What is Depth Therapy?

How depth therapy works

Depth therapy starts with the assumption that “we can only learn about ourselves by looking inward and reporting what we discover” (William James). We can’t understand our psychological processes without considering what’s going on inside our minds. In early methods, clients were asked to reflect on their subjective experiences of their own emotional states. The goal is to establish a relationship between your unconscious and conscious systems so that your life is not dominated by unconscious factors beyond your control. Through insights and awareness, you can regain control of your reactions.

Common depth therapy techniques include socratic questioning, guided imagery, and role playing.

Socratic Questioning

This technique uses questions to help you explore your unconscious thoughts and motivations behind choices you made in the past. These questions are helpful when you find yourself doing things you regret. You can also explore automatic thoughts and emotions using this method.

Guided Imagery

In this technique, your therapist will invite you to explore early memories using all your senses. The purpose is to bring up early experiences that may have been formative for you. As you deeply explore painful childhood memories, you bring your adult perspective, compassion, and kindness for that early experience.

Role Playing

Either with your therapist or using a visualization technique, role playing allows you to plan for a future scenario. Using a past scenario, you can decide how you’d want to do things differently and practice how that might go.

Depth therapy is different from other methods

Depth therapy is an approach to treatment that focuses more on the entirety of your emotional and relational experience rather than one issue. It can help with anxiety, trauma, relational issues, and other life challenges, but the scope of treatment goes beyond the individual issues.

By looking at yourself and your internal unconscious motivations, you’ll learn to recognize your own patterns of how you engage and disconnect relationally. As we examine these patterns, we’ll discover how the problems you encounter in your day to day life are connected to these unconscious issues. In treatment, we’ll focus on helping you integrate your conscious system with these unconscious factors so you can regain control of your life and self.

This work focuses a good deal of time on examining your defenses. These normally keep you from experiencing the negative thoughts and emotions that might otherwise come up. Since you’ll be more in touch with these feelings, I like to add in a component of mindfulness to help foster acceptance and a mindset of holding and then letting go. Mindfulness helps to observe thoughts and emotions without focusing on them or getting caught up in them. As you stay present in your moment to moment experience, the therapeutic work will naturally process these experiences.

Who benefits from depth therapy?

Depth methods are good for people who are deep, analytical thinkers. It’s helpful if you can consider concepts and non-literal ideas. This kind of work is almost like a meta cognition as we’ll be thinking about your process of thinking. If you’re more of an abstract thinker, depth therapy might be a good fit for you.

This kind of therapy is typically more intense and longer lasting than other methods. It involves more emotional work including confronting memories, painful emotions, and strong reactions. Depth work takes motivation and commitment to dive into your inner world. People doing depth work often stay in therapy for a number of years, so this isn’t a short term commitment.

Is depth therapy right for you?

Depth work is one of a few modalities of therapy I offer. I use Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for shorter term work focused on treating a particular issue. I also use EMDR to help process traumas and shift layers of connected memories. And of course I offer depth work for people who are interested in exploring their inner unconscious worlds. If you’re interested in learning more, learn more about me here or check out my FAQ for links to schedule a free consultation.

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