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. If you’re a mental health professional, be sure to select our continuing education option and earn CE’s along the way!
Self-paced course includes:
- 6 hours of 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
- 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
- Official Psychedelic.Support Certificate of Completion
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
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
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.
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.