Questions Students Have Asked Over the Years

How are students assigned to fieldwork advisors?

In the first year students are randomly assigned to the first year advisors, unless there is a clear confluence known between the student's area of fieldwork and an available faculty's expertise or interest.  In the second year each student is assigned to a different faculty advisor so that he/she can benefit from a multiplicity of approaches to depth psychological cultural and ecological work. After fieldwork advisor assignments have been made in the fall, in either the first or second year, a student may for good reason switch advisors but (s)he must find another student to switch with. This insures that fieldwork sections are the same size for faculty.  Please let the fieldwork coordinator and Nina Falls know about such a change.

What is the role of the fieldwork advisor?

Students go through a process of discerning the site of their community fieldwork and the work to be done there, given their interests, biography, and experiences.  The fieldwork advisor is available to help witness this discernment, to host the fieldwork process, to suggest readings and approaches to research, to raise and address ethical concerns, to approve your proposal, to consult with you over the summer (by phone conferencing and email), and to read and offer comments on your final paper.

Does my fieldwork need to involve engagement and communication with other people?

The fieldwork is based on a participatory model that suggests that human encounter is a unique and crucial learning environment in depth psychology.  We are asking students to engage in encounters with others in a depth psychologically informed manner, to reflect and theorize on these encounters in relationship to a theme(s), about which scholarly research is also done over the summer.  Students combine engaged participation in a community with theoretical and reflective work.  Students working in ecopsychology may  include both human and nonhuman encounter (with landscapes, animals, built environments, etc.) in their fieldwork.

Can I do active imagination, reverie, and library research as part of my fieldwork?

Yes. Two-thirds of the fieldwork  (140 hours) can be devoted to these activities, which are crucial to depth psychological approaches. However, one-third  (70 hours) of your field work must involve participation in a pre-existing or convened community of some sort.

I have been active in the public arena for many years.  I need to go inside now and catch up with myself.  Does "fieldwork" allow for this?

Sometimes the desire "to go inside" bespeaks that we have segregated some ways of being to "the inside" and others to "the outside." Often when we are active in the public arena we conduct ourselves in normative ways: managing, organizing, existing often within a hierarchical system, moving quickly and oriented to action and results.  Remember that it is possible to be in the public arena but to shift to a different set of sensitivities encouraged by depth psychology.  Here the above tendencies are bracketed to allow space for deep listening, for suspension of hierarchy so that you can begin to hear into the multiplicity of perspectives present, into the images and metaphors that suffuse the situation.  How could you be part of opening a space in which things can freely arise and be witnessed in depth; in which communal dreaming could unfold, in which desire can begin to be expressed in public space; in which it is possible to watch how power is arranged and how it forms and deforms the interactions and intentions of a community?  Has your presence in the world been as suffused as you would like with an intention to host what freely arises, to be capable of being surprised and changed by what you encounter, of listening for the imaginal dimensions of experience?

For instance, one year a woman active for years in public policy planning and implementation yearned to let go of her highly developed capacities to organize, plan, implement, and evaluate.  She wanted to be part of a situation, not the engine of it.  She wanted to join into something others had planned, and allow herself to "be" instead of being a director.  She picked up a hammer at a Habitat for Humanity project in her summer community in Maine, and listened to the stories of those who came to work on the house and those looking forward to living in it.  She listened for the imagination of Habitat, its dream.  Through her writing she was able to convey the soul of this organization, its dreams and shadow.  She felt refreshed, enlivened, moved by this experience, and held by the community quite differently than she had been before.

In depth fieldwork we are trying to keep "the inside" and "the outside" together, and dissolve whatever false separation we have imposed and practiced.  When a student has chosen to "go on retreat" as part of fieldwork, they have also been attentive to who and what is "going on retreat," to speak to others in the retreat environment (during or after) to understand at both a cultural level and a psychological level what is happening "in retreat."  That is, we try to listen with the eye of the heart wherever we place ourselves, moving between our experience and others' experiences.

Do I have to work with "the marginalized,” “the oppressed”?

Freudian, Jungian, archetypal, and liberation psychologies train us to work most carefully with what and who is found at the margins, what is being extruded, repressed, devalued, neglected.  It is from this vantage point that we can see more clearly what has been taken as normative in ourselves and our culture.  It is often here where suffering and silencing are especially acute.

Every situation has its margins, however.  Engaging with what is at the margin often means making yourself available to what is uncomfortable in a situation, detaching from an identification with the normative power in a situation so you can actually hear more deeply into the multiple points of view that comprise a situation.

To be open to what has been repressed/oppressed/neglected in a situation needn't be synonymous with "working with the oppressed" or  “poor.”  Sometimes what is oppressed in a situation is beauty or joy!  Liberation psychology does give priority to the disenfranchised and the poor, acknowledging the multiple cultural and psychological forces that place these communities at the margins. Wherever you chose to do your fieldwork, look for what has been kept outside the door, out of open view and conversation.

Do I have to do fieldwork in places where there is suffering?

No. While for some students responding to suffering fills a deep sense of vocation, for other students there is a call to explore locations where people are seeking joy, silence, creative expression, the forbidden, or the ecstatic. Karaoke clubs, dance groups, a Harley-Davidson motorcycle cross-country trip for women, a community film class, a quiltmaking community, a spiritually oriented trip for gay men to Macchu Picchu and many other such sites have all been chosen for depth oriented fieldwork and research.  In the past, students have explored through participatory research such activities as community art making, exercise classes, women's support groups, spiritual retreats, dance classes, nature treks, and community gardens.

Do I need to start and finish my fieldwork in the summer?

Ordinarily students do engage in and finish their fieldwork in the summer.  Sometimes a student may need to begin early.  For instance, if you are working within a school, you may need to conduct your work in the spring.  Fieldwork may be commenced as soon as your proposal has been approved (including ethics material, if applicable).  In the fall of the second year students present their fieldwork.  To fully engage in this process it is desirable to have completed your work by September, or certainly by November. Sometimes a student has needed to reserve the summer for a personal reason, and has arranged to do his/her fieldwork in the spring or fall.  If you are not able to complete your fieldwork by the due date at the end of summer, you must submit a request for incomplete.  If you have used all your incompletes, and have not yet completed your fieldwork by the due date, you will receive an F.  This will require you to take a tutorial with your fieldwork advisor to remediate your grade.

I work 24/7 in a depth manner in my day job?  How can I possibly do anymore?

In this case, we are not asking you "to do" more.  We are asking you to bring the depth psychological lenses you are working with in your studies to bear on the experience you are already having and hosting.  For instance, one of our students works with multiple youth choirs in a highly demanding way.  He wants to use the summer to develop theory and practice around depth psychologically oriented choral-based community work.  His reading and reflecting will flow into the work he is already doing, and he will write from this totality of experience.  There may be an unexplored aspect of your job that you have never taken the time to explore.  For instance, a hospice worker convened a support group for his fellow workers, who were used to giving to others, but not to hosting their own experience of working with the dying.

I am a clinician and want to do fieldwork that relates to clinical practice.  What might be some of my options? What kind of work has been done by students like me?

Clinical work is itself done in a cultural context.  Its diagnoses, favored modalities of treatment, availability of treatment, all of its theories and practices, are affected by culture.  Several clinicians in the program have explored understanding a symptom across patients through a cultural lens, and have convened exploratory dialogue groups with people struggling with such symptoms, where the cultural component could be critically examined and worked with on both a personal and a cultural level.

These are a few other kinds of studies clinicians have conducted: how psychiatric inpatient care in Iran differs from American inpatient care; exploring the effects of managed care on depth psychological clinical practice and practitioners; a heuristic study of what is experienced as healing in depth clinical work; the lived internal landscape of anorexia; approaches to milieu treatment for children in residential care was researched through participation on such units and interviews.  Other possible areas of exploration through community participation could include the social construction of diagnostic criteria through participation with an American Psychological Association committee on reviewing the DSM; state and national policy making that effects the provision of psychotherapy; cross-cultural approaches to different symptomatologies, consultation and collaboration with mental health system advocates and survivors.

I am primarily interested in imaginal studies.  What kinds of fieldwork have been done by students such as me?

Dream, vision, and active imagination have all been studied through interview, small group experience, and participation.  Writing groups in prisons, theater work in juvenile halls and psychiatric units, dream groups in women's recovery shelters, and arts-based work in many other settings have enabled students to create spaces where image can emerge and be witnessed.  Sandtray, drama, poetry writing, painting, movement, dreamwork, sculpting have been used as media to be with the unfolding of relation with the imaginal.

How will I be able to tailor my particular needs and interests to an appropriate fieldwork site that is aligned to both my individual interests and the educational goals and objectives of the Depth Psychology Program?


Think of when you are sailing.  You are never on course.  You are always correcting.  Only through these constant corrections do you find your course.  You need to ask yourself, “Am I too personal here, thinking only of my own ‘growth’?  Am I too much like a missionary there, bringing ‘light’ to these people?”  The movement, movement through it, is part of the essence….At any moment as you travel on a circle you can think, “I got it.”  You fix on the point and can easily go off on a tangent.  The plan is the sensitivity…
James Hillman to Depth Program students re. fieldwork, Spring 2000