Depth Psychology and Depth Therapy—Reset & Refreshed

My vision for depth psychology and depth psychotherapy, and for psychology and therapy in general, is to focus on answering the critical core questions: What is mind? What is its true nature? 

No psychology can be valid and reliable and no therapy truly effective without answers to these questions. The medicalization of psychology and therapy defines human problems and difficulties as if they were medical conditions that require medical like intervention and treatment. This is a short-sighted bias that leads us astray. Sometimes motivated by vested interests. For example, If you tell your physician that you feel depressed, chances are good that she or he will suggest an antidepressant medication, based on a diagnosis that you have a biochemical illness. Which is rarely accurate. We now know that much depression is caused by stress hormones that seep into your blood and tissues. And, as well, that depression can be a signal message from your soul, when you are not living a life you genuinely believe in. 

Depth Psychology is Art & Science

Few people, including psychologists, understand how badly Freud’s ideas were misunderstood and used poorly by others completely unaware of what his work was really about. I earned my undergraduate psychology degree at Boston University. The program focused primarily on Freud’s work. I felt that something was awry. Let’s listen to his own words, when he explains why: 

Everybody thinks…that I started by the scientific character of my work and that my principal scope lies in curing mental melodies. This is a terrible error that has prevailed for years and that I have been unable to set right. I am a scientist by necessity, and not by vocation. I am really by nature an artist… And of this there lies an irrefutable proof: which is that in all countries into which psychoanalysis has penetrated it has been better understood and applied by writers and artists than by doctors. My books, in fact, more resemble works of imagination than treatise on pathology. (2)  Freud

Freud tells us in the quote above that he is an artist at heart, not a scientist. Freud’s ideas can’t be scientifically known, validated or refuted for the same reason that a Matisse painting can’t be judged as true or false. Freud’s theories, like Jung’s, and other significant depth psychologists, are works of art. Products of the Creative Imagination. They describe healing fictions, not objective findings or literal facts.  Created as all authentic art is created: From deep experiential insights transformed by the Creative Imagination into images. In Freud’s case, images as story, metaphor, analogy and symbol.

Viewing Freud’s work through a lens needed to understand art, we’re welcomed into Freud’s world anew. Ditto Jung. I’ll use them both as representative figures for the depth psychology tradition. For our purposes here, they both provide sufficient wash for our canvas. 

For clarity and simplicity’s sake, I subsume both Freud and Jung’s work in all forms, as well as that of their followers and colleagues, including psychoanalysis and psychoanalysts, under the category of depth psychology and depth psychotherapy. 

Unlike Freud, Jung’s version of depth psychology isn’t taught in university psychology departments. He was overt in explaining that a heavy emphasis on empirical science stood in the way grasping the deeper nature of mind, including its sacred realms. He knew that empirical science looks outside into external material reality, while depth psychology looks inside, into inner reality. And then on into the sacred dimension of mind and the Mystery of life. Jung tells us how and why he communicated about his work in imaginal language. 

I deliberately and consciously give preference to a dramatic, mythological way of thinking and speaking, because this is not only more expressive but also more exact than an abstract scientific terminology, which is wont to toy with the notion that its theoretic formulations may one fine day be resolved into algebraic equations. 

Psychology's True Home

If depth psychology is to evolve and prosper, it must not lose its way by pandering to science for acceptance and approval. Depth psychology must honor its true nature. It’s not empirical science. The contemplative sciences and the humanities are depth psychology’s true home. Depth psychology and depth therapy’s deepest obligation is to turn the lights on in our mind so we can awaken to who we truly are. And so be able to live life as an experience of depth, meaning and adventure.

  1. Adapted from Manganiello & Arnold. Your Creative Imagination. UNLOCKED. Become Who You Truly Are. Ashford Publishing. 2016  
  2. Giovanni Papini, “A Visit to Freud” Review of Existential Psychology and Psychiatry 9, no. 2 (1969) 130-134

© Dr. James A. Manganiello 2021