Program Components & FAQs: M.A./Ph.D. Program in Depth Psychology with Specialization in Somatic Studies

Learning Outcomes

Through rigorous, engaged scholarship, Somatic Studies students learn how to think deeply through and with the body, develop skills that strengthen their effectiveness as teachers and practitioners, and engage in transformative practices and fieldwork with the potential to change how we live in the world. Students will:
  • Read, interpret, and critically reflect upon the theories and traditions of depth psychology, remembering the body and recalling its voice.
  • Develop the capacity and skill to maintain awareness of and connection to the unconscious.
  • Learn techniques and practices of dream work, body movement, and active imagination as transformative practices.
  • Develop literacy in the emerging domain of neuroscience as it applies to depth psychology and the mind/body connection.
  • Develop skills in research and writing that support their efforts to articulate and promote new theoretical directions and practical applications.
  • Participate with interdisciplinary scholars and practitioners in an emerging field of study.
  • Create a professional portfolio to enhance existing career skills.
  • Engage in transformative practices and fieldwork projects with the potential to change how we live in the world.

Somatic Studies Program Components


Somatic Studies FAQs

What kinds of theories are students introduced to, and how do these theories work to build a comprehensive theoretical framework in somatic depth psychology?

Students are given a thorough grounding in depth psychology, including Jungian, Freudian, and archetypal orientations.  They are also introduced to the fundamentals of a somatic perspective, and how that perspective has informed scholarly and professional work across a range of territories.

What practical skills will I have when I graduate?

Although students are introduced to a wide range of professional skills over three years of coursework, these skills fall into a relatively small number of categories: strategies for accessing and identifying unconscious material (particularly in the form of dreams, body sensations, or physical symptoms), skills for transforming charged, undeveloped, or painful material (including dreamwork, movement, and active imagination), and strategies for containing and contextualizing material. Students are also taught scholarly writing skills, research skills, and teaching/presentation skills.  Perhaps most importantly, students learn how to think critically and strategically, and to synthesize material across a range of domains in order to create new ideas and practices.

What does the fieldwork component look like?

Dr. Rae Johnson Discusses
Somatic Studies Fieldwork

Beginning in the first year of study, the fieldwork component offers students an important opportunity to apply what they’re learning, and to become more deeply immersed in the issues and communities that they feel called to serve.  Each student is mentored by a designated faculty member to develop a project that harnesses their existing talents and interests to address a community issue or need.

Often, fieldwork projects are a combination of training, volunteering, and participant/observation within a particular setting.  Examples of current student fieldwork projects include the study of interspecies embodiment with rescue elephants in Cambodia, using homeopathy to treat autism, embodied archetypes in substance abuse treatment, and yoga with sex trade survivors in India. Fieldwork projects may also evolve into dissertation research at the doctoral level. 

I understand that students complete 50 hours of depth transformative practice as part of their degree.  What does this entail?

Many traditions within depth psychology understand the process of personal transformation as inherently relational, typically held within the container of a therapeutic relationship with a professional counselor or psychotherapist. These traditions are dynamically linked to the transformative nature of the course material contained within this curriculum. In order to effectively support their transformative journey, students are expected to engage in a minimum of 50 hours of individual counseling or psychotherapy during their coursework. Students must have an approved proposal for these depth transformative practice hours by the end of the fall quarter of the first year and submit documentation of 25 hours of completed therapy by the end of the first year. The remaining 25 hours are to be completed in order to be awarded the MA degree.

I’m interested in the research component of the doctoral program.  How are students supported to conduct research and write a dissertation?

The program includes a series of research courses that develop student’s literacy and skill in research methods, including those forms of inquiry most commonly used in somatic depth psychology. Courses in scholarly writing and dissertation development support students to engage in the task of developing a research question, conducting an original study, and writing a doctoral dissertation.

What kinds of students does this program attract?

Given the interdisciplinary focus of the program, students are drawn from the full range of somatic practices as well as from psychology.  Current students include massage therapists, yoga teachers, and bodyworkers; others are counselors, therapists, or coaches.  Acupuncturists, homeopaths, and physical therapists are attracted to the program for its inclusion of holistic health perspectives.  Students come from other backgrounds as well, including visual and performing arts, writing, public media, environmental studies, and community activism.

What kinds of work do graduates pursue?

Many of our students are already qualified to practice in a profession (such as counseling, health care, or education) that they further develop through their graduate studies.  They continue to practice within those professions upon graduation, but at an advanced level that may include training or supervising other professionals.  Other students use the program to cultivate current passions in order to apply them to a particular project, such as a community non-profit or a consulting practice.  Graduates of the doctoral program may choose to pursue academic careers, teaching in higher education or engaging in post-doctoral research.

Are there other key features of the program that I should know about?

Like the other programs at Pacifica, students in the somatic studies concentration learn in cohorts during three-day monthly residential sessions.  They rave about the beautiful natural surroundings of the Pacifica campus, the intimacy and warmth of cohort-based learning, the quality of the teaching faculty, and the opportunity to engage in somatic depth transformative practice while earning a graduate degree.

Do I need to move to Santa Barbara to attend this program?

Most of our students do not live in Santa Barbara. They travel from a wide variety of states and countries to attend nine 3-day sessions (October-July) each year. Pacifica has this unusual design to allow people to carry on their work , community, and family commitments in their home locations.

How long is the program?

Students attend classes for three years. Each year classes are held for nine 3-day sessions (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday) on campus, and community and ecological fieldwork is conducted in a location that makes sense for an individual student's area of interest. Classes are held mornings, afternoons, and some evenings. As indicated above, the M.A. is awarded after two full years of coursework, while the Ph.D. is granted after three years of coursework and the successful defense of a dissertation. Dissertation work is ordinarily accomplished in the 4th and 5th years and does not require on campus presence, except for the oral defense.

What is the general format of classes?

Most courses are a combination of lecture, discussion formats, and experiential activities. Some include a partial seminar format in which students make short presentations on topics they are researching for the course. Students can expect to encounter a variety of pedagogical styles during the course of their enrollment in the program.

How much work is required outside of class?

Class assignments consist of readings, papers, and/or projects. As a general rule, for every hour in class there is approximately three hours of work outside of class. However, the amount of time a given student invests in his or her course work can vary a good deal and depends upon a variety of factors such as learning style and study habits.

What types of financial assistance are available to students in the Somatic Studies Specialization?

Pacifica offers a range of scholarship and other funding opportunities. For more detailed information about the financial assistance opportunities available, including scholarships, feel free to contact the Financial Aid Office by phone at ext. 197, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or the online financial aid contact form.

249 Lambert Road, Carpinteria, California, 93013 | Telephone: 805.969.3626