Rae Johnson, PhD, RSW, RSMT, BCC is a social worker, somatic movement therapist, board-certified coach, and scholar/activist working at the intersection of embodiment and social justice. They chair the doctoral program in Somatic Studies in Depth Psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, California and teach internationally on embodied activism and nonverbal expressions of implicit bias.
Rae holds an undergraduate degree at the University of Waterloo, a master’s degree at Lesley University, and MA and PhD degrees in education at the University of Toronto. During their studies, Rae carried out research on 1) the effects of dance movement therapy on post-traumatic stress, 2) the professional knowledge of somatic educators, 3) arts-based somatic literacy, and 4) the embodied experience of oppression. Following an academic appointment directing the body psychotherapy track in somatic counseling at Naropa University, Dr. Johnson went on to chair the somatic psychology doctoral program at the Santa Barbara Graduate Institute and the Chicago School of Professional Psychology.
Rae’s community work centers on advocacy and capacity-building in higher education, with a special focus on mental health and the link between social injustice and health disparities. For nearly a decade, they worked closely with equity office colleagues at one of Canada’s largest and most culturally-diverse universities to create and implement a model for supporting students-in-crisis that took into account the social barriers students experience. During that time, Rae authored a guide to supporting students in crisis that was adopted by colleges and universities across the country.
As a counselor-educator in graduate education, they develop curricula and teach courses that help to build capacity in counselors-in-training to recognize and respond to the somatic impact of oppression in their clients and to interrogate the implicit bias conveyed through their embodied interactions. As a scholar/activist, Rae’s research on the everyday embodied experiences of racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, and other forms of oppression has culminated in community performances designed to engage audiences in the issues that affect members of marginalized communities by eliciting a visceral (not just intellectual) response to the material being presented.
Prior to their focus in higher education, Rae worked with homeless youth, women in addiction recovery, autistic children, maximum-security psychiatric inmates, and survivors of childhood sexual abuse. They specialized in supporting members of the LGBTQIA+ community to reclaim the authoritative knowledge of their body towards personal and collective liberation.