Stigma and Misinformation About Psychedelics Is Still Widespread Among Psychologists According to a New Survey

jason luoma phd psychedelic assisted therapy psychedelic science Sep 10, 2021
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Portland Psychotherapy joined with a team at OSU led by Dr. Alan Davis to conduct a survey of 366 psychologists from the U.S. about their attitudes and beliefs toward psychedelics. Here are the highlights:

Our results show that stigma and misinformation about psychedelics persists among a sizable minority of psychologists. 21% of the surveyed psychologists said they would be “very” or “extremely” concerned about the safety of a client who just reported a psilocybin mushroom experience they perceived as therapeutic and transformative. 16% indicated that they wouldn’t believe this person’s report of benefit from the psilocybin experience. While we are glad that the vast majority of psychologists would believe a client’s statement of benefit from a recent psilocybin experience, this still leaves a sizable minority locked into inaccurate and stigmatizing beliefs.

We were also pleased to find that most psychologists were willing to help clients self-educate about psychedelics if the client wanted assistance. Only 10% indicated they would not help the client find ways to educate themselves. Most psychologists were supportive of decriminalization of psychedelics, but a sizable minority (30.7%) believed psychedelics should remain illegal for recreational use.

It’s important to highlight that the lack of adequate information about psychedelics is widespread among psychologists, with only 20% reporting having a very clear understanding of psychedelic-assisted treatment.

Additionally, most psychologists feel they did not have enough experience or knowledge about psychedelics to work with clients effectively. 84% indicated they would need to seek out additional consultation if presented with a client who was using psilocybin and 40% said they would refer a psilocybin curious client struggling with depression to another clinician.

Even though there was clear indication that most psychologists didn’t have confidence in their knowledge of psychedelics, 69% reported working with a client who had experiences with psychedelics, indicating more education is needed.

As evidence of misinformation, psychologists rated alcohol to be comparable in safety to psychedelics, even though data consistently demonstrates that alcohol is typically much more harmful than psychedelics. Furthermore, 35% of psychologists believed that psychedelics can lead to neurocognitive impairment despite a lack of evidence that this is the case.

Ultimately, stigma and misinformation are still common among a sizable minority of psychologists. While many psychologists indicated willingness to assist a client in learning more about psychedelics, most did not feel competent to work with clients who are interested in or using psychedelics. Fueled by stigma, misinformation surrounding psychedelics among psychologists is a barrier to effectively serving such clients. In order for psychologists to have unbiased and unconditional positive regard for their clients who show interest in psychedelics or share a psychedelic experience, more training on psychedelics is needed.

Authors: Angelica Spata and Jason Luoma, Ph.D.

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