Orientation & Style

mind body connection

Darcie Spence, MA, JD

Psychotherapy, Consultation & Coaching in San Francisco       415-820-3250


In my practice, I integrate psychoanalytic and somatic approaches to psychotherapy.  I work very directly in the therapy relationship and believe a present time experience with the therapist offers the greatest potential for healing.  My approach is directed to resolution of symptoms, not just symptom management.  My style is warm, genuine and engaged.   

Psychoanalytic Approach

Psychodynamic psychotherapy is what most people commonly understand to be “talk therapy”. It involves looking at our past, particularly our early childhood experiences, to understand how our history is coloring the way we see the present.  It also involves coming to terms with what we did not get and processing the grief, so that we do not compulsively reenact history with those near and dear to us. Psychoanalytic psychotherapy is a form of psychodynamic psychotherapy.  It places more emphasis on the relationship between the client and the therapist

as the vehicle for healing.

Somatic Approach

Being human is complex because there are different realms of experience operating simultaneously.  Thought, feeling and physical sensation are just a few.  In our culture, thought has been overdeveloped for many people, and the realms of feeling, emotion and physical sensation underdeveloped.  To live fully, and not curtail our experiences, we need to have the flexibility and skills to operate comfortably in all of these realms. 

Working somatically simply means incorporating the realm of physical experience into the therapy.  It can be quite subtle and does not mean hands on work or touch.  Frequently, it involves creating more awareness on a sensory level, learning how to tolerate physical experience and developing a language to describe it. 

Importance of Incorporating the Somatic Level of Experience

Working with a therapist who can incorporate the somatic level of experience into the therapy can be helpful for a number of reasons:

  1.     Many emotional issues manifest on the physical level and cause distress in the body (e.g. anxiety, trauma & addictions all have a very physical component that needs to be addressed). Often, one of the initial tasks of therapy is to help someone regain a sense of safety and well being in their body;

  1.     Mind Body Connection: Most ingrained, habitual, self-defeating behaviors are “hard-wired” at the physical level.  It is the reason that achieving insight and understanding is generally not sufficient to change behavior.  Deep transformative change requires unwinding habitual behaviors at the physical and emotional levels as well;

  1.     Psychosomatic Issues: People often somaticize their feelings (i.e. turn them into body symptoms).  Generally, this is done unconsciously because the person learned at some point that the body symptom was more palatable than the underlying feeling.  Difficult feelings, however, are just part of the terrain of being an adult. If we have no experience tolerating the feeling, we often avoid situations that evoke it and restrict our lives in ways that do not serve us. Accessing these unconscious behaviors often requires working at the somatic level. 

  © 2009-2016  Darcie Spence, MA, JD, Psychotherapy, Consultation & Coaching in San Francisco   ☎  415-820-3250