PT227- Dr. Anne Wagner – Couples Therapy, MDMA, and MAPS

In this episode, Joe interviews Dr. Anne Wagner: Toronto-based clinical psychologist, founder of Remedy (a mental health clinic combining therapy with research through their corresponding Remedy Institute), investigator on the MAPS-sponsored trial on cognitive behavioral conjoint therapy for PTSD, and current lead investigator on MAPS’ trial of cognitive processing therapy + MDMA for PTSD. 

She talks about working with Candice Monson in 2013, having her first MDMA therapy session with Michael and Annie Mithoefer a year later, her first couples study on PTSD using MDMA, her MAPS training (she’s now a trainer in-training), her passion for relational healing, Remedy and what she hopes to accomplish there, and what she’d like to do next: a larger MDMA couples therapy study with hopes of proving its efficacy towards relationship satisfaction improvement to the point of running a study without PTSD being a factor, and a new protocol combining mindfulness-based work with psilocybin. 

They also talk about the idea of personal optimization and how it relates to community, speaking at psychedelic conferences, behavioral accommodation, psychology’s struggles with being accepted in a scientific data world, how to measure what makes a therapist good, and the importance of clinicians-in-training going through extremely in-depth training and doing their own work.

Notable Quotes

On trying MDMA with MAPS: “[I] went and had that therapeutic experience for myself, and was convinced in that moment that this is really, really worth pursuing. And it honestly shifted not only the course of my research, but of my career, my personal life, everything.”

On MDMA being used in therapy: “We saw 6 couples go through this protocol, and it was very compelling. Really, as someone who works with PTSD all the time in my clinical practice and in many different trials over the years, it is the thing that’s excited me the most as a clinician and a researcher, and I feel so much hope for the potential future clients who might get to access this.”

“The advice I really give to people is to try to be an expert in something, and it doesn’t have to be psychedelics. …So, it could be that you are going to be a therapist. Fantastic. Become an amazing therapist. You could be a statistician. We’re going to need those. Become an amazing statistician. We’re going to need great lawyers, or great people who understand policy- all of these things. I really believe in this model of: become an expert in a skillset, and then apply it to psychedelics.”

“Right now, everything’s focused on the drug- this pharma model of: ‘Is it the drug or the placebo? Which one has more effect?’ When really, I think the question needs to be: ‘Should it be the therapy, or the therapy plus the drug? …Is it the process, or the process amplified?’”


Remedy Centre instagram

MAPS: Anne Wagner

MAPS: Overview of current CPT+MDMA Pilot Study

About Dr. Anne Wagner

Dr. Anne Wagner, C.Psych., is the founder of Remedy, a mental health innovation community, and is the lead investigator of the pilot trial of Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) for PTSD + MDMA and the upcoming randomized trial of Cognitive Behavioral Conjoint Therapy for PTSD (CBCT) + MDMA. This work and collaboration builds on the MAPS-sponsored pilot CBCT+MDMA trial she ran with colleagues Michael Mithoefer, MD, Annie Mithoefer, BSN, and Candice Monson, PhD. Anne is deeply committed to bridging the worlds of psychotherapy and non-ordinary states of consciousness, and has a passion for its use for relational healing. She is committed to supporting and protecting traditional and Indigenous wisdom with sacred medicines and consciousness expansion, and uplifting the voices of women in the psychedelic world. She is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Psychology and an Associate Member of the Yeates School of Graduate Studies at Ryerson University. She is also certified in Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, and is engaged in learning and practice of somatic, emotion-focused and transpersonal methods of healing. She is the Past-Chair of the Traumatic Stress Section of the Canadian Psychological Association, is a Global Ambassador for the
International Society of Traumatic Stress Studies, and sits on the Board of Directors of Casey House (Toronto’s HIV/AIDS Hospital).

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In today’s Solidarity Fridays episode, Kyle and Joe talk about last week’s incident at the US Capitol and point out that the most recognizable figure from the protest calls himself a shaman and promotes the use of psychedelics. 

This leads to a discussion about how we in the psychedelic community like to believe that psychedelics lead to connection, self-actualization, and love, but they can also lead to crazy ideas, an openness to conspiracy theories, and other dark paths. They talk about how they both went down conspiracy rabbit holes for years, but ultimately came to the realization that while it was all interesting and aligned with their distrust of the government, they couldn’t prove any of the conspiracies they were spending so much time looking into, and even if they could, would that really better their lives or the community around them? 

They talk about where we’ve arrived as a culture in terms of trust in the government and other authoritarian institutions, how we’re dealing with an unending stream of information constantly being thrown at us, how we decide what truth is, how people unintentionally project their own biases on others, how more people should read philosophy, how we’re merging with technology and not using our brains like we should be (like critically thinking), and how we need to practice digital hygiene and really reflect on what we’re getting out of our time with social media and the neverending cycle of news and opinions that surrounds us. 

Notable Quotes

“[Pyschedelics have] definitely put a lot of interesting ideas and beliefs in my head from time to time, and I’ll sit there and entertain them, but I feel like, at times, psychedelics have really shown me that I really don’t know much about anything.” -Kyle

“The Tim Leary line- ‘Think for yourself and question authority.’ Totally. But, don’t just listen to what some maniacs are saying on the internet. Like, don’t believe what Kyle and I are saying. Verify. This is a cryptocurrency line- don’t trust, verify. …One of the great things that psychedelics have baked in is that they work. You can have MDMA or DMT or ayahuasca and you can come back and report back. It’s the substance interacting with the psyche and the body- nothing to do with what Kyle and Joe say, hopefully.” -Joe

“I hope everybody continues to do their thing [and] express however they want to express on the internet. But I think there is something about that [idea of] digital hygiene that we just should be aware of. Like, what are you consuming? And is it draining you? Is it motivating you? Is it inspiring you?” -Kyle

“Psychedelics can be used in really whack ways. They can also be used in really amazing ways. So let’s try to be really intentional about how we can use them in amazing ways, and same thing with our standard other technologies.” -Joe

Links QAnon ‘shaman’ Jake Angeli first got high aged 11, takes psychedelic cactus & used to go to school dressed as Brad Pitt There’s No Good Evidence That Psychedelics Can Change Your Politics or Religion

Robert Forte’s appearance on Pyschedelics Today: The Hidden History of Psychedelics

The Mass Psychology of Fascism, by Wilhelm Reich

R. Buckminster Fuller’s concept of ephemeralization

Principles: Life and Work, by Ray Dalio

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, by Cal Newport

Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age, by Douglas Rushkoff

The Smell of Rain on Dust: Grief and Praise, by Martín Prechtel

Youtube: Adam Curtis’ documentary: “HyperNormalisation- A different experience of reality”

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PT226 – Veronika Gold & Harvey Schwartz from Polaris Insight Center

In this episode, Kyle interviews psychologist and licensed marriage and family therapist, Veronika Gold, and author and clinical psychologist, Harvey Schwartz. They are co-founders (and Gold is the CEO) of Polaris Insight Center in San Francisco, which offers ketamine-assisted psychotherapy. Together, they work as co-therapists, as trainers on ketamine-assisted psychotherapy through Polaris Insight Center, and as investigators in MAPS’ Phase 3 MDMA-assisted psychotherapy clinical trial for the treatment of PTSD. 

They talk about their training model, the benefits of co-therapy and how a leader/apprentice co-therapy model is likely the future of therapy training, the importance of doing your own work as a therapist, the arguments for therapists not taking drugs, the subtle hierarchal and approval-seeking games uncovered in training, how working with ketamine today is like raising a teenager, the “mystery and mastery” in therapy, medicine, and psychedelics, and the casualties of the mental health care system and the importance of de-programming patients from the effects of its abuses.

Notable Quotes

“We almost need to create a culture. That’s what we’re trying to do in our training- to create a culture of courage and [fearlessness], honesty about ourselves and about the work, and humility and vulnerability, and to have as much of an egalitarian approach to our patients and clients as possible- for many reasons, but one of the main ones is to, in a way, undo the damage that many of them have had by being in the mental health system for as long as they’ve been in the mental health system, because so much gets laid down in terms of programming about worthlessness or failure or ‘it’s their fault.’ So, I feel like a big part of this model is not just giving the medicine and doing the protocol, but kind of imbuing the person with a whole new worldview about what their struggle means and what their struggle is about. …It’s almost like de-programming them from the mental health systems’ long-term effect on their sense of self and their identity.” -Harvey Schwartz

“Mastery and mystery both have risks, both have shadows. And I think teaching that is really important so that everybody learns about humility by walking down the center path between these possible errors that we could all make- being too rigid, or being too loosey-goosey.” -Harvey Schwartz

“The clients do report different experiences, even with the same doses of the medicine. And is it just the set and setting, or is it just the music, or is it really the space that we hold that allows the patient’s psyche to go deeper, to go to the inner-healing intelligence, to access things that will be safely held in that space? That maybe this inner-healing intelligence knows that if that something was not welcome or supported, it’s not going to bring it out because it would be re-traumatizing for them?” -Veronika Gold

“Psilocybin’s been on the planet for thousands of years. Iboga, thousands of years. Ayahuasca. These medicines, I feel like, have thousands of interdimensional spiritual support systems between ancestors, and it’s been going on for a long time. Ketamine is like a teenager in the spirit world, I feel like. And so, in a sense, we are really having a chance to impact the morphogenetic field in a greater level than these other things which have been around so long. So all the things we do, every session we have, I think of this. And all of our trainings, we’re kind of adding into this, helping this teenage form of therapy grow up and steward it in the way that we think it should be stewarded from the point of view of serving in the best possible ways, the safest possible ways, and the most expansive possible ways. So it’s kind of exciting to be raising a teenager.” -Harvey Schwartz


About VeronikaGold, LMFT

Veronika Gold, a psychologist from the Czech Republic and a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in California, has expertise in the treatment of anxiety, depression, and PTSD. She is a co-founder and CEO of Polaris Insight Center in San Francisco, clinic providing Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy treatment for depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental health issues. She is also a lead trainer in the Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy Training offered by Polaris Insight Center. She is a sub-investigator and a co-therapist at San Francisco Insight and Integration Center, site participating in Phase 3 MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy clinical trial for the treatment of PTSD sponsored by MAPS, and she is an associate supervisor for Phase 2 trial in Europe. Veronika Gold is as well EMDR therapist, consultant, and volunteer facilitator for the EMDR Humanitarian Assistance Program. She is a certified Somatic Experiencing Practitioner and a Realization Process Teacher. Veronika provides Psychedelic Integration Therapy and serves as an article writer, consultant, trainer, and presenter on Psychedelic Assisted Therapies.Dr. Harvey Schwartz

About Dr. Harvey Schwartz

Harvey Schwartz has worked as a licensed Clinical Psychologist in private practice in San Francisco since 1985, and is Co-founder of Polaris Insight Center. He received his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Emory University, Atlanta, GA. in 1982.
He has specialized in treating complex PTSD, severe dissociative disorders, survivors of organized abuse experiences, and individuals working on psycho-spiritual development. Harvey has undergone training in psychedelic psychotherapy with the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) and the Ketamine Training Center (KTC), and served as a trainer in two KTC trainings, and currently served as a Sub-Investigator and co-therapist on the MAPS MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy Phase 2/3 Clinical Trials for treatment-resistant PTSD. Harvey is an associate supervisor for the MAPS sponsored clinical trials in Europe.

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Navigating Psychedelics