Pacifica – The Origins and the First 40 Years

With two beautiful campuses, over 3,500 active alumni in the world and nine distinct graduate degree programs.

Pacifica Graduate Institute dates its nearly 40-year life as an educational institution from the 1976 inauguration of a nine-month, paraprofessional “Counseling Skills Certificate” program offered by the Human Relations Center; however the school had its real origin a bit farther back in history. In 1971, the Regents of the University of California provided initial funding for an “Isla Vista Human Relations Center” to meet the mental health needs of the small community immediately adjacent to the University’s Santa Barbara campus. This initial project grew and added a location on Hollister Avenue in nearby Goleta (called the Human Relations Center) to serve the larger Santa Barbara area community. Soon, HRC developed a Peer Counselor Training Program. The program quickly gained support from the University as well as State and County government. Each of those institutions sent many of its students and employees through what became a powerful training experience.

As graduates of the Peer Program asked for further training and supervision, the Counseling Skills Certificate program was born. It built on the basic skills learned during the peer training. Theoretical issues were presented in greater depth as both research and practicum supervision were intensified. These educational programs were offered under the auspices of the newly-named “Human Relations Institute.” The success among the students of both the Peer Counselor program and the Counseling Skills Certificate program and the respect accorded them throughout the community led to the development of the third phase of the Institute’s programming – the Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology. This two-year graduate program continues through this day, combining rigorous academic study with solid clinical experience. The M.A. program was initiated in January, 1982, and received California State approval to grant degrees in April, 1983. Initially, the M.A. program was offered as an evening program, accessible to local area students who attended classes three nights each week.

In 1984, the Institute announced a new M.A. program in Counseling Psychology with emphasis in Depth Psychology. Course work included in-depth studies of Freud, Jung, alchemy, Hippocratic medicine, dream interpretation, mythology, and classical literature. Students in this program attended monthly three-day weekend sessions at the La Casa de Maria Retreat Center on El Bosque Road. This monthly format made it possible for students from all over the United States and Canada to continue their existing life commitments while participating in a unique course of study here in Santa Barbara. Later, classes were also held at the El Encanto and Sheraton Hotels in Santa Barbara.

These educational programs grew to the point that in June, 1986 a private corporation, the Santa Barbara Graduate School, Inc., was formed. Dr. Stephen Aizenstat was the Founding President, and Gary Linker was the Vice President. For identification purposes it maintained the name Human Relations Institute. Dr. Stan Passy was the Institute’s Program Coordinator, and Dr. Marti Glen acted as the Graduate Dean. Soon, the vision of the organization had shifted away from a social service delivery system and toward a graduate institution grounded in the convictions of depth psychology. The Human Relations Center’s social service agency operations were differentiated from the educational function, and the two institutions, HRC and HRI moved forward as completely separate entities.

In the Fall of 1987, the Human Relations Institute inaugurated a fourth phase – a Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology with emphasis in Depth Psychology. Much care and attention took place in the development of a rigorous curriculum that offered a strong academic background in the theories, ethics, methodology, and historical foundations of clinical psychology, as well as providing course work in the effective development of therapeutic skills. Dr. Charles Asher joined the school as the first Program Chair for Clinical Psychology. Phyllis Jackson served as the Registrar, supported by an Assistant to the Registrar, and an Administrative Assistant. The school used the services of an outside bookkeeper. Additional core faculty in those early years included Michael Geis, M.D., Kurt Goerwitz, Ph.D., Russ Revlin, Ph.D., Jonathan Young, Ph.D., and Hendrika de Vries, M.A., an alumna of the school.

The school was evolving, and in the late 1980’s, the Institute began looking for a permanent home. In 1989, the principals found an estate located just below the foothills in coastal Carpinteria, a community a few miles south of Santa Barbara. The Institute was able to acquire that property on Lambert Road and, following extensive renovations, consolidated all of its graduate degree programs at one home. It was time for a name change, and soon the community agreed that the name “Pacifica Graduate Institute” addressed the school’s goal of serving soul in the world and invited the imagination to range over wider realms than the institution’s earlier name.

Early Campus

One of the supporters of the Institute’s vision in the early years was the late mythologist, Joseph Campbell. He offered guidance to the school’s founders and appeared many times as a guest speaker in the Institute’s public conference series. After his death, his widow, Jean Erdman Campbell, felt that Pacifica would be able to carry Campbell’s work into the future and, thus, would be the most appropriate home for his archives. After careful consideration, she donated his 3,000-book library and archival collection to The Center for the Study of Depth Psychology, an independent non-profit organization housed at the Pacifica campus. The Joseph Campbell Archives and Library were installed in the school’s Seminar Building, and the home of the collection was formally dedicated in 1992.

The presence of this unique collection at the Institute and the scholars who were drawn to the continuation of Campbell’s work, led Pacifica to develop a new M.A./Ph.D. program in Mythological Studies which began offering classes in 1994. In keeping with the vision of the school, and that of Joseph Campbell himself, the curriculum of the Mythological Studies program is also framed in the traditions of depth psychology.

In 1995, following several years of careful design efforts, Pacifica announced the development of an innovative and unprecedented doctoral program in Depth Psychology, which examines the philosophical, cultural, and experiential foundations for the depth perspective. Program developers, who included many core faculty members, envisioned a revival of the original motivation of depth psychology: to understand and be sensitive to the forgotten, marginalized dimensions of the cultural-historical soul and to provide voice for the archetypal forces that shape the human condition. The Ph.D. program in Depth Psychology began offering classes in 1996. A short time later, the program was revised slightly to offer a combined M.A./Ph.D. in Depth Psychology.

Since the early years of the school, Pacifica (then HRI) had been seeking accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). In 1991, the school was granted “Eligibility” status, which led to a three-year period of self-study for the institution. This involved the development of a huge self-study document reviewing the school according to the nine “Standards” set by WASC. The Standards include the school’s integrity; purposes, planning, and effectiveness; governance and administration; educational programs; faculty and staff; library, computing, and other information and learning resources; student services; physical resources; and financial resources. After presentation of this document and a site evaluation visit by a WASC team of educators from other schools, Pacifica was granted “Eligibility” status – the first stage in the accreditation process. Next, after a three-year process of additional review, the development of a updated self-study document, and another site evaluation visit, Pacifica had achieved “Candidacy” status with WASC. The process continued for another three years, and Pacifica was awarded “Initial Accreditation” in June 1997. This achievement was particularly significant for the school because it validated our credibility in the wider academic community and, following additional review, made it possible for our students to apply for federally-insured financial aid. This opened Pacifica to a more diverse community of potential students who previously had been unable to afford our programs. The WASC accreditation process continues throughout an institution’s life.

Pacifica continued to grow as more students were drawn to the school’s unique curricula. Amazingly, we reached full capacity for Santa Barbara County permitted operations at the Lambert Road campus in 1999. At that time, we began offering additional sections of existing programs at La Casa de Maria’s newly-established Ladera Lane Retreat Center (site of a former Jesuit Novitiate). We also based certain staff, faculty, and student services in leased quarters at La Casa-Ladera.

The Institute’s programs continued to grow, and the academic curricula were refined and strengthened over the years. In 1995, the school had entered negotiations with Santa Barbara County for revisions to the Conditional Use Permit which governed our operations at Lambert Road. Although offering classes at La Casa-Ladera was a good temporary solution to the challenges of Pacifica’s growth, we were seeking a solution which would again allow consolidation of our programs in one home. The County Planning processes had already stretched over several years when the school learned that La Casa de Maria would probably need to sell their Ladera Lane center, as the programs which they had envisioned for that site were not developing as anticipated. Pacifica started looking for alternative locations for our “overflow” programs, and we were unable to find appropriate facilities in the area. After two years of complex negotiations, Pacifica became a two-campus school by purchasing the Ladera Lane center from La Casa de Maria in September of 2005.

Pacifica reached another milestone in 2005 with the inauguration of the school’s first combined residential and online program, a Master of Arts in Engaged Depth Psychology and Creativity with Emphasis in the Arts and Humanities. Students come to the Ladera Campus for two extended residential stays each year, and the balance of their course work will be completed online. It is anticipated that this program will draw students from greater distances, including many international students, due to the shorter residential stay requirements and reduced travel expenses.

For many years, graduates of Pacifica’s M.A. program in Counseling Psychology have been asking for a Ph.D. curriculum which would assist them in deepening their work as practitioners of psychotherapy. Early in 2006, the school introduced a new Ph.D. program in Depth Psychology with Emphasis in Psychotherapy. It quickly became apparent that other psychotherapists were looking for this type of professional training and growth. The first students began classes in February 2006 – a group composed of Pacifica alumni and helping professionals from other schools and academic disciplines.

Today, with two incredible campuses, over 3,500 active alumni in the world, and nine distinct graduate degree programs Pacifica begins its 40th year celebration lead up as an innovative, employee-owned graduate school.