Friday, March 23

4:00 - 6:00 p.m. Welcome and Orientation Dr. Janis Phelps; Andrew Penn, RN, NP; certificate program graduates
6:00 - 7:00 p.m. Light dinner and champagne reception in Desai | Matta Gallery
7:00 - 8:00 p.m. Film: A New Understanding: Science of Psilocybin by Robert Barnhart
8:00 - 8:30 pm Post-film discussion Johns Hopkins University (JHU) and New York University (NYU) researchers

Saturday, March 24

10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. Therapist Competencies and Therapeutic Processes: Science and Art Dr. William (Bill) Richards (JHU)
12:00 - 1:00 p.m. Johns Hopkins States of Consciousness Research, Psilocybin, and Mystical Experience Dr. Brian Richards
1:00 - 2:30 p.m. LUNCH
2:30 - 4:30 p.m. Psilocybin-Generated Mystical Experience Research: Implications for Palliative Care and Religious Studies Dr. Anthony (Tony) Bossis (NYU)
4:30 - 5:30 p.m. Practical Matters in Session Guidance and Music Selection Dr. Bill Richards
5:30 - 7:00 p.m. DINNER
7:00 - 9:00 p.m. Session Guidelines and Case Presentations Dr. Tony Bossis

Sunday, March 25

10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. Entheogenic Experience and the Pathways of the Soul in the World Dr. Ralph Metzner
1:00 - 2:00 p.m. LUNCH
2:00 - 3:00 p.m. Weekend closure and review of course requirements Dr. Janis Phelps

Friday, May 4

4:00 - 5:00 p.m. Welcome and small group discussions Dr. Janis Phelps and guest teachers
5:00 - 6:30 p.m. Psychedelics in Medicine and Psychiatry Dr. Charles Grob (UCLA)
6:30 - 7:30 p.m. DINNER
7:30 - 9:00 p.m. Marginalized Voices, Racial Trauma, and the Psychedelic Healing Movement Dr. Monnica Williams

Saturday, May 5

10:00 - 10:45 a.m. Psilocybin Experiences in the Research Setting Karen Cooper, RN, BSN, MA (MAPS)
10:45 - 11:30 a.m. Love, Connection, Authenticity, Play, and Therapeutic Competencies Mary Cosimano, MSW (JHU)
11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Demonstrations of Psilocybin Sessions Karen Cooper & Mary Cosimano
12:30 - 1:30 p.m. LUNCH
1:30 - 5:30 p.m. Role Play of Psilocybin Sessions Karen Cooper & Mary Cosimano
5:30 - 7:00 p.m. DINNER
7:00 - 9:00 p.m. Mad Thoughts on Mushrooms: Discourse and Power in the Study of Psychedelic Consciousness Dr. Jeffrey Guss (NYU)

Sunday, May 6

10:00 - 11:45 a.m. Role Play for Psychedelic Therapy Dr. Jeffrey Guss
12:00 - 1:30 p.m. Clinical Research with Hallucinogens Dr. Charles Grob
1:30 - 2:30 p.m. LUNCH
2:30 - 3:00 p.m. Weekend closure Dr. Janis Phelps & Dr. Maria Mangini
3:30 - 5:30 p.m. OPTIONAL: A Community Ecopsychology Approach to Intentions and Integration Hank Obermayer

Sunday, June 24 to Saturday, June 30

3:00 p.m., Sunday to 2:00 p.m., Saturday Retreat Intensive: Therapist Guide Training Michael and Annie Mithoefer

Click "More" to see full Spring 2018 class descriptions and faculty bios.

Friday, March 23
A New Understanding: Science of Psilocybin
A New Understanding explores the treatment of end-of-life anxiety in terminally ill cancer patients using psilocybin to facilitate deeply spiritual experiences. The documentary explores the confluence of science and spirituality in the first psychedelic research studies with terminally ill patients since the 1970s.

Through the eyes of patients, their loved ones, therapists and researchers, A New Understanding examines the use of psilocybin in a controlled setting to reduce psychospiritual anxiety, depression, and physical pain. The treatment aims to help the patient understand that a 'good' death is possible, and to help the patient's family deal well with the dying process.

Saturday, March 24
Therapist Competencies and Therapeutic Processes: Science and Art
This seminar will focus both on the "being" and "doing" of effective therapists in psychedelic research, and on methods for the development and strengthening of personal qualities and practical skills that are advantageous in the implementation of research projects. Sensitivity to the challenges of skillfully communicating in supportive ways when clients are experiencing a variety of alternative states of consciousness will be explored, as will the importance of one's own genuineness and capacity to maintain presence and openness to whatever experiential content may be expressed during entheogenic sessions.

William (Bill) Richards, STM, PhD, is a psychologist at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where he and his colleagues have pursued research with entheogens for the past 18 years, and a clinician in private practice in Baltimore. His graduate training in clinical psychology and the psychology of religion included studies at Yale University, the University of Göttingen, Andover-Newton Theological School, Brandeis University, and Catholic University. After encountering psilocybin research in Germany in 1963, he contributed to psychotherapy research with LSD, DPT, MDA, and psilocybin at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center from 1967 to 1977. Columbia University Press published his seminal book, Sacred Knowledge: Psychedelics and Religious Experiences, in 2015.

Johns Hopkins States of Consciousness Research, Psilocybin, and Mystical Experience
This overview of psilocybin research to date at Johns Hopkins University will include discussion of the many studies conducted since 2000. Special emphasis will be given to research design, therapeutic intervention, and study outcomes.

Brian Richards, PsyD, is a Clinical Director with MedOptions, the largest provider of behavioral health services in the United States. He is an affiliated investigator with the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where he works on states of consciousness research at the Behavioral Pharmacology Research Unit, Bayview Medical Campus.

Psilocybin-Generated Mystical Experience Research: Implications for Palliative Care and Religious Studies
This lecture will review scientific findings and implications from FDA-approved psilocybin-generated mystical experience research. The NYU School of Medicine clinical trial published in 2016 demonstrated efficacy of a single psilocybin-generated mystical experience in helping individuals with cancer cultivate meaning, enhance existential and psycho-spiritual well-being, and foster a greater acceptance of the dying process with less anxiety. The landmark findings of a rapid decrease in depression, anxiety, hopelessness, and demoralization along with improvements in spiritual well-being will be presented. Subjective features of a mystical experience include unity, sacredness, transcendence, awe, ineffability, and an enhanced awareness of positive emotions including that of love. The psilocybin-generated mystical experience offers a novel therapeutic approach to promote meaning and openness to the mystery of death. A review of existential and psychological distress in palliative and end-of-life care will be presented along with a review of the phenomenology of mystical experience drawn from both the world's religious traditions and psychedelic research. An overview of the clinical trial examining the utility of psilocybin-generated mystical experience with religious leaders will also be presented. Implications for the enhanced understanding of religious and consciousness studies will be addressed.

Anthony P. Bossis, PhD, was director of palliative care research, co-principal investigator and session guide on the NYU psilocybin cancer-anxiety clinical trial and is the lead investigator and primary session guide for a clinical trial evaluating psilocybin-generated mystical experience upon religious leaders. He is a training supervisor of psychotherapy in the NYU department of psychiatry, co-founder and former co-director of the Palliative Care Service at NYU-Bellevue Hospital, and a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at NYU School of Medicine. He has a long-standing interest in comparative religion, consciousness research, and the interface of psychology and spirituality. He maintains a private psychotherapy practice in NYC.

Practical Matters in Session Guidance and Music Selection
This session will focus on the practical implementation of the principles surveyed earlier with careful reflection on the past experiences and current thinking that influence the therapeutic choice of musical selections during therapy with psilocybin.

Please see above for Dr. Richards's bio.

Session Guidelines and Case Presentations
This lecture will focus on the session guidelines for study guides and participants in FDA-approved psilocybin research. Case presentations from the NYU cancer-anxiety and religious leader studies will be presented. Video of participants from the NYU psilocybin cancer-anxiety clinical trial discussing their session experiences will be shown. This will include a group discussion on clinical aspects of psilocybin research.

Please see above for Dr. Bossis's bio.

Sunday, March 25
Entheogenic Experience and the Pathways of the Soul in the World
Beyond their use as adjuncts and amplifiers of psychotherapy, entheogens can help us understand our life experiences, visions and challenges on the six great archetypal pathways. You sense intuitively that as a human soul you are here on Earth for a purpose. Spiritual and shamanic traditions speak about finding a vision for your life in the world. Who am I? Why am I here? Why did my soul choose to be born into this family, at this time, in this place? What are the pathways in which I can best express my creative vision and talents? These are basic questions we can find ourselves confronting - at important choice points in our lives, in entheogenic experiences, and on vision quests. Explorer-Scientist, Healer-Peacemaker, Warrior-Guardian, Artist-Musician, Teacher-Historian, Builder-Organizer - each of these is not only a career or profession, our work in the world, but also at a deeper level a pathway for manifesting our soul's destiny (based on Ralph's book, The Six Pathways of Destiny).

Ralph Metzner, PhD, is a recognized pioneer in the psychological, philosophical, and cross-cultural studies of consciousness and its transformations. He collaborated with Leary and Alpert in classic studies of psychedelics at Harvard University in the 1960s, co-authored The Psychedelic Experience, and was editor of the quarterly Psychedelic Review. He is a psychotherapist and professor emeritus at CIIS, where he was also the Academic Dean for 10 years in the 1980s. His books include The Unfolding Self, The Well of Remembrance, Green Psychology, Ecology of Consciousness, and, most recently, Overtones and Undercurrents. He is the editor of two collections of essays on the pharmacology, anthropology of ayahuasca and psilocybin mushrooms. He is also the president and co-founder of the Green Earth Foundation (, dedicated to healing and harmonizing the relations between humanity and the Earth.

Friday, May 4
Psychedelics in Medicine and Psychiatry: An Experimental Treatment Model in Advanced-Stage Cancer and Existential Anxiety
Over the past two decades, there has been a resumption of clinical research with hallucinogens. In particular, several studies have been approved in the United States and Europe exploring the clinical effects and therapeutic potential of psilocybin, the active alkaloid of hallucinogenic mushrooms. This talk will review the ethnobotany, anthropology, chemistry, and toxicity of psilocybin, as well as the implications of the prior record of psychiatric investigations in this field. The hallucinogen treatment model with advanced-stage cancer patients with existential anxiety will be examined, including past and current research methodologies and outcomes.

Charles Grob, MD, is Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at the UCLA School of Medicine and the Director of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. His longstanding interest in the history of psychiatric research with hallucinogens has generated an impressive history of conference presentations and publications in leading medical and psychiatric journals. Dr. Grob received the first FDA approval to carry out human research with 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) in the early 1990s. He has collaborated with Drs. Dennis McKenna and Jace Callaway on the Hoasca Project: research that explored the biochemical, physiological, and psychological impacts of long-term ayahuasca use in Brazil. From 2004 to 2008, Dr. Grob conducted an FDA-approved study examining the effects of psilocybin in advanced-stage cancer patients with severe anxiety. Results from this trial were published in the Archives of General Psychiatry in 2011. Dr. Grob, along with his colleague Dr. Alicia Danforth, recently concluded a pilot study of an MDMA treatment model for autistic adults with social anxiety. He is a founding board member of the Heffter Research Institute. Dr. Grob is the editor of Hallucinogens: A Reader, and the co-editor with Dr. Roger Walsh of Higher Wisdom: Eminent Elders Explore the Continuing Impact of Psychedelics.

Marginalized Voices, Racial Trauma, and the Psychedelic Healing Movement
Trauma is caused by feeling profoundly unsafe - physically, emotionally, or spiritually - and is often the root of mental illness. Despite the misperception that PTSD is most commonly caused by a single event, for many people, simply existing in a society that marginalizes their identities is inherently and perpetually traumatic. Oppression, poverty, and discrimination can all contribute to traumatic experience at both individual and collective levels. These ongoing traumatic experiences - enhanced and compounded for people who exist at the intersection of multiple marginalized identities - are often under-diagnosed and thus under-treated. There is vast potential for psychedelics to help heal trauma and move people toward wholeness. But how does that healing potential stand up to systemic oppression? Dr. Williams will discuss the traumatizing impact of life in America on people of color and the work being done at the MAPS-sponsored MDMA-assisted psychotherapy research program UConn site, which is focused on the traumas of people of color. This presentation will explore if and how psychedelics can contribute to healing the trauma that stems from racism and create a more just society.

Monnica Williams, PhD, is an Associate Professor at the University of Connecticut in the Department of Psychological Sciences and the Department of Psychiatry. Prior to her move to Connecticut in 2016, she served as the Director of the Center for Mental Health Disparities at the University of Louisville in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. She also worked for four years at the University of Pennsylvania, where she received training from Dr. Enda Foa. Dr. Williams has published over 100 scientific articles on mental health and culture. Her current work includes unacceptable thoughts in OCD, the impact of OCD on intimate relationships, improving cultural competence in the delivery of mental health care services, assessment of race-based trauma, and interventions to reduce racial bias. She is principal investigator on a Phase 3 multisite trial for MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD, taking place at the University of Connecticut Health Center. She also gives trainings nationally for clinical psychology programs, scientific conferences, and community organizations.

Saturday, May 5
Psilocybin Experiences in the Research Setting: The Power of Presence and the Healing Triad
Karen writes, "I believe that everyone involved in the creation of a research study is part of, and has an influence on, the set and setting, and the total experience of the participant. The main focus for this talk is one particular to my experience in creation of the physical setting-some "behind-closed-doors" aspects not typically published but important to share...things you may or may not encounter or have wondered about...which I hope will be helpful in increasing your awareness about aspects of this amazing research."

Karen Cooper, RN, BSN, MA, was Lead Guide and Clinical Research Nurse for the University of Wisconsin's Psilocybin Pharmacokinetic Study, and served as the study trainer with the Usona Institute 2013-2016. She enjoys serving as mentor, guest faculty, and member of the Advisory Board for the Certificate in Psychedelic Therapies and Research program at CIIS, and is currently Project Manager and Co-therapist in Fort Collins, Colorado, for the Multi-site MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy for the Treatment of Severe Posttraumatic Stress Disorder studies sponsored by MAPS.

Karen's MA in Holistic Health Education at John F. Kennedy University included a focus on transpersonal and psychosomatic psychology. She is a student of meditation and yoga, a Registered Nurse, and a licensed bodyworker and massage therapist. Karen finds that her eclectic nursing background working in a variety of settings with patients in prenatal, neonatal, family, and end-of-life care lends well to this work. She has a passion for the interface of science, spirituality, transpersonal and somatic psychology, and non-dual awareness. Additional interests include learning how to grow and harvest vegetables, herbs, and native plants in the Northern Colorado climate; ecstatic dance; exploring, biking, and hiking with her husband Dan Muller; and the wondrous path of being a grandma.

Love, Connection, Authenticity, Play, and Therapeutic Competencies
In this talk, Mary will discuss her personal belief about love as our true authentic nature, and as one of the main outcomes of the psilocybin studies. She will also talk about her view around the value of play and fun, and then share why she regards her beliefs as deeply important to our work as psychedelic therapists and how they relate to therapeutic competencies.

Mary Cosimano, MSW, is currently with the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Since 2000 she has been working with the clinical and research components of all the psilocybin studies, and as study guide has conducted over 400 study sessions. She has trained postdoctoral fellows, research assistants and interns as assistant guides. She has administered the psychological evaluations for psilocybin studies as well as other studies in the Behavioral Biology Research Unit. In addition to her work with the psilocybin studies, she has been involved in the Salvia Divinorum, Dextromethorphan, and Club Drug studies conducted at Johns Hopkins. She taught individual and group meditation to breast cancer patients in a Johns Hopkins research study and in 2003 she started and has maintained a meditation group for employees in her department. She also has 15 years of experience with direct patient care as a hospice volunteer.

Demonstrations of Psilocybin Sessions
Role Play of Psilocybin Sessions
Mary Cosimano and Karen Cooper offer a powerful approach to allow students to personally experience and explore the roles of guide (therapist and co-therapist) and study participant in a non-threatening, supportive setting. Through discussion, demonstration, and role play simulations based on actual psilocybin guide and study participant experiences, students will be offered opportunities to practice realistic skills that they might use in a psilocybin-assisted therapeutic research setting to (1) discover the strengths and limitations of their personal styles; (2) cultivate self-awareness and increased capacity for being a healing presence; and (3) offer impromptu ways to support a mystical, spiritual, painful, blissful, disruptive, emotional, somatic, and/or quiet study participant experience.

Dyad, small group, and large group sessions will provide an opportunity for debriefing, reflection, feedback, and to increase compassion and trust for themselves, each other, and the recommended therapeutic approach. Students will be encouraged to speak with each other beyond the classroom about their experiences with death, loss, surrendering the ego and expectations, and how that might affect them and their future work in the field of research and therapy with entheogens.

Please see above for Ms. Cooper's and Ms. Cosimano's bios.

Mad Thoughts on Mushrooms: Discourse and Power in the Study of Psychedelic Consciousness
This talk is a close reading of Andy Letcher's insightful paper that explores the role of language and power in regulating who can speak and what can be said about psychedelics and psychedelic consciousness. Letcher draws on some basic concepts from Michel Foucault's writing to illuminate the multiple levels at which control of discourse affects what we can know, what we can study, and what can be spoken aloud (and where).

Jeffrey Guss, MD, is a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, and researcher with specializations in psychoanalytic therapy and the treatment of substance use disorders. He was Co-Principal Investigator and Director of Therapist Training for the NYU School of Medicine's study on psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy in the treatment of cancer-related existential distress. He is currently a study therapist in a trial of psilocybin-assisted therapy for alcoholism and the MAPS MDMA for PTSD study, and co-wrote the therapy manual for Yale's depression and psilocybin study. Dr. Guss is interested in the integration of psychedelic therapies with contemporary psychoanalytic theory and has published in Studies in Gender and Sexuality and Psychoanalysis, Culture, and Society. He is an instructor and mentor for the Center for Psychedelic Therapies & Research certificate program and maintains a full-time private practice.

Sunday, May 6
Role Play for Psychedelic Therapy
This exercise, lasting about two hours, offers an accelerated experience of preparatory therapy, guiding a session, integration work and then supervision of the experience. We will divide into groups of three; each triad will have a therapist, a journeyer and a witness. Each journeyer will have a written scenario to work from, and the therapist will do preparatory work as the journeyer enacts their character. A journey of about 20 follows, then aftercare/debriefing. The witness watches everything and provides feedback at the end of the exercise, and when all reconvene, there will be a group discussion of the experience, focusing on the personal values and qualities we each hope to bring to this work.

Please see above for Dr. Guss's bio.

Clinical Research with Hallucinogens: Lessons from the Past and Implications for the Future
Dr. Grob will discuss his experiences over the last 25 years conducting formal psychiatric research with MDMA, ayahuasca, and psilocybin. The significance to modern research of knowledge gleaned from indigenous use will be examined, as will the value of early pioneer investigations from psychedelic research in the 1950s and 1960s. Dr. Grob will describe his path to becoming a researcher in the field and the important lessons learned from previous generations as well as contemporary colleagues. The importance of establishing effective safety parameters will be examined, as will the future implications of the psychedelic treatment model to the practice of psychiatry and medicine.

Please see above for Dr. Grob's bio.

OPTIONAL: A Community Ecopsychology Approach to Intentions & Integration
Our current time brings forth fear about the future for many while it also call for collective and creative change. Tools that help people face fear and find themselves, like psychedelic practices, may be extremely useful as we face these challenges. Using a group integration container rooted in the ecopsychology practices of Joanna Macy and The Work that reconnects, we see other ways to work beyond traditional individual-centered psychotherapy. Ground in the wonder of being alive on earth, in shared grief and aliveness, an in forms of intimacy with the future as a way to deepen your own passions and commitment to all life. Finally, by looking at larger cultural potentials of psychedelic work like this, we nourish the seeds of the future.

Hank Obermayer, PhDc, is a group process facilitator working on the relationship with self, with community, and with the planet. He helps individuals with the integration process for vision quests, psychedelic ritual, meditation retreats, and similar work using an emphasis on mindfulness and the body. With groups, Hank focuses on ecological despair and empowerment, mixing in his theater, group process, and counseling background. Hank is trained in Hakomi and is currently a PhD student at CIIS in East-West Psychology. He also has over 25 years of leadership related to ecovillages, intentional communities, and housing cooperatives, including founding Mariposa Grove, his home. Through his family, he is also deeply involved in German-Jewish healing work.

Sunday, June 24 to Saturday, June 30
Retreat Intensive: Therapist Guide Training
This retreat is an intensive introduction to the therapeutic approach used in clinical trials sponsored by MAPS and described in the Manual for MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy in the Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (available at We will begin with a brief review of the history of MDMA research, the results of completed clinical trials, the design of ongoing and planned research protocols, and the therapeutic principles set out in the Manual. After that introduction, the course will be centered around watching video from MDMA research sessions, pausing frequently for group discussion. Videos will include preparatory sessions, MDMA-assisted sessions, and integrative sessions, illustrating challenges that may arise and emphasizing the importance of preparation and integration, as well as set and setting. Participants will be encouraged to ask questions and to share their ideas about the nature of the therapeutic process and their personal reactions to watching the videos, some of which are emotionally intense. Time will be taken for self-care and group support. 

Michael Mithoefer, MD, is a psychiatrist who specializes in treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with an emphasis on experiential methods of psychotherapy including Holotropic Breathwork and Internal Family Systems therapy. He and his wife, Annie Mithoefer, conduct MAPS-sponsored research into MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD. In 2008, they completed the first clinical trial of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for people with treatment-resistant PTSD and are now conducting a similar study of military veterans, firefighters, and police officers with PTSD, as well as an FDA-approved study administering MDMA in a therapeutic setting to psychotherapists who have been trained to work in MDMA clinical trials. Michael is Medical Monitor for other MAPS-sponsored MDMA studies, and he and Annie conduct training for therapists who work in those trials. He is a Grof-certified Holotropic Breathwork practitioner, a certified Internal Family Systems therapist, and is board certified in psychiatry, emergency medicine, and internal medicine. Michael is Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the Medical University of South Carolina.

Annie Mithoefer, BSN, is a psychiatric nurse and Grof-certified Holotropic Breathwork practitioner who is also trained in Hakomi Therapy. She and her husband, Michael Mithoefer, have practiced in Charleston, South Carolina for 20 years using experiential methods of psychotherapy and self-exploration, including Holotropic Breathwork. They now focus on clinical research with MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD. They are co-therapists for MAPS-sponsored clinical trials, and they conduct training programs for other MAPS-sponsored researchers.


Need to Contact Us?

CIIS Center for Psychedelic Therapies and Research
1453 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94103

Dr. Cathy Coleman
CPTR Admissions Manager
Phone: (415) 575-6243

Rachel Valenzuela-Ours
CPTR Program Manager
Phone: (415) 575-6215

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