A second look at the term Psychology

I am sure each of us has our own loose definition of psychology.  Its vestiges exist everywhere – the self-help section of the bookstore, reality shows, talk shows…Many of us have been involved with psychology because we have sought help in the therapy room, or from our primary care physicians in the form of a prescription, to relieve symptoms of “anxiety” or “depression.”  If we seek out therapy, we may have received different messages from different professionals – different solutions to the symptoms we feel:  Take this pill and come back in 4-6 weeks.  Or, Make a list of goals and complete them (as if we wouldn’t have already done that if we could have done that).  Or, Tell me about your childhood…Which brings us to all of the different “schools” of psychology.  So not only do we have a loose definition of psychology floating somewhere in our minds, but now we have to make sense of all of these different messages and approaches which have fancy titles – Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical-Behavioral Therapy, Emotion-Focused Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, Psychoanalysis, Jungian Psychology…What is all of this?  What is psychology?!

The Latin roots of the word come from psyche and logos.  Previous blogs have explored psyche in greater detail, but in simplest form, from its Latin roots, psyche refers to breath, spirit, or soul.  The second root word, logos, refers to the theory of, or the study of.  Therefore, psychology defined in its truest sense, is the study of soul.

In contrast, the most powerful governing branch of American psychology (American Psychological Association, or APA), wants psychology to be defined as a STEM science – meaning Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.  Here, everything must be measurable and observable.  This is not a place where soul can thrive, if even survive.

But if we remain true to psychology as the study of psyche as we’ve discussed previously, then we have entered the realm of depth psychology.  Next week we’ll explore that term, depth psychology, in greater detail, and place the work of Carl Jung within that framework.

In the meantime, remember, we are more than a sum of measurable functions.  We are complex and wonderful human beings…

Hallie Durchslag, LISW