Integrating Plant Medicines and Psychiatry: Theory and Methods of a Model Clinic
Jordan Sloshower, M.D., M.Sc.
Over the past two decades, scientific evidence of the safety and therapeutic potential of plant medicines, such as ayahuasca and psilocybin, has grown significantly to the point where their eventual rescheduling and incorporation into formal psychiatric practice seems increasingly likely. However, this integration could unfold in a multitude of ways, reflecting differences in neurobiological, psychological, spiritual, indigenous and other ontological understandings of what these substances are and how they exert their therapeutic effects. Attempts to reconcile divergent explanatory lenses and therapeutic approaches will present significant challenges to psychiatric theory and praxis as well as unique opportunities to develop new efficacious treatments, advance scientific knowledge, and promote justice and human rights. In order to achieve these objectives, a model research clinic would treat patients with plant medicines and complementary treatment modalities in a manner that a) respects and incorporates principles and practices from different traditions and paradigms, and b) fosters knowledge generation and transfer across paradigms. Such “critical paradigm integration” would employ interdisciplinary collaboration and reflexive critique in conjunction with contemporary scientific methodologies to a) unify various ways of understanding plant medicines and other integrative modalities, such as yoga, meditation, and sound therapy, and b) begin to elucidate best practices for treating various conditions. The resulting clinic would have the capacity to tailor treatments to individual patient needs and learn how variables related to the treatments themselves (dose, preparation, frequency) and to set and setting (use of psychotherapy, music, nature exposure, diet, group or ceremonial ingestion) affect subjective experience and outcomes.
Jordan Sloshower, M.D., M.Sc., is currently a resident physician in the Department of Psychiatry at Yale University. He was born and raised in Winnipeg, Canada and completed a master's degree in medical anthropology prior to entering medical school at Yale. While a medical student, he pursued global health research and clinical opportunities in India, Nepal, Ecuador, Peru, and South Africa. His current research focuses on the therapeutic application of psychedelic substances, while his clinical interests include mental health system development in resource-poor settings and integrative psychiatry, especially utilizing mindfulness-based psychotherapy.