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Psychedelics as a Scientific Tool for Mental Health

An Interview with Marvin Däumichen, MA, co-founder of the MIND Foundation

Psychedelic drugs might become the next big therapeutic tool to fight depression and other psychiatric disorders as “changes in self-experience, emotional processing and social cognition may contribute to the potential therapeutic effects” (Vollenweider & Preller, 2020). Classical psychedelics like lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) or psilocybin (magic mushrooms) that are administered with appropriate guidance and in a controlled therapeutic setting that includes preparation and reflexion upon the experience were shown to enhance mental health (Walton & Liknaitzky, 2020). 

We talked to Marvin Däumichen who is a co-founder of the MIND Foundation about the history and potential of psychedelics as a treatment for mental health and why high-quality research and promoting knowledge is inevitable to boost this field. The MIND Foundation is a European non-profit science and education organization that aims to build a healthier, more connected world through psychedelic research and education. 

Marvin Däumichen: The foundation was started by a group of individuals from all different kinds of professions – researchers, therapists, medical professionals, students and friends. Different backgrounds and interests of the members represent the fragmented and diverse field of psychedelic cultures. My personal motivation to join the research field had been long standing, it was a theme throughout my life. and I started immersing myself in the socio-cultural history of psychedelics and slowly became more vocal about the relevance and implications of psychedelic experience in society, arts, politics and medical contexts.

Anna Köstler: You mentioned an obvious difference in the field of psychedelics between personal experiences among users on the one hand and a scientific, intersubjective approach on the other. Would you say it is a rather new research field?

Marvin Däumichen: Psychedelic traditions have been around for a long time, but psychedelic research only started in the late 19th century. Albert Hoffmann for instance discovered the psychoactive properties of LSD in 1943 and by the 1940ies and 50ies psychedelics had been embraced by parts of the psychiatric community and used for treatment of substance misuse. By the 1960s there had been a body of scientific literature published, confirming findings that these substances can be very useful for the treatment of many psychiatric disorders. 

Anna Köstler: Why do you think, in comparison to antidepressants like SSRIs, is there an ongoing stigma about psychedelics? 

Marvin Däumichen: The interaction of set, setting, and dose are critical for the overall effect of psychedelics. People can take the same substance but set different intentions and may have a dramatically different experience because the setting is not the same (on the interactions of  Drug, Set, and Setting, see Zinberg 1984). The experience with psychedelics can be risky, especially regarding specific genetic predispositions and uncontrolled use. Further, SSRIs are not fun, they do not have an experiential, phenomenological aspect to them and they are linear in action. That is why recreational use and misuse happened involving psychedelics while SSRIs are not abused much. Research on psychedelics was always happening, it just got derailed when people started using psychedelics as an act of political dissidence in the 1960s. When LSD got out of the lab and onto the streets, it got out of hand and overall, it became a political movement. 

Anna Köstler: Your foundation focuses on education on the potentials of psychedelics as a tool for mental health through scientific methods. What is important for you in terms of research, what must information about psychedelics imply to be in accordance with your philosophy? 

Marvin Däumichen: The values of the MIND Foundation are based in the philosophical tradition of enlightenment, reason and critical thinking. Within these foundations of mental autonomy and democracy, people should be able to educate themselves and think independently to make informed decisions grounded in evidence-based information that people can then incorporate as factual knowledge. No magical thinking or pseudo-shamanism is involved in what we are doing, we rather focus on studies that have shown long lasting positive effects on mental health with just very few interventions with psychedelic substances. We offer education to professional adults and students, work together with established researchers, collaborate with universities and institutes to conduct research and share information about treatment options for people that seek help.

Anna Köstler: How would a typical therapeutic setting with psychedelic treatment unfold? 

Marvin Däumichen: There is a lot of good research that took place in recent years and since the late 2000s, interest in psychedelics has resurfaced. These studies are in line with clinical standards and found out that a certain type of therapy seems particularly promising with psychedelic treatment. A therapeutic approach that has been used a lot in clinical studies is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) which is part of the so-called third wave of cognitive-behavioral therapies. The patient will receive only a couple of dosing sessions and additional talking therapy interventions for preparation and integration.

Anna Köstler: The ultimate goal of your foundation would be to make people understand psychedelics as a normal and standard treatment for mental health, right? 

Marvin Däumichen: Absolutely! There should be no doubt about the potentials as it is striking how effective this treatment can be. The responses among patients are very positive. This is not for the sake of progress of our foundation or monetary interest but to alleviate suffering in the world. Mental health plays a big role, especially nowadays and we are constantly looking for better treatments and better methods as mental health makes no exception. 

Anna Köstler: How can one get involved in the MIND Foundation?

Marvin Däumichen: Our organization is growing rapidly. We are hosting public events on a regular basis, like get-to-know meetups that are entirely free. We do public talks, symposiums, workshops, experiential programs on the MIND Academy, and a large conference that happens every other year where hard science and implementation come together. People can volunteer, there is the opportunity to do an internship and we already have a lot of psychology and neuroscience students supporting us in various activities in educational and research projects. Moreover, we are cooperation partner in a large, psilocybin depression study, lead by Prof. Dr. Gerhard Gründer at the CIMH Mannheim and the Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin, starting in early 2021. The project is making history in Germany. Lastly, especially for students, we started the uniMIND project, which is a lively, international journal club network that will host a Symposium at the University of Zurich in June 2021. Many of their meetings are happening online these days, entirely free, fun, and educational.

 

Anna Köstler

Anna just finished her master's studies in psychology at the University of Vienna. For her thesis she studied neural correlates of empathy in the brain and is aiming to follow her interest in neuroscience, clinical psychology, sleep and science communication. Traveling, friends, making music and writing keep her busy during leisure time.

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How to stop being busy and become productive

With the rise of social media, potential distractions have risen to unseen levels; they dominate our daily lives. Do you check Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, or Email on a constant basis? Do you have an embarrassing relationship with your alarm clock’s snooze button? Do you pass on social invites, telling other people that you are too busy? As a generation, we have lost the ability to focus sharply on the task at hand; instead, we work on a multitude of things simultaneously, lamenting that we do not achieve what we seek to achieve. Continue reading

Fabian Dablander

Fabian Dablander is doing a PhD at the Department of Psychological Methods at the University of Amsterdam. You can find more information at https://fdabl.github.io/.

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Are You Registering That? An Interview with Prof. Chris Chambers

There is no panacea for bad science, but if there were, it would certainly resemble Registered Reports. Registered Reports are a novel publishing format in which authors submit only the introduction, methods, and planned analyses without actually having collected the data. Thus, peer-review only focuses on the soundness of the research proposal and is not contingent on the “significance” of the results (Chambers, 2013). In one strike, this simple idea combats publication bias, researchers’ degrees of freedom, makes apparent the distinction between exploratory and confirmatory research, and calms the researcher’s mind. There are a number of journals offering Registered Reports, and this is arguable the most important step journals can take to push psychological science forward (see also King et al., 2016). For a detailed treatment of Registered Reports, see here, here, here, and Chambers (2015). Continue reading

Fabian Dablander

Fabian Dablander is doing a PhD at the Department of Psychological Methods at the University of Amsterdam. You can find more information at https://fdabl.github.io/.

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Introducing jamovi: Free and Open Statistical Software Combining Ease of Use with the Power of R

For too long, Psychology has had to put up with costly, bulky, and inflexible statistics software. Today, we’d like to introduce you to a breath of fresh air: jamovi, free statistics software available for all platforms that is intuitive and user-friendly, and developed with so much pace that its capabilities will potentially soon outrun SPSS. Continue reading

Peter Edelsbrunner

Peter Edelsbrunner

Peter is currently doctoral student at the section for learning and instruction research of ETH Zurich in Switzerland. He graduated from Psychology at the University of Graz in Austria. Peter is interested in conceptual knowledge development and the application of flexible mixture models to developmental research. Since 2011 he has been active in the EFPSA European Summer School and related activities.

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JEPS introduces Registered Reports: Here is how it works

For  more than six years, JEPS has been publishing student research, both in the form of classic Research Articles as well as Literature Reviews. As of April 2016, JEPS offers another publishing format: Registered Reports. In this blog post we explain what Registered Reports are, why they could be interesting for you as a student, and how the review process works. Continue reading

Katharina Brecht

Katharina Brecht

After finishing her PhD at the University of Cambridge, Katharina is currently a Postdoc in the Institute of Neurobiology at the University of Tübingen. Her research interests revolve around the mechanisms of social and causal cognition in animals.

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Bayesian Statistics: Why and How

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Bayesian statistics is what all the cool kids are talking about these days. Upon closer inspection, this does not come as a surprise. In contrast to classical statistics, Bayesian inference is principled, coherent, unbiased, and addresses an important question in science: in which of my hypothesis should I believe in, and how strongly, given the collected data?  Continue reading

Fabian Dablander

Fabian Dablander is doing a PhD at the Department of Psychological Methods at the University of Amsterdam. You can find more information at https://fdabl.github.io/.

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Interview with Prof. Ralph Hertwig

Ralph Hertwig is director of the Center for Adaptive Rationality at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin. He is well known for his interdisciplinary research on cognitive search, judgment, and decision making under risk and uncertainty. To this end, his lab uses a wide array of methods, ranging from experiments, surveys, and computer simulations to neuroscientific tools. 

Ralph Hertwig

What I enjoy most about my job as a researcher … What I most enjoy is the opportunity to team up with people from other fields or schools of thought and produce something I could never have come up with on my own. Continue reading

Jonas Haslbeck

Jonas Haslbeck

Jonas is a Senior Editor at the Journal of European Psychology Students. He is currently a PhD student in psychological methods at the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. For further info see http://jmbh.github.io/.

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What Do Whigs Have To Do With History of Psychology?

The 2013 December issue of the journal Theory & Psychology saw a forceful exchange between Kurt Danziger and Daniel N. Robinson on the nature of psychology’s disciplinary history. For those unfamiliar with the names, both are eminent scholars in (among other things) history of psychology. The exchange boils down to Danziger accusing Robinson of creating a romanticized history of psychology, tying the discipline down to Ancient Greek philosophies.  What Danziger cannot forgive in such a way of writing history of science is the idea of a concept that stays the same throughout history, and then finds its way into psychology. For example (Danziger, 2013, p. 835): “This understanding of psychology’s history has always relied on the belief that the concept of ‘human nature’ represents some historically unchanging essence guaranteeing continuity, no matter how great the gulf that appears to separate the present from the remote past.” Robinson, in turn, answers with two articles in the same issue defending his position with insinuations that Danziger and his supporters are not familiar enough with Aristotle’s body of work to mount such a criticism. His repartees, sans the scholastic posturing, can be summed up well with the sentence (Robinson, 2013a, p. 820): “It is worth noting in order to make clear that the past can be highly instructive without being causally efficacious.” Continue reading

Ivan Flis

Ivan Flis is a PhD student in History and Philosophy of Science at the Descartes Centre, Utrecht University; and has a degree in psychology from the University of Zagreb, Croatia. His research focuses on quantitative methodology in psychology, its history and application, and its relation to theory construction in psychological research. He had been an editor of JEPS for three years in the previous mandates.

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Looking for New Contributors

bulletin contributorsThe Journal of European Psychology Students’ Bulletin blogs about academic writing, scientific publishing, and essential research skills in the field of psychology. The JEPS Bulletin aims to connect psychology students from all over Europe by providing a unique platform for learning and sharing of knowledge, and subsequently, serving as an indispensable companion for students in the process of conducting and reporting psychological research. The JEPS Bulletin is proud to have a great number of active Contributors who are psychology students throughout Europe. Currently, the JEPS Bulletin is recruiting new Contributors so in case you want to be part of the list on your left keep reading.

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Pedro Almeida

Pedro Almeida

Pedro Almeida is a graduate student and research assistant at the University of Groningen, Netherlands. His main research interests are evolutionary psychology and the intersection between marketing and psychology. Previously, he worked as an Editor for the Journal of European Psychology Students (JEPS).

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Why meta-analysis? A guide through basic steps and common biases

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 Meta: meta- combining form. From Greek meta ‘with, across, or after.’  Pertaining to a level above or beyond.

 Analysis: analysis |əˈnaləsis| noun. From Greek analuō ‘I unravel,  investigate’. Detailed examination of the elements or structure of  something,
 
Often times, researchers and students find themselves going through a  dense amount of papers on a certain topic only to find results that don’t  really seem to point towards a coherent or homogenous conclusion. Does this treatment work?
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Luís Miguel Tojo

Luís Miguel Tojo

Luís Miguel Tojo is a MSc student in Cognitive Neuroscience (Neuropsychology) at Maastricht University, Netherlands, since 2012, having finished his BSc in Psychological Sciences at the University of Coimbra, Portugal. He is currently Vice President of EFPSA (2013-2014) and has been the Research Officer for the Junior Researcher Programme since early 2012. His research interests cover neuroprotective factors against neurodegenerative diseases and brain insults, and neuropsychopharmacological approaches to mental illness.

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