An Examination of Psychological Healing with Ayahuasca
Clancy Cavnar, Psy.D.
Ayahuasca has been progressively regarded as a tool for psychological exploration, healing, and mental well-being. Family dynamics, past trauma, and unacknowledged feelings are often brought to the forefront in early experiences of drinkers, and several authors have written about the importance of integration of the powerful visionary experiences people have. This paper will explore the claims made by those who have experienced psychological benefits from ayahuasca, as found in the academic literature and published personal accounts. It will consider reports of psychological insights gained, and the resulting personal transformation or healing that took place. It will also analyze and identify the specific elements of the ayahuasca experience that are considered to be key to psychological healing, both within the experience and afterwards; these aspects will be related to psychodynamic and transpersonal theories of healing. Finally, the text will contemplate what is known about ayahuasca as a mood enhancer, and how that may assist psychological healing.
Clancy Cavnar, Psy.D., has a doctorate in clinical psychology (Psy.D.) from John F. Kennedy University. She currently works at a dual-diagnosis residential drug treatment center in San Francisco and is a research associate of the Nucleus for Interdisciplinary Studies of Psychoactives (NEIP). She combines an eclectic array of interests and activities as clinical psychologist, artist, and researcher. She has a master of fine arts in painting from the San Francisco Art Institute and a master’s in counseling from San Francisco State University. She is author and co-author of articles in several peer-reviewed journals and co-editor, with Beatriz Caiuby Labate, of six books, among them, Ayahuasca Shamanism in the Amazon and Beyond (Oxford University Press, 2014). For more information see: http://www.neip.info/index.php/content/view/1438.html.