David de Wied

David de Wied, MSC

Imperial College

Setting the stage for peak experiences: Mindset, Music and Environment


Psychedelics show great promise in the treatment of mood and substance disorders. The subjective experience during psychedelic therapy sessions is consistently shown to determine therapy outcomes. Non-drug factors that influence the subjective experience, including music, the therapeutic relationship, and room design, are collectively often referred to as ‘Set’ (including mood and personality) and ‘Setting’ (the physical, social and cultural environment). There have been relatively few studies focused on environmental factors, in part due to the strictly controlled settings of clinical trials and a high degree of individual variability regarding what constitutes a positive setting. The present research is the first naturalistic study looking at the different environmental elements present during either beneficial or harmful experiences (e.g. being in nature or the presence of untrusted individuals). This talk will bring together findings from two different large-scale survey studies using both prospective (N=255) and retrospective (N=1913) approaches to show multiple lines of evidence regarding how non-drug factors influence subjective experiences with psychedelics. Results indicate that beneficial experiences were more often in nature, contained more therapeutic elements and were precipitated by feeling better prepared and having a clear intention, while harmful experiences tended to be in urban environments with more elements of unpredictability and risk. These studies provide preliminary support for the influence of non-drug factors and show a need for more rigorous controlled studies. A better understanding of how the environment influences the subjective experience, and thereby therapeutic outcomes, will inform clinical trials and could potentially improve treatment efficacy.


David de Wied has a masters degree in Neuroscience & Cognition and Clinical Psychology from the University of Utrecht. During his studies he completed a six-month internship at Imperial College London investigating the effects of music and LSD on functional connectivity and brain network dynamics and has subsequently stayed involved remotely working on several ongoing survey studies. Since finishing his studies he has been working as a psychologist with a variety of indications.



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