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.

Relational Mindfulness: Getting In Touch With Your Self

Relational mindfulness is a skill that helps us keep in touch with what we’re feeling in the moment. When we tap into that self-awareness, we can notice our thoughts, emotions, and body sensations as we relate to others in the present. It’s a challenge to get in touch with yourself and stay in touch with yourself while you’re interacting with others. It’s especially difficult for people pleasers, people drawn to helping professions (hello, therapists!), and people with a history of trauma who often feel the need to stay safe by monitoring others instead of themselves.

Why Practice Relational Mindfulness?

The purpose of relational mindfulness is to be aware of how things outside of you affect you. If you’re a people pleaser, helper, or someone with a history of trauma, you may have noticed that you’re naturally mindful of the other person but not looking at yourself at all. It’s totally normal to become unaware of your thoughts, emotions, and body sensations in a situation where you’re socially expected to give attention to another person.

When you have a tendency to hide yourself and focus on others, relational mindfulness is a challenge to include yourself in the conversation. Including yourself means that you matter, your thoughts and feelings are equally important in the relationship. I know for people pleasers, helpers, and people with a history of trauma, that can be a really uncomfortable idea. Hiding is safe, and focusing on others allows you to avoid feeling what you’re feeling.

Relational mindfulness is a challenge! I hope this practice helps you improve your awareness of yourself as you engage and relate with others.

Experimenting With Relational Mindfulness

There are small things you can do to start dipping your toes into the practice of relational mindfulness. As a first step, you can try shifting into a posture of internal awareness as you’re watching a show or movie, reading the news, or listening to music. Practicing alone without another person around feels easier and helps you be less self-conscious. It can take time to learn to be aware of your thoughts, emotions, and body sensations.

Check in with yourself. Start by noticing your reactions to things you observe as you’re watching or hearing or reading. What statements create a reaction in you? What is the reaction? Just describe the awareness to yourself, don’t try to analyze where it came from or try to change it.

The goal with this practice is to be able to maintain a dual awareness of your own internal world and what’s going on externally at the same time. In your early practice, it might take you a while to name what you’re feeling- or even to realize that you are feeling something. By observing your reactions to media at first, you’re giving yourself space to take the time to identify your feelings.

Exploring Relational Mindfulness Safely

As you expand your practice of relational awareness, you’ll want to start checking in with yourself during conversations with others. The best place to start is with a safe person. Preferably, this is someone you trust enough that you can tell them about your relational awareness practice. Ideally, you can practice together, naming your thoughts, emotions, and body sensations you observe as you interact with them.

Practicing with another person

Relational awareness practice with another person can be a fun experience. You can go back and forth with each other simply observing your thoughts, emotions, and body sensations and reporting to each other what you observe. Alternately, you can check in with each other at regular intervals during your conversation and name your observations as you go.

Practicing alone… with others

When you don’t have someone you can practice with, you’ll still want to try bringing your dual awareness skills into a real life conversation. It’s easier to start in a group where you’re one of several participants so if you get stuck on an observation it doesn’t interrupt the flow of conversation.

Advanced Relational Mindfulness

Finally, you’ll feel ready to maintain your dual awareness when you’re in a one on one conversation. The core challenge is to stay in touch with your thoughts, emotions, and body sensations while staying fully aware of the other person. The goal of relational mindfulness in this context is to ensure you’re taking care of yourself and your needs

Want to Learn More?

Therapy can help you develop your internal sense of who you are. This is especially helpful for people pleasers, people in helping professions, and people with a history of trauma. Through relational mindfulness and other skills, you can learn dual awareness skills. These will help you improve your relationships by prioritizing yourself. Therapy can help you address your natural barriers to developing a focus on yourself. Learn more about how I work with therapists, people with anxiety, and people with trauma. Or click here to learn more about me.