Presentation Title

An Examination of Psychological Healing With Ayahuasca


This interdisciplinary presentation combines methods and perspectives from anthropology and psychology. Ayahuasca has been increasingly regarded as a tool for psychological exploration, healing, and mental well-being (Labate & Cavnar, 2014). Family dynamics, past trauma, and unacknowledged feelings are often reported in early experiences of drinkers (Kavenská & Simonová, 2015), and several authors have written about the importance of integration of the powerful visionary experiences some individuals report while under the influence of psychedelic substances (Loizaga-Velder & Verres, 2014). In addition to reviewing phenomenological accounts of users, this presentation will discuss what is known empirically about ayahuasca’s effect on mood. The presentation will also discus ethical/legal issues relevant to psychologists, and describe risks of ayahuasca. This paper will consider reports of psychological insights gained, and the resulting personal transformation or healing that took place. It will also analyze and identify the specific elements of the ayahuasca experience that are considered to be mechanisms of psychological healing, both within the experience and afterwards; these aspects will be related to psychodynamic and humanistic theories applied to clinical practice.

Labate, B. and Cavnar, C. (Eds). The Therapeutic Use of Ayahuasca, Berling/Heidelberg: Germany Springer, 2014.

Kavenská, V. & Simonová, H. (2015) Ayahuasca tourism: Participants in shamanic rituals and their personality styles, motivation, benefits and risks Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 47(5), 351–359

Loizaga-Velder, A., & Verres, R. (2014). Therapeutic effects of ritual ayahuasca use in the treatment of substance dependence--qualitative results. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 46(1), 63–72.