What is augmented psychotherapy?
The treatment of mental health is seeing a significant breakthrough. Augmented psychotherapy, also known as psychedelic-augmented therapy is gaining stronger recognition as the next frontier in mental health.
So what is it?
Augmented psychotherapy incorporates a specific dose of a psychedelic substance administered alongside psychotherapy with the intention to help patients through the mental blockages that lie at the root of their issues.
Talking therapy alongside the psychedelic element is fundamental aspect of the effectiveness and safety of this approach.
The core elements of augmented psychotherapy
In clinical trials, participants will typically attend a number of talk-therapy sessions with a trained therapist. The focus of these sessions is to help participants build trust with the therapist, who will act as a guide through the psychedelic session. In addition, your therapist will explore some of your specific struggles and help align your intentions and expectations of the therapy session.
Through the preparation stage, the therapist will encourage you to be open to challenging experiences and encourage curiosity. (“If you see a door, go through it”; “If you meet something scary, walk towards it and ask, ‘what do you have to teach me?’”) Just to note - challenging experiences are often integral to the personal and therapeutic benefit. Bad trips are often borne out of an attempt to avoid the experience and so can be mitigated by an open and trusting approach.
The Psychedelic Session
During the session - ideally a number of factors are optimised to increase the chances of an effective experience.
The core elements
The set - this relates to your mindset, becoming aware of your expectation and mood as well as awareness of the influence of personality and past experience. The setting - this relates to the context or environment in which the session takes place. Consideration should be made about comfort, aesthetic quality of the room.
Typically there are two therapists in attendance. Within trials, you tend to have the option to sit or lie on a couch, wear eyeshades and sometimes listen to a selected music playlist.
Depending on the substance, the dose may be taken orally or intravenously and session duration will vary ( DMT - 30 mins, psilocibin - 8 hours and LSD up to 12 hours) Therapy during the session is usually non directive. The therapist aims to be attentive but typically silent and offering assistance and guidance if needed, listening and responding to the patient when they speak, with little analysis of the material.
Integration of your experience with your therapist after the session is an important element to the process.These conversations give you the opportunity to process, make sense of and give meaning to your experiences
Is augmented psychotherapy legal?
Most augmented psychotherapy involves, at one point or another, administration of a psychedelic substance. Unfortunately, as it stands, legal access to psychedelic substances is very limited. Augmented psychotherapy is only available legally through clinical trials or in Jamaica using magic mushrooms and in the Netherlands using magic truffles. However, rapid change is occurring in many places around the world, and there is cause for optimism that legislation will adapt in response to the growing body of scientific evidence.
Is Augmented Psychotherapy Safe?
In a supervised context, psychedelic-augmented therapy has an excellent safety track record.
However, they are not risk free.
For more detailed information on safety, check out our next blog post.