Track: Psychedelics – Science, Spirituality and Therapeutic Potential
MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy: Viewing the Therapeutic Relationship Through a Transpersonal Lens
In a retrospective analysis, I am currently evaluating the effect of 3,4- methelyenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) on therapeutic alliance and interpersonal synchrony in an already completed Phase 2 trial of MDMA–assisted psychotherapy for the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The overarching goal of this project is to better understand the psychological mechanisms of action of MDMA-assisted therapy by determining the effects of MDMA on therapeutic alliance in the psychotherapeutic relationship and by further exploring the processes of therapeutic action.
Therapeutic alliance in psychotherapy has been correlated with what is known as interpersonal synchrony, or the spontaneous synchronization of language and body movements between individuals in relationship. By using video and transcripts of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy sessions, my study explores a computer-based novel approach using language-based indicators of therapeutic alliance which are quantified via a text analysis application called Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC2015). Through this analysis I am working to build a better understanding of how and why patients experience accelerated therapeutic growth and processing during a course of MDMA psychotherapy.
My proposed psychotherapeutic mechanism of action for MDMA-assisted psychotherapy suggests that MDMA strengthens therapeutic alliance between patient and therapists, which is measurable by quantifying interpersonal synchrony. Further, I propose that this interpersonal synchrony could also be examined as a reflection of a transpersonal process. For my proposed presentation, I will explore elements of interpersonal synchrony in MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, linking these elements to aspects of transpersonal psychology and experiences.
Emily Williams, MD, is a psychiatry resident at the University of California, San Francisco in the NIH-funded Resident Research Training Program (R25 MH060482). She is currently conducting an analysis of the effects of MDMA on therapeutic alliance as well as serving as co-PI on a MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD Phase 3 clinical trial site. Dr. Williams also works as the independent clinical rater for the MAPS-funded study on MDMA for anxiety related to life threatening illness in Marin, CA. And for the second year, she is serving as a mentor at the California Institute of Integral Studies Center for Psychedelic Therapy and Research. In addition to her clinical and research work, she has a passion for harm reduction and serves as a supervisor for the Zendo Project which provides psychedelic harm reduction for events and festivals.