A pair of unassuming Australian psychedelic researchers are proposing a radical paradigm shift to the way psychotherapy is conducted. The pair have developed a unique protocol for incorporating virtual reality into the still experimental mode of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, and it promises to shatter 20th century ideas of therapy.
Psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy is still a deeply experimental concept. While MDMA-therapy for PTSD has advanced to late-stage clinical trials and looming FDA authorization, other more classical psychedelics such as psilocybin and LSD are still in relatively early stages of research.
Agnieszka Sekula and Prash Puspanathan founded Enosis Therapeutics to explore ways of integrating virtual reality into psychedelic therapy. Underpinning the pair’s philosophy behind Enosis is the idea virtual reality technology can help people connect more directly with the visceral nature of a psychedelic experience.
The psychedelic experience, according to Prash, is an embodied and emotional experience. Yet modern psychotherapy frameworks often work within protocols of cognitive therapy. It’s this chasm between the ineffable nature of a psychedelic experience and the pragmatic, analytical structure of talk therapy that Enosis is trying bridge.
“Anything that we can do to return things back to being more emotional, more embodied, or anchored to the true tenets of that [psychedelic] experience would be incredibly beneficial towards sustaining those insights,” Prash said to New Atlas.
Most current psychedelic psychotherapy follows a conventional structure involving a few preparatory therapy visits, before one or more active drug sessions, which are then followed up with a handful of therapy sessions designed to help patients integrate the insights gained from their psychedelic experiences. A complete psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy protocol can span anywhere from eight to 12 weeks.
The protocol proposed by Enosis is both simple and radical. Agnieszka and Prash envision virtual reality being used across all stages of psychedelic therapy, serving as a kind of adjunct to help patients stay connected to those deeply resonant altered state experiences as the weeks and months pass.
“The way we are working is injecting VR in a targeted manner in different parts of therapy,” Agnieszka explained. “We’re using it for the entire process, from preparation for dosing, to integration, in every session if possible. In a way that maintains a cohesion of treatment so there’s an environment that you keep returning back to that helps with the transition between therapeutic space.”
Enosis proposes a number of different VR scenarios deployed at different stages of the therapeutic process. Early on, before any drug experiences, there are preparatory sessions designed to help acquaint patients with the VR space and frame certain intentions for the future psychedelic sessions.345
Foto: A new Australian start-up called Enosis Therapeutics is developing a novel way to incorporate virtual reality into psychedelic therapyDepositphotos