Alexander Belser

Alexander Belser, PhD

Yale University; New York University

Psychedelic Therapy for Gender and Sexual Minorities: How to Dismantle Homophobia and Transphobia in Our Practices


Psychedelic medicines were historically used as “conversion therapies” to convert lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people to become cisgender heterosexuals. In recent years, the psychedelic community has largely ignored how psychedelic drugs were employed as tools of oppression targeting LGBTQ people in anti-therapeutic ways. We have yet to reckon with the historical harms inflicted on sexual minority people, as many of those harms continue to be subtly perpetrated today in psychedelic practices. I will offer a roadmap for how to confront structural heterosexism and transphobia at every level in the psychedelic research and practice communities. The only way to dismantle non-affirming practices against LGBTQ people in psychedelic research is for all of us to take proactive steps on every level. Specifically, we should strive to: retire the “traditional” male/female dyad and replace with gender neutral dyads; acknowledge that sexual minority stress causes disproportionate harm to LGBTQ people; research the question of differential responses between LGBTQ individuals and a heteronormative population; create new affirmative therapies by, with, and for LGBTQ people; research how psychedelics lead to changes in sexual orientation and gender identity and affect internalized homophobia; pursue sex and sexuality research; access queer wisdom and experience; and ally with other disenfranchised groups and get intersectional in our policies and practices. Finally, I will ask how we can queer the psychedelic “mystical experience” which is theorized in a narrow monistic lineage. Queer spirituality, like psychedelic spirituality, can be embodied, relational, political, and visionary.


Alexander Belser, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and psychedelic researcher at Yale University and New York University. He is the Co-Investigator of two studies at Yale of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy as a treatment for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and major depression. He also teaches graduate courses at NYU in psychotherapy theory and practice. Alex sees patients with trauma as a study therapist in a MAPS trial of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy as a treatment for severe PTSD. He is an advisor for Chacruna’s Women, Gender Diversity, and Sexual Minorities Working Group.

Alex has published a dozen peer-reviewed articles and book chapters. He received a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University, a Master of Philosophy (M.Phil.) degree from Cambridge University, and later studied clinical psychology at Columbia University and NYU. Alex was a founding member of the psychedelic research team at NYU in 2006. His research has been featured on the front page of the New York Times, in the Atlantic, the New Yorker, The Guardian, and in Michael Pollan’s book, How to Change Your Mind. Alex completed his clinical and research training in psychology at Bellevue Hospital, New York Psychiatric Institute at Columbia University Medical Center, and Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital. Dr. Belser works with people around the world via telemedicine; his private practice website is centerforbreakthroughs.com.



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