Shadow Work In Therapy: How Does It Work?

Shadow Work helps you know yourself on such a deep level. It can give you access to your subconscious in ways you never dreamed of, but it can also be a daunting task. 

You can do it alone, but you don’t have to.

There are lots of benefits from working with a Shadow Work Therapist. 

In the rest of this article, I will be sharing what you Shadow Work in a therapeutic setting can look like. Methods and what to look for when looking for a therapist

How is Shadow Work Used in Therapy

Therapy can be a great asset if you are exploring your Shadow. The therapist will work with you to create a secure environment where shadows may be uncovered, healed, and integrated. This can be done through talk therapy, dream analysis, and other methods.

Shadow Work can bring about profound change, but it can also be a struggle. Shadow Work is about exploring the repressed aspects of your identity. The parts of yourself you push away and try not to deal with. 

I like how one of the participants in a study of the Shadow by Lesley University put it:

“My understanding of shadow is what I would call my hidden reaction to things or how I would react or act when no one is looking.”

Because of this, shadow work can bring up past trauma, and it can be helpful to have an ally on your side. Having a Therapist can make it a more accessible and safer process for you. 

Learn More: Ultimate Starter Guide to Shadow Work

In the rest of this article, we will be exploring how Shadow Work is used in therapeutic settings and things to look out for when looking for a therapist. 

Shadow Work Therapy Methods

White Board with lines pointing to therapy methods of Dreamwork, Archetypes, and Somatic Therapy

Our Shadow is made when we push things outside our conscious mind, like repressing a memory. 

This happens all the time. 

A good example would be when a friend asks for help, and you don’t follow through. You might think it’s nothing but end up doing it over and over. 

This makes your friend upset, but you keep pushing the memory of it in your Shadow —making your conscious mind feel like there is nothing wrong. 

If you keep running into these problems repeatedly, you will need a method to uncover the unconscious behaviors that are lurking in your subconscious. 

Here are a few therapeutic methods used to explore the subconscious: 

  • Dream Work
  • Archetypes
  • Inner Child Work
  • mind/body/spirit connection 
  • Somatic Therapy
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Parts Work
  • Internal Family Systems

These methods can help you uncover what you have pushed into your Shadow. Bringing these behaviors and memories to the conscious mind is how you Integrate the Shadow. 

The therapist will generally specialize in one or two of these methods. You will have to experiment and see which one works best for you. 

What to expect from Shadow Work Therapy

When you start down the path of discovering your Shadow, a lot can start coming up to the surface. 

That is because you allow the repressed aspects of your identity to come forward. 

During a therapy session, you might experience past traumas, become confused, or even upset. Often, this is because your ego is trying to protect you from what it perceives as negative. 

The goal of therapy is to make a safe space for you to explore these parts of yourself and use tools to calm down the nervous system when it becomes overwhelming. 

Therapist sitting down on coach with notes talking to women.

At first, it can feel like a lot of work, but releasing your Shadow can give you a burst of energy over time. 

A few months ago, I realized some shame and guilt I had pushed into my Shadow. I took a week to unpack and integrate this part of myself. The following week I had one of the best weeks of the entire year. Releasing that emotional weight felt terrific. 

When you do Shadow Work long enough, you will begin to feel benefits like this. 

How long does shadow work take?

During therapy, a common question comes up during therapy, “How long do I have to do shadow work?”

Every situation is different, but the first year or so is the hardest part in general. If you can stick through it, eventually, you will learn the process and do a lot of the work on your own. 

study at the University Basel found, “These significant changes are reached by Jungian therapy with an average of 90 sessions.” That would average out to one session a week for two years. 

Some people will need fewer sessions, while others might need more. 

It’s best to talk to a therapist and get their opinion on your particular circumstance. 

I also wrote an article on understanding the timeline for Shadow Work.

How to find a Shadow Work therapist

So, you are interested in working with a therapist. 

The first thing you might be wondering is where do you find the right one for you?

Finding the right therapist can take time. It’s about the right chemistry, finding a method that works for you, and someone that fits your needs. 

Here are a few tips in finding a Shadow Work Therapist:

  • Ask someone you trust – One of the best things you can do is ask your friends for a recommendation. There are so many people out there, so getting a trusted reference helps a lot. Oh… and talking about therapy is totally normal.
  • Check the American Psychological Association  – Finding a trusted professional is also essential. The APA is a great resource. 
  • Look for a Depth Psychologist Near You – Carl Jung developed the theory of the Shadow, and Depth Psychology was born out of his work. If you are interested in Shadow Work, I highly suggest a therapist that is trained in this method. 

What to look for in a Shadow Work Therapist

Some attributes are helpful for your therapist to have when doing Shadow Work. 

The first thing would be that they are trained in some of the Methods stated above. 

In my own experience, I have liked Archetypes, Dreamwork, and Somatic Therapy for Shadow Work. 

Another important thing is to make sure the therapist is well versed in Shadow Work. It seems obvious, but someone might work with a different therapeutic method, so double-check. 

Red Flags: Signs to look out for with a Shadow Work Therapist

Red Flag in feild

Over the years, I have had some amazing therapists and some horrible experiences. A bad therapist can slow down your progress and sometimes make it a lot harder. 

Here are a few of the red flags I look for when finding a therapist:

  • Therapist talks a lot about themselves
  • They give way too much personal advice
  • Pressures you to have a lot of sessions
  • The therapist is not on time
  • Watch out for Life Couches (More below)

That last one might be a little edgy for some people.

The reason I say to watch out for life couches is you want to work with a trained professional. There is also a LOT more to therapy than just taking an online course to become a life coach. 

A good therapist needs to be aware of patient-client dynamics. They are also trained on racism, classism, and understanding power dynamics complexities. 

That’s why therapists are supervised for the first years while they gain enough clinic hours. The work is very nuanced, and most life couches don’t have the depth of training. 

Working with a life coach can be helpful, but if you are considering getting professional help, I would advise you to work with a recognized Therapist. 

In Conclusion:

Shadow Work can help you unravel your limiting beliefs, unlocking stuck energy that might be holding you back.

I have seen the power of Shadow Work in my own life and with hundreds of people through my work with HeroRise. 

If you are new to Shadow Work and have never experienced therapy, then I highly suggest finding the right therapist to work with. They can help speed up the process and become a reliable anchor for the journey. 

You can do Shadow Work alone or with friends, but if you have the resources, I think it is great to work with a therapist. 

If you are interested in learning more about the Shadow, Check out these three articles:

Isaac Cotec
Isaac Cotec
Creator of HeroRise, Isaac Cotec has dedicated his life to empowering others through art and creativity. He is a scholar of the subconscious and has studied the power of symbolism to help create enduring change.