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Grof on LSD Therapy 2

From “Psycholytic and Psychedelic Therapies with LSD: Towards and Integration of Approaches” in LSD Psychotherapy (1980):

Grof, professionally trained “as an enthusiastic and convinced psychoanalysts” who “automatically chose the classical Freudian arrangement,” wants to integrate the various techniques of LSD therapy (119). Grof researched “intensifying and accelerating the psychoanalytic process” with LSD (119). Grof’s experience with LSD therapy led to “drastic departures not only from the Freudian therapeutic technique, but also from its conceptual framework and basic philosophy” (120). The use of LSD in therapy demanded a less detached attitude to the patient, less verbal contact, and the addition of direct physical contact by the therapist.


Grof dispenses with hypnodelic techniques - they are not useful. Anaclitic techniques are somewhat helpful, but the psycholytic and psychedelic techniques work the best. The psycholytic approach, as based in psychoanalysis, discourages transcendent states of mind and understood such states as psychotic, whereas the psychedelic approach encourages transcendent states of mind while disregarding psychodynamic issues. Grof thinks these approaches can be integrated.

While psycholytic therapy boasts of accelerating the psychoanalytic process, “it still requires an enormous amount of the therapists time,” as opposed to psychedelic therapy which uses higher LSD dosages to concentrate therapy into a single or a few sessions (123). However, psycholytic therapy has led to longer lasting stability for patients because of its emphasis on psychodynamics. Yet the psycholytic process is not thereby better, since its low dosages of LSD may lead to increased resistances; thus psychedelic therapy is recommended because “high-dose sessions are generally much safer... the very aspects of high-does exposures that make them a greater risk at the time of the drug action turn out to be their advantages” (124). Psycholytic therapy is more likely to lead to “flashbacks” to LSD experiences, whereas psychedelic therapy resolves the LSD experience through abandonment, “Lessened ability to fight the effect of the drug and more complete surrender are conducive to better resolution and integration of the experience” (124).

In a great critique of psychoanalytic dogmatism, Grof notes that “There is no doubt that the quality of the therapeutic relationship is one of the most important factors determining the course and outcome of LSD sessions. However, it is much less certain the development of transference and its analysis is essential for therapeutic progress. This is something which is taken for grated in classical psychoanalysis... but that does not exclude the possibility that there exist other effective mechanisms of therapeutic change. Observations from LSD psychotherapy suggest very strongly that the intensity of transference is directly proportional to the resistance to facing the original traumatic material. In a certain sense, therefore, an LSD therapist who puts great emphasis on identification and analysis of transference phenomena, instead of acknowledging them and directing the patient’s attention beyond them, is cooperating with the defense mechanisms. It happens quite regularly in the course of LSD psychotherapy that various transference problems clear up automatically after the subject has been able to face and work through underlying unconscious material of a psychodynamic, perinatal or transpersonal nature” (125). Death-rebirth experiences and transpersonal/cosmic experiences, which are poorly theorized by psychodynamic therapists, “seem to have as fundamental significance for the success of LSD therapy as the natural experiences of symbiotic unity with the mother have for the development of an emotionally healthy and stable personality” (125).

Psychedelic therapy “seems to have fully appreciated the importance of positive experiences, which are usually underestimated in psycholytic therapy; there latter shares with psychoanalysis a one-sided emphasis on psychopathology and traumatic material” (126). A patient’s coming to terms with transpersonal phenomena in a high-intensity LSD session may allow for lasting personality changes “even if the patient does not explicitly confront certain areas of major difficulty and conflict on the psychodynamic level” (126). However, again, it may be the case that even longer lasting stability may be achieved by integrating the psychodynamic insight. Grof seems to favor psychedelic therapy over psycholytic therapy, but success with psychedelic techniques is “hit-or-miss” (127).
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