cut off from the external environment.  What happens in the world outside the car is something that doesn’t affect me, and from which I’m disconnected.

One complaint that Europeans often have about North American cities and suburbs is that they are “60 Kilometre / Hour Cities” where we whizz by things in our cars at 60 KPH, and we are disengaged from the outer world outside our automobile containers, except for the endpoints of our journeys.

Does our car dependency symbolize disconnection from other people and the world; life in a world of isolation, tunnel vision, alienation from nature, as John Brack’s painting seems to portray?

Jungian psychotherapist

The Car in Your Dreams

As 21st century people, and especially as suburban folk, we often find ourselves in our cars in our dreams.  Often, there can be a lot to be learned from these dream car journeys.

In your dream, where are you going?

How are you getting there?

Who’s driving your car?  You, or someone else?

The images of car travel in our dreams can often tell us a great deal about our lives, and the needed direction of our journey towards wholeness.

Does Hermes Drive A Mercury?


When a Jungian psychotherapist works in individual therapy with a client, material objects from our everyday lives can take on great symbolic importance, and reveal much about our individual lives.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

Oakville, Burlington & Mississauga Ontario 


CTA Initial Appointment Black BG 2

PHOTO: Attribution Some rights  reserved Hugo90 ; 
© Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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