One of the critical factors to be considered in psychedelic-assisted therapy sessions is both patients’ and therapists’ belief systems. Matthew Johnson, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins, argues that a “secular framework” should be maintained to prevent patients from getting primed with specific expectations for their mystical experience. Patients may be receptive to cultural cues, narratives around certain substances, decorations in the therapy room, or the therapist’s attitude. In continuation, the article discusses therapists’ interpretational challenges of the frequently “noetic,” revelatory quality of a personal mystical experience.
Unsurprisingly, approaches to the study of subjective experience in psychedelics-assisted therapy differ. At the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research at renowned Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, researchers measure the ‘mystical experience’ while at the Center for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College, London, UK, the focus is on ‘ego-dissolution.’ Finally, some patients seem to benefit from the “spiritual aspects” of psychedelic experience while others benefit more from intense biographical or emotional exploration in the complete absence of a “spiritual element.”