Psychedelics Could Transform the Couples Therapy Field

Psychedelics have emerged as a viable alternative to traditional mental health therapies in recent years. A surge in psychedelic research has revealed that hallucinogenic drugs such as ketamine, MDMA, LSD and psilocybin (magic mushrooms) are capable of treating numerous mental health disorders.

Studies have shown that these psychedelics can deliver potent and long-term mental health benefits when paired with talk therapy and at relatively minimal doses. While most of this research is still in its infancy, results from prior studies have been so compelling that lawmakers across the United States are working on legislation to either decriminalize psychedelics or sanction their use in medical settings.

As the scientific literature on psychedelics as mental health treatments steadily increases, more people are considering hallucinogenics as a salve for their mental health issues rather than traditional treatments such as pharmaceuticals and talk therapy.

Couple therapy is one field that may be disrupted by the proliferation of psychedelic-assisted therapy in the near future. One couple in New Mexico, for instance, first tried MDMA (ecstasy) two years ago thinking that they were into a fun experience akin to smoking a little cannabis to unwind. However, while under the influence of the psychedelic, 37-year-old Joe and his wife discussed the trash, talked about why Joe didn’t take it out more often and came to a compromise.

Joe says that the psychedelic opened doors they “didn’t even know were there” and allowed them to hash out the trash issue. These days, the couple dedicates a few nights a year where they rent a hotel room, consume a little ecstasy and talk about key issues in their marriage, such as the division of labor in the home, parenting and sex. According to Joe, discussing such big issues doesn’t seem like a big deal while they are under the influence.

Although MDMA therapy is currently illegal under federal law, experts in the nascent psychedelic-assisted treatment field expect the FDA to approve the use of MDMA in PTSD treatment in the next two years. Once this happens, other uses of MDMA, such as assisting couples therapy could become viable.

Assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins Medicine Albert Garcia-Romeu notes that there are plenty of neurobiological reasons for the potential effectiveness of psychedelics in couples therapy. By encouraging the release of bonding hormones such as oxytocin and stoking the activity of feel-good neurotransmitters, psychedelics such as MDMA can erode inhibition, and release fear and tension while building trust.

This in turn helps people to talk about and revisit traumatic or difficult topics without experiencing major emotional reactions, allowing them to temporarily lower their guard down and “clear out a lot of emotional baggage.”

Plenty of startups such as Seelos Therapeutics Inc. (NASDAQ: SEEL) are investing considerable resources in developing psychedelic-based treatments for not just mental but also other physiological ailments. The findings of their studies promise to be interesting and eye-opening for individuals looking to learn about the full potential of this field of therapeutic hallucinogens.

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