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Understanding Psilocybin: Effects, Neurobiology, and Therapeutic Approaches

Understanding Psilocybin: Effects, Neurobiology, and Therapeutic Approaches


One Year Course Access
One Year
Course Access
Risk Free, Satisfaction Guarantee
Risk Free
Evidence Based Learning
Evidence Based
Over 15,000 students taught
Psychedelic Support has enrolled over 15,000 students in our free and paid courses! All proceeds from our paid courses have gone into funding more education and resources for the public around safe and ethical use of psychedelics in therapy and harm reduction.
Course Description

For thousands of years, humans have ingested psychoactive mushrooms in various contexts for healing and spiritual purposes. Psilocybin, the active ingredient in “magic mushrooms,” is now being tested in clinical trials as a treatment for depression, alcohol use disorders, nicotine dependence, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, cluster and migraine headaches, and anxiety related to life-threatening illnesses.

This course provides a comprehensive summary of the pharmacology and effects of psilocybin, how it works in the brain, and why people can have mystical experiences and sensory-perceptual shifts. Become knowledgeable on clinical protocols, safety and efficacy results, study participant accounts, and potential risks in both medical and non-medical settings. You will explore different therapeutic approaches under investigation for psilocybin treatment. Designed by leading psychedelic researchers and medical professionals, this course offers a balanced and unbiased presentation of the effects and safety of psilocybin.


Who is this course for?

This course is perfect for mental health professionals, neuroscience students, and anyone interested in gaining insight into the science and therapies under investigation.

Course Curriculum

Learning Objectives for Module 1: What’s All The Magic About? Psilocybin Pharmacology, Effects, and Safety

After completing this module, participants will be able to:

  • Describe how psilocybin acts in the brain and body to produce psychological and physiological effects
  • List contraindicated medical conditions and medications for psilocybin use
  • Discuss common reactions and adverse events associated with psilocybin and how risks differ between non-medical and clinical contexts

Learning Objectives for Module 2: Clinical Trial Findings of Psilocybin Treatment for Depression and Other Psychiatric Indications

After completing this module, participants will be able to:

  • List the overarching inclusion and exclusion criteria for phase 2 psilocybin trials
  • Describe findings from phase 2 trials for each indication
  • Recite current and planned psilocybin trials and name the trial sponsors

Learning Objectives for Module 3: Psilocybin Ancient History, Psychological Mechanisms, and the Future of Microdosing

After completing this module, participants will be able to:

  • Describe the varied contexts where psilocybin has been used both historically and in the present day
  • Explain the possible psychological and neurobiological mechanisms that may occur during psilocybin-assisted therapy
  • Discuss the effects and clinical research findings of microdosing

Learning Objectives for Module 4: Neurobiological Effects of Psilocybin: Brain Circuits to Behavior

After completing this module, participants will be able to:

  • Describe early theories from the 19th and 20th centuries on how psychedelics alter brain function
  • Discuss how psilocybin produces acute changes in emotion, perception, and sense of self
  • Compare modern-day neuroimaging study findings and current theories neural mechanisms of psilocybin

Webinars & Interviews

  • Exploring the Mysteries of Psychedelic Experiences with Bill Richards, PhD, and Kile Ortigo, PhD, moderated by Karen Peoples, PhD
  • Psychedelic-assisted Group Therapy: Feasibility Study and Future Directions with Alicia Danforth, PhD and Chris Stauffer, MD
  • Critical Frameworks for Psychedelic-assisted Therapies: Importance of setting, preparation, and training of therapists with Christopher Nicholas, PhD and Peter Hendricks, PhD
  • Interview with Emmanuelle Schindler, MD, PhD on Psilocybin Research for Headache Disorders
  • Interview with Katrin Preller, PhD on Psilocybin Neurobiological Effects and Future Research Directions
Professional Continuing Education

In support of improving patient care, Psychedelic Support offers continuing education for health providers through the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) and the American Psychological Association (APA).

ACCME Accredited
American Psychological Association Education Sponsor
I recently took both the MDMA and Psilocybin courses, and they both seemed largely illustrative. Its content is very complete and professional...the design of the courses has a good level of aesthetics and didactics. The ease of being able to take the course at your own pace complements the package perfectly. I highly recommend them!
Dr. Yaqui Andrés Martinez
It’s a fantastic course! I learned so much more about the current research in this course than I’ve seen anywhere else. It’s very comprehensive. The depth of work that’s gone into it is very clear and much appreciated.
Jennifer Rotermund
Psychedelic Support has been a wonderful launch-pad out of the entheogen closet! As someone involved in professional clinical spaces as a therapist and also in medicine church spaces as a shamanic practitioner, I've found great benefit from the education as well as being personally connected to a safe network of like-minded psychedelic renaissance folks of various specialties. Our shared resources and collaborations are collectively taking this movement to the next level. Thanks to the Psychedelic Support team for bringing people and knowledge together!
Sarah, PLPC
I found the course modules easy to use and complete, and the material accurate. I loved the presentation concerning the social neuroscience of MDMA; this content might continue to evolve over time. I also appreciated attempts to connect levels of analysis, from receptors to setting. The scope of the course will mean greater need for revision as new information is gained, but also permits a more accurate understanding of what MDMA is doing, and specifically what it is doing in a psychotherapeutic context.
Ilsa Jerome, PhD, MAPS PBC
Meet your Course Instructors, Contributors, & Peer Reviewers:
Allison Feduccia, PhD
Allison Feduccia, PhD is a neuropharmacologist, psychedelic researcher, and a builder of virtual and in-person communities. She is the Co-Founder of Psychedelic Support, a directory of healthcare professionals and educational platform, and Project New Day, a 501(c)(3) non-profit foundation focused on psychedelics for addiction recovery. In 2009, she earned a PhD in neuropharmacology from UT Austin studying the effects of MDMA on behavior and neurochemical release in non-clinical models. She was a postdoctoral researcher at UCSF and at the National Institutes of Health (NIAAA/NIDA) where she investigated treatments for substance use disorders. Her work at MAPS Public Benefit Corporation (2015-2020) focused on psychedelic protocol designs, MDMA trial operations, data analyses, scientific writing, public education and outreach. Dr. Feduccia is deeply driven to advance the field of psychedelic medicine through ethical, legal, and scientifically-based frameworks.
Allison Feduccia, PhD
Psychedelic Support
Kile Ortigo, PhD
Kile Ortigo, PhD is a clinical psychologist and founder of the Center for Existential Exploration, where he offers depth-oriented and evidence-based psychotherapy and psychedelic integration services. At the National Center for PTSD, Dr. Ortigo directed a national implementation program that paired telehealth coaching with web-based interventions, and led the VA LGBT Healthcare Fellowship Program as the national training director. In 2019, Dr. Ortigo completed the California Institute of Integral Studies’ Certificate in Psychedelic-Assisted Therapies & Research program where he was closely mentored by Dr. Bill Richards. He now serves on advisory boards of Psychedelic Support and Project New Day, a non-profit exploring how psychedelics facilitate addiction recovery. He recently co-authored his first book, the 2nd edition of Treating Survivors of Childhood & Interpersonal Trauma: STAIR Narrative Therapy. With support from several psychedelic experts, Dr. Ortigo is currently writing a second book that explores intersecting themes of psychedelics, mythology, and existential thought. This book’s reflection activities, meditations, and worksheets will support either independent exploration or psychedelic psychotherapy phases of preparation and integration. It will be widely available in 2021.
Kile Ortigo, PhD
Clinical Psychologist
Center for Existential Exploration
Boris Heifets, MD, PhD
Boris Heifets, MD, PhD has had a lifelong interest in neuroscience and hopes to apply basic neuroscience insights to the practice of anesthesiology and perioperative medicine. He is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Anesthesiology & Perioperative Medicine at the Stanford School of Medicine. He received his undergraduate degree in neuroscience from Yale University, MD/PhD degree from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and completed anesthesiology residency and a neuroanesthesiology fellowship at Stanford Hospital. Dr. Heifets’ basic and clinical research aims to understand the mechanisms of action for emerging rapid-acting treatments for psychiatric disease, including ketamine, MDMA and psilocybin, and how they might be incorporated into perioperative clinical care to improve patient outcomes. During his time at Stanford he has collaborated extensively with the psychiatry department, publishing animal studies on the neural mechanism of social behavior and MDMA, and a controversial study which described an opioid receptor-dependent mechanism for ketamine’s antidepressant effect. He is currently supported by a K08 award from the National Institute of Mental Health.
Boris Heifets, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor
Stanford University School of Medicine
Alicia Danforth, PhD
Alicia Danforth, PhD received her doctorate in clinical psychology from the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in Palo Alto in 2013. Since 2006, she has worked in clinical research at the Lundquist Institute (formerly Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute) at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center on clinical studies for adults with anxiety related to advanced-stage cancer and with autistic adults who experience social anxiety. She was the lead therapist in a MDMA-assisted psychotherapy trial for autistic adults with social anxiety, and a lead clinician and supervisor for a psilocybin clinical trial at UCSF for psychological distress in long-term survivors of HIV/AIDS. She is certified in Trauma-Focused CBT and Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy. Her private practice in Los Gatos, CA focuses on autistic adults.
Alicia Danforth, PhD
Clinical Psychologist
Private Practice
Chris Stauffer, MD
Chris Stauffer, MD is a dual board-certified in psychiatry/addiction medicine. He is an assistant professor at the Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) and a physician scientist at the Portland Veterans Affairs. He received his MD from OHSU in 2010, completed psychiatry residency at UCSF in 2014 and a post-graduate Psychiatry Research Fellowship at the SF VA Medical Center. Clinically, he specializes in the treatment of substance use disorders and PTSD. His research combines social psychopharmacology (e.g., oxytocin, MDMA) with psychotherapy to treat PTSD and addiction, including his role as sub-investigator and lead therapist for a Phase 3 MAPS-sponsored trial of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD and psilocybin for psychological distress in long-term survivors of HIV/AIDS at UCSF.
Chris Stauffer, MD
Assistant Professor
Oregon Health & Science University
Bill Richards, PhD
William (Bill) Richards, PhD is a psychologist in the Psychiatry Department of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Bayview Medical Center, a consultant/trainer at sites of psychedelic research internationally, a teacher in the Program of Psychedelic Therapy and Research at the California Institute of Integral Studies, and also a clinician in private practice in Baltimore. His graduate degrees include M.Div. from Yale Divinity School, S.T.M. from Andover-Newton Theological School and Ph.D. from Catholic University, as well as studies with Abraham Maslow at Brandeis University and with Hanscarl Leuner at Georg-August University in Göttingen, Germany, where his involvement with psilocybin research originated in 1963. From 1967 to 1977, he pursued psychotherapy research with LSD, DPT, MDA and  psilocybin at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center, including protocols designed to investigate the promise of psychedelic substances in the treatment of alcoholism, depression, narcotic addiction and the psychological distress associated with terminal cancer, and also their use in the training of religious and mental-health professionals. From 1977-1981, he was a member of the psychology faculty of Antioch University in Maryland. In 1999 at Johns Hopkins, he and Roland Griffiths launched the rebirth of psilocybin research after a 22 year period of dormancy in the United States. His publications began in 1966 with “Implications of LSD and Experimental Mysticism,” coauthored with Walter Pahnke. His book, Sacred Knowledge: Psychedelics and Religious Experiences was released in English by Columbia University Press in 2015 and has since been translated into four additional languages.
Bill Richards, PhD
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Karen Peoples, PhD
Karen Peoples, PhD
Karen Peoples, PhD is a personal/supervising analyst and faculty at the Psychoanalytic Institute of Northern California and Faculty at the San Francisco Center for Psychoanalysis. She practices in San Francisco and Corte Madera, CA. She has published and presented on numerous analytic topics, including incest and social trauma, uncanny unconscious communication, transcendent and traumatic forms of emptiness, and unconscious bodily communication. Karen is a therapist on MAPS phase 3 MDMA-assisted psychotherapy trials for PTSD.
Karen Peoples, PhD
Analyst & Faculty
Psychoanalytic Institute of Northern California
Emmanuelle Schindler, MD, PhD
Emmanuelle Schindler, MD, PhD is an Assistant Professor of Neurology at Yale School of Medicine and has expertise in headache medicine. Among her efforts to optimize the management of headache disorders, she has developed and executed the first controlled trials investigating the effects and mechanisms of action of psilocybin in cluster, migraine, and post-traumatic headache. Previously, Dr. Schindler studied the neuropharmacology of psychedelics and other serotonergic compounds in the context of receptor binding and intracellular signaling. Currently, she seeks to identify the source of sustained reductions in headache burden after limited dosing of psychedelic and related compounds, considering several neurobiological systems involved in both headache pathology and the known actions of psychedelic compounds.
Emmanuelle Schindler, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor
Yale School of Medicine
Christopher Nicholas, PhD
Christopher Nicholas, PhD is an Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin, School of Medicine and Public Health. He is a Clinical Health Psychologist and Neuroscientist focused on developing novel treatments for addiction, pain, and mental health. Dr. Nicholas has worked on clinical trials for MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD treatment and a high dose psilocybin trial in healthy volunteers. His research bridges both clinical and neuroimaging applications, with specific focus on co-morbid pain, trauma, and substance use disorders.
Christopher Nicholas, PhD
Assistant Professor
University of Wisconsin School of Medicine
Peter Hendricks, PhD
Peter Hendricks, PhD is a Professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He is currently researching the use of psilocybin to see if it will help individuals addicted to cocaine stop using the harmful drug. He theorizes that psilocybin will work from the angles: biochemical, psychological and transcendental/spiritual. Dr. Hendricks is interested in researching novel and more effective treatments for substance dependence, with specific areas of focus on tobacco, cocaine and polysubstance use in vulnerable populations.
Peter Hendricks, PhD
University of Alabama
Katrin Preller, PhD
Katrin Preller, PhD received her doctorate in Psychology and Neuroscience from University of Zurich, Switzerland in 2013. Her research interests are centered around the neuropharmacology of emotional and cognitive processes such as social cognition in health and psychiatric illnesses, as well as (pharmacological) neuroimaging analysis methodology. She is particularly interested in substance use disorders as well the role of the serotonin system in emotion and cognition. To elucidate the role of serotonin receptor functions in human cognition she uses pharmacological challenges mainly with psilocybin and LSD.
Katrin Preller, PhD
Yale University & University of Zurich
Lauren Lepow, MD
Lauren Lepow, MD
Peer Review
Lauren Lepow, MD is a fourth-year psychiatry resident at Mount Sinai in the NIMH-supported PhD+ neuroscience track. Lauren’s research interests are in the field of PTSD and include neuroimaging, natural language processing, and investigating the neural mechanisms underlying psychedelic-assisted-psychotherapy. Her clinical interests include psychoanalysis and holistic approaches to healing trauma. Lauren’s graduate school studies are with both Muhammad Parvaz’s Motivational and Affective Psychopathology lab and Rachel Yehuda’s lab which studies the neurobiology of PTSD at the James J. Peters VA Medical Center in the Bronx. Lauren was born and raised in Houston and completed medical school at the McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas. She has also spent time at the NIMH in the Experimental Therapeutics & Pathophysiology Branch studying the mechanism of ketamine for treatment-resistant depression. Lauren enjoys biking around NYC, immersive theatre, high-intensity-interval training and exploring the world with her husband and cat.
Lauren Lepow, MD
Psychiatry Resident
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
C.J. Spotswood, BN-RN BC
C.J. Spotswood, BSN, RN-BC “aka EntheoNurse” is a board certified psychiatric-mental health Registered Nurse working in an emergency department in central Maine and per diem for McLean Hospital’s drug and alcohol residential program, Borden Cottage on the Maine Coast. Throughout his career, he has worked with individuals who were having noxious psychedelic experiences. C.J. is currently enrolled at the University of Southern Maine completing his Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. He has presented at the American Psychiatric Nurse Association’s National Conference on psychedelics in psychiatry, master classes for Psychedelics Today’s Navigating Psychedelics: Clinicians & Therapists, and Mt. Tam’s Psilocybin Summit. C.J. is also a charter member of the International Association of Psychedelic Nurses. When he is not working or in school, he can be found spending time with his fiancé Magen and his daughter Malarie exploring Maine’s outdoors and it’s craft breweries.
C.J. Spotswood, BN-RN BC
Psychiatric Registered Nurse
Zachary Herrmann, DO
Zachary Herrmann, DO
Peer Review
Zachary Herrmann, DO graduated from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in 2016. After completing a traditional rotating internship at South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside, New York, he joined the psychiatry residency at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas. Following graduation in 2021, Zachary is planning to pursue a research fellowship with the goal of developing his research knowledge and experience. As a current student in the California Institutes of Integral Studies Certificate in Psychedelic Therapies and Research program, his long term goal would be to better understand and appreciate the healing potential of non-ordinary states of consciousness as well as contribute to the growing body of literature on psychedelic compounds.
Zachary Herrmann, DO
Psychiatry Resident
John Peter Smith Hospital
Joshua Poole, MD
Joshua Poole, MD
Peer Review
Joshua Poole, MD is resident physician in Psychiatry in Southern California who hopes to further the field of Psychedelic Psychiatry through research and dedication to the healing of his patients. His interests are managing mood disorders as they relate to trauma through in-depth psychotherapy, advanced psychopharmacology, and interventional practices. He hopes to use the burgeoning field of Psychedelic Psychiatry to offer healing to patients in a groundbreaking and powerful way.
Joshua Poole, MD
Psychiatry Resident
UC Riverside School of Psychiatry
Extra Info
  • Online platform access: 1 year.
  • After 1 year, renew your account for an additional year by purchasing any of our on-demand courses. All previously purchased courses will be accessible in your dashboard.
  • 100% student satisfaction or money-back guarantee.
  • For the best experience, we recommend taking the course on a tablet or computer.
  • Course FAQ can be found here.

Self-paced course includes:

  • 9.25 hours of psilocybin learning content
  • Interactive eLearning modules with narration
  • Interviews with psychedelic therapists, medical doctors, researchers, and neuroscientists
  • Animations and detailed graphics of complex topics
  • Conversations with therapists and academic researchers around special topics
  • Assignments to further advance your knowledge and comprehension
  • Downloadable course notes and narration scripts
  • Downloadable reference lists with cited publications and links
  • Downloadable resource documents with suggested videos, books, articles, and websites
  • Discussion forum to engage with other learners and instructors
  • Knowledge checks throughout the course
  • 1 year access to our online learning platform
  • Invite to our monthly speaker series and access to videos from our past events
  • Official Psychedelic Support Certificate of Completion

Choose the Continuing Education (CE) or Continuing Medical Education (CME) option for:

  • Continuing education (CE/CME) credits.
  • CE Certificate for licensed professionals, including psychologists, therapists, nurses, social workers, etc.
  • CME Certificate (AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™) for doctors, nurses, medical professionals, etc. (includes 1 hour of introductory learning material plus 9.25 hours of psilocybin content for 10.25 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™).
  • See below for more information about continuing education.
Certificate Information

Interested in the different certificate options for our courses? Read on to learn more:

Learn more about Completion Certificate

Once you complete the course you will receive a Psychedelic Support Certificate of Completion. Choose this option if you are not a licensed health provider and do not need continuing education credit for your professional degree.

Learn more about CE Credit Certificate

Once you complete the course you will receive a Psychedelic Support CE Certificate. Choose this option if you are a licensed health provider who would like continuing education credit for your professional degree.

  • Be sure to select the CE credit option when purchasing the course.
  • Upon completion of the course, you will receive a Certificate of Attendance for your credits.
  • CE credits for psychologists are provided by Psychedelic Support, an APA-approved CE sponsor.
  • Psychedelic Support is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. Psychedelic Support maintains responsibility for this program and its content.
  • The California Board of Behavioral Sciences accepts CE credits for LCSW, LPCC, LEP, and LMFT license renewal for programs offered by approved sponsors of CE by the American Psychological Association.
  • LCSW, LPCC, LEP, and LMFTs, and other mental health professionals from states other than California need to check with their state licensing board as to whether or not they accept programs offered by approved sponsors of CE by the American Psychological Association.
  • For questions about receiving your Certificate of Attendance, to request special accommodations, or report a grievance contact Psychedelic Support at info@psychedelic.support.

Learn more about CME Credit Certificate

Once you complete the course you will receive a Psychedelic Support CME Certificate. Choose this option if you are a licensed health provider would like continuing education credit for your professional degree.

This activity has been planned and implemented in accordance with the accreditation requirements and policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) through the joint providership of CME Consultants and Psychedelic Support. CME Consultants is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™ for non-physicians: There are other disciplines that may accept AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™ as equivalent CE or CEU for re-licensure or recertification, including, but not limited to, Nurses, Nurse Practitioners, Physician Assistants, Pharm D’s, and Psychologists. It is advisable for you to verify equivalency with your specific governing body, as state boards vary in their requirements.

Credit Designation Statement

CME Consultants designates this online enduring material activity for a maximum of 10.25 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

Target Audience

This activity is geared to meet the educational requirements of Healthcare Providers from a range of disciplines: Physicians, Psychiatrists, Psychologists, Therapists, and LCSWs who will participate in or form interdisciplinary teams, or practice independently.

Core Competencies

This activity encompasses the following desirable physician attributes: Patient Care & Procedural Skills, Medical Knowledge, Professionalism, and Practice-Based Learning & Improvement.


The presentational methods for this activity are Lecture and Small Group Discussion/Roundtable. The course content has been peer-reviewed for content validity and found to be evidenced-based, fair, balanced, and free from commercial bias.

Commercial Support

There is no commercial support for this activity.

Release Date

This activity was released for credit on November 22, 2021.

Review Date

This activity was reviewed on August 25, 2022.

Termination Date

This activity is valid for credit through August 27, 2024.