Research Conducted at Portland Psychotherapy

At least 10 cents of every dollar we take in at Portland Psychotherapy goes to support research. A central part of our mission is to use science to develop novel methods to help people live better lives and alleviate the suffering that is part of living as a human being.  Beginning in 2008, we helped establish a federally approved Institutional Review Board (IRB) to provide an independent review of our research to make sure it meets the highest ethical standards. This IRB is hosted by a nonprofit organization called the Behavioral Health Research Collective and more information a can be found at:

Below are some of the research projects we recently worked on, or are currently working on through the Research Lab at Portland Psychotherapy.

Topic area: Psychedelics and MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy

We are planning a pilot trial of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for social anxiety focused on identifying mechanisms of action involved in this approach. We are also interested in studying therapist attitudes toward psychedelics so as to inform how to effectively disseminate psychedelic-assisted therapy as the database for it’s effectiveness grows and it becomes a legal therapy.

Current Projects: 1. survey of therapists to identify their attitudes, education, and stigma toward psychedelics and psychedelic experience. 2. pilot trial of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for social anxiety disorder

Investigator: Jason Luoma, Ph.D., Kati Lear, Ph.D., and Brian Pilecki, Ph.D.

Topic area: Emotional regulation, shame, and social behavior of people with social anxiety disorder (SAD)

This study aims to investigate current theories about the relationships between shame, SAD, coping, and interpersonal behavior. Additionally, this study will extend and replicate previous studies exploring “conflicted shyness” and approach-avoidance conflicts to further understand the development of SAD. This study also serves as a pilot trial for surveys that will be used in our upcoming clinical trial investigating MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for SAD.

Current Project: Project MESA – Motivation and Emotion in Social Anxiety

Investigator: Jason Luoma, Ph.D. & Kati Lear, Ph.D.


Topic area: Shame, self-criticism, and self-compassion as it naturally occurs in therapy.

Although a lot of theoretical and clinical attention has been paid to the role of shame in therapy process and outcome, there has been much less empirical attention to this topic. In this study, we are longitudinally investigating shame and self-compassion in therapy using a treatment-seeking sample. We intend to use the results of the research to inform later development of a randomized controlled trial intervention for working with shame and self-criticism.

Current Project: Project LISTENS – Studying the role of shame, self-criticism, and self-compassion in therapy process and outcome.

Investigators: Jason Luoma, Ph.D. & Kati Lear, Ph.D.

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Project S3D: The effects of emotion on alcohol use.

We recently conducted research in the local community to learn more about the relationship between mood, daily experiences, and drinking. We were interested in learning more about the daily patterns of all sorts of different people, and asked them to share more about their use of alcohol (whether they drink a little or a lot, or anywhere in between), their emotions, and their attitudes about themselves.

We then had participants keep an online “daily diary” for 21 days to learn more about how daily events, moods, and alcohol use are related.

Investigators: Jason Luoma, Ph.D.

Topic Area: Novel Interventions for Shame and Self-Criticism

We conducted a study to understand the role of compassion and belongingness in people with high self-criticism and shame to help them live fuller, more engaged lives with an increased sense of belonging. We developed a 9-week class entitled Big Heart, Open Wide for highly self-critical people based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, affective science and compassion-based interventions. We collected data to assess the effectiveness of the class and use the data to inform future iterations of the class as well as additional research projects. We also worked on developing an individual treatment protocol based on the same ideas.

Investigators: Jason Luoma, Ph.D., Jenna LeJeune, Ph.D., Kati Lear, Ph.D.


To see our publications, go here: