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

August 3rd, 2014 · 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)

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Depth Psychotherapy vs. Psychology: What’s the Difference? – 1

July 27th, 2014 · psychotherapy vs. psychology

Depth psychotherapy vs. psychology: people are confronted with so many “psych” words today that there is real value in clarifying the differences between these two things.

psychotherapy vs. psychology

I was a little reluctant to use “versus” or “vs.” in the title of this blog.  The word can tend to make it sound like depth psychotherapy and psychology are “opposed”.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The differences between them are a question of priorities and emphasis.  And certainly, psychotherapy depends upon the knowledge gained through psychology.

The American Psychological Association tells us psychology is the scientific study of mental functions and behaviours.  In this broad sense, psychology is a fundamental foundation of psychotherapy.  Clearly, it’s essential that psychotherapy be informed and structured by clear understandings of mental functions, and how they relate to human behaviour.  But, by its nature, psychotherapy must go beyond mere study of the human mind.

University of Florida’s Prof. Michael Herkov identifies two special things about psychotherapy: the nature of the relationship; and, the nature of the communication.

The Psychotherapy Relationship

The relationship between a psychotherapist and a client has a special character. It  exists solely for the purpose of helping the client, and is designed to ensure that the therapist is completely “there” for the client.  The client is listened to, carefully — quite possibly more carefully than they have been listened to at any point in their lives.  As Jungians like to say, the relationship is a temenos, a Greek term used for the sacred enclosure around a temple.  The relationship is “sacred” and protected.  People can and do reveal things that they have never said to anyone before — because it’s safe to do so.

psychotherapy vs. psychologyPsychotherapy Communication

An old truism states that: “When a therapist asks how you are doing, he really wants to know.”  This is especially true of communication with a depth psychotherapist.

The depth psychotherapist doesn’t just listen for the sake of it!  He listens to help you make key connections with the deepest parts of yourself.  Feelings, thoughts and attitudes of the client, which may never have come to light before, may very well surface in the course of the dialogue between therapist and client.   Some of the connections and realizations the individual makes, may well be profound and life changing. psychotherapy vs. psychology

As you can see from our discussion so far, there are some very important differences relevant to the distinction of “depth psychotherapy vs. psychology “.  Where psychology works extremely hard at being a science, and expanding the scientific knowledge of human mental functioning and behaviour, depth psychotherapy is a healing art.  It uses psychological knowledge, but is also aware of broader human dimensions that necessarily go beyond the purely scientific to create the bond with the client that makes for effective psychotherapy.

In my next post, I’ll be looking at two other dimensions which make the depth psychotherapy vs. psychologist clarification even clearer: the psychotherapeutic understanding of individuality and the “depth” in depth psychotherapy.

PHOTO:  Attribution Share Alike  Jorge Láscar  ; Alan Cleaver
© 2014 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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