'Teaching' Depth: Reflections on the Challenges and Rewards of Integrating Depth Psychology into Research Methodology

Article excerpt

Abstract: This article discusses how students enrolled in graduate level methodology courses can integrate key depth psychological values into the research process. As Coppin and Nelson (2005, p. 101) suggest, inquiry centered on the psyche asks researchers 'to be fully involved with the opus on every level,' both personal and archetypal, which 'makes the work especially meaningful and especially arduous.' This is equally true when teaching depth research and conducting depth research. To illustrate, we describe the personal challenges and rewards of being instructors and discuss three models, composite case examples, of integrating depth that have emerged in the classroom. In the first model, students begin by actively, rigorously separating their intellectual research pursuits from their depth experiences, either due to prior research education in non-depth oriented settings or due to a lack of understanding of how depth psychology applies to the research process. In the second model, the student chooses a topic based on intellectual appeal or the availability of resources for the study. Though a traditional starting point for most human science research, the student is curious about, and eager to, examine the depth psychological dimensions of their research. In the third model, students readily fit Romanyshyn's (2007) idea of 'wounded researchers' who are claimed by the topic through their own psychological complexes and seek to pursue its calling through active engagement with the unconscious.

Keywords: teaching, research methods, depth psychology


One of the distinguishing features of teaching graduate students in depth psychology is our approach to the choice of research topic. Identifying the topic is the first and most crucial decision students face in the research experience. Moreover, when research is imagined as arising out of, and in relationship to, dynamic unconscious processes - the sine qua non of depth psychology - how the topic emerges is of foremost importance. In well-regarded texts devoted to research design and methodology, however, finding the topic - or, to foreshadow our approach to teaching research, letting the topic find the student - is given scant attention. For instance in Creswell's (2013, p. 18) thoughtful, important discussion of philosophical assumptions informing a research project, he says philosophy 'shapes how we formulate our problem and research questions' but beyond this treats choosing the topic as a settled matter (pp. 16-19). We contend philosophy is revealed when graduate students are musing upon what to study, long before any formal research process as such commences. If 'attention is the cardinal psychological virtue' (Hillman, 1994, p. 119) then what draws our attention and how it does so - in research as in life - are profoundly psychological questions.

The questions of what and how, at the heart of research formulation, typically are addressed at the level of ego. For example, Teddlie and Tashakkori (2009, p. 113) briefly discuss the personal reasons to choose a topic, emphasizing career advancement. Creswell's (2009, p. 23) text on qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-methods research says something similar. 'Before considering what literature to use in a project,' he states, 'first identify a topic to study and reflect on whether it is practical and useful.' Marshall and Rossman (2011) also emphasize practicality and utility. The first two (of three) considerations when choosing a topic are 'do-ability,' that is, feasibility, and 'should-do ability,' the potential significance of the study. We agree with the criteria of practicality and usefulness. The aim to enlarge the scope of knowledge within a discipline is a particularly important and laudable goal. We respect the many fine graduate programs that give practicality and usefulness a personal slant, encouraging students to choose a topic that will enhance their curriculum vitae and further their professional career. …


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