Jungian therapy, sometimes known as Jungian analysis, is an in-depth, analytical form of talk therapy designed to bring together the conscious and unconscious parts of the mind to help a person feel balanced and whole. Jungian therapy calls for clients to look at the “real” self rather than the self they present to the outside world.
Jungian therapy comes out of the work of Carl Gustav Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist active in the early 20th century. Jung was Sigmund Freud’s chosen protege, although the two later split over differing ideas on the subconscious. Along with Freud, Jung is one of the most famous people in the history of psychology. His ideas have influenced many of today’s therapy types, as well as the fields of art, film, music, and culture more generally. The concepts of “introversion” and “extroversion” come from Jung, as does the idea of having a “complex.”
The modern-day lie detector test comes out of Jung’s word association exercises. The artist Jackson Pollock was a devoted Jungian therapy practitioner, and his paintings were often the result of his attempts to explore his unconscious. The Myers-Briggs personality test, though no longer considered scientific, was developed by a Jungian acolyte.
In recent decades, other therapy types grounded more in empiricism and evidence became more popular than Jungian therapy, which includes elements of mysticism and faith. Still, Jungian therapy is practiced today and retains a devoted following of clients and practitioners.
When It's Used
Jungian therapy attempts to explain all of human psychology. As such, it can be used to address nearly every mental malady people experience. Primarily, it has been used to treat:
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Relationship problems
- Low self-esteem
- A lack of purpose or direction in life
It is also appropriate for anyone who wants a deeper understanding of themselves and is willing to make a commitment to the work involved in the therapeutic process.
What to Expect
In Jungian therapy, a patient is asked to explore both their conscious and unconscious minds with the help of the therapist in order to bring into balance the areas of their personality that are misaligned and create unity between the conscious and unconscious minds.
Jung proposed several techniques for learning what the unconscious mind contains, including:
- Dream analysis: Jung viewed dreams as communications from the unconscious mind. Through analysis, Jungian therapists believe that the messages can be interpreted and used as information to help explain why the patient is ill at ease and which aspects of a patient’s personality need work in order to bring about balance and unity.
- Word association: In word association exercises, a Jungian therapist will say specific words and record how long it takes the patient to respond with the first thing that comes to mind. The therapist might run through the list a second or third time, noting changes in responses and response times. Changes in responses between the tests, or anomalies in the time it takes for the patient to respond, are believed to be instructive in indicating areas about which the patient feels distress.
- Art or dance therapies: Jungian analysts believe that painting, drawing, and dancing are conduits through which the unconscious mind can express itself and that the exercises themselves may help repair the areas of a patient’s ailments that come through their art-making.
Jungian therapy is fundamentally a talk therapy, and includes exploring sometimes unpleasant parts of your mind or painful previous experiences (what Jung called one’s “shadow”) with the aim of fully understanding what your true problems are and how to resolve them to the greatest extent possible.
Depending on your situation and the agreement you make with your therapist, you will meet for regularly scheduled sessions, one or more times a week. Jungian therapy has no time limit recommendations. Patients can spend years exploring and working on themselves.
A recent meta-analysis of empirical studies on the outcomes of Jungian therapy reports that many find success with the treatment, finding “significant improvements” of symptoms and interpersonal problems. Further, the analysis found that the improvements last beyond the end of treatment, with patients continuing to improve on their own given what they have learned.
How It Works
Jungian therapy focuses more on the source of a problem than on its manifestations or symptoms. Jung believed that the shadow, an individual’s repressed experiences and memories, in combination with the “collective unconscious,” or the inherent hidden beliefs that everyone in a given society at a given time has, result in an imbalance between conscious awareness and the unconscious mind that has a detrimental effect on one’s emotional life.
In analysis, a patient must explore these forces and influences to achieve unity between the conscious and unconscious mind. Success in this endeavor Jung called “individuation,” or wholeness. Jung believed that individuation represents one’s true nature, and that a patient will feel satisfied and complete upon its achievement. He also believed that individuation was the closest someone could come to God.
If one tries simply to relieve the symptoms, the underlying issues will not be resolved and are bound to resurface, according to Jungian therapy. The success of the treatment depends on the client’s commitment to regularly scheduled sessions and intense work.
What to Look for in a Jungian Therapist
A certified Jungian therapist is a licensed mental health professional who has completed advanced training in a program accredited by the International Association for Analytical Psychology. This training is intensive and can take a therapist four to six years to complete.
The Jungian therapist can be found in health clinics, private practice, and other settings and institutions. In addition to finding a qualified practitioner, it is important to work with someone you trust and with whom you feel comfortable working in a therapeutic environment.
Screen your potential therapist either in person or over video or phone. During this initial introduction, ask the therapist:
- How they may help with your particular concerns
- Whether they have dealt with this type of problem before
- Their process and timeline for treatment