Training Sessions Of Mental Health Professionals

The extraordinary value of LSD for the education of psychiatrists and psychologists became evident at a very early stage of its research. In his pioneering paper, published in 1947, Stoll emphasized that an auto-experiment with this drug gives professionals a unique opportunity to experience first-hand the alien worlds which they encounter in their everyday work with psychiatric patients. During the "model psychosis" phase of LSD research, when the psychedelic state was considered a chemically-induced schizophrenia, LSD sessions were recommended as reversible journeys into the experiential world of psychotics which had a unique didactic significance. The experience was recommended'for psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, social workers, and medical students as a means of acquiring insights into the nature of mental illness. Rinkel (85), Roubicek (90) and other researchers who conducted didactic experiments of this kind reported that a single LSD session can dramatically change the understanding that mental health professionals have of psychotic patients, and result in a more humane attitude toward them.

The fact that the "model psychosis" concept of the LSD state was eventually rejected by most researchers did not diminish the educational value of the psychedelic experience. Although mental changes induced by LSD are obviously not identical with schizophrenia, the ingestion of the drug still represents a very special opportunity for professionals and students to experience many states of mind that occur naturally in the context of various mental disorders. These involve perceptual distortions in the optical, acoustic, tactile, olfactory, and gustatory areas; quantitative and qualitative disturbances of the thought-processes; and abnormal emotional qualities of extraordinary intensity. Under the influence of LSD it is possible to experience sensory illusions and pseudohallucina-tions, retardation or acceleration of thinking, delusional interpretation of the world, and an entire gamut of intense pathological emotions such as depression, manic mood, aggression, self-destructive craving, and agonizing feelings of inferiority and guilt, or conversely, ecstatic rapture, transcendental peace and serenity, and a sense of cosmic unity. The psychedelic experience can also become a source of revelatory aesthetic, scientific, philosophical, or spiritual insight.

Autoexpcrimentation with LSD does not exhaust its didactic potential. Another learning experience of great value is participation in the sessions of other subjects. This offers an opportunity for young professionals to observe an entire range of abnormal phenomena and be exposed to and become familiar with extreme emotional states and unusual behavior patterns. This occurs under specially structured circumstances, at a convenient time, and in the context of an existing relationship with the experient. All these factors make this a situation better suited for learning than the admission ward or emergency unit of a psychiatric hospital. In a more specific way, sitting in LSD sessions has been recommended as an unequaled training for future psychotherapists. The intensification of the relationship with the sitters that is characteristic of LSD sessions presents a rare opportunity for a novice professional to observe transference phenomena and learn to cope with them. The use of LSD in the context of a training program for future psychotherapists has been discussed in a special paper by Feld, Goodman, and Guido. (26)

An extensive and systematic study of the didactic potential of LSD sessions was conducted at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center. In this program, up to three high-dose LSD sessions were offered to mental health professionals for training purposes. Over one hundred persons participated in this program between 1970 when it began, and 1977 when it was ended. Most of these individuals were interested in the psychedelic experience because it was closely related to their own professional activities. Some of them actually worked in crisis intervention units or with patients who had problems related to psychedelic drug use. Others were practitioners of various psychotherapeutic techniques and wanted to compare LSD psychotherapy to their own particular discipline — psychoanalysis, psychodrama, Gestalt therapy, psychosynthesis, or bioenergetics. A few were researchers involved in the study of altered states of consciousness, the dynamics of the unconscious, or the psychology of religion. A small group consisted of professionals who were specifically interested in becoming LSD therapists. They usually spent several months with us, attending staff meetings, watching videotapes of LSD therapy practice, or guiding psychedelic sessions under supervision. They then had the opportunity to undergo their own LSD sessions as part of the training schedule. All the participants in the LSD program for professionals agreed to cooperate in pre- and post-session psychological testing, and complete a follow-up questionnaire six months, twelve months, and two years after the session. The questions in this follow-up form focused on changes which they observed after the

LSD session in their professional work, life philosophy, religious feelings, their emotional and physical condition, and interpersonal adjustment. Although we have much anecdotal evidence of the value of this training program, the data from the pre- and post-session psychological testing and from the follow-up questionnaires has not yet been systematically processed and evaluated.

As I have emphasized earlier, LSD training sessions are an essential qualification for every LSD therapist. Because of the unique nature of the psychedelic state it is impossible to reach a real understanding of its quality and dimensions unless one directly experiences it. In addition, the experience of confronting the various areas in one's own unconscious is absolutely necessary for developing the ability to assist other people with competence and equanimity in their process of deep self-exploration. LSD training sessions are also highly recommended for nurses and all other members of the staff in psychedelic treatment units who come in close contact with clients in unusual states of consciousness.

Continue reading here: Administration Of Lsd To Creative Individuals

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