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Depth Psychotherapy vs. Psychology: What’s the Difference? – 2

August 3rd, 2014 · 1 Comment · psychotherapy vs. psychology

In my first post on depth psychotherapy vs. psychology I focused on the relationship and communication dimensions of psychotherapy; in this post, I look at depth psychotherapy’s approach to the individual person.

psychotherapy vs. psychology   To truly take the individual seriously is to move in some significant ways beyond the science of psychology per se.


Depth psychotherapy is particularly focussed on the client as a unique individual.  The individual, insofar as he or she is unique, cannot truly be the object of scientific study.  Science, whether physics, biology or psychology, is based on generalization and law-like regularity.  As such, it cannot take into account the genuinely unique aspects of an individual situation — or of an individual.

Psychology certainly can provide lots of insight that is relevant to an individual and his or her situation, and that may genuinely help.  But there are also the dimensions of an individual’s experience that are genuinely unique.   There are those who would try to explain this sense of uniqueness away, to reduce it to a mere illusion attributable to the interplay of the particular family, social and cultural environment and of genetics.  Yet every person undoubtedly has a strong subjective sense of his or her individual uniqueness, and it certainly seems that our individual stories have many unique features that differentiate us from others, even — or especially — those close to us. The existential, humanistic and, above all, Jungian therapeutic traditions have been particularly sensitive to the unique individual, and to exploring his or her individual reality in psychotherapy.

The “Depth” in Depth Psychotherapy

Another distinguishing factor in depth psychotherapy vs. psychology is the very dimension of depth itself.  By this, we mean the emphasis on the unconscious mind.  Now, as Carnegie Mellon researcher James Bursley shows us, the unconscious mind is once again coming to the fore in brain science and neuroscience. psychotherapy vs. psychology


Until very recent times, the unconscious had not played as central a role in the science of psychology per se.  Discussion of the unconscious was often branded as “overly subjective” and “not evidence-based”.
psychotherapy vs. psychology


Yet, depth psychotherapy has emphasized the importance of the activity of the unconscious in dealing with the situation of individual persons in therapy.  The unconscious, through dreams, through implicit knowing of the type discussed in attachment theory, and through reactions to everyday situations that we may not be consciously aware of, as in the phenomena of “projection”, and what we have all come to refer to as “Freudian slips”, often play an important role in depth psychotherapy.


Unlike psychology, which must concern itself with what is objective, provable and repeatable, the depth psychotherapist must use psychological knowledge, certainly, but must enter into the subjective and unique reality of the individual client, in terms of both the conscious and unconscious world of the client. It is this journey into the subjective reality of the client that forms the healing heart of psychotherapy.

PHOTO:  Attribution Share Alike  ©  Jean-Rene Vauzelle  ; Harald Kobler
© 2014 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

One Comment so far ↓

  • Dr G Rajamohan

    Depth psychotherapy is an area untouched by indian psychotherapists which ought to have been.Freudian followers do some what differently
    A good worthwhile material
    Prof G Rajamohan

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