Doctoral Dilemma: Saybrook vs. Pacifica (Invitation for Commentary, Musings, Tales of Lived Experience, Etc.)

My name is Lucia d'Ancona (Vibhuti Jaya) and I am new to this Alliance.  I learned of it through the recommendation of Dr. Conforti, who generously recommended the Alliance during one of his recent The Red Book teleconferences.  I am very glad that this exists, and that I am able to participate.


I completed a Transpersonal Psychology Master's degree at ITP in 2009 and before that, my undergrad was conferred at Burlington College (B.A. in Transpersonal Psych, circa 2007).  I have recently been accepted to:

  1. Pacifica's Depth Psychology PhD:  Jungian and Archetypal Studies
  2. Saybrook's Psychology PhD:  Jungian Studies programs

and I am now in quite the quandary.

Through this post, I wish to engage the membership and invite commentary from the Alliance at large on the PhD experience at either school.  What I am hoping to learn is that PhD program grads at each of these institutions are sought after as educators, and that they are having professional successes in other professional arenas.  I'd also just like to invite scholarly dialogue, and will add that I am coming to these programs with an interest in research activities, and not as a licensed, practicing clinician.  I currently work in Higher Education technology, and am pursuing a shift toward more humanistic endeavors that employ the full spectrum of my talents--and that honor soul.

My goals for PhD, regardless of the school I choose, center upon engaging with the Jung corpus, and with the work of the post and neo Jungians in order to begin to make scholarly contributions to the field of eating disorders treatment from a depth perspective.  The thing I think I wish for the most is a mentor, and at the very least, some person in academe to whom I can turn for instruction in conducting exemplary research and publishing like a house afire.  :-)

My essential question is how will Saybrook or Pacifica help to mold me into a contributing member of the Jungian community? What are the advantages of choosing one over the other? What are PhD grads in both schools doing, where are they being published, etc.?


I am just so eager to begin to work in community--instead of a vacuum.  Please share with me your commentary, musings and tales of lived experience.




Lucia d'Ancona (Vibhuti Jaya)

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Hi Lucia: I'm so glad you've posted this question here and I encourage anyone that can contribute their experience or insight to do so.

For myself, I am just finishing coursework in the Depth Psychology PhD program at Pacifica and I can't hesitate to say I've loved every minute of it! Pacifica is a very special place and offers a very solid, thorough, and rigorous foundation in Depth Psychology. Now, as you may know, they changed their offering last year by splitting that legacy program into three--now Jungian/Archetypal studies, Somatic studies, and Ecopsych/Liberation Psychologies, but many of the core faculty have remained the same and from what I understand, the experience of those new focuses is still strong.

Pacifica is also unique because you go through the program(s) as a cohort, so you are with the same people the entire time. Also, the fact that you travel there only once a month is factor. (The one difference is that the Jungian program only meets once a quarter, and for me, I prefer to have the facetime with both instructors and other students--not to mention I need the deadlines to help me with deliverables). 

As for Saybrook, I have little knowledge of the program itself, but know a couple of the core faculty there and they have always encouraged me to look into it (since the days of my Master's degree at Sonoma State--which is a great M.A. program by the way!). However, they were a little more focused on clinical studies at the time and only began their Jungian program when I went to Pacifica. I also met a woman recently who lives in Houston going to Saybrook and she loved it. Jim Hollis a key faculty there and a great advantage to have access to him, of course--and their collaboration with the Jung Center of Houston makes that program invaluable in my opinion. Much of the facetime is spent in Houston, however, so perhaps part of your decision will be made based on logistics-how far you have to travel and how often.

Hope this is of some help: Again, anyone who has additional information on either institution, please jump in! I'm sure Lucia will not be the last to struggle with this dilemma and if we can build discussions for others to look back on in the future, it would be a valuable contribution to this community.

Bonnie and Lucia... I thought Hollis had moved to SF? Still with Saybrook, but no longer at the Jung Center in Houston.


Lucia - no idea whether Saybrook or Pacifica is the best place to support your future endeavors, but considering the  enormous investments in time, personal energy, and $$$ I would want to visit both places, talk to students and faculty and get a felt sense of what seems like the best fit for you... don't know whether you would consider other options - but one place I considered in addition to Saybrook and Pacifica was the Union Institute.


Ultimately, I chose my local university... for expediency and practicality... and although it didn't know my language, I was able to find a niche for myself within their framework while staying true to my archetypal roots.

Trusting you to know the next best step in your journey.

Julie in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia


I'm at Pacifica so I can only comment on my experiences there. Also, as Bonnie stated, the program structure has changed so take that into account as well. That being said, I have "enjoyed" the Pacifica experience. The "" are because the work has caused as much internal work as external, at least for me. I entered the program without a clue as to what the end game was to be and, frankly, still am not sure where all this is taking me, other than to a deeper sense of Self and joyful mystery. This will most likely continue until Sallie Mae sends her first bill. $$$

If you are somatic in orientation, and have the time and money, I'd suggest visiting both campuses, not to hear what will most likely be fascinating presentations of the two programs, but just to breathe the air, journal a bit, and see what Psyche has to say through the surroundings, human and non-human.

Sorry I don't have knowledge enough of Saybrook to make an informed compare/contrast for you.

I have one observation. Many people don't seem to realize that Pacifica, unless things changed recently, is a for-profit school.  As you can imagine, this has a significant effect on everything from the faculty's teaching loads to the admission standards. It also affects the school's reputation in my experience.

Thanks folks, for your generosity, interest and great suggestions.  I'm postponing major decision making for the time being, while I gather information, so please, if there are any more of you out there with opinions on this, do SHARE!  :-)


@ Julie - Union looks great, wish I could manage the residency.  VT & OH are not so friendly to FL.  Thank you.  I forgot about them!


@ Ed - I wouldn't want to run into that old Sallie Mae in a dark alley, I'll tell you that!  :-)


@ Cliff - I don't know if "people don't seem to realize" that Pacifica is for-profit, for I too have noticed that this fact either seems to sort of get overlooked or that it somehow does not matter, and I am not sure which phenomenon it is.  It does of course matter when it comes to matters of reputation, and how the Pacifica PhD is regarded.  And Saybrook, by the way, is not-for-profit!


@ bob - BRILLIANT suggestions!  I was so inspired by your contribution that I toted myself down to Nova Southeastern University's Information Session tonight, (serendipity would have that it was scheduled for today) just to investigate what it would take for me to magically transform into a clinician.  Apparently Mental Health Counselor program is 60 credits, about $40K, takes 2.5 - 3 years to complete in one-weekend-a-month, face-to-face classes and leads to an LMHC state license after the practicum of my choice.  Just thought it would be an worthwhile investigation, and it was!






Bill and Lucia,

If I remember correctly, Pacifica's clinical program is accredited. As to licensure, each state has its own criteria. Lucia, you may want to check what Florida asks for accreditation and make sure the school you attend can give you the subject matter and hours needed. My experience is that once you have a license in any field of mental health, you can pretty much do whatever you need once the office door is closed. This, of course, is limited if you are accepting third party payment from insurance companies who will limit your number of sessions and accepted approaches. Good luck.


Pacifica has regional accreditation. Stupidly, I didn't know the school was not accredited when I began attending classes there. The most significant effect of this was that you couldn't get federal loans.

The school did become accredited during my second year there. (And, considering my loan debt, I might have been better off had it not!)

The school's clinical doctoral program does not have APA accreditation but has been in the process of application. Curious about its status, I Googled and found this report from APA. It's dated Mar. 1 and reports Pacifica's status as "application voluntarily withdrawn." I have no idea what that means, but it clearly doesn't mean Pacifica has been denied accreditation yet. Perhaps it's behind or was advised it needs to make changes. But it's not accredited.

The most you will learn about current status on the Pacifica site is here.

The significant thing about this in my understanding is that some states will not consider an application for licensure as a clinical psychologist without graduation from an APA-accredited school. I believe the US government requires APA-accreditation to work for it. (But please research this if it's an issue for you. It is vague in my understanding.) I don't think this is an issue at the master's level.

I note, in any case, that Lucia is not considering application to a clinical program at Pacifica.

This is all just another example of the way licensure is constructed to standardize practice and protect financial turf. That was the issue that screwed up my own licensure qualifications at the master's level.

I did the MA program at the University of West Georgia. Its faculty was a blend of people from Duquesne's phenomenology program and refugees from Duke's parapsychology faculty. And it was considered a break-through school in humanistic psychology in the '70s. There were also transpersonal-oriented classes.

All of this made for a fascinating education, but under the new mandatory, stricter licensure laws, nobody with a degree from there could get a license at the time I graduated. Even if you added a bunch of standard clinical classes from the counseling program in the school of education, as I did, you couldn't get one, for ridiculous, petty reasons.

I feel like I'm bashing Pacifica and I really don't want to, although I think it should be much more upfront with students about its for-profit status, the effect of not being APA-accredited, etc. But I did enjoy most of my classes there. It was wanting to study archetypal psychology in particular that took me there (and, yes, I was disturbed that we only had one class in it and it turned out to be an ASTROLOGY class). So, I wasn't looking for the standard education.

But if you are looking for a doctoral-level degree that's going to earn you licensure, not limit your employment possibilities, not inhibit finding university-level teaching jobs and -- I'm sorry -- not frequently bring up the question of your education's quality, Pacifica is not the place to study.





Lucia wrote: Apparently Mental Health Counselor program is 60 credits, about $40K, takes 2.5 - 3 years to complete in one-weekend-a-month, face-to-face classes and leads to an LMHC state license after the practicum of my choice.  Just thought it would be an worthwhile investigation, and it was!



I just completed a 60 credit program in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and am working toward my 4000 hours for licensure as an LPC. Perhaps like you, I had dreams of studying at Pacifica, Naropa, TUI, IIS, etc. but in the end chose practical - my local university offered a three year program (It took me 3.5 years because I took a summer off) leading to a degree that will allow me to become licensed as a mental health provider.

The coursework was sometimes stimulating and sometimes stultifying... and as with many academic programs - there was a system and I was a cog in that system which wasn't always in service to my growth as a clinician... and yet... I did find pockets in which to express my passions for depth work... and I did bring an awareness of depth work to many of my fellow travelers.

I made lifelong friends in the process of sharing the journey so even though the academic component had some disappointments, the interpersonal environment was enriching. That interpersonal container was actually as important or more important than the academic piece of my training. The clinical experience - for me - was the most important piece - and my setting excelled at offering lots of clinical hours.

The best part of the journey for me was that I was able to have a two semester practicum where I worked in a counseling center getting experience under close supervision. This was followed by a two semester internship at an agency where I deepened my experience and had the amazing experience of being nurtured by a circle of wise women clinicians - ancient and newly minted - both/and.


Now that I am in in my Residency, I am able to both work with the general day to day clinical issues that clients bring and also weave in my depth approach where it is in service to the client's process. And even though I don't do depth work with all my clients, what matters most to me is that I am doing my own Inner Work which makes me more effective as a therapist.


It sounds like your local university might be just the vehicle to take you to your next destination!


I look forward to hearing more about your journey.


Julie in the Valley of the Shenandoah watching Persephone emerge from the underworld


@ Bill - thanks for garnering input from those friends of yours!  As has been said in comments that followed yours, Pacifica is WASC accredited, which is as Cliff stated, one of the regional accrediting bodies that accredits colleges and schools.  Many thanks!  :-)


@ Ed - thanks for the reminder about insurance and how it attempts to structure care with its world of allowable amounts, carefully metered visits, and co-pays.  It's all coming back to me now!  :-)


@ Cliff - Wow!  I didn't know that Pacifica wasn't accredited when you went there!  I would not be able to handle the little thing called "cost of attendance" without the gift of Federal loans.  I really appreciate your candor, and I am wary of many of the things you mention as detractors.  I work in Higher Ed, and the for-profit status, the lack of APA accreditation have loomed large in my conversations with faculty and administrative peers of mine.  You mentioned "bringing up the question of your education's quality" and that is a very REAL thing.  Ahhh, academe!!  (Tsk-tsk-tsk...)   Muchas gracias!  :-)


@ Julie - That was just the most helpful and encouraging account of your experience gathering clinical training in a traditional setting!  I am cheered and want my Demeter!  Merci beaucoup!  :-)


@ bob - You opened up this Pandora's box of local, clinical, traditional, wise 'ol bob that you are!!!  Grazi!  :-)

Lucia wrote: @ Julie - That was just the most helpful and encouraging account of your experience gathering clinical training in a traditional setting!  I am cheered and want my Demeter!  Merci beaucoup!  :-)

Glad to be of service to your process... and the Demeter in me sees the Demeter in you! just as the Persephone in me sees the Persephone in you! and just as we see her works in the world and in us during this vernal emergence.


Julie in the budding beauty of the valley of the Shenandoah

Lucia, so glad to drop in on the discussion; a wealth of sharing.  I am finishing up my academic portion towards my PhD in Depth Psychology at Pacifica in a few months.  

A really big question that is the first cut came up repeatedly.  That is, do you want to be able to accept insurance with all the "stuff" that goes with that?  If so, then this steers you in a particular direction for which there have been good suggestions. 

 If you want to write your own path without trying to fit your practice into government and insurance regulations and mindsets, while understanding that practitioners still can wiggle some freedom within those frameworks,then you are looking at another field of possible schools.

I chose Pacifica after a grueling, very long, intensive unaccreditated depth psychology clinical program through a non-profit graduate school. I wanted accredited but NOT an APA program as APA requirements omit the core of where my interests lie.  I also decided not to try for licensure.  This is from my past and current experience and frustrations with dealing with insurance and governmental regulations. This means I am creating my own "field" in a way; it requires a great deal of creativity, yet it also is very exciting!  It is right for me.  I have done enough of the more practical and safer paths in life--for me.    

I chose Pacifica after watching and discussing accredited psychology programs with friends and colleagues of mine. I did look at Saybrook, as well as ITP, and others. I was particularly drawn to Saybrook and Pacifica.  I ultimately chose Pacifica because of people close to me who had successfully completed PhD's there and loved it; smart people and experienced clinicians who were impressed with the scholarly rigor of Pacifica. Secondarily, I liked the face-to-face aspect of my program.  

Pacifica's depth program is a rigorous and in-depth academic program with many, many hours of study on Jung, Freud, as well as more current thinkers plus a good chunk of psychologies of liberation theory and fieldwork and more.  As mentioned, the exact program I am in, no longer is offered.  Now the depth program has been split into 3 specialty tracks with overlaps.  The faculty is impressive and I have found them accessible.  I have completed both for-profit and non-profit programs and I am comfortable with either, if the program fits. 

My only issue with Pacifica has been with their administration but it was worse in a public university I attended for undergraduate studies.


I also have many friends and colleagues who went through Union's PhD programs, both before it changed and more currently.  There were criticisms about the changes in the last decade but I decided against it mostly as it is much more self-directed and I wanted more structure.




Joy Brown

I did my PhD at Union, graduating in 2004. During the time I was there, it changed a great deal and became much more traditional, jettisoning much of what attracted me in the first place. You can't really design your own program any longer, the student has far less control over the whole program than when I was there, and the range of options for field of study is far more limited. Union is not the same Union now that it was when Michael Conforti, Clarissa Pinkola Estes among others, got their degrees their.

It is possible to do a good program there but you should be aware that many people there are doing their programs to get their tickets punched for their career advancement and have very little interest in scholarship per se. I was on a quality assurance committee that evaluated over 100 dissertations and we found more than 2/3rds did not actually meet standards for doctoral work. Things have improved since then but I have heard that quality is still an issue.

I was very active while there. I served on a number of committees, including the student governance committee and I started a Yahoo group for students as at the time there was no place, virtual or literal, for students to gather and share experiences and information. That group still exists as a few people who started around the time I finished are still there. I offer this to let you know that I had a good bit of experience seeing how the sausage at Union is made, to use an unfortunate metaphor.

I went to Union with an undergraduate degree in psychology from Duke and was ABD in clinical psychology from UConn. I went back to complete my doctorate, something which was important to me personally and which I knew would help me professionally. I knew I did not want a faculty position so the fact that Union grads often have a tough time on the academic market was not an issue for me.

If I had it to do again, I would have scrambled more to find a way to do the distance PhD in Jungian Studies from the University of Essex in England. Andrew Samuels chairs the program and it is excellent for a self- directed student. The residency requirement is lower than for Union. And the program is of much higher quality and rigor.


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