AMAPP has been formed to be the peak body for psychedelic-assisted therapy (PAT) in Australia; providing a framework for its safe, ethical, accountable and effective introduction focusing on the best client outcomes.
If you are a licensed healthcare practitioner and want to get involved, click the link below:
Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy refers to a specific, controlled method of psychological therapy that involves the ingestion of a psychedelic drug such as psilocybin which is a compound found in certain mushrooms. In the modern context, it also includes MDMA which is not a classic psychedelic, but the treatment paradigms are similar with some important differences. The therapy most often involves two trained psychedelic therapists and the entire process can take many weeks to complete. See below
The word ‘psychedelic’ means ‘mind manifesting’ and under the right circumstances, these medicines can allow subconscious ways of thinking to come into conscious awareness and allow for changes to occur. They can create a situation where entrenched rigid thinking and behavioural patterns that are limiting or unhelpful can be changed and become more adaptable.
This neuroplasticity (changeable mental state), when nurtured correctly can effect changes that are long-lasting or permanent.
However, like with any medicine, when used incorrectly they have the potential to cause harm. In the case of psychedelics if vulnerable people are ill-prepared to navigate what may manifest for them, or do not have the correct support to make sense of the experience, psychological trauma can result. These “bad trips” can cause sustained detrimental impacts; however, this is rare with properly trained therapists in controlled settings with appropriate attention to preparation and setting. While many experiences can be very challenging, emotional and confusing, the trial data shows clearly that these can be the most beneficial and healing when the client is well prepared and well supported.
What does it look like?
The treatment begins with an assessment and careful history-taking by the treating therapists. Across multiple preparation sessions over days or weeks your therapy team will assess and fully prepare you for the dosing session. The dosing session lasts for up to 6h with psilocybin and 8-10 hours with MDMA. Following this session, over the subsequent weeks and months, you will undergo the 3rd phase of the treatment which is integration. This involves carefully exploring and making sense of the experiences and insights that may have occurred whilst under the influence of the medicine. This is a crucial stage as it attempts to solidify the changes that may have occurred in your thinking to allow for permanent changes to take place. Without attention to integration, old habits and thinking patterns may return.
Who benefits from this kind of therapy?
While thousands of trials over many decades have shown benefits for a variety of conditions, the modern research over the last 15 years has shown benefits for Treatment-Resistant Depression (TRD), anxiety, addictions, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and more, with more robust trial protocols than some of earlier clinical trials. We also have a much better understanding of the brain regions affected which helps explain how these changes occur. This data led the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) to announce in February 2023 that Psilocybin would be able to be prescribed in Australia (under very strict conditions) by accredited psychiatrists for the treatment of TRD only and MDMA for the treatment of PTSD only. This change comes into effect on 1 July 2023.
How do I get treatment?
If you have been diagnosed with one of the above two conditions, speak to your therapist and if they are unsure of the process, they can contact AMAPP for advice. You will need to be referred to an Authorised Prescriber psychiatrist (AMAPP will have a list) after being assessed by your GP to provide a full medical history. The psychiatrist will have the final say after consulting with your usual therapist.
How safe is it?
The medicines themselves are amongst the least harmful of all mind-altering drugs. They do not cause addiction and are not prone to abuse. They have limited effects on the body and are safe for most people. There are certain conditions and medications that are contraindicated with certain psychedelics, which is why a medical assessment must take place to assess suitability. Also, their ability to affect the mind so profoundly can cause psychological harm in uncontrolled circumstances as mentioned above.
As of 2024, psychedelics in Australia are legal in a very specific and controlled context. The Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) reclassified MDMA and psilocybin in February 2023, allowing their use for medical purposes. Specifically, these substances can be prescribed for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and treatment-resistant depression. However, it's important to note that their use is highly regulated and restricted to a medical setting under the supervision of licensed medical practitioners.