Quantum change: Exploring the role of personal insight experiences occasioned by psilocybin

A talk by Alan K. Davis, PhD
The Ohio State University, College of Social Work Johns Hopkins University, Department of Psychiatry

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About this talk

Psilocybin produces cognitive effects ranging from psychologically challenging to spiritual, mystical, and insightful. Although several factors are related to the type of psilocybin experiences one might have (i.e., dose, purity, individual/environmental factors), many report that these experiences are psychologically helpful. For example, cross-sectional surveys and laboratory experiments have shown that psilocybin can have psychotherapeutic benefit, with published reports documenting positive outcomes in individuals with addiction, anxiety, and depression. Furthermore, evidence suggest that the acute psilocybin experience is associated with positive clinical outcomes and with persisting changes in attitude, mood, personality, beliefs, and behavior. The theory of Quantum Change may explain why mystical and insightful experiences contribute to these psychotherapeutic outcomes in the natural environment or in clinical research settings. Of more recent interest has been the emergence of personal insight which may act as a robust catalyst of change. I will explore this topic using data from several studies including a current clinical trial of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy for people diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, a survey of individuals who reduced or quit drinking alcohol as a result of a psychedelic experience, and a survey of people who experienced improvement in depression/anxiety after taking a psychedelic in non-research settings.

Bio: Dr. Alan K Davis is an Assistant Professor of Social Work at The Ohio State University and maintains an adjunct faculty appointment in the Psychedelic Research Unit at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Davis’s clinical experience includes working with people diagnosed with trauma-based psychological problems such as addiction, PTSD, depression, and anxiety. His clinical expertise includes providing evidenced-based treatments such as motivational interviewing, cognitive behavioral therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, and psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy. Consistent with his clinical interests, his research interests and expertise focus on contributing to the knowledge of and ability to help those suffering with substance use and mental health problems, understanding how to improve clinical outcomes through examining new treatments, and developing ways to conceptualize substance use and mental health problems through a strengths-based approach. Psychedelic research focuses on clinical trials with psilocybin for people with depression and exploring psychological mechanisms by which psilocybin improves mental health and functioning.

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