The History and Future of Psychedelic Psychotherapy

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September 22, 2016 | Posted in anxiety, psychedelic psychotherapy, psychotherapy, Uncategorized | By

With the resurgence of interest in the use of psychedelics for therapeutic purposes including many clinical studies at NYU, Johns Hopkins, UBC, and many other research centres I have been digging into some of the literature. I came across two pieces that make for an interesting contrast: Remembrances of LSD Therapy Past by Betty Grover Eisner Ph.D., and The Ten Lessons in Psychedelic Psychotherapy, Rediscovered, by Neal M Goldsmith, which is a chapter in a book called Psychedelic Medicine: New Evidence for Hallucinogens as Treatments.  
Betty Eisner

Betty Eisner

Psychedelics such as LSD, Psilocybin, MDMA, and Mescaline has been shown to be very powerful psychoactive tools that reach places psychotherapy and current pharmaceuticals don’t touch. Psychedelics are highly effective in reducing anxiety in terminal cancer patients, those with highly resistant PTSD, alcoholics, and new clinical research is exploring ways that psychedelics can have a positive impact on people with eating disorders, and there are many other studies researching how psychedelics work. Hope among researchers is that they will encourage governments to loosen control of these highly restricted drugs.   Betty Eisner was a psychoanalyst and psychedelic researcher in the 1950s and 1960s in LA.Her unpublished manuscript was written two years before her death in 2004. Even though there were some controls on LSD in the US before it became illegal in 1966, Betty’s book documents how freewheeling the researchers were back in the day. It is mainly a collection of letters to other researchers such as Humphry Osmond, Tom Leary, Adolous Huxley, Bill Wilson the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous who fervently believed in using LSD to treat alcoholics, and many other larger-than-life characters like the LSD evangelist Al Hubbard with his private plane. She is a terrific writer and documents her experiences of the first age of the LSD beautifully. It was expected that researchers regularly partake in psychedelic experiences and Betty documents these with great clarity. She noted that an eight hour trip was like four years of therapy. Have a look at this short 1956 film of Dr. Sidney Cohen (Betty’s boss) chatting with people on LSD. Neal Goldsmith’s Ten Lessons of Psychedelic Psychotherapy, Rediscovered is a much more nuanced and balanced account of the important lessons learned by Betty and her peers before LSD was banned in the US in 1966 up until research resumed in the 1990’s. Even though the first generation’s research was a bit loosy goosey and improvised, they discovered many very important techniques Neal documents. The importance of set and setting was recognized early on. They recognized that one had a better trip if one is prepared and in a comfortable location. This might seem obvious to us now, but keep in mind that early researchers had people strapped to gurneys in hospital rooms and left alone for the duration of their trip. Probably because researchers consumed LSD themselves that they were able to understand the importance of things like set and setting.   In this second age of psychedelic research, clinicians are hoping to document and validate the beneficial effects these drugs in the hope that medical authorities will relax the controls that currently exist on psychedelics. If successful, psychedelic psychotherapy will become much more common in the future and I think it will inevitably lead to a radical re-examination our current understanding of psychiatry as it has been practiced for the past hundred years. After all, psychiatrists wrote off psychedelics and mimicking psychosis and schizophrenia, but now most understand that it is the gateway to understanding altered states of consciousness which include spiritual and religious experiences.   These books are available for a free download with the links posted below.   Betty Grover Eisner, Ph.D. Remembrances of LSD Therapy Past, 2002, unpublished  NEAL M. GOLDSMITH “The Ten Lessons of Psychedelic Psychotherapy, Rediscovered.” In Winkelman, M. and Roberts, T. (Eds.), Psychedelic Medicine: New Evidence for Hallucinogens as Treatments.  New York: Praeger, 2007.

 

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Missing in Action: Mental Health Community Fails Fraud Victims

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November 12, 2015 | Posted in balance, Fraud, Integrative, psychotherapy | By

Major fraud cases grab the headlines for a few days or weeks then forgotten until the next one comes along. We never have to wait long. Media typically focuses on following the money, the colourful perpetrator and occasionally on the victims. Because no violence is used, there is some sort of collusion, and sometimes insurance, fraud appears to be a victimless crime. On the contrary, fraud victims are often devastated by their loses, blamed for their perceived collusion, secrecy, greed, lack of foresight, gullibility, stupidity and so on. Is that why is there so little support for fraud victims from the mental health community? Major fraud cases grab the headlines for a few days or weeks then forgotten until the next one comes along. We never have to wait long. Media typically focuses on following the money, the colourful perpetrator and occasionally on the victims. Because no violence is used, there is some sort of collusion, and sometimes insurance, fraud appears to be a victimless crime. On the contrary, fraud victims are often devastated by their loses, blamed for their perceived collusion, secrecy, greed, lack of foresight, gullibility, stupidity and so on. Is that why is there so little support for fraud victims from the mental health community? Google help for victims of fraud and you will find various resources from police forces, governments, lawyers, accountants, and third parties who will help you navigate the legal system. Google psychological help for fraud victims and you get pretty much the same results but more along the lines of how to prevent people from falling for scams. Missing from these results are any psychologist, psychotherapists, agencies, or help lines that will help victims deal with their trauma. Where are those mental health professionals who can help victims deal with their pain and loss? You don’t even want to know what you get when you Google psychotherapist fraud. Sadly, there are many more psychotherapists accused of fraud than those who specialize in helping the injured party. Fraud is a global problem that is growing about 4% a year. You will become a victim of swindlers at some point unless you live in a monastery in Tibet. Often it is small: being over-charged for work done on your car; or giving money to a charity that funnels it to offshore accounts. Scams exist in every type of transaction from foreign trade to adoption to human smuggling. It may well be the second oldest profession. Some of the first writing ever found was on Samarian clay tablets. They were itemized lists of goods in jars used in trade to prevent loss. It’s estimated that fraud costs the US economy $400 billion each year. You find it in every country of the world.  Many of the instances of it is small potatoes, like in the two example above, but what really adds up are the major frauds like Madoff and Worldcom where billions are lost and many lives are ruined. This cohort variously suffers from PTSD, inability to trust others or themselves, depression, suicide, divorce, strained relationships, low self esteem, and anger. It’s curious to me that professionals aren’t stepping over themselves to help these people. A report by the School of Psychology at the University of Exeter on why people fall for scams reports that: “Scams cause psychological as well as financial harm to victims. Victims not only suffer a financial loss, but also a loss of self-esteem because they blame themselves for having been so 'stupid' to fall for the scam. Some of the victims we interviewed appeared to have been seriously damaged by their experience.” A British charity wants us to recognize that it is the most vulnerable people, often isolated elderly and those with mental health issues are most at risk of being scammed. The Think Jessica organization is lobbying to have (Jessica Scam Syndrome (JSS) recognized as a disorder to help prevent this vulnerable population from being victimized. But it’s not just the vulnerable who fall victim. Intelligent, skeptical people who think they would never fall for anything suspicious can also become victims. Perpetrators are a high risk to reoffend even when they get caught and serve time. The chances of getting caught is slim and the payoff so large that most fraud artists make a career of it. Perhaps if and when vulnerability to fraud appears in the DSM will the mental health community swing into action? Of course the best thing we could do as a society would be to educate citizens to stay away from anything suspicious and drastically increase monitoring and penalties for those who ruin lives. Bradley Foster

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14 Common Misconceptions About People Who Go to Therapy

June 29, 2015 | Posted in psychotherapy | By

from Huffington Post... No one ever hears a friend say "I have a doctor's appointment" and immediately thinks that they must be rich or weak or crazy. It's generally the right and less stubborn thing to see a professional when our body is injured or feels "atypical." But if someone wants to see a therapist for their mental health, people aren't as uncritical. I talk very openly about the fact that I see a therapist. While my friends and family are mostly supportive, they, along with the general population, still ask questions or make comments that remind me that going to therapy is not as normalized or as acceptableas I had hoped. I know my loved ones mean well, and I consider myself lucky; but there's still that millisecond between saying the variation of words "I see a therapist" and the polite (albeit usually misinformed) reply where the stigma lives. All the immediate thoughts and questions translate to a slight change in demeanor and discomfort reflected in their eyes. more  

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Taking Back Control

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June 5, 2015 | Posted in balance, Integrative | By

Anxious?

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
Reinhold Niebuhr*
And therein lies the root of much of our stress. When we accept that there are few things we have control over, we might be able relax and just be with what is. A major source of anxiety and depression is the feeling of a loss of control. Those who are depressed surrender to the malaise. Anxious people, worry a lot. It’s our attempt to control more than we are able to that elevates our stress hormones and affects our ability to sleep well. So, just what do we control? According to most experts, very little. The only things we have full control over are ourselves. Anything external to us, our environment, other people, the weather, and pretty much anything in the world is beyond our control. Just to be clear, we control: our actions; what we think; what we say; our immediate environment; what our inputs are (what we see, hear, read etc.); who are friends are; our level of self care; how we spend our time; and our legacy. That’s not much to look after, considering the hundreds of things that are out of our hands in a day. As the poem by the preacher Reinhold Niebuhr states, it takes grace and forgiveness to accept what we can’t change and wisdom to know what we can. Everything else leads to malaise or stress. You might ask, if leading a less stressful life is that simple, why don’t more people do it? There are a lot of answers to this question; most can be reduced to human nature. As a coach I work with clients who suffer from stress, anxiety, impulse control issues, depression, and lack of discipline or motivation. The trouble is, it’s much easier to worry, blame others, be irresponsible, compare one’s self to others, be passive, or a control freak than it is to take control of ourselves and our mind. If you find that you fit neatly into the category of worrying about things outside your control you have plenty of company. The best thing you can do is to bring some awareness to your worries. Write down everything you are worried about using two columns: “Things I can change” and “Things I can’t change”. Notice how long the “Can’t Change” list is and how short the “Can Change” list is. But it’s not like we are simply going to stop worrying about things just because we conceptually know they’re out of our control. This is where the hard but rewarding work comes in. The good news is that breathing, meditation, relaxation, and yoga, all help. Training your mind to control your thoughts is essential to being able to banish worries, blame, unflattering comparisons, negative thinking, and fears. Fears are often the root of anxiety and anger so it will take introspection and perhaps some professional to root them out. * The quote by Reinhold Niebuhr is most commonly known as the Serenity Prayer, adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12 Step Programs. This is a shortened version of the original prayer penned by Neibuhr in a sermon to troops in 1943.  

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