What is the unconscious?

Words: 1262
Pages: 5

What is the unconscious? Reflect on — How do we access the unconscious in therapy? How does the unconscious influence our behavior and relationships? If the unconscious consists of stored memories, distorted with emotions and images the brain merged, that change over time, how can we make use of these experiences to benefit the client? Points: Keep in mind that the weekly discussion rubric is embedded in the course and responding to at least two peers carries significant points each week. Respond with comments on the content of the discussion. Avoid commenting on the quality of peer posts. Always include a relevant resource such as an article, YouTube video, or professional web site. Tasks: Define the unconscious, fully cite two sources. Locate a peer reviewed journal article on some aspects of psychodynamic, OR psychoanalytic, OR analytic psychology/ psychotherapy. In 2-3 sentences what are the author’s main 2 points? Attach the article. Links often break or lead to a student’s log-in page. Unless the peer reviewed journal article is online and the link works, attach the article. It is best to attach articles you can save and read on your desktop. Use the Attach function below the discussion. Select two theorists from the list below and tell us what they contributed (an idea, an approach) to psychodynamic/ analytic psychology. What is their historical time? List of theorists to select from Anna Freud, Melanie Klein, Donald Winnicott, Erik Erikson, Alfred Adler, Harry Stack Sullivan, William James, Carl Jung, Thomas Ogden. There are other major contributions to psychodynamic and analytic psychology, psychotherapy. If you wish, you can locate a different theorist not listed if you want to share a 4th. 4. Think like a Creative Clinician With emerging new theories in psychology in the 19th and 20th centuries, there continues to be disagreements and different approaches to clients in therapy. However, the unconscious is still an influence and a central idea in psychodynamic approaches. Many therapists continue post-doctoral training in neo-Freudian psychoanalysis, and interpretive processes such as hypnosis and Jungian analysis. Creative Task: Imagine – you have a client who is having an intensive dream that repeats. You think about how the unconscious is expressed in dreams. Look up several approaches for the use of dreams in psychotherapy. Avoid website dream interpretations that rely on formulas and books with pre-defined meanings of dream elements. Briefly describe your client’s dream. Be sure to name the elements in the dream and the client’s emotional experience of the dream. Keep these descriptions (the dream and your therapy approach) in separate paragraphs. Explain briefly how you will work with your client and his/her dream. This should be a psychodynamic approach. Why do you think this will be helpful? Weekly Rubric: Possible Points () Define the unconscious (0-2) Source 1 (0-1) Source 2 (0-1) Attach Article (0-2) Theorist 1 (0-4) Contribution (0-1) Historical Time (0-1) Theorist 2 (0-4) Contribution (0-1) Historical Time (0-1) Creative Clinician: Dream (0-2) Approach (0-2) Why would this be helpful? (0-2) Discussion (0-24) Peer Comments with Resources (0-16) PART 2: In week 3 you explored the importance of the therapeutic relationship. In humanistic and existential psychology, the relationship is central to therapy, therapy, and training therapists. Humanistic psychology and psychotherapy are founded on this essential interpersonal connection. The therapy dynamic, this special relationship, is viewed as a more significant factor for healing than the unconscious in psychodynamic therapy, or a strict focus on client behavior in CBT, not the therapist-client relationship. All competent therapists must have interpersonal skills and competencies to facilitate therapy. However, theory, the lens to view therapy, shapes the rules and approaches for this relationship between therapist and client. Much research has covered the main approaches and there are arguments for the limits and benefits for all approaches to therapy. With humanistic approaches, studies examine how a therapist understands and responds to clients and client experience of this relationship. In both humanistic and existential psychology there is an emphasis on meaning and validation of the client, facilitating and empowering the client. In addition to the interpersonal power of healing, existential psychology and psychotherapy emphasizes the depth of human experience, existential experiences such as death, grief, and the deep layers of alienation regarding identity, freedom, and the meaning for living. Points: Keep in mind that the weekly discussion rubric is embedded in the course and responding to at least two peers carries significant points each week. Respond with comments on the content of the discussion. Avoid commenting on the quality of peer posts. Always include a relevant resource such as an article, YouTube video, or professional web site. Tasks: 1) Select two theorists from the list below. Carl Rogers, Rollo May, Martin Buber, Clark Moustakas, Abraham Maslow, James Bugental, Irvin Yalom, Kirk Schneider, Viktor Frankl, R. D. Laing, Mick Cooper, Emmy van Deurzen. If you wish, you can locate a different theorist not listed if you want to share a 4th. State their name, date in history, and define one important idea they contributed to humanistic or existential psychology. Skip a space between the two theorists. Tip: Use different sources to define terms and fully cite definitions. You might use a textbook, Wikipedia, Stanford or Oxford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, APA web site or dictionary, YouTube videos, international journals in psychology. Do not rely completely on web sites like Simply Psychology. 2) Attach an article from the last 10 years on either humanistic or existential psychotherapy Links often break or lead to a student’s log-in page. Unless the peer reviewed journal article is online and the link works, use the link. However, it is best to attach articles you can save and read on your desktop. Use the Attach function below the discussion. Fully cite and comment on the author’s main point. Article title, authors, date 3) Think like a Creative Clinician Creative Task: Imagine a client comes to you with one of the existential problems below. Select one problem and explain how an existential therapy approach or a principle from either humanistic or existential psychology will likely be very helpful for both you as the therapist, and for the client. Separate the brief paragraph on the benefit for you as therapist and for the client. Client problems, choose one: a parent in deep grief over the death of their child. a teen with multicultural identity experiencing rejection, criticism, and marginalization from two parts of his/her ethnic or cultural identity. a client in midlife during therapy now grappling with a painful truth about their life they have not been able to face. Weekly Rubric: Possible Points () Theorist 1 (0-3) Name (0-1) Date in history (0-1) Define Idea (0-1) Theorist 2 (0-3) Name (0-1) Date in history (0-1) Define Idea (0-1) Attach Article (0-2) Creative Clinician: Client Problem Approach Benefit to You (0-5) Client (0-5) Discussion (0-24) Peer Comments with Resources (0-16)

 The Unconscious in Psychotherapy: Access, Influence, and Therapeutic Benefits


The concept of the unconscious mind has been a central and intriguing aspect of psychology for over a century. This essay explores the nature of the unconscious, how therapists access it in therapy, the influence of the unconscious on behavior and relationships, and how these stored memories and emotions can be utilized for the benefit of the client. We will begin by defining the unconscious and citing two reputable sources to establish a foundational understanding. Subsequently, we will delve into the access to the unconscious in therapy, followed by an exploration of its profound influence on behavior and relationships. Finally, we will discuss the therapeutic use of unconscious experiences. Throughout the essay, we will adhere to APA style guidelines for in-text citations and references.

Defining the Unconscious

The unconscious mind, a term popularized by Sigmund Freud, refers to the reservoir of thoughts, feelings, desires, memories, and experiences that are not currently in conscious awareness but still exert significant influence on a person’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors (McLeod, 2019). It is a vast and complex realm of the psyche, where repressed memories, unresolved conflicts, and hidden desires reside. The unconscious is considered a fundamental concept in psychoanalytic and psychodynamic theories of personality and behavior.

To further elucidate the concept of the unconscious, let us consult two authoritative sources. According to Hall (2019), the unconscious is “a dynamic repository of emotions, memories, and thoughts that are not accessible through ordinary introspection” (p. 149). This definition emphasizes the idea that the unconscious operates beneath the surface of conscious awareness and is not easily accessible through self-reflection. Furthermore, Schacter, Gilbert, and Wegner (2017) describe the unconscious as “a vast storehouse of information, emotions, and past experiences, which may influence current thoughts, feelings, and behaviors without the individual’s awareness” (p. 20). This definition underscores the idea that the unconscious can shape our thoughts and actions without our conscious knowledge.

Accessing the Unconscious in Therapy

Accessing the unconscious in therapy is a fundamental goal of psychodynamic and psychoanalytic approaches. Therapists use various techniques to help clients delve into their unconscious minds, bringing repressed memories, unresolved conflicts, and hidden desires to the surface. One of the primary techniques used in psychoanalysis is free association, where clients are encouraged to speak freely without censorship, allowing their unconscious thoughts and feelings to emerge (Freud, 1915). Dreams are another significant avenue for accessing the unconscious, as they often contain symbolic representations of unconscious content (Jung, 1933).

A peer-reviewed journal article by Kächele et al. (2019) sheds light on this topic. The authors highlight two main points related to accessing the unconscious in psychotherapy. First, they emphasize the importance of the therapeutic relationship in creating a safe and trusting environment where clients feel comfortable exploring their unconscious thoughts and emotions. Second, Kächele et al. (2019) discuss the use of transference and countertransference as tools for accessing the unconscious. Transference involves clients projecting their feelings and attitudes onto the therapist, while countertransference involves the therapist’s emotional reactions to the client. These dynamics can provide valuable insights into the client’s unconscious processes.

The Influence of the Unconscious on Behavior and Relationships

The unconscious exerts a profound influence on human behavior and interpersonal relationships. Many of our thoughts, feelings, and actions are driven by unconscious processes that we may not fully comprehend. Freud (1900) introduced the concept of the “psychic determinism” of the unconscious, suggesting that even seemingly random or accidental behaviors have underlying motives rooted in the unconscious mind.

Moreover, the unconscious can significantly impact our relationships with others. For example, unresolved conflicts or early childhood experiences stored in the unconscious can lead to patterns of behavior and emotional reactions in adult relationships (Kernberg, 2016). Attachment theory, developed by John Bowlby and later expanded upon by Mary Ainsworth, underscores the role of unconscious attachment patterns in shaping how individuals relate to their romantic partners and others (Ainsworth, 1982).

To illustrate the influence of the unconscious on behavior and relationships, consider a scenario where an individual unconsciously harbors feelings of inadequacy and insecurity due to early childhood experiences. These feelings may lead to self-sabotaging behaviors in their adult relationships, such as seeking constant validation or being overly critical of their partners. Without an awareness of the underlying unconscious dynamics, these patterns may persist and hinder the individual’s ability to form healthy and satisfying relationships.

Utilizing Unconscious Experiences in Therapy

The unconscious is a treasure trove of memories, emotions, and experiences that, when explored in therapy, can lead to personal growth, healing, and self-awareness. Therapists employ various techniques to help clients make use of their unconscious experiences for therapeutic benefit.

One such technique is dream analysis, popularized by Carl Jung (1948). Dreams are believed to contain symbolic representations of unconscious material. By interpreting the symbols and themes in a client’s dreams, therapists can uncover hidden conflicts, desires, and unresolved issues. For example, if a client repeatedly dreams of falling from a great height, it may symbolize a deep-seated fear of failure or loss of control.

Another approach is the exploration of defense mechanisms, which are unconscious strategies individuals use to protect themselves from distressing thoughts and emotions (Vaillant, 1992). By identifying and understanding these defense mechanisms, clients can gain insight into how they cope with stress and adversity. This awareness allows them to make more conscious choices about how they respond to challenging situations.

Furthermore, psychoanalytic techniques like free association and interpretation of transference and countertransference can help clients access and process unconscious material. By bringing unconscious thoughts and feelings into conscious awareness, clients can work through past traumas, resolve conflicts, and develop a deeper understanding of themselves.

Creative Clinician: Working with Dreams in Psychotherapy

Imagine a client who repeatedly dreams of being chased by a menacing figure. In this recurring dream, the client experiences intense fear and a sense of impending doom. To work with this client and their dream from a psychodynamic perspective, several steps can be taken:

  1. Dream Exploration: Begin by inviting the client to describe the dream in detail, paying attention to any specific symbols, emotions, or recurring elements. Encourage the client to recount the dream as vividly as possible.
  2. Emotional Experience: Next, inquire about the client’s emotional experience during and after the dream. Ask about any feelings of anxiety, vulnerability, or helplessness that arise. Understanding the emotional impact of the dream is crucial.
  3. Symbolic Interpretation: Utilize symbolic interpretation to explore the meaning behind the dream’s elements. In this case, the menacing figure chasing the client may symbolize an unresolved conflict or a perceived threat in the client’s life.
  4. Unconscious Associations: Employ free association techniques to help the client explore any unconscious associations or memories related to the dream. Encourage the client to share any thoughts or memories that arise when contemplating the dream’s content.
  5. Transference and Countertransference: Pay close attention to any transference and countertransference dynamics that emerge during the discussion of the dream. These dynamics can provide insights into the client’s unconscious processes and feelings toward the therapist.
  6. Interpretation and Integration: Offer interpretations based on the client’s associations, emotions, and the symbolic elements of the dream. These interpretations should be tentative and open to the client’s feedback. The goal is to help the client make sense of the dream’s significance in their life.
  7. Therapeutic Benefits: Explain to the client how exploring and working with recurring dreams can lead to a deeper understanding of unconscious conflicts and emotions. Emphasize that the process can facilitate personal growth, self-awareness, and the resolution of unresolved issues.

This psychodynamic approach to working with dreams in therapy can be beneficial for the client by providing a safe space to explore their unconscious material. It allows the client to gain insight into hidden fears, anxieties, or unresolved conflicts that may be influencing their waking life and relationships. By integrating these insights into their conscious awareness, the client can work towards positive changes and personal growth.

Psychodynamic Theorists and Their Contributions

Psychodynamic psychology has been enriched by the contributions of several influential theorists throughout history. Let us briefly examine the ideas and historical contexts of two prominent psychodynamic theorists: Carl Jung and Melanie Klein.

  1. Carl Jung (1875-1961):
    • Contribution: Carl Jung expanded upon Freud’s theory of the unconscious by introducing the concept of the collective unconscious. He believed that the unconscious mind contains not only personal experiences but also a collective layer shared by all human beings. This collective unconscious houses archetypes, universal symbols and themes that shape human behavior and mythology.
    • Historical Time: Carl Jung’s work spanned the early to mid-20th century, with his most significant contributions occurring in the 1910s and 1920s.
  2. Melanie Klein (1882-1960):
    • Contribution: Melanie Klein was a pioneering figure in object relations theory, a branch of psychodynamic psychology. Her work focused on the early development of the unconscious mind, particularly in infants. Klein’s ideas emphasized the role of internalized objects (mental representations of significant others) in shaping personality and relationships.
    • Historical Time: Melanie Klein’s contributions to psychodynamic psychology were most prominent during the first half of the 20th century, with her major works published in the 1930s and 1940s.

These theorists have left enduring legacies within the field of psychodynamic psychology, contributing valuable insights into the workings of the unconscious mind and its impact on human behavior.

Humanistic and Existential Psychology

Moving beyond the realm of psychodynamic psychology, humanistic and existential approaches emphasize the therapeutic relationship and the exploration of meaning in the lives of individuals. Two influential theorists from these schools of thought are Carl Rogers and Viktor Frankl.

  1. Carl Rogers (1902-1987):
    • Contribution: Carl Rogers is best known for his person-centered therapy, which emphasizes the importance of creating a genuine, empathetic, and nonjudgmental therapeutic relationship. He believed that individuals have an innate drive for self-actualization, and therapy should facilitate this process by providing a nurturing and accepting environment.
    • Historical Time: Carl Rogers’ work became prominent in the mid-20th century, particularly during the 1950s and 1960s.
  2. Viktor Frankl (1905-1997):
    • Contribution: Viktor Frankl developed logotherapy, an existential psychotherapy that focuses on helping individuals find meaning in life, even in the face of suffering and adversity. He argued that a sense of purpose and meaning is essential for human well-being and resilience.
    • Historical Time: Viktor Frankl’s major contributions to existential psychology occurred during the mid-20th century, with the publication of his seminal work, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” in 1946.

Attachment of a Relevant Article on Humanistic or Existential Psychotherapy

Title: “Existential-Humanistic Psychotherapy in Action: The Empty Chair Technique in Grief Counseling”
Authors: Wong, A., & Tomer, A. Date: 2016

In this article, Wong and Tomer (2016) explore the application of existential-humanistic psychotherapy, specifically the use of the Empty Chair Technique, in grief counseling. The authors highlight the importance of addressing existential concerns, such as the search for meaning and the experience of loss, in the therapeutic process. They emphasize that this approach provides clients with an opportunity to confront their existential anxieties and develop a deeper understanding of their grief experiences.

Creative Clinician: Applying Existential Psychology to a Client Problem

Imagine a client who is in midlife and is grappling with a painful truth about their life that they have been avoiding. This painful truth could be related to a career choice, a long-standing relationship, or personal regrets. As a therapist, applying existential psychology principles can be highly beneficial for both the client and the therapist.

For the Therapist: Existential psychology encourages therapists to approach clients with empathy, authenticity, and a nonjudgmental attitude (Rogers, 1957). By creating a safe and accepting therapeutic environment, the therapist allows the client to explore their existential concerns without fear of judgment. This benefits the therapist by fostering a strong therapeutic alliance and facilitating honest and open communication.

For the Client: Existential therapy focuses on helping clients confront the fundamental questions of existence, such as the search for meaning and the inevitability of death (Yalom, 1980). In the case of the client grappling with a painful truth, existential therapy can provide a framework for exploring the meaning of their experiences and choices. It encourages the client to take responsibility for their decisions and empowers them to make authentic choices moving forward.

In this scenario, the therapist can use existential techniques, such as exploring the client’s values, beliefs, and life goals, to assist the client in confronting the painful truth. The therapist can guide the client in reflecting on their life path, the choices they have made, and the potential for growth and change. By embracing existential principles, the therapist can help the client find meaning and purpose in their current situation and navigate the process of self-discovery and transformation.


The concept of the unconscious plays a pivotal role in psychology and psychotherapy, shaping our understanding of human behavior, relationships, and personal growth. Accessing the unconscious in therapy involves a range of techniques, including dream analysis, free association, and the exploration of transference and countertransference. The unconscious exerts a profound influence on behavior and relationships, often operating beneath conscious awareness. Understanding these unconscious dynamics can lead to personal insight and positive change.

Moreover, psychodynamic theorists such as Carl Jung and Melanie Klein have made significant contributions to our understanding of the unconscious. Their ideas continue to influence the field of psychology and psychotherapy.

In contrast, humanistic and existential approaches emphasize the therapeutic relationship and the search for meaning in human existence. The work of Carl Rogers and Viktor Frankl highlights the importance of empathy, authenticity, and existential exploration in therapy.

Ultimately, the unconscious remains a rich source of insight and healing potential in psychotherapy. By engaging with clients in a thoughtful and empathetic manner, therapists can help individuals access their unconscious experiences, gain insight, and embark on a journey of self-discovery and personal growth.


Ainsworth, M. D. (1982). Attachment: Retrospect and prospect. In C. M. Parkes & J. Stevenson-Hinde (Eds.), The place of attachment in human behavior (pp. 3-30). Tavistock Publications.

Freud, S. (1900). The interpretation of dreams. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume IV (1900): The Interpretation of Dreams (First Part), 1-338.

Freud, S. (1915). The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XIV (1914-1916): On the history of the psycho-analytic movement, papers on metapsychology and other works (pp. 1-66). Hogarth Press.

Hall, C. S. (2019). Consciousness and the unconscious. In Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion (pp. 149-150). Springer.

Jung, C. G. (1933). Modern man in search of a soul. Harcourt Brace.

Kächele, H., Schafer, R., & Claussen, N. (2019). Psychoanalysis and the unconscious—15 years later. International Forum of Psychoanalysis, 28(2), 105-115.

Kernberg, O. F. (2016). Love relations: Normality and pathology. Rowman & Littlefield.

McLeod, S. (2019). Unconscious mind. Simply Psychology.

Rogers, C. R. (1957). The necessary and sufficient conditions of therapeutic personality change. Journal of Consulting Psychology, 21(2), 95-103.

Schacter, D. L., Gilbert, D. T., & Wegner, D. M. (2017). Psychology (4th ed.). Macmillan.

Vaillant, G. E. (1992). Ego mechanisms of defense: A guide for clinicians and researchers. American Psychiatric Pub.

Wong, A., & Tomer, A. (2016). Existential-Humanistic Psychotherapy in Action: The Empty Chair Technique in Grief Counseling. Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy, 46(4), 237-245.

Yalom, I. D. (1980). Existential psychotherapy. Basic Books.

Let Us write for you! We offer custom paper writing services Order Now.


Criminology Order #: 564575

“ This is exactly what I needed . Thank you so much.”

Joanna David.

Communications and Media Order #: 564566
"Great job, completed quicker than expected. Thank you very much!"

Peggy Smith.

Art Order #: 563708
Thanks a million to the great team.

Harrison James.

"Very efficient definitely recommend this site for help getting your assignments to help"

Hannah Seven