Psychoanalysis and Psychedelics: A Fortuitous Alliance - Karen Peoples, PhD (Live)

October 27, 2023


Continuing education information to follow

Psychedelic therapies are gaining societal acceptance following clinical research showing their safety and efficacy, and an increasing number of states are preparing to roll out psychedelic-assisted therapies, such as Oregon's Psilocybin Service Program. More and more patients are wishing to explore their inner worlds through psychedelics, seeking therapeutic benefit for difficult-to-treat issues like PTSD and substance use, and requesting post-psychedelic integration services.

A clinically-promising synergy exists between psychoanalysis and psychedelics. When skillfully conducted by qualified practitioners, psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy (PAT) can loosen entrenched patterns of thought, belief and traumatic fear responses while amplifying psychic states that are otherwise difficult for patient and therapist to access. Facilitating a patient’s movement into non-ordinary states of consciousness—from primary process to transpersonal states—is central to the efficacy of both psychoanalytic therapy and psychedelic therapy. Psychoanalytic concepts and skills provide a vital means for successful containment and working-through of states mobilized in PAT, both during a psychedelic session and in subsequent therapy sessions.

This event highlights the subjective effects of certain psychedelics, including their potential benefits and risks, and describes the clinical protocol of the FDA-approved research trial of MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD along with outcomes. Aspects of the clinical interface of psychedelic-assisted therapy and psychoanalytically-oriented treatment, including reconceptualization of the therapeutic alliance and frame, transference and countertransference issues, referral considerations, and contraindications to PAT will be discussed.


Target Audience


______ Introductory                ___X___ Intermediate                  ______ Advanced

Learning Objectives

  • Participants will be able to describe some of the key subjective effects of MDMA.
  • Participants will be able to explain some of the clinical benefits of psychedelic-assisted therapy as well as some of the contraindications for certain patient populations.
  • Participants will be able to describe how the experience of an undifferentiated state of consciousness that can occur under psychedelics can have a salutary effect for patients, and compare this with Winnicott’s, Loewald’s, and Milner’s work on accessing primary process states.
Course summary
Course opens: 
Course expires: 
Event starts: 
10/27/2023 - 6:30pm EDT
Event ends: 
10/27/2023 - 8:00pm EDT

Karen Peoples, PhD, is a personal/supervising analyst and faculty at the Psychoanalytic Institute of Northern California (PINC). She was a sub-investigator and co-therapist on the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) Phase 3 clinical trial for treatment-resistant PTSD at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), and is currently a supervisor/consultant to MDMA-assisted therapy research in Europe. She has training in the therapeutic use of both MDMA for legal clinical studies and ketamine in therapeutic settings. She maintains a private practice in the San Francisco Bay Area. Dr. Peoples has published and presented numerous analytic papers on non-ordinary states of awareness in psychedelic therapy, uncanny forms of unconscious communication, incest trauma, social trauma and fundamentalist states of mind, traumatic and transcendent forms of emptiness, and unconscious bodily communication. She has a long-standing interest in contemplative traditions and practices.

Austen Riggs Center Inc. adheres to the ACCME’s Standards for Integrity and Independence in Accredited Continuing Medical Education. All those at Austen Riggs Center involved in the planning of this activity, including the presenter(s) listed above, report they have no relevant financial relationships with an ineligible company*.

The views and opinions expressed in this presentation are those of the presenter(s) and do not necessarily represent the official policy or position of the Austen Riggs Center.


* An ineligible company is any entity whose primary business is producing, marketing, selling, re-selling, or distributing healthcare products used by or on patients.


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