LSD Psychotherapy by Stanislas GROF, 1997

LSD Psychotherapy

Stanislas GROF

Hunter House Ed., 1979


1. History of LSD Therapy
The Discovery of LSD and its Psychedelic Effects
Early Laboratory and Clinical LSD Research
Therapeutic Experimentation With LSD
Studies of Chemotherapeutic Properties of LSD
LSD-Assisted Psychotherapy
The Need for a Comprehensive Theory of LSD Therapy
2. Critical Variables in LSD Therapy
Pharmacological Effects of LSD
Personality of the Subject
Personality of the Therapist or Guide
Set and Setting of the Sessions
3. Psycholytic and Psychedelic Therapies with LSD : Towards an Integration of Approaches
The Search for an Effective Technique of LSD Psychotherapy
Advantages and Drawbacks of the Psycholytic Approach
Pros and Cons of Psychedelic Therapy
4. Principles of LSD Psychotherapy
The Preparation Period
Psychedelic Sessions
Integration of the Drug Experiences
5. Complications of LSD Psychotherapy : Occurrence, Prevention, and Therapeutic Measures
Physical and Emotional Contra-indications
Critical Situations in LSD Sessions
Adverse Aftereffects of LSD Psychotherapy
Prevention and Management of Complications in LSD Psychotherapy
6. The Course of LSD Psychotherapy
Changes in the Content of Psychedelic Sessions
Emotional and Psychosomatic Changes in the Post-Session Intervals
Long-Term Changes in the Personality Structure, World-View, and
Hierarchy of Basic Values
7. Indications for LSD Psychotherapy, Therapeutic Potential, and Clinical Results
Problems in the Evaluation of Clinical Results
Depressions, Neuroses and Psychosomatic Symptoms
Alcoholism, Drug Addiction, Character Disorders and
Sexual Deviations
Borderline Psychotic States and Endogenous Psychoses
Emotional Distress and Physical Pain of Dying Individuals
8. Non-Therapeutic Uses of LSD
Training Sessions of Mental Health Professionals
Administration of LSD to Creative Individuals
Drug-Induced Religious and Mystical Experiences
Role of LSD in Personal Growth and Self-Actualization
Use of LSD in the Development of Paranormal Abilities
9. Effective Therapeutic Mechanisms of LSD Therapy
Intensification of Conventional Therapeutic Mechanisms
Changes in the Dynamics of Governing Systems
Therapeutic Potential of the Death-Rebirth Process
Therapeutic Mechanisms on the Transpersonal Level
Epilogue: The Future of LSD Psychotherapy
Appendix I Crisis Intervention in Situations Related to Unsupervised Use of Psychedelics
Appendix II The Effects of LSD on Chromosomes, Genetic Mutation, Fetal Development and Malignancy


A book on LSD psychotherapy that is being published at a time when psychedelic research is virtually non-existent requires a few words of introduction and justification. There are many practical and theoretical reasons for sharing this material, accumulated over more than twenty-four years. The repressive legislation in regard to psychedelic drugs has succeeded in terminating almost all legitimate scientific research, but has been quite ineffective in curbing unsupervised self-experimentation. It is nearly impossible for the average professional to get a license for psychedelic work and a supply of pharmaceutically pure substances, but black market samples, frequently of problematic quality, are easily available to the teenage generation. Hundreds of thousands—and according to some estimates millions—of young people in the United States alone have experimented with psychedelics on their own.

The information in scientific books and journals is not easily available and most of it does not have direct practical relevance, while the literature that has had a direct influence on the public has been strongly biased, dichotomized and contradictory. One part of it, coming from uncritical proselytizers, tended to onesidedly emphasize the advantages of psychedelic drug use and failed to mention the dangers. The rest was a product of official anti-drug propaganda and was for the most part so distorted and negative that the younger generation did not take it seriously. Since a similar campaign had been raised in the past against the relatively innocent marijuana, it was easy to “throw the baby out with the bathwater,” and ignore not only the demagogic statements, but accurate and realistic warnings as well.

Honest and balanced information about the immediate and long-term effects of LSD is of great importance, not only to those who are involved in selfexperimentation, but for the relatives, friends and other persons who may have to deal with various manifestations or consequences of such an undertaking. An understanding of the psychedelic process is particularly relevant for the parents of these individuals, teachers, and lawyers who handle cases involving ingestion of the drug. Moreover, unbiased information is of critical importance for mental health professionals who are asked for expert help in cases related to psychedelic drug use. The current practices for handling LSD emergencies and its long-term adverse effects reflect ignorance of the processes involved, and do more damage than good. Although the material in this book describes the supervised clinical use of LSD, the information given is directly applicable to crisis intervention and the problems related to unsupervised LSD use are specifically discussed in an appendix because of the extreme importance of this issue. Some people, who are not directly or indirectly involved in psychedelic experimentation but had LSD experiences in
the past, may find this book a useful source of information which could throw new retrospective light on aspects of their sessions which left them bewildered or confused.

The failure of the legal and administrative measures of the past to curb LSD use seems to reflect a lack of awareness of the nature and depth of the problems involved. A deeper understanding of the effects of LSD and the transformation processes that it facilitates might provide some interesting and important clues to legislators. Certain aspects of the material presented in this volume also have direct relevance to the understanding of events around the experiments conducted by military experts and governmental agencies in various countries in the past and recently publicized.

I hope I will be able to communicate in this book my deep regret that, because of a complicated set of circumstances, psychology and psychiatry have lost a very unique research tool and a powerful therapeutic agent. I believe that it is important to clarify the controversies and confusions, whether it is done with regard to the possible continuation of LSD research in the future or as a closure of a fascinating chapter in the history of psychiatry. The efficacy and safety of psychedelic substances has been tested over centuries and even millenia. Many cultures throughout human history have used them successfully in the context of shamanic practices, healing ceremonies, and religious rituals. There is a possibility that we will return to research in this area in the future enriched by the lessons from the past. However, even if that does not happen, the material that has already been accumulated is of great theoretical relevance and heuristic value.

Many observations from psychedelic research are of such fundamental importance and are so revolutionary in nature that they should not be ignored by any serious scientist interested in the human mind. They indicate an urgent need for drastic revision of some of our theoretical concepts and even the basic scientific paradigms. Some of the new discoveries and insights concern an expanded model of the psyche, powerful mechanisms of therapeutic change and personality transformation, strategies and goals of psychotherapy, and the role of spirituality in human life. The value of this new knowledge is independent of the future of LSD therapy. It is directly applicable to the experiential psychotherapies which use various non-drug techniques to reach deep levels of the psyche, such as gestalt practice, bioenergetics and other neo-Reichian approaches, primal therapy, or different methods of rebirthing. All these move in essentially the same direction as psychedelic therapy, but a full utilization of their potential and their further development are blocked by the straitjacket of the old conceptual frameworks.
The new data are also of great relevance in other areas in which unusual states of mind are produced by non-chemical means. Creative use of hypnosis, the “mind games” developed by Robert Masters and Jean Houston, (67)* the new laboratory techniques for altering consciousness such as biofeedback, sensory isolation and overload, and the use of kinaesthetic devices can be mentioned here as important examples. In this context it should also be emphasized that the new cartography of the mind that has emerged from psychedelic research includes and integrates certain essential elements from various spiritual traditions. This is an important step in bridging the colossal gap that has existed in the past between the religious systems and various schools of psychology, with the exceptions of the Jungian orientation and Assagioli’s psychosynthesis.

The theoretical importance of the data from psychedelic research extends far beyond the realms of psychiatry and psychology. It is also of immediate or potential relevance for a broad spectrum of other disciplines, including anthropology, sociology, politics, general medicine, obstetrics, thanatology, religion, philosophy, mythology and art. By far the most surprising and exciting connections seem to exist between the psychedelic material and modern physics. Some of the challenging observations from LSD sessions that cannot be accommodated and integrated into the Cartesian- Newtonian model seem to be perfectly compatible with the world-view emerging from quantum-relativistic physics. In view of the recent rapid convergence between mysticism, physics and consciousness, the LSD data could contribute
significantly to our understanding of the nature of reality.

Stanislav Grof
Big Sur, California
April, 1979