The Efficacy and Pseudoscience of Underground Psychedelic Transformational Work


The Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is to be commended in their groundbreaking clinical research and obtaining the approval from the Food and Drug Administration and the licenses to conduct scientific trials studying the efficacy of MDMA, LSD, Cannabis and Psilocybin mushrooms for the treatment of PTSD, End of Life Anxiety, Depression, Social Anxiety Associated with Autism and personal and spiritual growth as well as Ibogaine therapy for addiction and Ayahuasca for drug addiction and PTSD. They picked up where the research in the 1950’s left off and the findings as well as the findings of other scientists and doctors around the world are nothing less than astonishing. They have developed a clinical protocol which is freely available on their website

Underground “providers,” “sitters,” and “guides” may be proficient in providing you with a comfortable and beautiful setting to undergo a psychedelic session to other process emotional pain or for personal or spiritual growth, or they may not. But, without the proper clinical training it is very probable that they will be “bleeding” into your experience, a term loosely used to mean their own issues will be activated possibly contaminating your experience. This could also be psychologically harmful to you. At the very least it could be distracting or annoying neither of which are desirable. This is the focus of this article.

Belief Systems as a Substitute for Protocol

Although some of the clinical trials being conducted are interested in the possibility of connecting with divine or spiritual energies, as in trials currently underway at Johns Hopkins University ( there is no way to prove that these subjective experiences are an indication of such encounters. These are based on belief. However the scientific studies are still based on a clinical protocol.

Same holds true when you seek the assistance of an underground guide. Whatever your personal beliefs are your guide is going to have personal beliefs as well and if they are not following some basic guidelines things may start to become unclear as you interact with this person.

Some of the hallmarks of responsible guiding in psychedelic work are:

- The guide has done much clearing work on their own and has respects your individual process rather than trying to be your “teacher.”

- The substance is the actual teacher and connects to you in such a way to provide release, healing and insight in a way that is unique to you.

- You and the guide spend time to get to know each other before the session, you get clear on what they feel the purpose is and you clarify your intentions.

In the scientific trials work the protocol that is being developed includes that the therapists and sitters undergo a number of hours of psychedelic session work themselves within the context of safe and clinical practice. This is to better empathize and understand what the subject may be experiencing as well as work on anything that could be a hinderance to the care of the subjects/patients. A medical history, monitoring and personal history is also taken into account, just like any other medical procedure. Work proceeds accordingly with the highest level of care and respect for the subjects’ needs.

In the underground you are in actuality taking a huge risk in working with someone with possibly dubious preparation and subconscious motivations. This is most apparent when your guide gets triggered in the course of your work together and begins to “bleed” their beliefs or unresolved issues. This does not mean they are bad or trying to harm you. It means they are human and are not trained in protocol. It would behoove you to get this all out in the open and YOU set guidelines and boundaries for your work together if psychedelic session work is something you would like to pursue in the underground. Also do your due diligence. Treat this like any interaction with any health care provider. Get a second opinion if you can.

Safety First — Contraindications

There are several contraindications to be aware of when considering the use of psychedelic and psychoactive substances. In the cases of LSD and psilocybin it is recommended to avoid these substances if you are diagnosed with schizophrenia, severe depression or bipolar disorder — Bipolar I, I have not seen contraindications for Bipolar II and as a sufferer myself I find great relief from my symptoms using psychedelics.

I would recommend having a doctor you can trust and be honest with them about your use, become knowledgable about the current research studies and work together towards keeping your self-medicating with psychedelics a safe and valuable experience.


Although I doubt anyone will heed the advice in this section (I could be wrong) a certain level of maturity is recommended for undertaking psychedelic work. It is a commitment to honesty, practice and ongoing self-development. Aftercare is a must. The point of ding this work is not to be fixed by psychedelics but to use them as a tool whose insights you will integrate and apply ongoing. This takes maturity.

Moving Forward — Legalization of Psychedelic Assisted Therapy

Here in NYC the Horizons: Perspectives on Psychedelics conference takes place each year and is gearing up for it’s 10th year now in 2016 ( I was honored to be a volunteer last year. Every presenter was fascinating, journalists, doctors, scientists, presenting their findings on clinical research trials with psychedelics all over the world. Some of the countries that are currently allowing research are from Argentina, Israel, Switzerland, Canada and of course the USA.

The ever compassionate and entertaining Rick Doblin, Ph.D. assured us that psychedelic therapy was well on it’s way to becoming legal and probably will by 2021. That’s only five years away. There is still much work to be done. Not only for the legalization for psychedelic assisted therapy but for personal liberty for using for personal and/or spiritual growth.

I hope this primer on safety and personal responsibility when considering using psychedelics has widened your view somewhat and given you food for thought. I would love to know if you have any questions and of course any comments you may have.

Transcendent change touches the soul and reaches forward. Love enables us to open to our true self the transpersonal ground of our being. Going down to my core, clearing the path of defensive structures, inviting my core to unfurl and grow toward the light — this is how transcendence contributes to change.

~Neil M. Goldsmith, Ph.D.

Recommended Reading:

“PSYCHEDELIC HEALING: The Promise of Entheogens for Psychotherapy and Spiritual Development,” by Neil M. Goldsmith, Ph.D.

“Guidelines for the Sacramental Use of Empathogenic Substances,” by Sophia Adamson —