Cancer at the Dinner Table: Experiences of Psilocybin-Assisted Psychotherapy for the Treatment of Cancer-Related Psychological Distress
Thomas Cody Swift, M.A., and Alexander Belser, Ph.D. Candidate
Results from recent randomized controlled trials of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy among patients with cancer suggest that this treatment leads to large magnitude reductions in anxiety and depression, as well as improvements in attitudes toward disease progression and death, quality of life, and spirituality. However, despite these compelling findings regarding symptom reduction, psychological mechanisms of action have yet to be identified. This talk will share in-depth understandings from a qualitative perspective of the lived experiences of cancer participants after a single high dose of psilocybin, both to understand the nature of psilocybin as a treatment, as well as to highlight potential pathways of healing from cancer related distress. This talk will also generally address the value of qualitative research for understanding the subjective nature of psychedelic therapies.
Thomas Cody Swift, M.A., received a master's degree in existential-phenomenological counseling from Seattle University and is currently perusing licensure in California. He has worked as a guide in the psilocybin cancer-anxiety study at Johns Hopkins University, and is currently conducting qualitative research into the nature of psycho-spiritual change with psychedelics in a clinical setting, with MDMA and psilocybin. Cody is a director of the Riverstyx Foundation which is dedicated to advancing greater opportunities for healing in end-of-life care, addiction recovery, criminal justice, as well as promoting the study of and access to psychedelic and plant medicines.
Alexander Belser, Ph.D. Candidate, M.Phil., is a Fellow and Adjunct Instructor in the Department of Applied Psychology at New York University (NYU). He co-founded the psychedelic research team at NYU in 2006. Alex is the lead investigator of a qualitative study at NYU exploring how patients with cancer experience psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy. Alex serves as a scientific collaborator for the NYU Psilocybin Alcohol Dependence Qualitative Study, a study investigating psilocybin treatment for alcohol addiction. He is also helping to conduct a qualitative study of religious leaders who are administered psilocybin. Alex graduated from Georgetown University, and pursued graduate studies at Cambridge University, NYU, and Columbia University. He is a member of the Research Advisory Board of Compass Pathways, a medical research foundation that supports innovation in mental health through translational research. Alex currently works at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.