Rae was born on the Canadian prairies to a family descended from working class Scottish and Irish immigrants. Relocating to Toronto as a young adult, they undertook training in Gestalt therapy and dance movement therapy before establishing a practice working with members of the LGBTQIAA+ community. They completed 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. They currently lead the somatic studies specialization in the depth psychology doctoral program at Pacifica Graduate Institute.
Rae has taken leadership roles in developing an alternate route training program for the Dance Movement Therapy Association of Ontario, organizing conferences through the Canadian chapter of the International Somatic Movement Education and Therapy Association, developing a somatic psychotherapy code of ethics for the Ontario Society of Psychotherapists, and creating support programs for university students in crisis. Dr. Johnson served as co-chair of the research committee for the United States Association of Body Psychotherapy and is on the editorial board for Body Psychotherapy Publications.
In both professional and volunteer capacities, Rae works to support and advocate for people experiencing oppression, marginalization and discrimination. The communities they have served include queer and trans folks, psychiatric survivors, children with autism, homeless youth, women in addiction recovery, and survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Rae’s community-based activism centers primarily on education and outreach – for example, developing professional training resources for community service workers, creating policies to support marginalized students in higher education, and co-founding an intersectional social justice reading group.