As a psychologist and a research scientist, I’ve found that the topic of psychedelics can be sensitive and complex. There are a number of growing edges where important conversations are beginning to happen. While I am not well qualified to respond to many of the issues Dr. Devenot raised regarding identity politics, I would like to focus here on two related interwoven perspectives, clinical and scientific, where I think further discussion is warranted.
From a clinical standpoint, it is crucial that counselors, therapists, social workers, and medical and mental health professionals do their best to create a safe space where clients or patients can discuss their concerns and experiences without fear of judgment. For those who do choose to come out of the psychedelic closet, having a safe sounding board such as a trusted counselor can be an invaluable asset. By cultivating an openness and curiosity toward patients’ and clients’ experiences that may differ from our own, we move closer to a stance that does not pathologize the unfamiliar, further alienating and potentially harming those we are trying to serve.
From a scientific standpoint, there has been growing interest in conducting research with psychedelics at institutions around the world. This covers a wide gamut ranging from molecular and preclinical models with cells and animals, to studies in humans on neurological and psychological effects. Along with such work, new discussions are emerging around the nature of psychedelics and their therapeutic potentials, bringing a number of important questions to light.
What is the role of culture in studying psychedelics such as ayahuasca and psilocybin, which have served in aiding spiritual rites among indigenous peoples for centuries and are now finding their way into a largely secular, scientific setting?
What is the role of subjective experience in studying and understanding psychedelics in the first person, and how can such approaches be reconciled and integrated with third-person methodologies such as neuroscience and behavioral pharmacology?
What kinds of training and precautions are necessary for people to safely administer psychedelics to others?
Is personal experience with psychedelics valuable or appropriate for individuals administering psychedelics to others in laboratory or clinical settings?