Ministry of Health approved Thursday a groundbreaking experimental study in the use of MDMA on psychotherapists who can later treat a population suffering from trauma.
The objective of this trial, which will begin among the medical staff at the "Merhavim" Mental Health Hospital is to investigate the effects of the psychoactive substance, which is classified as a controlled substance, in psychotherapy. This comes in anticipation of a historic decision expected in the United States in the coming months, to allow the use of MDMA to treat patients dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD.)
Some thirty therapists are expected to participate in the study. "The ultimate aim is to use standard measurement tools to examine psychological effects as well as the safety of MDMA use on a healthy population," Authors of the study said. "It will also investigate the impact of administering MDMA to therapists before they commence their work, to gauge their ability to create a therapeutic and empathetic environment."
The Ministry had previously approved using MDMA in an experimental treatment of patients suffering from PTSD, but that was never carried out.
In its explanatory statements, the ministry highlighted the primary clinical goal of this research, which is to assess the effectiveness of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy among therapists before they officially begin their treatment of patients. This evaluation will involve a comparison between their feelings of compassion and the ability to establish a therapeutic alliance before and after receiving the treatment. The study will compare groups of therapists who will undergo treatment beforehand with those who will not.
"The underlying idea behind this research stems from the need to prepare therapists for MDMA-assisted therapy. What we aim to demonstrate and prove through this study is that a therapist who has experienced therapy themselves with this substance will be more empathetic towards patients," said Dr. Yair Wallach, Director of Encounter Services at "Merhavim".
It is commonly accepted that therapists themselves undergo therapy and since MDMA presents such a profound experience of altered consciousness, without experiencing it firsthand, it would be genuinely challenging to understand what the patient is going through. Being able to connect with this experience allows therapists to better guide patients through the process when necessary.
"We are talking about therapists who treat individuals with PTSD, and we hope that MDMA will become part of the treatment arsenal for them. The expectation is that within the coming year, the treatment will receive approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA,) and afterward, it will be included in our treatment options. We haven't started recruiting participants for the study yet, but we will need to ensure that we avoid any situations of discomfort. There are many questions and I hope we'll begin the study in the next few months or within half a year."