Presentation Title

Psychedelics and Mental Health: A Study of Psychological Mechanisms of Therapeutic Action


This presentation will explore possible psychological mechanisms of various psychedelic substances in the treatment of anxiety, depression and disordered eating / eating disorders. Separate lines of empirical research support both the role of emotion regulation and the role of spirituality as mechanisms of psychotherapeutic effects in the literature (Gross & Jazaieri, 2014; Koenig, 2015). A study testing a mediation model designed to investigate the process through which psychedelic use might lead to positive psychological outcomes will be presented. Participants were recruited who endorsed past use of a “classical hallucinogen” (including psilocybin, LSD, ayahuasca). As part of a larger study, participants completed a number of commonly used measurement tools to determine frequency of psychedelic use as well as self-reported levels of spirituality and emotion regulation. Results from structural equation modeling suggest that psychedelic use lead to an increase in spirituality, which in turn lead to an increase in emotion regulation in the sample. Increased emotional regulation was associated with lower levels of anxiety, depression, and disordered eating behaviors. Parallel findings from a second qualitative study exploring participant experiences of healing with ayahuasca are also presented. These findings contribute to the advancement of our understanding of possible psycho-spiritual mechanisms through which certain psychedelics may help improve mental health in controlled settings. Clinical and policy implications as well as needs for further research will be discussed, along with issues relevant to clinical practice.