The Somatic Psychology emphasis within the Integral and Transpersonal Psychology PhD program seeks to ground academic excellence and the acquisition of professional skills in the embodied knowing of the living person.
Students complete 36 units of coursework and write a dissertation. The degree is designed as a half-time online program with a research orientation. Students meet two times per year for a week-long residential seminar, with the remainder of coursework completed online. The program of study consists of core scholarship requirements, research courses, a well-developed content emphasis in somatic psychology, two comprehensive exams, and a dissertation. Students may elect, with advisor approval, to add a second focus area to their program, thereby extending their program of study for an additional year. All courses in the our program are evaluated by letter grade; there is no pass/fail option.
The doctoral emphasis in Somatic Psychology has 36 units of coursework plus a dissertation.
I. Core Scholarship Skills — 6 Units
Critical Thinking with Integral/Transpersonal Psychologies
Scholarly Writing with Integral and Transpersonal Studies
II. Research Courses — 12 Units
Qualitative Research Methods
Quantitative Research Methods with Neuroscience of Consciousness
Integral Research Methods with Creative Expression
III. Somatic Psychology — 18 Units
Origins of Somatic Psychology
Spiritual Traditions of Embodied Practice
Further Reaches of Somatics / Somatic Psychology
Advanced Topics in Somatic Psychology Disciplines
Somatic Psychologies in Global Context
IV. Dissertation — 0 Units
In addition to the standard format for doctoral dissertations, the program allows students to use an alternative format that consists of three peer-reviewed papers. Two of these papers are to have been published or accepted for publication; the other is to have been either published or accepted for publication, or under review. Students who would like to pursue the multi-paper dissertation format are assessed by the faculty program committee on a case-by-case basis. As with the traditional dissertation, a dissertation proposal is submitted, a committee of three members is formed, a dissertation is prepared using the text of the three articles as its central content.
Program Learning Goals
Upon completion of the PhD in Integral and Transpersonal Psychology, students will be able to:
Goal 1. Demonstrate the ability to produce doctoral level scholarly work in somatics / somatic psychology
- Exhibit doctoral-level scholarly writing and critical thinking skills
- Display expertise in a topic area within somatics / somatic psychology
- Employ interdisciplinary scholarship in a careful and rigorous way
- Design and carry out scholarly research using an appropriate research method
- e) Integrate creativity and embodiment in the processes of scholarship
Goal 2. Engage in communities of scholarship in a professional and collegial manner
- Present scholarship effectively in group settings
- Engage in respectful dialogue with scholars from other fields and backgrounds
- Employ somatics / somatic psychology concepts in teaching contexts
- Practice inclusiveness with and appreciation of diverse and minority voices
Goal 3. Demonstrate expertise in an area of somatics / somatic psychology
- Display command of the literature in an area of scholarship related to somatics / somatic psychology
- Participate in advancing scholarly research in the field of somatics / somatic psychology
The ITP degree is research oriented, and so it has a strong emphasis on critical thinking, scholarly writing, and research design and critique. These skills are presented in the context of content that orients the student to the transpersonal and integral fields. With this foundation, the student engages in a deep exploration of somatic psychology.
Critical Thinking with Integral/Transpersonal Psychologies (3 Units)
This course offers tools and processes of critical thinking in the context of an overview of integral and transpersonal approaches to psychology. Major concepts and theorists as well as developments of the transpersonal field will be considered. The student will have opportunity to learn and practice both intellectual discrimination and intuitive discernment in thinking about whole-person approaches to psychology.
Scholarly Writing with Integral and Transpersonal Studies - (3 Units)
This course engages the student in processes of enhancing their scholarly writing skills in relationship to integral and transpersonal studies. The holistic, transformative lens of integral and transpersonal approaches has applications well beyond psychology, in such fields as anthropology, shamanism, parapsychology, spirituality, Black psychology, eco-psychology, sociology, social activism, feminism, sexual orientation and gender identity, ecology, medicine, leadership, literature, and the arts. A consideration of such applications will provide context for learning and applying scholarly writing skills.
Qualitative Research Methods - (3 Units)
This course considers the strategies of qualitative research methods in the context of whole-person approaches to psychology. Qualitative research inquires into the qualities of lived experience as the data for constructing approaches to understanding the human mind. Students will gain familiarity in the application of grounded theory, narrative research, case studies, phenomenology, and ethnography, and will conduct a pilot study as an integral part of this course.
Quantitative Research Methods with Neuroscience of Consciousness - (3 Units)
This course introduces quantitative methods of research in the context of neuroscientific approaches to the study of consciousness. Neuroscience seeks to understand aspects of the mind by measuring activity and change in various dimensions of the human nervous system, and quantitative methods are used to identify and describe potentially meaningful patterns in experimental results. The student will be invited to consider the value of quantitative approaches in whole-person approaches to psychology.
Integral Research Methods with Creative Expression - (3 Units)
This course examines research methods that draw together various strategies in the context of creative-expression approaches to psychology. Integral methods include approaches such as grounded theory, mixed methods, theoretical research, and somatic phenomenology; further, creative expression considers artistic expressive activity as meaningful participation in the healing and revealing processes of transformation. The student will have opportunity to consider potentials for creative applications of integral research approaches through examining research in creative expression approaches to psychology.
Proposal Writing - (3 Units)
This course provides the student with an opportunity to write, under faculty supervision, a preliminary research proposal. A completed preliminary research proposal will include well-crafted drafts of an introductory chapter, a literature review chapter, and a methods chapter, all in correct APA style. This this course, the student will have opportunity to demonstrate the skills and knowledge of critical thinking, scholarly writing, and research design and critique gained at earlier stages of the program.
Origins of Somatic Psychology - (3 Units)
This course will explore the revolutionary movements in the Western world such as European phenomenology, American pragmatism, and the analytic psychologies, which were designed to heal the deleterious effects of the radically dualistic approach to understanding human beings crafted during the European Enlightenment. Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Wilhelm Reich, Elsa Gindler, Marion Rosen, Gerda Alexander, Moshe Feldenkrais, Mary Starks Whitehouse, and others were among the pioneers during the early 20th century whose works impacted our own developments. The course emphasizes unifying core teachings often obscured by public representations of the different methods.
Spiritual Traditions of Embodied Practice - (3 Units)
Intersections between somatic practices and transpersonal psychologies occur in many spiritual disciplines: breathing practices, ritual movements and postures, chants, tracking sensations and energy flows. This course offers the opportunity to study and work with examples of embodied practices in the context of their spiritual traditions, with an appreciation for what can be learned from such traditions as well as what cannot be imparted to practitioners who are not themselves embedded in a tradition.
Further Reaches of Somatics / Somatic Psychology - (3 Units)
This course explores topics that address new questions and issues in somatic psychology and seek to push the boundaries of current knowledge and approaches. Topics may include: new ways of integrating touch when working across the mind-body interface; embodied self0identity; micro-tracking and somatic phenomenology; structure and fluidity; the evolution of the nervous system; awareness beyond the nervous system; sentiency of non-nervous-system cells; embryology and embodiment; embodiment and the subtle body; embodiment and the earth; impact of awareness on tissue functioning; embodiment, spiritual states, and nondual states.. Some course content may vary depending on students’ areas of interest.
Advanced Topics in Somatic Psychology Disciplines - (3 Units)
This course provides an opportunity to study the practices of current Somatic Psychology/Somatic disciplines and modalities and inquire into their underlying values. Course discussions will not only address underlying principles—stemming from Western and non-Western practices—but also seek to clarify underlying assumptions and beliefs about the body and somatic work. The course invites students to openly question customary assumptions with the hope to open students’ critical engagement with various topics (intellectually as well as somatically) and enhance their capacity to invite potentiating questions to emerge. In addition, attention will be given to the question of what it might take to increase the accessibility of Somatic Psychology and Somatics to a wider range of populations. Course content may include creative or innovative applications in Somatic Psychology/Somatics, working with special populations, or interdisciplinary scholarship.
Somatic Psychologies in Global Context - (3 Units)
This course opens inquiry into multicultural traditions of embodiment and polymorphous understandings of the significance of the human body. Western cultures have been dominated by a certain crystallization of a solution to the mind/body problem that bore such fruit in the creation of empirical science that it gained undue power over other regions of inquiry. Other cultures have taken different turns in responding to the meaning of human presence in the world equipped with particular organs, approaches that create their own unique advantages and problems. The course develops a framework to take into account a diversity of challenges that has led to a variety of articulations of “body” “mind” and “spirit,” with the goal of forming a collaborative rather than competitive model of research and practice.
Somatic Praxis - (0.5 Units)
This course sequence explores the impact of somatic practices—Western and Indigenous—to reconnect with the sensory foundations of experience. Students are asked to engage in one particular somatic practice for a minimum of 20 minutes a day during the semester. These practices may involve movement, somatic awareness, touch, affect regulation, grounding in the natural world, and so forth—all of which support the development, tracking, and / or integration of sensory, motor, perceptive, affective, and cognitive elements of embodied experience. Students are asked to write about their experience in relationship to one or two concepts from the class readings in weekly class postings as a way to develop and share language for what is often an otherwise silent experience.
The purpose of comprehensive examinations is to demonstrate that the student is ready to proceed to the dissertation phase of their doctoral degree. This emphasis has three comprehensive examinations. The first of these is a written examination covering basic concepts, theories, and theorists of general psychology to ensure that students earning a doctoral degree in psychology demonstrate a working knowledge of the field. This requirement may be satisfied in one of three different ways. Students with a master’s level degree in counselling psychology or a degree with comparably comprehensive coverage of psychology in its coursework may apply to have this exam waived. Students without the required academic background in psychology may meet this requirement by taking the Graduate Record Examination Psychology Subject Test and passing with a score of 550 or above; the program provides self-study materials to aid in preparation for this exam. Students may also elect to satisfactorily pass a 3-unit General Psychology course offered by the program to their course of study in lieu of this requirement. The second exam consists of a 25–30 page paper, written at a doctoral level, on a topic relevant to the student's area of study. The third exam consists of a doctoral level project connecting an area of somatic practice with the scholarly literature.
The student will write a dissertation under the supervision of a core faculty member or dissertation-approved associated faculty member as committee chair, and two other qualified scholars, approved by the chair, one of whom must not be affiliated with CIIS.
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