Psychedelics: A Re-Emerging Field
As psychedelic research re-emerges from its dark ages, the world is beginning to learn about their healing potential for various psychological disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and near-death anxiety due to terminal illness. The research is fascinating, exciting, and seems to be catching a lot more mainstream attention. The preliminary research shows that psychedelics may be promising tools for mental health and could be the future of medicine. So the question is, how does one get involved in this work?
Joe and Kyle had the opportunity to talk with Ingmar Gorman, Ph.D.about how people can get involved in psychedelic research or in the field of psychedelics in general. Ingmar shared with us some really great information and we would like to recap some highlights. Some of the information provided is a mix between our own thoughts and what Ingmar mentioned.
Important Disclaimer: This is a fairly new field, so it is important to remember that the future of this work is not set-in-stone. Psychedelics are still illegal within the United States and many other countries around the world. While we remain optimistic for the future of psychedelic research, the landscape can shift at any moment. There is still a lot of work to be done!
First Thing First:
- Ask yourself, “Why am I interested in entering into the field of psychedelic research?”
- Do you want to get your foot in the door because you had an experience that changed your life or inspired you in some way? Did you have a healing experience that you want to share with others?
- Do you want to give back to the community in some way by furthering scientific research or inquiry? If so, what is your expertise and area of interest?
- What role can you play later on? Are there areas or specialties that need attention or growth?
- Understanding and asking yourself, “Why do I want to do this? What is my motive?”
Personal or transformational experiences may not always be the best option for pursuing an active career in researching psychedelics. Psychedelic experiences can be healing, transformative, and magical, but this does not mean you have to enter into the field of science or research. There may be other options that might suit your interests better. Obtaining a professional degree can be a well-worth investment with your time and money if that is surely a path that you wish to pursue. It is important to think outside of the box.
Also, an important thing to note here is that psychedelics are still illegal. While the research and science is happening, obtaining a research position is often difficult considering the limited amount of research. This is not to discourage any of you, but just saying it will require a lot of work! While MAPS is projecting that MDMA will be legal for psychotherapy by 2021, it is still uncertain what the laws and regulations will be. We are hopeful that the future looks bright for psychedelic careers, but it is also important to err on the side of caution as well.
Along with asking the questions above, here is some general information or advice for individuals who not wish to pursue a traditional degree. We are all hardwired differently and earning a professional degree may not be in everyone’s best interest.
- Do Your Research: It is important to be well-read with the research and science behind psychedelics. If you do not have access to a journal database, check out Google Scholar or check out Academia.edu MAPS and Erowid have some great free sources from research papers to free ebooks.
- Go to Conferences and Events: As in any field, it is important to try and make it to a conference or an event. The reality of our world today is that most people get opportunities because they network and seek out the opportunities. Conferences are great ways to network, promote your research or interests, and find the “others.” This is a relatively small and intimate field, and many people are approachable. Chances are you will be exposed to the most up-to-date research, learn about multidisciplinary approaches, and probably meet a lot of great people. You do not have to be a researcher or student to attend, there is definitely a place for everyone at conferences. Here are a few popular events/conferences
- Psymposia (Nationwide)
- Horizons: Perspectives on Psychedelics (NYC)
- MAPS: Psychedelic Science
- Beyond Psychedelics (Prague, Czech Republic)
- Breaking Convention (London, England)
- The Aware Project (Southern California)
- Center for Psychedelic Therapies and Research (CIIS) (Bay Area, CA)
- Exploring Psychedelics (Oregon)
- Los Angeles Psychedelic Science Symposium (Los Angeles, California)
- Detroit Psychedelic Conference (Detroit, Michigan)
- Colloquium on Psychedelic Psychiatry (Sweden)
- The International Drug Policy Reform Conference
- The Non-Traditional Approach: There are other ways to get involved that do not require the investment your time and money for a professional degree. Are you a visual artist? Do you produce music? An interviewer? Are you a product inventor? For example, Joe mentioned during the podcast that he did not feel the need to go on to pursue a mental health degree because he does not feel like being a therapist is the thing that he wants to do right now. Instead, Joe and I are creating this podcast as a resource for the community. The bottom line, is there anything that you can contribute or create for the field? Many researchers and scientists are not artists or graphic designers and the field needs art to help convey the visual experience. Look at Alex and Allison Grey or Android Jones for example.
- Develop an Expertise: Whether you are taking a traditional or non-traditional approach, I think it is safe to say that developing an expertise is a smart approach. Develop an expertise that can translate well to psychedelic research. Ask yourself, “how can I help or what can I contribute?”
- Apply Your Skills: Again, think about how you can develop an expertise and think about how your skills can be applied to the field. Are you an accountant or into finances? Maybe if Rick Doblin’s dream of psychedelic treatment centers become real in the future, we are going to need lots of people to manage everything.
- Volunteer: It does not hurt to reach out and develop a relationship with the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), Erowid, Zendo Project, DanceSafe, Drug Policy Alliance, or any other psychedelic organization. These organizations might be looking for a helping hand in a project or event. Volunteering can help you become connected with an organization, develop a relationship, and maybe help you land a job somewhere! Worst case scenario, you meet some awesome people.
- Festival Harm Reduction Services: There are various organizations that provide harm reduction services at festivals. This may be a great way to get experience in the field. Check out the Zendo Project, DanceSafe, or Kosmicare for potential future opportunities.
- Create a Psychedelic Club or Society: Local psychedelic clubs and societies are popping up all over the place. You can create your own too! You can check out our guide Tips on Creating Your Own Psychedelic Group
- Psychedelic Community: Check out this new site, Psychedelic.Community to connect with others.
- Stay Up-To-Date: Get the latest psychedelic news, articles, and podcasts by visiting these websites:
Get Involved in Research
There are numerous ways to get involved in research projects. From self-report studies to actual participation, there are ways to get involved and possibly become a study participant. Here is a list of a few different options.
- Clinicaltrials.gov: This is a database of clinical studies from around the country and around the world. You can use this database to search active clinical studies on psychedelics and to search for recruitment opportunities. Just perform a simple search for “psychedelic” or anything else that you may be looking for in the search box. You can filter your search option and only search studies that are currently open for “recruitment.”
- The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies: If you are already not aware, MAPS is streamlining research for MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. Check out their Participate in Research page for more information about how to get involved in one of their studies
- Medicinal Mindfulness and DMTx:: Are you interested in participating in an extended-state DMT research project? Medicinal Mindfulness is currently in the process of putting a study together. Learn more at DMTx.org or sign up for the DMTx Psychonaut Training
- Johns Hopkins University: Self-report survey – Have you had an encounter with a seemingly autonomous entity after taking DMT?
- Psychedelic Surveys: Psychedelic Survey is a collaborative research platform powering today’s groundbreaking research into psychedelics and the mind.
If you are thinking about trying to get your foot in the door with psychedelic research, it is important to analyze which route you wish to take. There are many paths to choose from and you do not need always need to pursue a degree in science.
Are you currently or thinking about pursuing your Bachelor’s degree?
- What are your interests? Are you interested in psychology or psychiatry? Neuroscience or neuropsychology? Chemistry? Biology? History or anthropology? Do you want to do therapy at some point? Figure out what interests you.
It is recommended if you want to do therapy or conduct scientific research to earn a degree in science and psychology.
- Find a niche or a specialty: If you’re off to an early start, figure out what you may want to focus on. If you’re a psychology student, maybe focus on trauma or addiction. Current psychedelic research is mostly focused on if these substances can be beneficial for certain psychiatric or mental disorders. The research funds are not really there for “how” these substances work, but that might not be the case down the line in a few years. The field is shifting rapidly.
- Go to conferences: Just in case you missed this in the last section, remember to try and attend a conference or event!
- Find A School: It is suggested that if you would like to do rigorous academic/scientific research it might be important to seek out applying to a traditional school. There are schools out there doing research and it might not hurt to look into their programs. MAPS has made a list of schools that might make psychedelic research easier.
- Create a Club: You can always try to create a drug advocacy/policy club at your university. If you are unsure how to go about doing so, you could always check out the Students for Sensible Drug Policy and create a local chapter at your university or school.
- Training and Education: There are plenty of training opportunities that may be helpful when thinking about adding new skills to your toolbox. Here are some examples of trainings that could be beneficial or helpful.
- DanceSafe Training Program
- Psychedelic Education and Continuing Care Program
- Psychedelic.Support Event Calendar
- Psychedelics Today: Navigating Psychedelics: Lessons on Self-Care & Integration
- PsychSitter: The Manual of Psychedelic Support
- Zendo Project: Psychedelic Harm Reduction Training
Techniques and Therapies
Some of these trainings/techniques may require advanced credentials and education.
- Dreamshadow Transpersonal Breathwork
- Holotropic Breathwork
- Internal Family Systems
- Sensorimotor Psychotherapy
- Somatic Experiencing
- Spiritual Emergence Coaching
- Trauma Dynamics
Beyond The Bachelor’s Degree:
If you just had just completed your undergraduate degree, are currently a graduate student, or trying to figure out what is next, here is some advice.
- Master’s Degree or Ph.D.: Many people get caught up on this decision/topic. Some people believe that pursuing a clinical psychology PhD or PsyD is the best option if they want to get their foot in the door with psychedelic psychotherapy. Earning a Ph.D. or PsyD or even a medical degree such as a Psychiatry is a large investment in both your time and money. This route may not be the best option for everyone and it is important to know what you are interested in or what skills you are strong in. Maybe science and math is not your strong point, so pursuing a clinical psychology degree to become a clinical psychologist may not suit you. Some people just want to be able to conduct psychotherapy and there are plenty of ways to do so, such as getting a master’s degree in clinical mental health or social work. Weigh your options and think about what fits you the best.
- Specialty and Niche: Like the bachelor’s advice, what is your specialty or expertise? What role can you play later on? The field of psychedelic research is looking for individuals with specialties. Look into the ways how to develop an expertise in the field. If your interest is in trauma, research how to develop a focus in body psychotherapy for trauma disorders. Focus on alternative treatments for addiction.
- Passion and Drive: Since earning a professional degree or a doctorate degree is both an investment of time and money, you are going to need to be passionate about what you are studying. There are many people who start programs and realize that it is not for them. Know that if you want to pursue a professional career in psychedelics, you’re in it for the long haul!
- Is There Therapeutic Benefit: If you are interested in research Ingmar mentioned that the funding may not be there for questions like, “how do these substances work?” or “how do they heal?” Even though the Imperial College of London has been doing amazing “how” research (how LSD, psilocybin, and MDMA affect the brain) there is not much of that type of research going on within the United States. The MDMA-assisted psychotherapy study wanted to know not how MDMA cures or helps PTSD, but rather, does MDMA-assisted psychotherapy help with PTSD?
- Find a Mentor or Professor: It does not hurt to research mentors or professors in the field to see where they are teaching. Katherine Maclean mentioned in our latest interview that she was interested in psychedelic research and knew that Johns Hopkins was researching psilocybin. Look for post-doctorate fellowships, internships, etc. Attend a school that is doing the research
- Find Grants for Research: If you are enrolled in a program and can find a faculty member that supports your psychedelic mission, try to find grants or scholarship money to support your research program. The Source Research Foundation is a new organization that is helping to provide grant money to students who want to conduct psychedelic research.
- Training and Education: As mentioned in the “For Students” section above, there are various training/education opportunities that will help you grow and develop new skills. Please view the list above for ideas.
- Council on Spiritual Practices
- Drug Policy Alliance
- Entheogenic Research Integration and Education (ERIE)
- International Center for Ethnobotanical Education, Research and Service
- MIND: European Foundation for Psychedelic Science
- Psychedelic Education and Continuing Care Program
- Source Research Foundation
- The Beckley Foundation
- The California Institute for Integral Studies Center for Psychedelic Therapies and Research
- The Heffter Research Institute
- The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies
- The Usona Institute
- Women’s Visionary Council
- Zendo Project
Articles about getting involved
- Garcia-Romeu, A. (2014). Making your Mark in the Psychedelic Renaissance. MAPS Bulletin Special Edition, [online] (Spring 2013). Available at: http://www.maps.org/news-letters/v24n1/v24n1_p10-13.pdf
- Nichols, D. (1997). How Does One Go About Performing Research with Psychedelics?. MAPS Bulletin, [online] Volume 7 Number 4(Autumn 1997), pp.pp. 21-26. Available at: https://www.maps.org/resources/students/180-how-does-one-go-about-performing-research-with-psychedelics-2
- Roberts, Thomas. Hints for Someone Looking for a Psychedelic Studies Graduate Program. Available at: https://www.academia.edu/440924/Psychedelics_Hints_on_Looking_for_Graduate_Program
- Roberts, Thomas. Hints on Proposing a Psychedelics Course in Higher Education. Available at: https://www.academia.edu/24340522/Hints_on_Proposing_a_Psychedelics_Course_in_Higher_Education
- Sewell, R. (2006). So You Want to be a Psychedelic Researcher?. MAPS Bulletin, [online] Volume XVI Number 2(Autumn 2006). Available at: https://www.maps.org/news-letters/v16n2-html/so_you_want_to_be_a_psychedelic_researcher.html
Best of Luck! We wish you the best of luck on your psychedelic journey and hope that you find this information useful. MAPS has a lot of great information and be sure to check out their “resource” section.
Be sure to leave a comment, subscribe to our podcast, and connect with us. We would love to hear from you.
Last Updated: 5/31/2018