Course Description: Self and Substance (NYU Medical Center)

NYU School of Medicine
Department of Psychiatry/Bellevue Hospital Center
Division of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse


The Contemplative Studies Project of the
New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis


Self and Substance: A five week course exploring the contributions from Buddhist and psychedelic pathways to psychological growth and transformation

Teachers: William Auerbach, PhD and Jeffrey Guss, MD

Date: Tuesday Mornings: 10-11:30 am
March 27, April 3, 10, 17, and 25

Location: NYU Medical Center
550 First Avenue (at 30th Street)

Course Description:
Current research and innovative clinical interventions are emerging that use meditation and psychedelic agents as treatments for cancer related anxiety, depression. substance use disorders and PTSD, among other conditions. Both approaches seek to alleviate suffering through a process of self-understanding, insight into the nature and dynamics of mind and, additionally, the creation of a context for a spiritual or mystical experience. This course will support an exploration of these non-traditional methods of alleviating suffering with a particular emphasis on 1) the means by which they exert a therapeutic action and 2) the interactive field between patient and therapist.
Invited to participate in the course are: 1) study therapists, volunteers and others interested in the NYU Psilocybin Cancer Anxiety Research Project and 2) candidates and graduates of the NYU Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis and 3) Residents and Fellows in the Department of Psychiatry in NYU School of Medicine.
The class will be structured into five 90-minute sessions, each focusing on one of “the five words” of the Buddha: impermanence, anguish, no-self, nirvana, and emptiness. Each week, one of these words will be studied both contemplatively and through texts. We will guide the conversations toward a discussion of the therapist’s contemplative experiences as they relate to clinical work.
Participants will complete the course with 1) an opportunity to study of the mechanisms of psychological transformation invoked through meditation and the psychedelic experience; 2) insight into what is meant by spiritual growth and its relation to clinical change and 3) increased awareness of the therapeutic processes that emerge between guide/therapist and student/patient.
Participants will be invited to share from their work as psychedelic therapists or guides, meditation teachers, psychodynamic psychotherapists or researchers. Mu Soeng’s text The Heart of the Universe: Exploring the Heart Sutra will serve as a primary text for understanding Buddhist views of consciousness; source material on the meditative aspects of the psychedelic experience will be drawn from: Huston Smith’s Cleansing the Doors of Perception, and Gateway to Inner Space: Sacred Plants, Mysticism and Psychotherapy, edited by Christian Ratsch.

If interested, please contact or


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