Research in Psychotherapy with Mind Altering Drugs – Dr. Peter Gasser
University of Kent, Canterbury, UK: 4 April 2012. 18:00. Keynes Lecture Theatre 1
Dr. Peter Gasser is a physician in psychiatry and psychotherapy, working in private practice in Solothurn, Switzerland. He was trained in psychodynamic methods as well as in therapy with mind altering drugs, i.e. psycholytic therapy. He has been a member of the Swiss Medical Society for Psycholytic Therapy since 1992 and its president since 1996.
As a reaction to the mass use of LSD in the 1960s, within the counterculture movement, there was a worldwide ban of mind-altering drugs and they became scheduled as substances without any therapeutic use. This lead to a breakdown of research and therapy with mind-altering drugs. After a pause of more than 35 years, Dr. Gasser got a pilot study approved with the title: LSD – assisted psychotherapy in persons suffering from anxiety associated with advanced-stage life threatening diseases.
A phase-II, double-blind, placebo-controlled dose-response pilot study. The announced presentation in Canterbury will report about approval, course and results of this, at the time, single worldwide project.
Although publications about Mescaline appeared in the 1920s, research and medical use of mind altering psychoactive substances started only after 1943 when Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann discovered LSD as a semi-synthetic compound of ergot fungus.
It became clear that substances like LSD do not work within the paradigm of usual intake of medicaments but rather as a kind of catalyst of psychological processes. They should be ingested in a psychotherapeutic setting. The altering of mind facilitates personal regressive experiences with emotional and cognitive insights in biographic material as well as deep encounters with the personal self or transpersonal opening to so called spiritual experiences.
The aspect of a here and now experience is crucial for this kind of therapy, i.e. the sensual-emotional-cognitive certainty of what happens and the clear reminder of what happened. This is important for talking afterwards and integration of the whole experience. Further factors that are important are the constitution of a confidential relationship to the therapist(s) and the ego-strengthening experience of overcoming anxiety and fear of loss of control when facing the unknown.