Brief and in-Depth Analytical Psychology in the 21st Century

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Brief and in-Depth Analytical Psychology in the 21st Century







                               ‘BRIEF AND IN-DEPTH’



August 10, 2016

Jill Fischer, PsyA, APRN, IAAP










Neurosis -A diminished or disturbed process of adaptation upsetting the balance by neglecting the outside in favor of the inside or vice versa.

                                                                                 ~CW18, par.1804-1089


Existing society is the point of transition through which all world development passes and demands the highest collaborative achievement from every individual.

                                                                                          ~CW18, par.1089


Political, economic and social unrest, contradictions, change and uncertainty have always influenced the course of history. Today we are forced to ask ourselves, what happens in a world in turmoil with Brexit, in a world where rampant fear from terrorism pervades countries like France, Belgium, India, and a failed coup results in massive purges in Turkey? In the United States a presidential candidate vows to build walls, profile Moslems, and block the entry of immigrants, while saying he would ask Congress to declare an all-out war on ISIS. We are bombarded by these events and stymied by technology advances, including social media, which have dramatically altered the way we communicate.

I ponder these global issues while maintaining a strong foothold in my analytic roots and their affinity with dreaming. As a pragmatist and optimist, psychological adaptation (CW18, 1084-1106), the ability to dialogue with and embrace contradictions, “symbols of deeper and more fertile forces” (Kazin 2011) eclipses any sense I have of desperation or resignation. Dreaming is part of an adaptive system and ‘Brief and In-Depth’ analytic work is a method that embodies this psychoanalytic tradition while offering a wider application at a time when adaptation to constant change is essential. We are part of the greatest migration of peoples since the 7th century and that promises to accelerate, when the refugees of climate change are added to the refugees of war (Bosnak 2016 per. comm.,16 July).


1.‘Brief and In-Depth’ Defined

‘Brief and In-Depth’ analysis, a radically new approach to short-term therapy, privileges working with dreams and/or memories to foster a psychological adaptation better suited to an individual’s current inner and outer condition.

When distinguishing it from other forms of short-term work, ‘Brief and In-Depth’ focuses on ground-up unconscious processes, rather than a top-down cognitive approach to brief treatment. For a series of eight to ten consecutive weeks both analyst and analysand meet in 90 minute sessions to explore an intractable core issue. Based on the Embodied Imagination® method of working with dreams developed by Robert Bosnak (2007), ‘Brief and In-Depth’ analysis views imagery – dreams and memories – as embodied environments in which we find ourselves. Bypassing the intellect, the images and their bodily responses take center stage as they illuminate the analysand’s situation and become a catalyst for change. Combined with the latest research in neuroscience on bodily based emotions, the implicit right brain, and adaptive functioning (Schore, 2010, pp.177-202) along with the use of ancient, Asklepian dream incubation practices, a 2000-year-old tradition of healing, ‘Brief and In-Depth has provided individuals with solutions to psychological and relational problems, it has demonstrated healing responses in people with physical illness (www.santabarbarahealingsanctuary.com), and has given rise to creative bursts in artists.


  1. Historical Roots

The basic theoretical and psychoanalytic treatment approaches to short-term work would not have been possible without the major contributions of Freud, Jung, Ferenczi, Rank, Alexander, and French. It was inconceivable for these men to think of conducting an analysis without encouraging their analysands to become aware of their dreams and how their own lived experiences were influenced by the reality of the dynamic unconscious.

Documented examples abound of therapies being successfully completed in a matter of weeks or months rather than years.  In 1906, the world-renowned musician, Bruno Walter’s, paralyzed right arm was successfully treated, by Freud, in six sessions. Wilhelm Reich was referred a case by Freud with the instructions: “impotence, three months” (Reich, 1967, p.59), and the famous analyst, Sandor Ferenczi was analyzed by Freud in 6 weeks, three in 1914 and three in 1916 (Budman and Gurman, 1988, p.1).

Researching Jung’s Collected Works revealed similar instances of brief work. One short-term case was described in 1906 when conducting his Word Association experiments. That ground-breaking analysis was carried out every other day for only three weeks, with each session lasting no more than two hours (CW2, par.722).

It is not well known, but Freud thought of Jung, as a pioneer in short-term therapy (Roazen, 1992, p.276). Jung spread out the number of sessions he had with any one patient to one or two a week. He would break off treatment every 10 weeks, in order to send a patient back to his normal milieu. In this way patients, would not be alienated from their outer world. Jung believed that shortening the analysis promoted healing, that providing short-term help, instead of a full-scale analysis, was not short changing patients. He felt that in many situations it might be the best form of treatment (CW16, par.26).

Foremost in modern brief treatment was the work of psychoanalyst Franz Alexander who responded to the crisis of World War II by creating therapies to treat patients, rapidly. In 1944 Grinker and Spiegel, worked with soldiers suffering from shell shock and battle fatigue and Eric Lindemann, worked with survivors of the Coconut Grove fire (Budman and Gurman, 1988, pp.2-3). All of these men turned to the active short-term therapies of Jung, Ferenczi and Rank.

Alexander, in collaboration with fellow analyst, Thomas Merton French, in 1946, published Psychoanalytic Therapy, a highly influential study on brief

treatment. They found that: Depth was not equivalent to the length and frequency of psychoanalytic sessions; that a reduced number of sessions did not make treatment superficial or temporary; that every therapy which increased the integrative function of the ego by exposing unconscious conflicts was called psychoanalytic, whether it was for one or two interviews, several weeks, months, or years. In addition, prolonged treatment did not mean stability or a more profound experience; and in a more prolonged therapy, resistances were not necessarily overcome (Alexander and French, 1946, p.vi).


  1. Brief and In-Depth Analysis

In 2000, inspired by the practice of Jung and fellow analysts who worked with individuals travelling to Switzerland for a week-long intensive analysis, Jungian analysts, Robert Bosnak and Heyong Shen discussed instituting and teaching a similar model to analytic students in Guangzhou, China. I became part of this initiative in 2003 and then I expanded and refined that original model. ‘Brief and In-Depth’ analysis is presently an important part of my own analytic practice and the primary method that is used to work with the dreams of individuals who attend the Santa Barbara and Malinalco Healing Sanctuaries.


  1. Brief and In-Depth Analysis – Michael’s Story

The following describes the structure of ‘Brief and In-Depth’ analysis and illustrates how, over eight, ninety minute sessions, a man’s rigid style of relating to women moved into a new, more flexible and adaptive, relationship with Woman.

Michael is a 65-year-old, twice divorced, ex-Marine and a retired psychologist/college professor. He had been in therapy periodically throughout his life. His last analysis was in 2009 when his marriage was failing. That work centered on a father complex and what Michael called a “malignant masculine.” This malignancy with its aggressive and competitive components was related to Michael’s compulsive focus on the game of handball and his traumatic relationship with his father.

The culmination of that work led to Michael winning an important handball tournament as he let the game “take him by the hand” and guide him to victory.

In 2011 we started ‘Brief and In-Depth’ analysis. Michael felt that his previous analytic work had ignored “the feminine”, his relationship with women. He had never fully explored two divorces and his present feelings of extreme loneliness.

In preparation for our work, Michael started a ritual cleansing, reminiscent of the supplicants who attended the healing sanctuaries of ancient Greece. Michael focused on gathering information about his family and took a cargo/cruise ship for seven days along the coast of Norway, a kind of “roots trip” guided by a genealogist. With no one to share this event, it was a lonely but necessary journey, a step out of his everyday world, an initiatory experience in preparation for the deeper psychological work ahead.

Back home, Michael started a yoga practice and began drawing on “the right side of the brain” to quiet his analytic mind. He hoped to melt, what he called, his “frozen body,” a dissociated state that manifested in competitive situations. Michael even attempted some brief dating but quickly became aware of his intellectual snobbishness and xenophobic feelings of ‘repulsion’ towards women.

A book by Robert E. Carter, The Japanese Arts and Self-Cultivation, attracted Michael’s attention. It was Carter’s ideas about becoming more “at home” in the oneness of self-other-cosmos that impressed him the most. It was this “at-homeness” Michael was striving for. He had never felt “at home” within himself and more importantly, in his body. He remembered his mother telling him he was “too good for” and “did not belong with” men like those in   his father’s family who were vulgar, lonely, “commoners” – beneath him, her exalted child, whom she believed was separate from others. Carter made Michael aware that, what is wrong and useless is the belief that you are an individual separate from others. He helped Michael start to value the “other” and our interconnectedness – “we are all manifestations of the creative force of the universe itself” (Carter, 2008, p.21).

Carter’s idea of “impermanence” touched our retiree deeply. He became aware of the preciousness of life precisely because it is precarious. “Don’t wait for tomorrow. Simply heat the water wholeheartedly – in wholeness of heart. This could be the last opportunity one has” (Carter, 2008).

Not everyone prepares for analytic work with this kind of depth but Michael was clearly feeling intense pain and a need to adapt a psychological attitude that would better suit his current inner and outer condition.

  1. ‘Brief and In-Depth’ Begins

Michael and I spent the first half of our initial session reviewing his history, his intent, and his determination to explore his relationship with women. He had become discouraged in his attempt to date. “My life is good, I fill my days with reading, discussion groups, and playing handball but my inability to find a satisfying female relationship persists.”

In order to stimulate his internal clock, we also discussed time…the length of each session, the days we will meet, and a termination date.

The second half of the session was spent helping Michael create an incubation body to take to sleep, a body to set the analytic process in motion and hopefully attract a dream that would respond to his need for help.

Incubation implies lying down and gestating in the dark. Heat hatches new living creatures. In ancient dream incubation, ritual sleep hatched potent dreams to initiate the dreamer in special wisdom (Patton, 2004, pp.194-196). In ‘Brief and In- Depth’, the analysand’s ability to move towards a more adaptive stance involves harvesting and incubating an on-going series of dreams or memories related to the core issue.

Michael did not have a dream but remembered an actual situation that highlighted his current difficulties. This event took place in an “elegant” restaurant. Michael wanted to impress his dinner date. To appear interested and not the boring individual his ex-wife complained of, Michael decided to question his date about her relationship with her father, “a right wing, Military Colonel.” His date started to feel he was interrogating her. Needless to say, the questioning continued until she said, “You’re a psychologist – STOP – I don’t want you to psychoanalyze me.”

Working this memory, as I would a dream, I initially helped Michael focus his attention inside, on his body, as he moved into a hypnagogic state (that place between waking and dreaming). Michael easily flashed back into the environment of the restaurant, sitting with his date, while at the same time fully aware he was sitting in the room working with me. He was in a state of dual consciousness. Research has revealed that in this state of deep immersion the front of our brains tells us over and over, this can’t be real. But the back of the brain, the part charged with basic survival cannot differentiate. “If it looks real, if it sounds real, it treats the experience as real” (Bookman, 2016).

Slowing down the work, I joined Michael as he entered into the atmosphere of the restaurant. I asked several descriptive questions to help him articulate his affective and proprioceptive experience. The warmth and beauty of the environment surrounded him from the top of his shoulders down the length of his arms. This affective experience was carefully anchored, planted in the arms like seeds, creating a sense memory to be easily recalled when Michael was ready to move into and practice his incubation body.

Next, we worked on and anchored Michael’s feelings of anxiety as he “interrogated” his date. These feelings were experienced as a hollowness in his chest, behind the heart, that moved into a nauseous belly.

Lastly, and unique to Embodied Imagination® and ‘Brief and In-Depth analysis, we worked with an ego-alien image, “the other”, the woman in the memory. In dreams and memories, we experience a multiplicity of autonomous states. Many characters, with their own interior life and subjectivity, inhabit our dreams. The technique used to transit or enter the perspective of “the other” is called mimesis (Taussig, 1992). Walter Benjamin described mimesis as our natural compulsion to copy or imitate (mime) others or other states (Benjamin, 1978). In this memory, Michael is sitting at the table with his date.  I began by asking Michael to closely observe his date as if looking though a telephoto lens. Her posture and hands attracted his attention. He was then directed to slowly copy her posture and the movement of those hands. This is called “interior miming”. Focusing on and internalizing these very subtle movements and gestures allowed Michael to abandon himself to the image as he seamlessly slipped into his date’s perspective and began to know “other”, to have the subjective experience of “other”. This woman’s hands and their need to distance from Michael’s questioning, as he sat opposite her, became magnified as we anchored them in the body of the woman. This experience had a major impact on Michael, making him conscious of the experience of “the other” that up until now was completely unknown. He was able to empathize with her distress.

By rehearsing and embodying each of these anchored sense memories… (the beautiful surroundings in the shoulders down the arms, the anxiety from the hollow chest into the nauseous belly, and the hands of the woman pushing Michael away), the seeds of Michael’s first incubation were planted.

The Incubation Practice:  Michael was asked to rehearse and meditate on the composite of incubated images for 20 minutes a day, no more and no less (Kosslyn, 2008, p.40). [This can be divided into five minute intervals.] Then before bed, he was directed to move back into the images for only five seconds so his sleep would not be disturbed. Upon waking, he was asked to record any dreams or images that emerged.


  1. Michael’s Initial Dream – The Second Session

In the second – fourth session there is a general unfolding of the work and a dissolution of fixed positions and boundaries.

Each session involves working a network of images from a new dream or memory, which contains some aspect of the initial problem. The images, with their attendant body states then form the weekly incubation practice that will hopefully stimulate a new dream or memory for the next session.

Jung quoting Stanley Hall, stated: “The analytic procedure when it includes a systematic dream-analysis, is a “process of quickened maturation” (CW8, par.552).

Having followed through with incubating the memory we had worked in the 1st session, Michael brought the following dream to our second session:

“I am at a car dealership. A very attractive younger woman, a salesperson, notices me, dream Michael, glancing at some automobiles. She walks over, introduces herself and offers to help. We soon find ourselves engrossed in a conversation when this woman reaches over and kisses me on the nose. It’s playful and affectionate. I immediately jump back and distance myself from her, rejecting the kiss, and label it a sales pitch. I want nothing to do with her. However, it is hard to deny my physical reaction and longing to be touched in this tender way. As I leave, I notice the same saleswoman kiss another. I experience some jealousy but then decide to return. After all, I want to look at another car.”

Michael’s initial dream was followed (in the next five sessions) by one dream after another in which he encounters various women, even those who resembled his former wives, in different states of dress and undress. Each woman expressed positive feelings of attraction and affection. Michael, on the other hand, consistently rejected, and pushed these women away; calling himself a criticizing “ghoul.” These women were not pretty enough, not intelligent enough, boring and he was repulsed. Michael admitted that it was hard to embody and identify with the perspectives of women who were looking at this “condescending” guy. However, he did say, “It was extremely constructive even if difficult and painful.”

From a counter-transferential perspective it was initially difficult to sit with Michael’s critical and inflated attitude toward women. But, I was not deterred from helping him work the ego-alien images and their visceral responses, that allowed him to adapt to and contain an underlying grief, fear, and sadness. Slowly the distress started to transform and reveal a highly vulnerable, sensitive, tender man with feelings he could no longer deny.

In the fifth – seventh session of ‘Brief and In-Depth’ there is a deepening and more concentrated processing of the work both in and outside the analytical container. The analysand is also reminded, in the sixth session, the end is near. This reinforces that internal clock and helps maintain the intensity and urgency of the work.

Michael, in commenting about his work stated: “The first six sessions were the guts of the work, with me trying to stay with the contrasts and find a way into the perspective of those dream women and their attitudes towards this dream Michael and his ‘get away from me’ distress. Then, in the spring, my 32-year-old daughter had her first baby and I spent time with her. She began to pressure me saying, ‘Dad, if you’re going to complain about being lonely, do something, we’re sick of listening to you.’ Then she said to me, ‘All my single friends are on eHarmony. I’m not going to listen to you until you tell me you’re on eHarmony.’ And so, another part of what I brought to the work was my steadfast terror, reluctance, and resistance to do that. ‘eHarmony is not for me. I don’t like that site. I’m too old.’ So, by the end of the work, right before our eighth session I was on eHarmony.”

Alexander and French state: The sooner a patient translates the analysis into actual life experiences, the faster treatment will progress (Alexander and French, 1946, p.33).

Initially, Michael had to fill out a profile and receive matches, almost none of which were in Boston. He was chagrined but also relieved because he thought.” Well I’ve been looking and haven’t met anybody, and even eHarmony can’t find anyone for me.” However, by our last session Michael had met a woman whom he was very fond of. In the weeks that followed our termination the relationship continued to grow. They moved in together and as of this date, they are married!!! Michael wrote… “I’m good in handball and now LOVE.”

In the last session, there is a general review of the work with the goal of supporting a more adaptive, resilient and flexible ego. The analysand is once again encouraged to translate what has evolved during treatment into the actual experiences of everyday life.

Michael went on to say, “To take ‘Brief and In- Depth’ into life really put the work to a test and I found it moved me out of someplace where I had been stuck. So, for me, thank you. I’ve said that before. But it has been extraordinarily useful. It was useful because I am now much more in touch with the side of my character that found ways to reject, rebuff, and push away women. Now I’m in a wonderful relationship with Woman…. I’m in love.”

Jung reminds us:

The new attitude gained during an analysis tends sooner or later to become inadequate in some way, and necessarily so. The constant flow of life demands fresh adaptation. “Adaptation is never achieved once and for all…. Man needs difficulties; they are necessary for health” (CW8, par.143).






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Bosnak, Robert (2007). Embodiment: Creative Imagination in Medicine, Art and Travel. London: Routledge.

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Carter, Robert (2008) The Japanese Arts and Self-Cultivation. New York: State University of New York Press.

Jung, C.G. Collected Works. Vols. 2, 8, 16, 18, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

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Patton, Kimberly (2004): “A Great and Strange Correction: Intentionality, Locality and Epiphany in the Category of Dream Incubation” History of Religions, pp. 194-223. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

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Taussig, Michael (1992) Mimesis and Alterity: A Particular History of the Senses. New York: Routledge.