Claudia Schwarz-Plaschg
Social scientist, activist

Decolonizing psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy through relational ethics in the clinic?

The development of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy in clinical trials has accelerated in recent years, making the regulatory approval of this new type of therapy in the US and Europe likely within the next few years. The great enthusiasm accompanying the psychedelic revival in the clinic has, however, been slightly disturbed by stories about abuses of power in clinical trials and underground therapy communities.

These stories raise serious ethical issues and highlight that instead of following the idealizing narrative of ego dissolution as a magic bullet for psychological healing, boundary-dissolving psychedelic experiences might necessitate an adaptation of existing ethical approaches in psychotherapy. In this talk I will explore which ethical issues are currently identified in studies on psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, and how they are tackled mainly through mechanisms deriving from established Western moral theories such as deontology and utilitarianism with their overemphasis on reason.

I argue that the discussion about ethics in psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy could serve as an ideal entry point for a decolonizing lens by integrating Indigenous ethics with feminist care ethics into a broader relational approach. What could a decolonized understanding of caring offer for creating responsible relationalities in and through psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy settings?

Dr Claudia Schwarz-Plaschg is a social scientist, activist, and science communicator based in Vienna, Austria. She is currently a digital visiting scholar in the Social Dimensions of Biomedicine Lab at the University of Edinburgh. In her research and praxis, she dives into the socio-political dynamics of (re-)emerging scientific fields and technologies, ethical and legal issues, the role of psychedelics and healing modalities in society, gender studies and feminism, social movements and community building, and the entanglements of science, spirituality, and art.