Does Psychedelic Therapy Work as Well as Traditional Therapies?

Addiction Recovery Publishing Addiction Recovery December 6, 2023

Does Psychedelic Therapy Work as Well as Traditional Therapies?

The renowned English philosopher and psychologist Herbert Spencer once wrote, “There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which can not fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance – that principle is contempt prior to investigation.” It is more common than not that we, as human beings, dismiss something before we know anything about it. This can happen in pivotal ways, especially when it comes to treating our mental health. We may avoid treatments just because we know little about them, even if they might help us. This includes different types of psychedelic therapy. 

The Importance and Benefits of Comprehensive Recovery Plans

When it comes to recovery, it is crucial that we try as many things as possible to find the most effective combination of therapies and treatments. Now, “combination” is the keyword here because recovery should never be “cookie cutter” or “one-note.”

Here at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, we have seen that types of singular or “one-size-fits-all” recovery that other treatment centers provide are rarely effective in the long term, and many people find themselves relapsing soon after leaving. In fact, many people may not realize how common relapsing actually is in the mental health and addiction recovery realm.

According to the clinical write-up Addiction Relapse Prevention, by Dr. Guenzel and Dr. McChargue, “One primary concern in addiction treatment is the high rate of relapses within a short period after even the most intensive treatment. Many studies have shown relapse rates of approximately 50% within the first 12 weeks after completion of intensive inpatient programs that often last 4 to 12 weeks or more and can cost tens of thousands of dollars.” Comprehensive recovery plans can help to lessen these relapse statistics. However, these plans must not just be comprehensive; they must be personalized as well.

The Importance and Benefits of Individualized Recovery Plans

Not everyone has the same addiction or mental illness stories, so it stands to reason that offering them the same recovery plan would be less than ideal. The fact of the matter is that it is. 

It is critical for healing at the cellular level that each individual receive personalized attention when it comes to recovery planning. There are too many variables that must be taken into account in order to create the most effective treatment plan. Even if two people have the same diagnosis, they should, most likely, have different plans. This is because they, most likely, have different background stories, family or homelife dynamics, career paths, and recovery goals.

Creating an individualized recovery plan also means trying many different types of treatments to find the right combination that works for the individual’s specific needs. The good news is that there are many places where various treatments can be drawn from. These range from traditional treatments such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) to experiential treatments like nature immersion therapy and surf therapy to holistic practices like acupuncture and yoga. Another avenue of therapy that is showing more and more efficacy and promise is psychedelic therapy.

What Is Psychedelic Therapy?

Psychedelic therapy has actually been around for a lot longer than many people may think, though it has certainly evolved over the last 70 years or so. This evolution is showing a lot of promise, but there are still hurdles.

One hurdle that remains against psychedelic therapy is the concept that psychedelics are merely “illicit substances.” According to the peer-reviewed article Psychedelic Medicine: A Re-Emerging Therapeutic Paradigm, “In clinical research settings around the world, renewed investigations are taking place on the use of psychedelic substances for treating illnesses such as addiction, depression, anxiety and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Since the termination of a period of research from the 1950s to the early 1970s, most psychedelic substances have been classified as ‘drugs of abuse’ with no recognized medical value. However, controlled clinical studies have recently been conducted to assess the basic psychopharmacological properties and therapeutic efficacy of these drugs as adjuncts to existing psychotherapeutic approaches.”

Psychedelic therapy is on the cutting edge of recovery potential. Yet, many people are still falling into the trap of “contempt prior to investigation.” The key is to garner a little more awareness about what psychedelic therapy is and how effective it can really be. This awareness should start with the types of psychedelic therapies that are showing the most efficacy. These include ketamine therapy and psilocybin therapy.

Psychedelic Therapy: What Is Psilocybin Therapy?

Psilocybin is a chemical that is most commonly derived from various mushrooms and fungi (though, now, many forms of psilocybin are synthesized). Also, psilocybin has been used for thousands of years in both spiritual and social settings.

According to the 2022 article Analysis of Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy in Medicine: A Narrative Review, “Psilocybin-containing mushrooms can grow all over the world and appear to be ubiquitous across many cultures.” Also, “Cave paintings from Spain depicting a bull and what appear to be neurotropic mushrooms (which commonly grow on cow and bull manure) have been dated back to between 6000 and 8000 years ago. The inclusion of mushrooms in ancient cultural artifacts shows the importance that these societies placed on these fungi.” Now, yes, psilocybin is also used in social settings simply to garner its hallucinogenic and euphoric effects. But, it is also being used, with great efficacy, in mental health and addiction treatment.

According to another recent 2022 article, The Efficacy of Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy in Managing Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): A New Frontier?, “Results of several recent studies point to the possibility that PTSD treatment may benefit from the effects of classical psychedelics… This can help PTSD patients as they frequently exhibit increased amygdala activation. They may also play a therapeutic role in the management of PTSD by virtue of other acute effects, such as higher levels of emotional empathy, increased insightfulness, improvements in acceptance, and emotive transformational events, which has shown to be a key mediator in the long-term psychological change in other mental disorders.” These are quite remarkable outcomes.

With benefits like the ones that studies like these are showing, it is important to acknowledge and embrace these types of psychedelic therapies rather than shun them. Another type of psychedelic therapy that is showing great efficacy, and therefore should be embraced, is ketamine therapy.

Psychedelic Therapy: What Is Ketamine Therapy?

Ketamine therapy can be highly beneficial to individuals struggling with a range of psychological issues stemming from mental illness and/or addiction. According to the scientific article Ketamine for the Treatment of Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders: Comprehensive Systematic Review, “In the past two decades, subanaesthetic doses of ketamine have been demonstrated to have rapid and sustained antidepressant effects, and accumulating research has demonstrated ketamine’s therapeutic effects for a range of psychiatric conditions.” It adds, “Systematic reviews and meta-analyses provide support for robust, rapid and transient antidepressant and anti-suicidal effects of ketamine.”

So, with such promise, many people still may reasonably ask, “What exactly is ketamine?” According to the peer-reviewed article A Review of Nonanesthetic Uses of Ketamine, “Ketamine has been used as an anesthetic drug for over 65 years.” It goes on to say, “Ketamine administration has long been known to mediate a wide variety of pharmacological effects, including dissociation, analgesia, sedation, catalepsy, and bronchodilation. Though ketamine is known most widely for its anesthetic properties, recent research has uncovered multiple novel uses for this drug, including neuroprotection, combatting inflammation and tumors, and treatment of depression, seizures, chronic pain, and headache.”

It is research and studies on ketamine and psilocybin psychedelic therapies, like the aforementioned, that make them so exciting and important. However, they should not replace “traditional” mental health therapies. Rather, psychedelic therapy should be used to supplement these types of therapies.

What Are ‘Traditional’ Mental Health Therapies?

The word “traditional” is often put in quotations because while it designates a certain arena of therapy, it is important not to equate “traditional” with antiquated. “Traditional” in this sense merely means evidence-based.

Distilled down, evidence-based therapies have simply shown a repeated level of efficacy. According to the article Evidence-Based Psychotherapy: Advantages and Challenges, “The American Psychological Association developed a policy on the EBP of psychotherapy that follows the definition put forth by [certain groundbreaking psychologists] and the Institute of Medicine. This policy emphasizes integrating the best available research with clinical expertise in the context of the patient’s culture, individual characteristics, and personal preferences. The best research evidence refers to data from meta-analyses, randomized controlled trials, effectiveness studies, and process studies, as well as information obtained from single-case reports, systematic case studies, qualitative and ethnographic research, and clinical observation.”

Ultimately, the difference between certain traditional mental health therapies and psychedelic therapies is that traditional therapies have been studied longer (primarily this is due to the interruption that psychedelic therapy experienced to social stigmas). However, we now know that these two types of therapies can be highly beneficial to one another. For example, psychedelic therapy can greatly help individuals who also engage in evidence-based CBT. 

The Benefits of Psychedelic Therapy With Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

CBT is a therapy that can be highly effective at getting to the core/root issues that often underly the behaviors of addiction and mental illness. According to the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care, “The term cognitive comes from the Latin ‘cognoscere,’ meaning “to recognize.” The point of cognitive therapy is to form a clear idea of your own thoughts, attitudes, and expectations.” It adds, “The goal is to reveal and change false and distressing beliefs because it is often not only the things and situations themselves that cause problems but the importance that we attach to them too.”

CBT is all about reframing the way in which one thinks of themselves. It is based on the concept that we all have thoughts and feelings about ourselves that affect our worldview. For individuals who struggle with addiction and mental illness, these thoughts and feelings are often negatively skewed. Thus, they must be addressed and changed to fully heal at the cellular level. Psychedelic therapy can help both to discover these underlying thoughts and feelings and also help individuals express them while in CBT sessions.

Now, psychedelic therapies do not just work well while supplementing traditional mental health therapies. They also work well in other fields of therapy. These include experiential therapies like nature immersion therapy.

The Benefits of Psychedelic Therapy With Nature Immersion Therapy

There is no reason why one should limit themselves to one type of therapy. In fact, one should not limit themselves to any number of therapies as long as the ones that they are choosing show effective results and promising benefits. 

For example, psychedelic therapy may work well with a traditional therapy like CBT, but then both of those therapies may benefit by adding in an experiential therapy like nature immersion therapy. Nature immersion therapy involves engaging with the world around oneself to garner a better understanding of how one fits in with one’s environment. This understanding can then spill over into other aspects of an individual’s day-to-day life. 

According to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, “Besides physical health improvements, nature exposure can bring about positive influence upon psychological constructs such as boredom, friendliness, well-being, and liveliness. However, across more than one hundred studies on nature/wildlife exposure, stress mitigation has been shown to be one of the most consistent and important psychological benefits.” It adds, “Besides improvements to physical and psychological well-being, exposure to natural environments has been shown to bring about positive impacts on cognitive functioning.” Psychedelic therapy can help this connection to nature thrive.

Psychedelics like psilocybin and ketamine have been shown to offer individuals greater insights into the world around them. They can open people up to seeing things that they may have missed before. Also, they can help individuals communicate how they feel about the world around them. This increased ability to communicate can be essential when it comes to working with a nature immersion specialist. It can also come in handy when working with other types of experiential therapies that involve nature, such as surf therapy.

The Benefits of Psychedelic Therapy With Surf Therapy

There may be no better place in the world to engage in nature immersion therapy and aquatic immersion therapy (such as surf therapy) than on the Hamkua Coast of Hawaii’s Big Island. The Hamakua Coast has some of the most amazing waterfalls, overlooks, live volcanoes, and beaches in the country. Also, some of the most amazing surf spots.

Here at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, a mere 15-minute walk from our 30-acre luxury recovery center, there is a surf break known as Honoli’i. It offers some of the best waves in the world to engage in the highly beneficial practice of surf therapy.

According to the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Psychology, “There is increasing evidence suggesting that participation in action and adventure sports, such as surfing, is meaningful and life-enhancing. Participating in action and adventure sports is said to create opportunities to foster positive psychological outcomes such as resilience, self-esteem, positive affect, and relatedness.” It adds, “A growing body of evidence worldwide has validated the use of surfing as a therapeutic mediator to achieve positive change such as increased well-being.” In addition to psychedelic therapy, CBT, and nature immersion therapy, surf therapy can be a great addition to a well-rounded recovery plan that offers healing at the cellular level.

Exclusive Hawaii Rehab: Creating Comprehensive Recovery Plans That Help Heal at the Cellular Level

Here at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, we know how complex and challenging recovery can be. That is why we utilize all of the most effective and groundbreaking modalities at our disposal to help the recovery process be successful.

Herbert Spencer also once said, “Life is the continuous adjustment of internal relations to external relations.” That is what recovery is all about, using all the amazing options that are around us, to heal all that needs healing, which is inside us. At Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, we are blessed to be able to offer those options.

Psychedelic therapies like psilocybin therapy and ketamine therapy still face an uphill battle against stigma. Many people categorize them as “too risky,” “an easy out,” or “dangerous.” Quite frankly, all of those ideas are off-base. Psychedelic therapies can be just as effective as some “traditional” therapies. If you feel like you or someone you love is struggling with issues of addiction, mental illness, or both, we can help get you on the right road to recovery. For more information on how psychedelic therapies like psilocybin therapy and ketamine therapy can be most effective and utilized exceptionally well alongside other therapies, please reach out to Exclusive Hawaii Rehab today at (808) 775-0200.