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Taking Mushrooms Before Dying: Psychedelic-Assisted­ Psychotherapy - Alex Belser

Psilocybin is the active compound in a specific type of mushroom that has been used to induce mystical and spiritual states of consciousness in religious and healing practices for centuries. Alexander Belser, our speaker, and his research team at New York University has incorporated psilocybin into a therapy intervention for people with cancer who struggle with clinical anxiety. This is one of the first studies being conducted in a western medical model using psychedelic medicine to facilitate healing. This ground-breaking research raises fundamental questions: how does psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy “work"? How do we know, measure, and comprehend the least concrete aspects of human experience?

Tonight, Alexander Belser will share a narrative from a patient with cancer who has received psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy in the NYU study. He will review preliminary findings from the study and discuss what we know, what we don’t know, and the dominant research approaches, with an eye to potential blind spots, both cultural and epistemological. Finally, he will introduce a new narrative study exploring the "inner" phenomenological experiences of patients, asking the questions: what does it mean to take mushrooms before dying? How might it change us? And why does it all matter?

$10 suggested donation

Alexander Belser's Bio:

Alexander Belser, M.Phil. is a Fellow and doctoral student in the Department of Applied Psychology at New York University (NYU). He graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa with a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University. He was awarded a Master of Philosophy (M.Phil.) degree from Cambridge University, and studied clinical psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University. Alexander serves as the Administrative Director of the New York University Psilocybin Cancer Project, a Phase II randomized double blind placebo-controlled crossover study investigating the effect of psilocybin on end-of-life anxiety in patients with advanced cancer. Alexander has also authored or co-authored peer-reviewed articles appearing in publications such as the APA Journal of Family Psychology and the Oxford Handbook of Prosocial Behavior. His research interests at NYU include counseling lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) adults and youth, identifying risk and protective factors for suicidal behaviors among LGBT youth. Broader research interests include the study of ecstatic human experiences, in the psychological tradition of William James and Abraham Maslow.

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