Recent Research from Bessel van der Kolk

Study shows the stunning effects of MDMA-assisted therapy on Developmental Trauma.

Following the TRF/MAPS study of MDMA in the treatment of PTSD that was published two years ago in Nature Medicine, which the journal Science selected as one of the ten most significant scientific breakthroughs of the year 2021, the team analyzed further data from this study on the effects of MDMA on self-experience. Half the group received 36 hours of psychotherapy from a team of 2 thoroughly trained, experienced therapists, while the other half received the same treatment, but for them, this included three 8-hour sessions on the psychedelic MDMA.

The results were stunning.

Those with significant problems with self-experience, such as lack of self-compassion, alexithymia, and difficulties with emotion regulation, did poorly on psychotherapy alone. However, MDMA had a significant positive effect on self-experience, with sharp increases in self-compassion, self-awareness, and measures of emotion regulation. This dramatically improved self-experience turned out to account for their being able to benefit from the overall treatment and the dramatic decrease in their PTSD symptoms. Contrary to expectations, the psychotherapy alone had only a small effect on negative self-judgment and self-awareness, while the addition of MDMA produced very significant improvements.

At this point in time, MDMA still is not a legally available substance, but other mind-altering treatments, such as ketamine, are already available. It is critical that these substances only be used for therapeutic purposes with well-trained and experienced therapeutic guides.

These issues will be an important part of the TRF 35th Annual Boston International Trauma Conference from May 1-4, 2024.

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