Psychedelic Psychotherapy

Psychedelic Psychotherapy

Wolf eye

Psychedelics can be “used” for many purposes: to gain direct insight into the nature of Reality; to discover what lurks in our own subconscious; to increase creativity; to have fun at a party or in the wilderness.

All valid. I’ve used them in these ways myself.

But, as my mentor Andrew Feldmar teaches, in the domain of psychotherapy the purpose of psychedelics is to deepen the relationship between therapist and patient.

Much of the psychedelic research along with the burgeoning number of clinics opening to introduce psychedelics to the public in a therapeutic setting assumes otherwise. There is a focus on the therapeutic effectiveness of the molecule as it interacts with the brain. And indeed, when measured the brain does light up, opening up the possibility of new neural pathways forming. It is assumed that this effect on the brain is the key to healing. Is it? Certainly there is a correlation, but as the adage goes, correlation is not causation.

Clients are encouraged, after taking the psychedelic, to put on a blind fold, listen to a set list and go on an inward journey. The problem is that for many this inwardness is precisely the problem. To be left alone for four hours can be a replay of what happened to them growing up.

In practice, I am sure that the clinicians are kind and caring and responsive. But I do wonder why this bias for solitary journeying. I wonder if it’s because in this research phase, in the interest of science, the variables need to be controlled. Introducing a relationship into the mix doesn’t help with the drug administration protocols who need to see that the “drug” is effective on its own merits. It’s not in the industry’s interests actually to discover that because hearts were broken and psyches were fractured by relationships they are also mended by a trusting relationship.

Current approaches to psychedelic psychotherapy tend to be thoroughly materialistic in the philosophical meaning of the word. The assumption is that the human being is basically the accidental product of chemical and material dynamics, a complex organism without free will, thrown together haphazardly over the course of millions of years of evolution. By introducing a new molecule into the human system, the individual can be healed. Pharmaceutical companies never mention that this is the philosophy that undergirds their mad pursuit for new molecules to market to the public. The fact that they aren’t very effective at all in treating what is called “mental health” problems is mostly concealed by the industry and the medical system that is almost completely in its back pocket at this point.

What are deemed “mental health problems” and diagnosed by psychiatry in a thousand different ways are, in my opinion, what Hungarian psychiatrist, Thomas Szatz, call “problems in living”. These problems in living stem from somebody doing something to somebody else that caused an individual to compensate in ways that safeguards against having to come into intimate relationship with others.

Because “others”, these patients have learned, hurt you.

At some point in the therapeutic relationship these mind and heart-altering psychedelics may be effectively introduced with the purpose of seeing and feeling what is coming between the therapist and patient, what is blocking the flow of the life force, of transparency, spontaneity, and intimacy. The ways in which the patient is keeping the therapist at a safe distance will reveal how they are doing this in their “real” life. And if these barriers to life and full self-expression can be dismantled in the context of the therapeutic relationship, the patient internalizes that the world is not out to hurt him or her, that what happened in the past isn’t happening now — at least with one other person and if one other person promises to never hurt them or betray them, maybe there is another person out there who they can be themselves with, or two or three. The habits of compensation may be loosened and more life force may flow freely, restoring the capacity for intimacy and authenticity.

Bruce Sanguin Psychotherapist

Written by Bruce Sanguin

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