Applying Key Lessons from the Hospice and Palliative Care Movement to Inform Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy

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Psychedelic medicine (New Rochelle, N.Y.)


BACKGROUND: Psychedelic-assisted therapy (PAT) has re-emerged as a promising intervention for addressing mental health conditions and existential concerns. Despite growing enthusiasm, PAT may be difficult to integrate into mainstream health systems. The rich sacramental traditions of psychedelics, their centering of the human experience, proposed substrates of action, context-dependent outcomes, and highly relational method of therapy all challenge dominant reductionistic approaches of the biomedical model. Hospice and palliative care are well established as holistic evidence-based standards of care, yet they began as a radical grassroots movement. Hospice and palliative care models may offer unique insights to support the growing field of PAT. PURPOSE: The intention of this commentary is to articulate the deep synergies between hospice and palliative care and PAT, with the intention of fostering interdisciplinary dialogue that may aid in implementation of human-centered high-quality PAT. CONCLUSIONS: Various aspects of hospice and palliative care models were identified and explored, which may support the implementation of human-centered high-quality PAT at scale. These include a focus on truly interdisciplinary care, applying a holistic lens to health and illness, bearing witness to suffering and healing, customized care, centering human relationships, decentralized models of care, generalist/specialist competencies, fostering spirituality, organizing as a social moment around shared goals, and growth from grassroots community organizations to mature care systems. Although hospice and palliative care can offer practical lessons for scaling human-centered experiential therapies, PAT, with its radical centering of meaning-making and relationship in the healing process, may also mutually innovate the fields of hospice and palliative care.

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