Psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy

A global resurgence in psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy is underway, with unprecedented levels of philanthropic and industry funding, and rapid expansion of research activities. After nearly four decades of political suppression of clinical psychedelic research, psychiatry and mental health treatment are poised for what appears to be an historic moment, and potentially a significant step forward.

Psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy involves a combined pharmacological and psychological treatment, with participants receiving specialised forms of psychotherapy before, during and after each drug session. The ‘classical’ psychedelics include substances like psilocybin, LSD, DMT and mescaline; the term psychedelic is often used more broadly to include substances like MDMA, ibogaine, and ketamine.

Emerging research into the clinical utility of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapies has shown remarkable promise, both within the first wave in the 1950s and 1960s, and over the past two decades. Early trials have demonstrated that a short program of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy can produce rapid, dramatic, and sustained clinical benefit for severe and intractable cases of depression, anxiety, addictions, and PTSD.

Key areas of current focus are expanding this treatment approach into new indications, exploring synergies between psychedelics and various psychotherapeutic and behavioural interventions, exploring novel formulations, investigating therapeutic mechanisms, predicting patient response, tracking cost effectiveness, and improving sustained clinical benefits.

Our work

The Clinical Psychedelic Research Lab is establishing a number of psychedelic medicine trials, co-ordinating specialist therapist training, building staff capacity and site infrastructure, strengthening local and international partnerships, and developing a leading track record in Australia. Treatment will take place within BrainPark at Monash University, a state-of-the-art research platform that is unparalleled in its ability to support this unique form of treatment. The Clinical Psychedelic Research Lab is uniquely positioned to implement leading edge psychedelic treatment combined with evidence-based psychotherapeutic and behavioural interventions within a seamless, patient-focused, and highly conducive environment.

Areas of research/projects:

Psilocybin-assisted Psychotherapy for Generalised Anxiety Disorder (Psi-GAD-1)

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a chronic, relapsing disorder characterised by excessive anxiety and worry. GAD is a relatively common disorder (about 6-9% lifetime prevalence in Australia) that has generally poor treatment outcomes. Within recent trials, psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy led to reductions in anxiety symptoms associated with terminal cancer diagnoses. This clinical trial is a world first testing psilocybin-assisted therapy in the treatment of a primary anxiety disorder. This investigator-initiated trial will be large (72 participants) and well-controlled (double-blind, active-placebo controlled), include a range of treatment innovations and the development of a therapist training program, with funding from Incannex Healthcare Ltd.

MDMA-assisted Psychotherapy for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (MMP-1)

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a debilitating condition linked to substantial distress, low quality of life, and increased suicidality, and has a lifetime prevalence of about 12% in Australia. The use of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) in combination with psychotherapy has been shown to be safe and effective for treating intractable PTSD. The Multidisciplinary Association for Scientific Studies (MAPS) has led MDMA for PTSD research since the 1980’s, raising tens of millions of dollars in philanthropic funding, sponsoring numerous clinical trials, developing a comprehensive therapist training program, and working with regulators to bring MDMA-assisted psychotherapy to market. With generous philanthropic support from Dr. Nigel Strauss, and in-kind and financial support from MAPS, this open label trial with 25 participants will examine the safety and efficacy of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for treating PTSD.

Upcoming studies

Further psychedelic studies are in advanced planning, with a number of exciting projects that aim to examine novel indications, novel therapeutic combinations, and novel treatment elements. To learn more about our future studies and support us, please visit our Support Page.