Alicia Danforth, PhD
University of California
Getting Our House in Order: Advancing the Ethics of Psychedelic Medicine and Psychotherapy from Storming to Norming
Given our various roles in clinical and research psychedelic settings, what are the principles, systems, and standards that inform how we behave? Is a collective moral compass informing our path forward in a post-truth era? The public spotlight has made unprecedented resources available to psychedelic science and to rapidly accelerating decriminalization efforts. As a result, sacred and scientific spaces have transformed into platforms for self-promotion, performance, and profit-seeking. Recent events imply that, without solid ethical foundations and agreements, we will continue to repeat the mistakes of the past.
In this pragmatic talk, I will present a research-supported analysis of some key vulnerabilities that can influence behavior toward undermining safety and integrity in psychedelic science and clinical practice. I will support observations and recommendations with prevailing and emergent theories in psychology, but viewed through a psychedelic lens. I will also make a 5-point case for essential steps in the norming phase of introducing psychedelics into the mainstream safely and ethically, drawing on examples from current events and trends in other fields. After five years of sounding various alarms (and complaining a lot), this exploration will offer a solution-oriented focus on the work ahead.
Alicia Danforth, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist and researcher. She was an investigator for the first study of MDMA-assisted therapy for the treatment of social anxiety in autistic adults, and she began her work in clinical research with psychedelic medicines as a coordinator and co-facilitator on the pilot study of psilocybin treatment for existential anxiety related to advanced cancer. Both studies were conducted at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. Alicia co-developed and taught the first graduate-level course on psychedelic theory, research, and clinical considerations for therapists and researchers in training at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in Palo Alto, California. She most recently was a lead clinician and supervisor for a pilot study of psilocybin-assisted group therapy for psychological distress and demoralization in long-term survivors of HIV taking place at the University of California, San Francisco. She also has a private practice specializing in supporting older teens and adults on the autism spectrum in Los Gatos, California.