Are psychedelics the future for mental health? Research on the use of psychedelics for depression, PTSD and addiction is being carried out in respectable academic institutions such as Johns Hopkins with impressive results that dramatically outweigh the kind of change we would see with typical psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy. It is still very early days and we do not know the extent of risks, but it seems clear that the “third wave” of psychedelics is upon us and those of us who work in the field of mental health should be informed about what it all means.
I recently finished two excellent books on the topic of psychedelics and mental health: How to Change your Mind, by Michael Pollan, and A Really Good Day, by Ayelet Waldman. Michael Pollan, a journalist whose books include the Omnivore’s Dilemma, explores the history of psychedelics in Western culture, his own journey as an reluctant psychonaut, and then looks at the neuroscience of psychedelics and how they help change our mind for therapeutic purposes. Ayalet Waldman’s book is a personal narrative on her experience with microdosing LSD for her longstanding problems with mood dysregulation (with excellent results). Both books are written by two people who are not your typical psychonauts – Michael Pollan describes himself as a rational atheist/skeptic, and Ayalet Waldman is a middle aged, mother of 4 children, ex-lawyer/public defender, married to the novelist Michael Chabon.
One of the biggest challenges in psychotherapy is knowing how long it may take clients to make lasting changes. For some people a few sessions is enough to help them through a difficult time. For others with deep-seated issues that stem from adverse experiences in early childhood, change through talk therapy can take years. Fortunately, psychotherapists now have a new tool available to us that to help facilitate change more quickly: EEG neurofeedback.
Just over two years ago I picked up the book Neurofeedback in the Treatment of Developmental Trauma: Calming the Fear-Driven Brain by Sebern Fisher, an accoplished psychodynamic therapist who worked for years with severely traumatized and neglected children and adults. In her book she described how EEG neurofeedback, or brain training, helped her work with clients who were suffering from a lifetime of being in a fear driven brain. For some people, talk therapy is just not enough as the brain is so strongly wired from childhood to be on guard for threat and feeling unsafe.
Rachael Frankford, MSW, RSW is a clinical social worker in private practice. This blog is to share musings on mental health and about the intersection of mindfulness, neuroscience, and psychotherapy.