Psychedelic Therapists: Perspectives on the Therapeutic Process in Psilocybin Assisted Therapy
Elizabeth M. Nielson, Ph.D. and Jeffrey Guss, M.D.
Present approaches to psilocybin-assisted treatment of various diagnoses include varying emphasis on the psychotherapy that precedes, accompanies, and follows psychedelic medication sessions. Academic research tends to focus almost exclusively on the experiences of the participants, with little examination of the therapeutic process from the perspective of the therapists.
We will present findings from an interview study of psychedelic therapists who have substantial experience leading psilocybin medication sessions in clinical research settings in order to determine how these therapists conceptualize the process of change in psilocybin-assisted treatment, as well as inquire into their experience in conducting sessions. In doing so we highlight the the therapist-patient relationship in facilitating the changes observed in psilocybin-assisted treatment and advance understanding of of how psychedelic therapy works in clinical settings.
Elizabeth M. Nielson, Ph.D., is a Clinical Psychologist and post-doctoral fellow in the Behavioral Science Training in Drug Abuse Research Program at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing. Her program of research includes qualitative and mixed-methods projects designed to further understand of the phenomenology and mechanisms of change in psychedelic medicine, including the experiences of trial participants and of the therapists themselves. Dr. Nielson is presently in training to become a therapist on the upcoming Phase-III trial of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD and is collaborating on the development of a study of MDMA therapists. Dr. Nielson is also affiliated with NYU School of Medicine as a study therapist on “A Double-Blind Trial of Psilocybin-Assisted Treatment of Alcohol Dependence,” and is Co-PI on a mixed-methods interview study of that trial’s participants. She was formerly an Adjunct Assistant Professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY, where she taught courses in general psychology and the Addiction Studies Program.