Fields and applications

Psychological morphology brings something to the most diverse areas of human life. Its theory and methods are applied to cultural history, to processes in business and product development, to media, advertising, art and film. Many morphologists are also active today in developmental psychology and psychotherapy.

Psychological morphologists work as market researchers and management consultants in the free economy. They are active in cultural and everyday research or work with concepts of morphology in psychotherapy and education. The film industry likes to draw on the expertise of morphologists in the development of material and formats. Even in art museums, morphologists help people to understand art through their own experience.

What all users of psychological morphology have in common is that they see their objects as complicated enterprises that try to understand and treat themselves in the given culture. In their investigations and in their consulting projects they not only work out unconscious causal relationships, but also translate these into concrete steps of action, works and prognoses.

"There is nothing more practical than a good theory" (Kurt Lewin)

An overview of the most important morphological institutes, the psychotherapeutic practices where morphologists work, reflects the wide range of applications of this research field.


From the research of effect processes in everyday life and art, from investigations into the development of Sigmund Freud's psychology, a separate form of morphological psychotherapy has emerged. It finds its model in art and uses its mechanisms to intensify treatment processes.

In the 1970s it was developed as an "intensive consultation" by Wilhelm Salber and employees of the Psychological Institute of the University of Cologne. Since then, numerous psychologists have been trained in regular training courses, today also within the framework of the Psychotherapist Act. What they have in common is that their work with patients is explicitly oriented towards a structural concept of treatment.

"The only power a psychological treatment can rely on is the effectiveness of the soul itself." (Wilhelm Salve)


The occupation of psychological morphology with the concept of culture arose in connection with the development of three lines of research: the development of the psychology of the units of action into a concept of self-treatment of the mental, the tracing back of self-treatment to cultural history and the discovery of the core of self-treatment in the narrative patterns of cultures.

With the discovery of the self-treatment of the soul, complex relationships (figurations, patterns of transformation) in the culture of everyday life, the media, the economy (products, brands, organisations) became clear. Salber found the models in the changing conditions of cultural history ("soul revolution"), in which such patterns are lived completely in each case (object occupations/totemism, patriarchy/Judaism, orderly power/Roman, reversal of all values/early Christianity etc.). In its (eternal) narratives, the soul revolution preserves the core problems of cultivation. Myths and fairy tales became an aid to order, making the scope of cultural psychological phenomena narratable with the help of about thirty basic patterns (to be found in Grimm's fairy tales).

Morphological psychology is cultural psychology in all its manifestations because, unlike natural or social science approaches, it understands the expression of the soul as cultivation. However, Salber does not speak of cultural psychology until the 1980s - primarily in connection with the founding of the Society for Cultural Psychology. For further information see the following LINK.

Theodor Lessing in 1925: 
For our unnatural, self-righteous community, which is no longer bound by the element, but which, as if walled in by form and art, lives blindly past the wealth of forms of life, plants, animals, clouds and wind, again and again she, the melancholy Medusa, sees in it own sadly stared face.


For psychological morphology, units of action that comprise the psychological and the representational are a methodological and theoretical point of reference for understanding products, markets and media. A new approach to market and media analysis has emerged, which has been very successful alongside the quantitatively oriented research mainstream.

Morphological market and media research takes a holistic view of interrelationships and uses interviews and descriptions to find out about consumers' actual manners. In addition to unconscious effects, it also takes into account overarching causal relationships of contemporary everyday culture. It examines the "hinterland" from which the movements of the market emerge. Because only if this is known can decisive intervention and change be made.


When many people work together to create a common work, we speak of a company. The social production conditions set in motion a variety of enterprises, where human productions act as a driving force, as co-creators, inventors, supporters of the enterprise - far beyond all conscious organizational plans. Of particular interest and decisive for the image of the overall culture are commercial enterprises.

However, it is precisely under these human conditions that can also become a troublemaker, creating resistance, making unconscious symbols independent and acting as an enemy of the company's goals. How the whole thing is connected, what is secretly going on there, what paradoxes arouse astonishment: this is what psychological morphology deals with - because it is vital for the existence of companies.

"I think now, looking back, we did not fight the enemy, we fought ourselves and the enemy was in us." (Platoon, 1986)


For psychological morphology, art is the "royal road" to understanding the soul. For it is not rational or mathematical laws that apply to the psyche, but aesthetic laws. The description of works of art therefore leads directly to insights into the construction problems of mental undertakings.

In exchange with art, psychology opens up a different view of reality. But art also benefits from psychology. For morphological art psychology records the changes that follow in the way art is handled. In this way, form formations become visible which we have always been walking, but which we could never imagine so vividly without art. Wilhelm Salber has published work studies of numerous artists: Saul Steinberg (1974), Wolf Vostell (1977), Karl Junker (1978), Edward Hopper (1992), Francisco Goya (1994), Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (2011). Morphologists offer guided tours in museums that focus on the experience of the exhibited paintings.

"For art you need a chair." (Paul Klee)


Very early on, psychological morphology discovered the film as a "colleague". For similar to their everyday investigations, films penetrate the construction problems of reality and make them comprehensible at original speed. While morphology initially understood film effects as a "complex development", in recent years it has increasingly begun to emphasize mythical fulcrums as its structuring core.

Film impact analyses have been carried out and published since the 1960s. At that time, Wilhelm Salber entered the discussion about the scandalous film with a highly regarded work The Silence one. Since the 1980s, films by morphologists have been exchanged with the currents of contemporary everyday culture. They are seen as a "mirror" in which self-treatments of culture are expressed and tested. Morphologists are now active in the film industry in an advisory capacity and engage in a lively exchange with representatives of the steadily growing field of film psychoanalysis.

"The cinema film ... physically and 'metaphysically' exposes the audience to its own audiovisual movement, which can lead to an attack on their bodily-mental balance. (Martin Seel)