Is There A Valid Role For Psychotropic Drugs In Psychotherapy?


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In your retrospective book “Darkness Shining Wild” , you chronicle your devastating near-death experience with psychotropic drugs which, I would guess, curtailed further inquiries into self-nature involving drugs given the traumatic nature of your journey there.

Having been swept headlong through the flower child 60’s as a young man, the use of psychedelic drugs was a large sculpting force in my psychological development and relational sense to the divine for a number of years. Psychotropics played a large mentoring role for me before spiritual teachers appeared on the scene. There was often, literally, an overdub voice in my experiences with assorted drugs (LSD, mescaline, psilocybin, ecstasy) that gently instructed me or patiently explained what was being revealed, helping me to integrate and comprehend the often vast scope of dimension shown. All in all, the relationship was characterized as a benevolent and enlightened teacher-ally for me, profoundly influential on many levels of my understanding. It cranked me open early on to a sense of the non-dual aspects of existence and hence a powerful relation to the spiritual or divine as a focus in my life.

The “about face” this had on my development as a young man was nothing short of radical. A lot of very harsh militant patterning and linear thinking dropped away in favor of more expanded and organic points of view. In retrospect, I can’t help but feel that my life would have taken a very different turn without the influence of psychedelics, more narrow and pinchy and reactive, without the windows of perspective that were afforded into my own nature via drug use. I touched on this briefly with you during a Breakthrough in Ashland a few months ago.

Though I no longer partake of these substances anymore, with the rare exception of a “heart session” with ecstasy once every year or two, I feel I must acknowledge their overwhelmingly therapeutic influence in my own life as a vehicle for some measure of healing and transcendence. I’m aware that there is some work being done in the psychotherapy world using psychotropic drugs as an adjunct to therapy, clandestinely and otherwise. Largely however, there is so much stigma and suppression in our culture around this subject that it’s influence is largely ignored and driven underground where it continues to have its’ say, as it has since ancient times.

My question(s) for you then:

Is there a valid role in psychotherapy, in either a clinical or freelance sense, for psychotropic drug use to facilitate growth, breakthrough and perceptual shift? What has been your personal experience, both personally and professionally regarding therapeutic drug use? I respect that you may have to be circumspect in your reply.


As psychologically and spiritually valuable as psychotropic substances can be at times, I don’t know if there’s a truly valid role for them in psychotherapy. There’s just too much at stake, too many wild variables on the loose, too much shapeshifting multidimensionality, for a psychotherapist to properly guide, handle, and work with; some clients could have breakthroughs, others something far less helpful, and there’s no reliable way to know which way it’s going to go. Divine dynamite — which way is it going to blow? And how to translate what is going on, especially when it’s coming on so strong and so fast? There’s a place for such chemically-induced hyperexperiential inner journeying, but I’m not convinced that it includes psychotherapy chambers.

Most psychotherapists have their hands more than full just dealing with clients’ issues without any psychotropic activity being brought into the mix. And psychotropic-like experience sometimes does arise during deep psychotherapy, especially when body and breath and relevant issues are brought into potent conjunction — but at least then clients are not biochemically bound to and at the mercy of the metabolizing of an ingested substance. I’ve done plenty of altered-state work with clients, and have never felt the need to bring drugs into the mix. At the end of such sessions, I want my clients to look at me through their eyes, rather than through psychotropic lenses.

If it’s difficult to work with clients’ dissociative tendencies under normal conditions, imagine what it would be like to try to work with such tendencies when clients are in a psychotropic freefall or identity-blasting episode. And dissociation is just as common during entheogenic trips as is connection/overconnection.

When you swallow your psychotropic substance, you are in for quite a journey — much will inevitably surface, and most of it will occur in a manner that cannot be therapeutically overseen and worked with, except in the most utilitarian sort of way: helping you relax, helping you throw up, helping you find the bathroom, helping you shift your focus. This is not really therapy, but rather management.

None of this is to say that psychotropics cannot be therapeutic — along with being psychospiritually very useful. A psychotropic journey can be life-altering. Unfortunately, many get so enamored of such an experience that they go back again and again to take the same substance (or something similar), coasting rather than growing. I’ve had a number of clients, for example, who have repeatedly taken Ayahuasca, and I’ve not seen that this has generated any significant growth, regardless of how blown open they were or how profoundly revelatory their journey was; rocketing beyond our difficulties or seeing them through superstoned eyes usually does not really serve us, but rather only seduces us with Big Picture intimations. Psychotropics open the gates, sometimes gently, sometimes not — but to use them to repeatedly open the gates is not so helpful.

The psychotherapy that I do would not, I believe, be enhanced by bringing in psychotropic substances; there’s enough of an edge there already, enough opportunity there already for needed breakthroughs and healing. High quality psychotherapy can light us up just as much as a psychotropic substance, with the added benefit of making sure that our experience is being digested and integrated not later, but now.



For those of you who may have missed it, Stuart Davis conducted a fantastic interview with Robert on Integral Naked. From April of 2006, the interview discusses a brutal nine-month hell experience that Robert went through that became the foundation of his current work, which is primarily focused on helping people move through various dysfunctions by embracing the unseen, unconscious, disowned, often frightening aspects of themselves. He also stresses the importance of intimate relationships in the transformational process.

You can listen to the Robert Augustus Masters – Stuart Davis interview by going here:


Robert Augustus Masters Website