Ripple in water with LGBT flag in reflection

Jungian Therapy in the LGBT Community

What is Jungian Therapy?

Psychotherapy Today describe Jungian Therapy as 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.

Why Jungian Therapy?

A Jungian approach to therapy has the potential to offer much to members of the LGBT community who are seeking therapy.

The central focus of the sessions are to enable an individual woman or man to achieve wholeness (individuation in Jungian terms) – it takes a whole life perspective.

By this, I do not mean that the aim is for everything to be sorted out, and for the person to live happily ever after.

The concept of wholeness includes confusion and chaos, dark as well as light. Most importantly, it includes an acceptance of a person’s shadow.

As you probably guessed, I don’t mean a person’s shadow in the sense of a blocking of light creating a dark area. In accepting their shadow, the individual has come to accept those aspects of themselves that have been denied or feared. This can and may well include positives as well as negatives.

For example, a conscious fear of failure or envy of another’s success might well be blocking an unconscious fear of succeeding and becoming visible.

A Jungian approach attempts to move beyond a mere understanding of opposites in the psyche to holding the ‘tension between claims and tendencies towards diversity’ (Samuels 1989: 4).

In order to gain a greater understanding of that which has contributed to the client’s distress, the therapist must let go of the idea of being the one who knows and accept the feeling of not knowing.

In this process an area called ‘the field‘ becomes constellated, in which something new, belonging to neither the client nor the therapist emerges.

It is this joint contemplation between client and therapist in the field that leads to a greater understanding of what has previous been denied (the shadow).

A Case Study

Please note that any names in the following case study have been changed and explicit permission was sought from the client before writing.

Jeanette is a young woman who has been coming to counselling for about 14 months at the time this case study was written.

Her presenting problem was a deep, almost suicidal (at times) despair.

There were many contributing factors to this, including a difficult relationship with her partner and an extremely problematic relationship with her family, who do not know that she is lesbian.

We had spoken much about the impossibility of her coming out to her extended family because of the strong homophobia that she would encounter if she did.

Her despair is a response to her sense of alienation from her community and her equally strong sense of being an outsider in the white world.

We could describe her inner emptiness as a loss of soul. Which is why much of our work together focused on connecting the soul.

By this I mean, enabling Jeanette to find a way of holding on to her cultural and spiritual roots while at the same time valuing herself as a lesbian, even when she encounters hostility from the outside world.

Jeanette feared to be assertive because she is terrified of her own rage, fearing that it could annihilate others. As a result she has been passive and unable to protect herself from the tyranny of others, including her partner.

As Jeanette learned to integrate her animus (the unconscious masculine side of a woman) and value the energy it releases in her, she has been better able to prevent others from violating her.

Jeanette was quite clear that the relationship with me, in which she can feel held as she encounters her inner emptiness has been instrumental in keeping her out of a psychiatric hospital.

Both Jeanette and I know of others who have fallen between the cracks of two cultures, experiencing homophobia in the one and racism in the other, without the kind of support that could’ve helped them to make sense of their inner splits and whose lives have been devastated as a result.

Closing Thoughts

Not everything can be put down to a problem of sexual orientation. We have other issues as well that are to do with other aspects of our lives that may have nothing to do with our sexual orientation.

It is my view that an approach that seeks to enable to individual to become more fully themselves, must be valuable for all.

Jung’s insistence that the therapist must put aside their own prejudices and values in order to understand the clients’ is something I believe very strongly in and integrate into all of my sessions.