Insight Conference
Prof. Dr. Matthew Johnson
5:05pm - 5:35pm
Track 1: Auditorium


Psychedelics, Psychotherapy, and Pitfalls

In this presentation I will explore multiple big-picture domains relevant to understanding psychedelic therapy and maximizing its efficacy and safe adoption into mainstream clinical practice and science. Psychedelic therapy shares more in common with psychotherapy than it does with traditional psychiatric medications. Specifically, psychedelic therapy likely amplifies processes common to conventional psychotherapies including enhancement of meaning and the therapeutic relationship. I will explore how these processes can also open the door for therapeutic dangers. It is critical in clinical practice to let the client determine her or his own metaphysical meaning, if any, from psychedelic experiences, rather than to impose or introduce the clinician’s own metaphysical beliefs. Clinicians must avoid falling into the roles of guru or priest, and only introduce concepts grounded in their professional, empirically informed expertise. Clinicians and scientists should use precision when discussing concepts referred to as “consciousness” such as phenomenal consciousness and self-concept, and be cautious to not overstate what is scientifically known regarding the relation between psychedelics and these concepts. Finally, a common but dangerous tendency is to assume that psychedelic therapy constitutes an exception to many accepted clinical and ethical norms. I will argue, however, that the intensity and meaningfulness of psychedelic effects call for even greater attention and adherence to the wisdom of clinical boundaries and norms.


Susan Hill Ward Professor of Psychedelics & Consciousness Research

Prof. Dr. Matthew Johnson

Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
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