Psychotherapy with Hallucinogens in a Medical Setting: The Shadow of History
by Stephen Snelders, Ph.D.
In the year 2010 hopeful prospects are attached to psychotherapy with hallucinogens. Attempts are made to bring this kind of therapy out of the confines of illegal subcultures and into legalized medical settings. Discussions and arguments center around medical benefits and are wrapped in the vocabulary of present-day medical and biological sciences. However, medical settings are not ‘neutral’ sctructures’, but are determined by the social and cultural development of medicine and health care and by the load of the past. Advocates and opponents of hallucinogenic therapy alike should be aware of these determinations and take them into account.
Hallucinogenic therapy has been practised by doctors from the very first beginning of psychiatry itself, in the early 19th century. It was central to a now controversial tradition of psychopharmacological research and therapy that was qualitative in nature and accorded an inportant place to self-experiences of medical practitioner and patient alike. The problems that face acceptance of hallucinogenic therapy today are both social and political in a wider sense (the load of the revolt of the sixties), as related to the politics of medicine and health care.
The Mind Altering Science conference was organized by The OPEN Foundation on 23 and 24 October 2010 at the University of Amsterdam. With researchers and therapists from a wide variety of academic disciplines, this event was dedicated to the exploration of a broad range of subjects. From addiction treatment to psychotherapy with the aid of psychedelics, from the neurobiology of ayahuasca to the social, ritual and legal implications of its use, and from human psychopharmacology research and the exploration of exceptional mind states to new views on the legalization of psychedelic substances.
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