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Dissertation Title:

The Reemergence of an Empathogen: A Consensual Qualitative Research Study of MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy


Traci Grundland

Date, Time & Place:

August 19, 2015 at 1:30 pm
Studio, Lambert Road campus


The purpose of this study was to investigate and understand MDMA-assisted psychotherapy from its early days to its current use in FDA approved studies. By utilizing a Consensual Qualitative Research (CQR) method to analyze the data for this study, the team sought to shed light on the main findings of the research. The participants were invited to discuss their screening processes, their session protocols, and follow up practices. They were asked to share their preferred settings, ceremonial rituals, and suggestions for populations appropriate for future research. The key findings uncovered in the analysisrevealed four core ideas in which the majority of participants agreed and which are consistent with conclusions found in the existing literature. The first core idea illuminated the importance of the screening process in determining intention and appropriateness for treatment. The second key finding illustrated the significance of the treatment protocol, set and setting and the patient’s preparation for treatment. The set was defined by the expectations, motivations, and intentions of the patient and the setting denoted the physical environment as well as the relationship between those involved in treatment. The third core idea shed light on the negative experiences and the methods therapists use to manage adverse reactions in an MDMA session, and lastly, the fourth finding addressed the role of ritual and meditation in treatment. The findings led the Researchers to consider three implications for future research. The first implication focused on the influence of the therapist, primarily how their micro-processes, experiences, and intentions impact the treatment. The second implication addressed how incorporating meditation, ritual, and/or a spiritual element may impact the therapeutic process, and the final implication, the effect of altering the protocols for the divergent psychiatric populations. In researching its history, investigating its clinical relevancy, and exploring its differences from other treatment methods, Researchers worked toward designing a model theory of this psychotherapeutic approach.


*Please note: All defense attendees must shuttle to campus from the Best Western in Carpinteria*

  • Program/Track/Year: Clinical Psychology, Track B,
  • Chair: Dr. Gary Groth-Marnat
  • Reader: Dr. Lisa Sloan
  • External Reader: Dr. Julie Holland
  • Keywords: