On this page, we cover:
- What psychedelic therapy looks like
- Why psychedelic therapy seems to work
- Where you can do psychedelic therapy
- The research on psychedelic therapy for depression, anxiety, personal growth
- How to become a psychedelic therapist
- MDMA therapy vs psilocybin therapy
- Other beneficial resources
What Does Psychedelic Therapy Look Like?
In the clinical trials, psychedelic therapy is generally given as 2-3 approximately 8 hour long sessions, each spaced about a month apart. Before the psychedelic assisted sessions, the participants normally get drug-free time to talk with and build trust with their therapists.
During the drug session, the participants are mostly lying down on a couch, with eyeshades and headphones on. Occasionally they’ll take the eyeshades and headphones off to talk with the therapists.
Why Does Psychedelic Therapy Seem to Work?
For MDMA: “MDMA is known for increasing feelings of trust and compassion towards others [editor note: and towards the parts of yourself that you don’t fully accept], which could make an ideal adjunct to psychotherapy for PTSD.”1
For psychedelic therapy with psilocybin or LSD: “Imagine your brain as a snowy hill. Each decision you make is like sledding down the hill, causing a slight indentation in the snow. The more times you make a decision, the deeper the groove, the faster you make the decision and the harder it is to try something different and escape the groove. Psychedelics is like fresh powder on the hill won’t the grooves away so you can try new ways of thinking / new routes down the hill.”2
Where Can I Do Psychedelic Therapy?
Legal psychedelic experiences for therapeutic purposes are available in Jamaica using magic mushrooms and in the Netherlands using magic truffles. What we’ve seen tells us that magic mushrooms are legal in Jamaica and magic truffles are legal in the Netherlands. Practically speaking, magic truffles are effectively the same as magic mushrooms – both contain psilocybin and other similar compounds.
Disclaimer: This information is not legal advice. Please verify for yourself. We are concerned with public health and the safety of people. We do not endorse the acquisition and use of any psychedelic substances outside of approved medical settings.
Psychedelic Therapy Centers
Are there psychedelic therapy centers in places other than the Netherlands and Jamaica?
If you’re looking for therapeutic purposes, unfortunately the Netherlands or Jamaica will be your best bet.
Are there legal MDMA therapy centers?
Unfortunately not yet, as far as we can tell.
We’ve been told by multiple people that it might be legal for someone to set up a legal MDMA center in a place that isn’t a regular country: possibly Antarctica, the Isle of Man (or similar), or perhaps in international waters. But, we’ve not heard of one that exists yet.
What we’ve seen tells us: psilocybin mushrooms are legal in Jamaica and psilocybin truffles are legal in the Netherlands.
Finding psychedelic therapists
- See the advice on finding a guide under “Guides and Therapists” on this set of resources from Michael Pollan
- General advice from Psychedelics Today
- Links and resources
- Tim Ferriss & Michael Pollan: Guidelines to people asking ‘How do I find a guide?’ (linked at 1h:23m:13s)
What’s The Research on Psychedelic Therapy For Mental Health
Psychedelics for treating depression
“Although limited conclusions can be drawn about treatment efficacy from open-label trials, tolerability was good, effect sizes large and symptom improvements appeared rapidly after just two psilocybin treatment sessions and remained significant 6 months post-treatment in a treatment-resistant cohort. Psilocybin represents a promising paradigm for unresponsive depression that warrants further research in double-blind randomised control trials.”3
In cancer patients, “high-dose psilocybin produced large decreases in clinician- and self-rated measures of depressed mood and anxiety, along with increases in quality of life, life meaning, and optimism.” “At 6-month follow-up, these changes were sustained, with about 80% of participants continuing to show clinically significant decreases in depressed mood and anxiety.”4
“At the 6.5-month follow-up, psilocybin was associated with enduring anxiolytic and anti-depressant effects (approximately 60–80% of participants continued with clinically significant reductions in depression or anxiety), sustained benefits in existential distress and quality of life, as well as improved attitudes towards death. The psilocybin-induced mystical experience mediated the therapeutic effect of psilocybin on anxiety and depression.”5
Treating PTSD with MDMA
“After two blinded experimental sessions, the active group had significantly greater reductions in CAPS-IV total scores from baseline than the control group [MMRM estimated mean difference (SE) between groups − 22.0 (5.17), P < 0.001]. The between-group Cohen’s d effect size was 0.8, indicating a large treatment effect.”6
“After two experimental sessions, more participants in the active group (54.2%) did not meet CAPS-IV PTSD diagnostic criteria than the control group (22.6%).”6
In the studies they analyzed, MDMA for PTSD had a large treatment effect, and effectively cured 54% of the participants’ PTSD.
Currently the best smoking addiction treatments have success rates between 17-32%.7
Psilocybin therapy in an early stage non-placebo-controlled pilot study had an 80% success rate, even 6 months after treatment.8
LSD therapy is promising for alcoholism,9 and similar benefits would be expected from psilocybin therapy.
Psychedelic therapy is also highly promising for alcoholism,9 opioid dependence10 and other kinds of addictions, including perhaps even behavioral addictions like smartphone or social media addiction.11
MDMA for couples therapy
Psychedelic experiences for general personal growth or curiosity
- “There was a problem-solving (no placebo group unfortunately) experiment done with LSD in the 60s with interesting results.”14
- “Self-efficacy refers to your belief that you will succeed at something, and has numerous positive applications — and the psilocybin for smoking addiction participants gained an increase in abstinence self-efficacy.”14
- “Psilocybin for smoking addiction participants endorsed ‘that after the psilocybin sessions, it was easier for them to make decisions that were in their long-term best interest.’”14
- “Billionaires and Nobel laureates are finding utility with psychedelics for creativity and other means.”14
- “Tim Ferriss stated on CNN that ‘The billionaires I know, almost without exception, use hallucinogens on a regular basis.’”14
- “Eric Weinstein, the manager of a billionaire’s hedge fund, talked about ‘meeting some of the most intellectually gifted people in the sciences and beyond and I realized that [psychedelics were] sort of the open secret’ of ‘billionaires or Nobel laureates or inventors.’ The ‘hallucinogenic elite’ were using ‘these agents either for creativity or to gain access to the things that are so difficult to get access to through therapy and other conventional means.’”14
How To Become a Psychedelic Therapist
It might be possible to become a legal MDMA therapist in the USA in 2019, via MAPS’ FDA Expanded Access program. To apply you need a prescribing MD or similar, a licensed therapist, and a qualified site. To begin applying, see the instructions under “how to apply” on this page: https://maps.org/training
This isn’t legal advice, but it seems that you could also set up a psychedelic center in Jamaica or the Netherlands and if you’re a therapist then you could perform psilocybin therapy there.
Psychedelic Therapist Training Programs
CIIS has a psychedelic therapy certificate program here, though note that other than in clinical trials there aren’t places you can legally practice, yet.
Is Psychedelic Therapy Safe?
Psychedelics when used in supervised contexts have an excellent safety track record.
However, they’re not risk free.
People can do dangerous things while on psychedelics, which makes it important to have an experienced sitter or guide.
People who are psychologically, psychiatrically, or medically vulnerable should not use psilocybin without appropriate professional care.15
Reddit Discussion Subreddit for Psychedelic Therapy
Music Playlists for Psychedelic Therapy
If you’re looking for a psychedelic playlist or entheogenic music, check out:
Psilocybin and Psychedelic Playlists
MDMA Therapy Playlists
MDMA Therapy vs Psilocybin Therapy
“IMO, MDMA is much easier to handle than Tryptamines and involves less risk (assuming you’ve reagent tested it to confirm it’s actually MDMA). This means that it’s a good starting point. If the therapy with MDMA doesn’t help in the desired way, then therapy with Tryptamines should be tried. Also, I’ve found that MDMA is very good at helping to deal with past traumas, things that you find very hard to think about while sober. Tryptamines help to deal with questions we don’t have the answers to, questions that we would like resolved to help live a less confusing life. Such as; What happens when I die? What is the purpose of life? And other existential dilemmas.”16
“I’ve always seen it that MDMA is about changing your patterns of emotional appraisal and changing your evaluations of the propositions/facts you believe about yourself and the world. The tryptamines seem to be about changing your patterns of metaphysical appraisal and changing your beliefs (i.e your very understanding of propositions/facts or those ‘facts’ themselves) about yourself and the world. As an example: MDMA can make you content with the fact that there is suffering in the world, and mushrooms can make you see that ‘suffering’ doesn’t actually exist as we live under a veil of ‘maya’ or illusion, or something of the likes. This means that MDMA might operate on more epistemically sound principles (as they change your emotions more than metaphysical beliefs), but tryptamines (whilst risking a compromise of belief systems) seem to work at a much deeper level.”16
“The classic hallucinogens (fwiw, LSD isn’t a tryptamine) seem to be well-suited for mental conditions marked by rigid, compulsive processes of thought and behavior, such as depression and addiction. The drugs seem to “break up” these routinized, reified processes. The posttraumatic psyche may be too vulnerable, too loose, have too little ego strength/integrity for the ego-dissolving properties of the classic hallucinogens, which may be why MDMA (which seems to reliably invite deeply felt self-compassion, self-forgiveness, and self-love) may be better suited for PTSD. That said, most cases of addiction and depression likely have trauma in their etiology, and there is plenty of anecdotal evidence supporting the efficacy of the classic hallucinogens in treating trauma as well, so these formulations are very tentative (hence the abundance of “seem”s and “may”s). Clinically, the unique interpersonal effects of MDMA (trust-enhancing, empathy-promoting) facilitate the psychotherapeutic process (the therapeutic relationship is more salient in MDMA therapy than psilocybin therapy, which focuses more on the mystical experience than interpersonal therapeutic processes per se). MDMA seems to be gentler and tolerated more easily, but IMO the healing it catalyzes is less profound & global. IMO the ideal therapeutic model would integrate the use of a variety of psychedelics (psilocybin, MDMA, ketamine, & others), as they all seem to produce different & valuable curative effects.”17
See our page on MDMA therapy for useful info about MDMA therapy.
LSD Therapy vs Psilocybin Therapy
For therapeutic purposes, the benefits of LSD therapy vs the benefits of psilocybin therapy are likely to be extremely similar. Because most of the benefits seem to be the same, most research is being conducted with psilocybin rather than LSD. This is because psilocybin is less politically loaded, and its shorter duration of effect makes it much more practical to do during a one day therapy session.
The bottom line is that if you’re interested in LSD therapy you should be just as interested in psilocybin therapy, if not even more interested.
Volunteering and Participating in Psychedelic Clinical Trials
Alternatives and Complements to Psychedelic Therapy
Things you might want to look into:
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
- Internal Family Systems (IFS)
- Voice Dialogue
- Sensorimotor Therapy
- Holotropic Breathwork
- Jungian psychology
- Buddhist psychology
- Other somatic therapies
These are mostly sourced from methods that MAPS believes are valuable for MDMA therapists and researchers.18
Other Psychedelic Therapy Resources
Listen to this interview of Michael Pollan by Tim Ferriss.
Subscribe to the reddit community /r/PsychedelicTherapy for info on MDMA therapy, psilocybin therapy, etc.
Watch this VICE 11 minute video on psychedelic therapy.
See our page on MDMA therapy for useful info about MDMA therapy.
Check out our recommendations of the best books about psychedelic therapy here. For example, if you want to understand why psychedelic therapy is important, and the history of the field: read How to Change Your Mind. If you want a practical guidebook to psychedelic therapy: read Psychedelic Psychotherapy by R. Coleman. See the full list of book recommendations here.
- https://maps.org/research/mdma [return]
- https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17582452 [return]
- https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00213-017-4771-x [return]
- https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0269881116675513 [return]
- https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0269881116675512 [return]
- https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00213-019-05249-5 [return]
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24399558 [return]
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4342293/ [return]
- https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0269881112439253 [return]
- https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00952990.2017.1310218 [return]
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4342293/ [return]
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9924843 [return]
- https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00138/full [return]
- http://www.rethinkpsychedelics.org/ [return]
- https://decriminalizedenver.org/ [return]
- https://www.reddit.com/r/PsychedelicTherapy/comments/blvkjz/mdma_vs_tryptamines_lsd_psilocybin_in_therapy/ [return]
- https://www.reddit.com/r/PsychedelicMedicine/comments/blvey3/mdma_vs_tryptamines_lsd_psilocybin_in_therapy/ [return]
- https://s3-us-west-1.amazonaws.com/mapscontent/research-archive/mdma/TreatmentManual_MDMAAssistedPsychotherapyVersion+8.1_22+Aug2017.pdf [return]