What is the role of psychedelics in emotional health?
Psychedelic medicines are attracting significant attention in both psychiatry and popular culture. Current psychedelic medicine research provides promise for the treatment of a range of mental disorders and addictions, the prevalence of which is accelerating at alarming rates and contributing to the current global pandemic of mental suffering. (Suicide is now the second leading cause of death in young adults.)
Psychedelic medicines offer an important paradigm shift in the concept of healing, one that promotes self-integration and whole health where mind and body are approached as a single integrated unit. This healing approach celebrates the so-called sculpture of the human body and mental representations as a complex system with inherent regulatory mechanisms that are not reducible to their elementary or separate parts. The capacity of living systems continually to seek adaptive equilibrium can be understood as a so-called “intelligence,” or healing mechanism, that can be tapped into and encouraged for recovery, growth and resilience.
Emerging studies have speculated that psychedelic medicines activate a pivotal mental state, characterized by a hyper-plastic brain and mind state that enhances learning induces psychological transformational potential. It is speculated that neurodevelopment critical periods, in which the brain is exquisitely sensitive to sensory inputs, may be reopened during psychedelic psychotherapy to allow for a specific “experience-oriented” psychotherapeutic field in which the brain is primed and receptive for therapeutic intervention.
The term transformation is defined as a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance. The psychedelic psychotherapy process warrants such a dramatic verb since the change in question involves a foundational reorganization of psychological structures and capacities previously arrested or interfered with in early survival. The transformational process promotes a release from defensive protective strategies and activates psychological processes that permit connection, coherence, creative expression and growth, all of which support the underpinnings of mental health and build resilience. The patient sessions are marked by a grace and poetry reflective of the inherent wisdom and imaginative beauty of creativity that serve as the drivers of change. This approach addresses a deeper healing, correction and repair process and shifts treatment toward a broader trans-diagnostic model in which wellness, growth and creativity are prioritized. Treatment results can be dramatic and often provide the advantage of enhanced wellness outcomes in addition to symptomatic relief from mental distress. Compassion, empathy, social connectedness and nature-relatedness are healthful measures that have been shown to be both enhanced and sustained following psychedelic sessions and offer the notable advantage of also encompassing community and ecological health.
Psychedelic medicines offer a healing approach that reconnects and restores our inner worlds to address the mental impoverishment, suffering and trauma that alienates us from ourselves and others thereby restoring beauty and enchantment to both the inner and outer worlds we inhabit.