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  • Apr 14, 2021

CHA Offers Innovative Training on Psychedelics and Other Non-Ordinary States

CHA and Harvard Medical School will offer a continuing medical education course on meditation practices, psychedelic treatment and other methods of evoking non-ordinary states.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — On April 30 and May 1, Cambridge Health Alliance and Harvard Medical School will offer a continuing education course titled “Meditation and Psychotherapy: Learning from Non-Ordinary States.” By exploring the common and divergent change processes in meditation practices, psychedelic treatment and other methods of evoking non-ordinary states of consciousness, clinicians and researchers will gain a deeper understanding of how psychological disorders are created and alleviated.

The induction or exploration of non-ordinary states of consciousness has played an important role in psychotherapy since its inception. Dreams, hypnotic trance, free association and breath regulation as well as meditation practices like mindfulness have all been successfully applied in clinical settings to access and integrate challenging emotional experiences that cause psychological disorders.

"Ever since William James and Freud, psychotherapists have explored non-ordinary states such as dreams, hypnosis, and free association,” said course director Ronald D. Siegel, PsyD. “Recent decades have brought mindfulness meditation into the mainstream of treatment, and we are now seeing an explosion of research into the integration of psychedelic pharmaceuticals to treat a wide range of disorders. This conference will explore what non-ordinary states can reveal about psychological suffering and its alleviation, and how clinicians might safely incorporate these insights into their work with diverse populations."

Recently, pharmaceutical psychedelics such as MDMA, psilocybin and ketamine are being used in FDA-approved trials in the United States and government-sanctioned studies abroad to enhance psychotherapy for disorders such as PTSD, depression, and addictions, as well as to ease end-of-life transitions. These developments represent a novel application of psychopharmacology in conjunction with psychotherapy.

"There is a growing body of evidence that these approaches can be effective for some people, but clinicians should be aware of the potential risks as well as the need for more research in this field," said Philip Wang, MD, DrPH, chief and chair of psychiatry at Cambridge Health Alliance.

The course will explore the history, science, neurobiology and ethical and legal issues that arise when working with non-ordinary states of consciousness, especially psychedelics. It is intended for mental health, medical and other professionals who want a deeper understanding of non-ordinary states and their therapeutic potential. Multiple learning formats will be used including didactic presentations, panels, small group discussions and Q&A. Course directors will also lead participants in a guided meditation.

Since its founding 25 years ago, Cambridge Health Alliance has offered continuing education courses on a variety of topics in the practice of behavioral healthcare, with a special focus on diverse and underserved populations. The Meditation and Psychotherapy course has been held since 2006 and international keynote speakers have included the Dalai Lama and Thích Nhất Hạnh. It is a flagship activity of the Division of Continuing Education in Psychiatry, which offers national conferences throughout the academic year.

To register for this course, please visit:

Cambridge Health Alliance is an academic community health system committed to providing high-quality care in Cambridge, Somerville and Boston’s metro-north communities. CHA has expertise in primary care, specialty care and mental health/substance use services, as well as caring for diverse and complex populations. It includes two hospital campuses, a network of primary care and specialty practices and the Cambridge Public Health Dept. CHA patients have seamless access to advanced care through the system’s affiliation with Beth Israel Lahey Health. CHA is a Harvard Medical School teaching affiliate and is also affiliated with Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard School of Dental Medicine and Tufts University School of Medicine.

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