What is MDMA? Why is it under investigation for treating mental health conditions? How is it used in psychotherapy? Through interactive eLearning, this course provides an in-depth summary of the pharmacology and effects of MDMA, and how it modulates neural circuits to induce changes in mood, cognition, and behaviors. Explore the MDMA-assisted psychotherapy approach and become informed on clinical protocols and trial findings. You will learn several hypotheses on how MDMA may be working in the brain during psychotherapy sessions and why this technique is being studied for treating many different mental health conditions.
This course covers safety and risks of MDMA, also known as Ecstasy, in both medical and non-medical settings. Designed by leading MDMA researchers and therapists, you will learn evidence-based information and observations from therapists who administered MDMA-assisted psychotherapy in clinical trials.
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 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.
Self-paced course includes:
- 16 hours of learning content with AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™
- 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
- Discussion forum to engage with other learners and instructors
- Knowledge checks throughout the course
- Assignments to further advancement your knowledge and comprehension
- Downloadable reference lists with cited publications and links
- Downloadable resources documents with suggested videos, books, articles, and websites
- 6-month access to our online learning platform
- Invitation to our monthly Professional Networking Events
- Official Psychedelic.Support Certificate of Completion and CME Certificate
This activity has been approved for 16 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™. Group discounts available, contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Join our monthly Professional Networking Events! Each month we’ll host a 1-hour online event featuring distinguished guests, special topics, small group breakouts, live AMA, journal discussion groups, and more. You’ll gain access to these events by purchasing one of our CE/CME level courses or by joining the Psychedelic.Support Network.
MDMA Course Curriculum
Module 1: A Simple Molecule with Complex Effects: MDMA Pharmacology, Effects, and Safety
- Explain how MDMA acts in the brain and body to produce psychological and physiological effects
- Assess contraindicated medical conditions and medications for MDMA use
- Describe common reactions and adverse events associated with MDMA and how risks differ between non-medical and clinical contexts
- Analyze neuroimaging studies of Ecstasy users
Module 2: Neurobiological Effects of MDMA: Brain Circuits to Behavior
- List the common subjective effects of MDMA
- Describe research findings from studies that investigated effects of MDMA on social reward, cognitive and emotional empathy, and language
- Discuss key neural circuits involved in the effects of MDMA
Module 3: Clinical Trial Findings of MDMA-assisted Psychotherapy for Treatment of PTSD and Other Psychiatric Indications
- Explain the drug development pathway for MDMA (phase 1 trials to potential New Drug Application)
- Describe phase 2 clinical trial methods, screening, and study designs of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy
- Discuss safety and efficacy findings of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety associated with a life-threatening illness, and social anxiety in autistic adults, and how results compare to currently available treatments
Module 4: MDMA Therapeutic Approaches and Psychological Mechanisms
- Explain the methods of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy described in the MDMA Treatment Manual
- Describe possible psychological mechanisms involved during MDMA therapy
- List other indications or therapeutic approaches investigating MDMA
Psilocybin Course Curriculum
Module 1: What’s All The Magic About? Psilocybin Pharmacology, Effects, and Safety
- 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
Module 2: Clinical Trial Findings of Psilocybin Treatment for Depression and Other Psychiatric Indications
- 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
Module 3: Psilocybin Ancient History, Psychological Mechanisms, and the Future of Microdosing
- 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
Module 4: Neurobiological Effects of Psilocybin: Brain Circuits to Behavior
- 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 and Interviews
- Psychedelic Research: A Conversation on Psychiatric Indications, Mechanisms of Action, & Limitations of Trial Findings with Alan Schatzberg, MD and Boris Heifets, MD, PhD, moderated by Alli Feduccia, PhD
- Interviews with MDMA-assisted psychotherapy trial therapists Genesee Herzberg, PsyD, Evan Sola, PsyD, and Sylver Quevedo, MD
- 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, moderated by Alli Feduccia, PhD
- Critical Frameworks for Psychedelic-assisted Therapies: Importance of setting, preparation, and training of therapists with Christopher Nicholas, PhD, and Peter Hendricks, PhD, moderated by Alli Feduccia, 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
Meet Your Instructors, Course Contributors, & Peer Reviewers
Alli Feduccia, PhD (Instructor)
Alli Feduccia, PhD is a neuropharmacologist, psychedelic researcher, and a builder of virtual and in-person communities. She is the Co-Founder and Director of Psychedelic.Support, an online directory of healthcare professionals, and Project New Day, a 501(c)(3) non-profit foundation focused on psychedelics for addiction recovery. In these roles, Dr. Feduccia facilitates the spreading of evidence-based knowledge, connection to resources, and strategies for communities to reduce risks of psychedelic use through safe and responsible practices. In 2009, she earned a PhD in neuropharmacology from the University of Texas at Austin studying the effects of MDMA on behavior and neurochemical release in non-clinical models. She was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California San Francisco 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.
Kile Ortigo, PhD (Instructor)
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.
Boris Heifets, MD, PhD (Instructor)
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.
Alan Schatzberg, MD (Course Contributor)
Alan Schatzberg, MD is a Professor, in the department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine. He is a psychiatrist who is an active investigator in the biology and psychopharmacology of depressive disorders, and has contributed substantially to the field of psychiatry over his career. He has formally served as President, American Psychiatric Association (2009 – 2010); President, American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (1999 – 2000); President, Society of Biological Psychiatry (2006 – 2007). Today he continues to closely follow and advise on psychedelic trials investigating psychedelic substances.
Evan Sola, PsyD (Course Contributor)
Evan Sola, PsyD is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in San Francisco and Berkeley, and a psychedelic researcher in FDA clinical trials for MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD at UCSF and Polaris Insight Center. He has a background in trauma-informed psychodynamic and Jungian psychotherapy, and uses dreams to explore attitudes unconscious to the waking self. He provides psychedelic integration for those exploring non-ordinary states, spiritual emergencies, grief, and overwhelming life adjustments, and offers ketamine-assisted therapy for depression and acute suicidality at Sage Integrative Health.
Genesee Herzberg, PsyD (Course Contributor)
Genesee Herzberg, PsyD received her doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies, where she wrote her dissertation on the phenomenology and sequelae of MDMA-assisted therapy. She trained in MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD with the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) and in ketamine-assisted therapy with the KRIYA Institute. Dr. Herzberg is co-founder and Clinical Director of Sage Integrative Health, a holistic health and ketamine clinic in Berkeley, CA that offers psychedelic-assisted therapies as they become legal from a holistic, trauma-informed, and relational perspective. Dr. Herzberg is also co-founder and Executive Director of Sage Institute, a sliding scale psychedelic clinic and training center serving marginalized communities and dedicated to diversifying the field of psychedelic medicine. In her psychotherapy practice, Dr. Herzberg offers individual and couple therapy, ketamine-assisted therapy, and psychedelic integration with a specialization in developmental trauma. Her approach is depth-oriented, relational, somatic, and mindfulness-based, with a social justice lens. Dr. Herzberg also works as a co-investigator and therapist for MAPS’ MDMA for PTSD research trials.
Sylver Quevedo, MD (Course Contributor)
Sylver Quevedo, MD has been in continuous practice of medicine for 40 years and practices nephrology, family, internal, and integrative medicine. He is the Co-Founder and Medical Director at Polaris Insight Center and serves as Assistant Professor at Stanford and the University of California, San Francisco. He has played pivotal roles in several global health projects, including planning and development of a medical and nursing school in Africa. Dr. Quevedo is trained in MDMA-assisted psychotherapy and has worked as a therapist on MDMA phase 2 and phase 3 trials.
Alicia Danforth, PhD (Course Contributor)
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.
Chris Stauffer, MD (Course Contributor)
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.
Bill Richards, PhD (Course Contributor)
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.
Karen Peoples, PhD (Course Contributor)
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.
Emmanuelle Schindler, MD, PhD (Course Contributor)
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.
Christopher Nicholas, PhD (Course Contributor)
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.
Peter Hendricks, PhD (Course Contributor)
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.
Katrin Preller, PhD (Course Contributor)
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.
Lauren Lepow, MD (Peer Reviewer)
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.
C.J. Spotswood, BN-RN BC (Peer Reviewer)
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.
Zachary Herrmann, DO (Peer Reviewer)
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.
Joshua Poole, MD (Peer Reviewer)
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.
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 16 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.
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.
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.
There is no commercial support for this activity.
This activity was released for credit on August 28, 2020.
This activity is valid for credit through August 28, 2022.