Psychedelic versus Psycholytic Therapy: What’s the Difference?

psychedelic vs. psycholytic therapy illustration

Psychedelic therapy is not the same as psycholytic therapy. In psychedelic therapy, patients have breakthrough experiences. The purpose of psycholytic therapy is to enhance talk therapy sessions by microdosing.

What is Psychedelic Therapy?

Psychedelic therapy is a type of treatment that uses high doses of psychedelic substances. It causes a transformative, healing journey. Substances include MDMA and psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) among others. Ketamine infusions are also considered to be a psychedelic-assisted therapy. Psychedelic therapy is sometimes confused with psycholytic therapy. With psycholytic therapy, the same substances are used but to different ends.

What is Psycholytic Therapy?

Psycholytic therapy is not something often seen now, but it was very popular in Freudian psychoanalysis. German psychiatrist Hanscarl Leuner combined talk therapy with low doses of psychedelic substances. This was before the ban of LSD and other drugs. LSD was first made in Switzerland. From 1988 to 1993, doctors in Switzerland could prescribe LSD and MDMA to their patients. Unfortunately, no controlled studies were conducted during this period.

In these settings, doctors administered psychedelics at low doses and, sometimes, in group settings. The low dosage gave patients greater control over their thoughts and emotions. That way they could still interact with others while also having deep thoughts. In some ways, in psycholytic therapy, the medicines are used as a tool to lower the patient’s defenses. But it isn’t like psychedelic therapy where there are ego-dissolving and mystical journeys. In the Swiss experiment, the average patient took part in one drug-assisted session for every ten non-drug sessions. Ninety percent of patients reported improvement after therapy had ended.

The Common Factor: Help From Others

While psycholytic therapy is more therapist-centered than psychedelic therapy, the therapist plays an important role in both. In psychedelic therapy, your therapist acts only as a guide during your experience. It’s after you’ve returned to Earth that their real work begins. It is important to remember that integration is the key to understanding an experience.


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