December 2

Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy: Explained

All around the world you’ll find people talking about the burgeoning psychedelic revolution. Psychedelics, once touted as mere party drugs made popular in the 1960s counterculture movements, are making a name for themselves as potential cures for treatment-stubborn conditions such as substance abuse disorders, depression, anxiety and PTSD.

People who once suffered relentlessly from these conditions are finding reprieve in the therapeutic use of substances such as LSD, ayahuasca, psilocybin, ketamine, and MDMA.

An integral part of this healing phenomenon is the emergence of psychedelic-assisted therapy or PAP. The process, which entails the ingestion of a psychedelic substance under the observational eye of a trained therapist in a clinical setting, is proving to be revolutionary in the field of psychiatry. 

A key aspect in the success of psychedelic-assisted therapy is the pre-treatment prep and post-treatment integration process which entail many therapeutic sessions without the addition of psychedelic substances. 

Today we’ll take a deeper look into psychedelic-assisted therapy, the integration process, and why it’s changing the lives of thousands of people around the world. 

How Does Psychedelic-assisted Therapy Work? 

Psychedelic-assisted therapy works by utilizing the mind-expanding qualities of  psychedelic medicines in combination with traditional therapeutic modalities.  The process is focused on the consumption of these substances in safe clinical settings. While research has been done on a plethora of these medicines such as psilocybin, MDMA, DMT, and LSD, the only current legal therapy available to the public in the US is ketamine-assisted therapy.

While psychedelic medicines lie at the core of the therapeutic model, it consists of far more than just a psychedelic experience. The therapist will prepare the patient through a series of preparatory sessions that set a foundation for the impending psychedelic session itself. It’s important for participants to know the nature of the psychedelic experience and to develop necessary tools that may help them navigate challenging experiences.

During the psychedelic experience, the therapist will typically offer guidance and support, only when necessary, allowing the individual to have their own unique and untainted experience. 

The journey may offer the patient out-of-body experiences, ego dissolution, euphoria, epiphanies, and complete mystical experiences. This can allow them to reassess past-traumas, revisit challenging memories, and dig deeper into whatever issue they’re suffering from. The therapist’s job is to hold space for these things to unfold, standing by to offer professional guidance, only when needed. 

Many professionals find that more ‘hands-off’ techniques can be preferable in psychedelic therapy – such as the ACE model, standing for “Accept, Connect, Embody.” This technique trains participants prior to the session to accept negative emotions, connect to their positive aspects, and feel all emotions in the body, allowing therapists to adopt a more non-directive role during the experience

Once the session has ended, the patient continues therapy by integrating their experience with a trained integration specialist in which they talk about their journey and how they can pull valuable lessons and insights from the things that came up. 

What Results Have We Seen So Far? 

There have been phenomenal results surfacing around that globe that highlight the efficacy of psychedelic-assisted therapy. The influx of clinical research is proving invaluable to the treatment of numerous conditions plaguing the planet, including anxiety, depression, PTSD, addiction, and other treatment-stubborn conditions. 

So much so, that in 2019 the FDA designated psilocybin as a “breakthrough therapy” in the treatment of depression, further progressing the move toward the clinical usage of psilocybin and other psychedelic compounds. One recent study from Robin Carhart-Harris and his team at Imperial College London found that psilocybin was at least as effective as leading antidepressant “escitalopram” in treating depression symptoms. 

Another study conducted at John Hopkins Medicine reported that two doses of psilocybin in combination with supportive psychotherapy resulted in massive reductions in depressive symptoms. The majority of patients showed improvement and half of participants achieved remission following the four-week follow-up.

MAPS, (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) has found massive promise for the utilization of MDMA-assisted therapy for the treatment of severe PTSD, including people with comorbidities such as depression, addiction, and childhood trauma. So much so, the FDA, much like the case with psilocybin, has designated MDMA as a breakthrough therapy.  

The Vital Role Of Psychedelic Integration 

Integration is arguably the most important aspect of the entire therapeutic process. While the psychedelic session itself offers a deeper look into the psyche, it’s vital to take the information and lessons gained from the session and integrate them in an holistic way. 

This is done by having participants take part in a series of integration sessions following the initial psychedelic journey. This process entails exploring things that may have come up during the experience, making sense of epiphanies, exploring emotions, analyzing new ideas, and implementing them so that they may be applied to everyday life. This allows the person to understand themselves and their experience more fully and can really help solidify the healing that took place during the initial journey. 

“Having an objective, experienced professional support before and after a psychedelic journey can be the difference between a strange trip that becomes a memory and a concrete experience that allows an individual to make positive changes in their life,” explains Psychedelic Integration Coach, Leia Friedman.

Leia says that the journey itself isn’t an instant cure and integration support post-trip is vital, as “it can be hard to hold that space for oneself while unpacking everything that came up.”

“The therapist or coach can offer trauma-informed guidance and care that allow the individual to incorporate the fruits of their journey in a sustainable way,” she explains.

Are you interested in learning more about psychedelic integration? Check out our ebook on entering the field of psychedelic integration therapy and coaching.

Psychedelics truly have massive potential to alleviate immense suffering and heal people from notoriously stubborn conditions. Their efficacy is greatly increased, as we’ve learned, when combined with therapeutic modalities and proper integrative sessions. 

As we can see, psychedelics have massive potential in healing those suffering from treatment-stubborn conditions. This potential is then greatly magnified when combined with tried and true therapies that are conducted in a safe and supportive environment. With the acceleration of the psychedelic revolution seeing decriminalization and legalization happening in many places around the world, we can only hope to see more of these modalities become available for those who desperately need them. 

References

1.  Luoma, J. B., Chwyl, C., Bathje, G. J., Davis, A. K., & Lancelotta, R. (2020). A Meta-Analysis of Placebo-Controlled Trials of Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 52(4), 289–299. https://doi.org/10.1080/02791072.2020.1769878

2.  Carhart-Harris, R., Giribaldi, B., Watts, R., Baker-Jones, M., Murphy-Beiner, A., Murphy, R., Martell, J., Blemings, A., Erritzoe, D., & Nutt, D. J. (2021). Trial of Psilocybin versus Escitalopram for Depression. New England Journal of Medicine, 384(15), 1402–1411. https://doi.org/10.1056/nejmoa2032994

3.  Garcia-Romeu, A., Griffiths, R., & Johnson, M. (2015). Psilocybin-Occasioned Mystical Experiences in the Treatment of Tobacco Addiction. Current Drug Abuse Reviews, 7(3), 157–164. https://doi.org/10.2174/1874473708666150107121331

4.  Mitchell, J. M., Bogenschutz, M., Lilienstein, A., Harrison, C., Kleiman, S., Parker-Guilbert, K., Ot’alora G., M., Garas, W., Paleos, C., Gorman, I., Nicholas, C., Mithoefer, M., Carlin, S., Poulter, B., Mithoefer, A., Quevedo, S., Wells, G., Klaire, S. S., van der Kolk, B., . . . Doblin, R. (2021). MDMA-assisted therapy for severe PTSD: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled phase 3 study. Nature Medicine, 27(6), 1025–1033. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41591-021-01336-3

5. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/newsroom/news-releases/psychedelic-treatment-with-psilocybin-relieves-major-depression-study-shows


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