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This 12-week course uses contemporary and historical sources to teach the numerous ways psychoanalysis and psychedelics have been, and are, involved with one another.  We hope, also, to sketch out a road map deepening this important affiliation. This course is for more advanced students who possess basic clinical and theoretical knowledge of psychoanalysis, as well as having basic information regarding psychedelic therapy.  

We will begin with a close reading of an analyst’s overview of psychedelic therapy, including relevant neuropsychoanalytic writing.  Throughout, we will offer historic (1950s-70s) papers about psychoanalytic treatment, both research and clinical work utilizing LSD and other medicines.  Long dismissed for outdated, inadequate research methods, these fascinating papers are steeped in the American psychoanalysis of their time, and quite visionary, as well.

Areas we will cover during the course include: 1) ego dissolution, ego death and egolytic processes; 2)primary consciousness, minimal self, numinous states and experiences of unity3) reductions in “defensiveness” and the shift toward connection and unity; 4)Narrative self, minimal self; 5) Psychedelic work from a Jungian perspective;  6) judicious forays into neuroscience to describe physiological embodiment, “hyper associative” states and the unconstrained mind; 7) psychoanalysis, itself, as an alternative state of consciousness; 8) aNative American peyote ceremony described from a social constructivist perspective and a psychoanalytic one; 9) race and psychedelic consciousness 10) a look forward to the 21st theories of psychedelic action.

The class will have psychoanalysis as its central discourse; it will address, as well, phenomenology of self, narrative, identity, unity and a bit of relevant science of neuroplasticity.  We will learn from our analytic ancestors, highlighting Betty Eisner, PhD; diverse contemporary theorists and clinicians are represented

There will be 3 categories of reading:  Assigned, Supplemental and Curiosity.  Each week will have no more than 35-40 pages of Assigned Material.   As mentioned, neither the basics of psychedelics nor psychoanalysis will be taught in this class, they are a prerequisite for it.  However, it is not necessary to be a psychoanalyst to take this course. Anyone interested is welcome.  

It is our hope the classes will invite imagination as well as educate, creating a 21st Century vision of what psychedelics and psychoanalysis have do with each other, and how. An intention for the class is to create community, stimulate discussion and evoke curiosity about the world outside our familiar narratives.

A limited number of Diversity Fund scholarships are available, please complete this application, in addition to the course application.

Learning Objectives

  • Utilize familiar psychoanalytic concepts to understand the changes in consciousness that can occur during psychedelic states.
  • Discuss ego death and ego dissolution as central phenomena in the process of psychedelic therapy and how this relates to change processes in psychoanalysis.
  • Compare the applications of psychedelic treatment in mid 20th Century psychoanalytic work to current applications that are emerging.
  • Describe in detail the differences between psychedelic therapy and psycholytic therapy.
  • Critique the contributions of mid-20th century psychoanalysts to psychedelic scholarship, especially the work of Betty Eisner, PhD.
  • Utilize basic information from the field of neuropsychoanalysis to understand changes in narrative identity that occur both in psychoanalysis and psychedelic therapy.
  • Critique the concept of “reduction in psychological defensiveness” as an effect of psychedelic treatment.
  • Explain the components of the mystical state in the language of psychoanalysis, and integrate this knowledge with approaches to clinical treatment.
  • Discuss the contributions that Jungian psychoanalysts have brought to the field of psychedelic therapy.
  • Describe the phenomena of “hyperassociative” or “unconstrained” mind and relate this understanding to psychoanalytic change mechanisms.
  • Describe the altered states of consciousness that emerge in psychoanalysis, itself, and critique how this is similar/different from psychedelic states of consciousness.
  • Compare the behavioral therapy model of “psychological flexibility” to the methods and goals of psychoanalysis.
  • Describe contemporary unifying theories of psychedelic action using 21st-century models of predictive processing, integrated information theory, and Carhart-Harris’ REBUS model.
  • Explain how psychoanalysis, both as a method and a theory, offers a particularly valuable conceptualization of “set and setting” and bring this knowledge to the field of psychedelic therapy.



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Continuing Education Credit

15 CE Hours




Elective Reading & Study Group

My Fluence experience has been nothing short of fabulous. The ability to hyper-learn material with masterful teachers coupled with bright colleagues was simply terrific. I would recommend Fluence classes for any professional wishing to clinically stretch and grow.

Lester Butt, PhD, ABPP
Fluence Student

The course is not just informative. It is itself mind-expanding, and at times powerfully moving.

Jonathan Sadowsky
Fluence Student

Dr. Guss does a masterful job of integrating perspectives from the ancient to the contemporary in this course. From shamanism to neurobiology, he provides a thrilling jaunt through the myriad ways of conceptualizing psychedelics in modern practice. A true tour de force!

Geoffrey F Sternlieb, MD
Fluence Student

I have now booked several courses with fluence and have been very satisfied with all of them. I particularly appreciate the courses with Jeffrey Guss, in which theories from psychoanalysis are related to psychedelics-supported psychotherapy. Jeff is a very skilled, empathetic and experienced teacher.

Florian Fossel
Fluence Student