Updates on MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy for PTSD Studies: Colorado, Israel, Canada, the UK, and Australia

Andrew Feldmár, Jim Grigsby, PhD, Marcela Ot'alora, LPC, Ben Sessa, MD, Keren Tzarfatyl, PhD (C), and Martin Williams, PhD

Abstract: In addition to completed and ongoing MAPS-sponsored studies in the US and Switzerland, this roundtable will consist of brief updates on Phase 2 studies of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD underway or in the approval process in Boulder, Colorado; Israel; Canada; the UK; and Australia. Innovations in the various protocol designs will be highlighted as part of the overall effort to refine the scientific methodology for the Phase 3 protocol designs.

Andrew Feldmár is a psychotherapist in private practice in Vancouver, Canada. He has been studying the use of entheogens for somatic, psychological, and spiritual emergencies since 1967. He teaches, lectures, and publishes both in North America and in Europe (andrewfeldmar.ca).

Jim Grigsby, PhD, is a Professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine, and in the Department of Psychology at UCD. A cognitive neuroscientist and health services researcher, he has over 200 scientific publications on various subjects. He is particularly interested in the neural basis of personality and behavior change, and is the author of the book Neurodynamics of Personality.

Marcela Ot’alora G. was born and raised in Colombia and now lives in Boulder, Colorado. She has a MA in Transpersonal Psychology and a MFA in Fine Arts. Marcela is an Installation artist and has an innovative private psychotherapy practice in Boulder. For the first 15 years of her career as an artist she taught at all levels and became specifically interested in the use of visual arts as a tool for working with trauma with at-risk youth. The lives and experiences of the youth she worked with inspired her to pursue a graduate degree in psychology. She has dedicated her professional life to the investigation and research of trauma, specifically the use of MDMA for the treatment of PTSD. In her private practice she incorporates somatic and visualization techniques to help process and Integrate traumatic experiences. Marcela worked as a co-therapist in the first government approved MDMA-assisted psychotherapy study in Spain and is currently Principal Investigator of MAPS’ Phase 2 MDMA-assisted psychotherapy study in Boulder, Colorado.

Dr. Ben Sessa, MD is a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist from Bristol, UK. He has published commentary in the medical and popular press on psychedelic research in the UK for the last eight years in an attempt to bring this subject into mainstream British medicine. He has participated in a number of psychedelic drug trials in the UK and is currently submitting a funding request for the UK's first MDMA-assisted psychotherapy study together with colleagues Professor David Nutt and Professor Jonathan Bisson. In 2012, Dr. Sessa published his first book on the subject, The Psychedelic Renaissance. Dr. Sessa is passionately committed to helping mainstream medicine and psychedelic culture find a dispassionate and evidence-based approach to the research and utilisation of these fascinating compounds. When not healing children at work or playing with his own at home, he can be found brewing cider and playing trumpet in a ska band.

Keren Tzarfaty, M.A., Ph.D(c) in East-West Psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS), works with a wide range of people seeking healing and psychospiritual growth. In her work she addresses relationship challenges, anxiety, depression, PTSD, and works to help clients manifest their potential and live life fully. Keren is a certified Hakomi teacher (a mindfulness-based method of depth psychotherapy) and, together with Ido Siemion, co-founder of the Hakomi Institute of Israel. In her work, she draws upon her knowledge in psychodynamics and humanistic psychology, Eastern spiritual traditions, East-West psychology, shamanic traditions, and her own life experience as a woman, partner, and mother of two young children.

Martin Williams, PhD, is a Melbourne, Australia-based research fellow in structural biology and medicinal chemistry. He is a founding member of Entheogenesis Australis (EGA), a non-profit educational/harm-minimization association that fosters mature, open discussion about psychoactive plants and chemicals, seeking ways to assess their societal impacts and promote their benefits. Since 2004, EGA has organized annual conferences and symposia, hosting prominent Australian and international thinkers in the field, and welcoming delegates from far and wide to reflect on the multifaceted roles of psychoactive substances in contemporary society. To complement the educational brief of EGA, Martin and colleagues have established a health-promotion charity, Psychedelic Research in Science & Medicine, Inc. (PRISM) to coordinate Australian contributions to global research into the wide-ranging medical and broader social benefits of psychedelics.

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