Working with Psychedelics and the South Asian Community

Monday, January 09, 2023 5:41 AM | Anonymous

Interview with Jyoti Nadhani, LMFT and Liliana Ramos, LMFT, Director-at-Large

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Jyoti:  I am a tech entrepreneur turned psychotherapist. I have always been passionate about working with people and mental health has been a big part of my life. After my software company got acquired, I chose to go back to school, study, and I became a therapist. Due to my professional experience, I work mostly with people who are in tech, founders, tech-entrepreneurs, and employees from tech companies. My focus is mostly on couples, although  I work with families as well: teenagers or adult children and their parents. I have an integrative approach to psychotherapy which focuses mostly on Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) for couples and family therapy. Internal family systems, Somatic Experiencing & Mindfulness based practices, Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy etc.

A couple of years ago I contracted Bell’s palsy, which is a facial paralysis: I felt lost and I felt clueless. I tried Western medication. Allopathic doctors told me it could be due to stress. I tried Chinese medication and went to India for Ayurveda treatment. As a Vipassana meditator, I believe in mind, body, spirit or soul. I was perplexed as to why I had this facial paralysis. When I read about Michael Pollan’s (2017) research on psychedelic psychotherapy, I realized I needed to investigate that avenue. I got this opportunity to get psychedelic assisted psychotherapy and it was immensely helpful. From that point, I started training with MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) for MDMA-assisted therapy; I moved on to  train with Fluence for ketamine-assisted therapy, and now I am in training at Berkeley University. The UC Berkeley  program emphasizes psilocybin facilitation and its applications for spiritual and psychotherapeutic care, focusing both on traditional uses of this globally recognized medicine and current Western approaches to mental health.

Liliana:  What a journey! In the spiritual world it seems that things happen for a reason. You chose to explore and went for this journey that has helped you grow personally and professionally. How do you see this in your life?

Jyoti:  Yes. I would say that the medicine found me instead of me finding the medicine. It has been a profound experience. I’ve a better understanding of myself and others. I feel more connected and not isolated.

Liliana:  How does psychedelic assisted therapy help clients?

Jyoti:  Psychedelic therapy refers to the proposed use of medicines such as psilocybin, ketamine, LSD, and others to treat mental disorders and has been helpful in spiritual and personal growth. Indigenous communities have been using psychedelic medicine for centuries. Psychedelics offer a treatment that shows best for medication and psychotherapy in a short period of time. Generally when you do psychotherapy, it might take years to see results.  When it comes to psychedelics, you only have to take the medicine a few times: changes happen and last for a long time. This type of therapy is incredibly powerful because the whole sense of self and world view shift in such a way that people often feel they have the self-efficacy and free-choice they had not recognized they had before. Our body has an innate ability to heal. Similarly, our psyche has the ability to heal if the appropriate conditions are present. Clients can access more memories or memories that lie deep in the unconscious. So that helps them change their world view for themselves or even for others. They have better clarity and understanding. Where there is awareness, change happens. They feel connected, which helps to facilitate the reconsolidation of the memories.  Humans are interconnected, so the healing has to happen for everybody. Rather than feeling lonely and isolated the clients feel the connection with family, and others. Psychedelics allow them to revisit the trauma without being emotionally charged. It helps them have greater clarity and create a new narrative about what happened; it relieves the stuck energy.

Liliana:  As a South Asian therapist, what are the main issues that other therapists need to be aware of?

Jyoti:  First, I would say that mental health is still a stigma in the South Asian community. Psychedelics is further stigmatized. Drugs are perceived as dangerous. In fact, years ago, when I first heard Michael Pollan, I thought “Oh this is drugs. I’m going to avoid it at all costs.” People might not be comfortable with using psychedelics. Basically, we have to educate people to show them that psychedelics, when used in a ritualized and contained environment, are safe.

Liliana: Does  most of your practice deal with psychedelic psychotherapy?

Jyoti: I have a mixed practice.  I have my traditional psychotherapy,  30% of which is psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy.  

Liliana: Is there anything a non-South Asian therapist should know that might be helpful to better assist the South Asian community?

Jyoti: I would say that most of the South Asian community is immigrant and immigration does impact mental health. Mental health challenges are way higher than we are willing to accept. I had lost my support system when I immigrated, I’m still trying to balance between two cultures. Racism, being a minority, being an outsider and not feeling accepted is emotionally draining. For most South Asians, children have to balance between collectivist culture and individualistic culture. So, I would say that mostly South Asian people are living two lives and acculturation can be heavy and stressful. I noticed that for adolescents and young adults it is challenging because according to country of origin cultural rules, the parents decide what the child should be doing, but the child might be wanting to do different things. The parents project on their children the hard work they had to do to settle in the US. As one loses the support that they were used to it becomes overwhelming for the parents and of course brings pressure on the children.

Liliana: What is the takeaway that you want from this article?

Jyoti: The takeaway is the benefits of psychedelic assisted psychotherapy. Psychedelics like MDMA allow one to be empathetic towards self and others. In traditional therapy, the client might be protective or guarded and might not be open. But MDMA helps the therapeutic relationship and helps the client to trust and share their struggles freely.  Mystical-type experiences occasioned by psilocybin mediate the attribution of personal meaning and spiritual significance.

Liliana: Is there anything else you would like to share?

Jyoti:  The core mystical experience is one of the interconnectedness of all people and things, the awareness that we are all in this together. It is precisely the lack of this sense of mutual caretaking that puts our species at risk right now, with climate change and the development of weaponry that can destroy life on the planet.

Liliana:  That’s beautiful how you interconnected everything.  When you said that you did EFT, IFS and Somatic Experiencing, are you certified, did you take Level 1?

Jyoti:  I did Level 1 for Somatic Experiencing.  I have also done an Internal Family System circle . I am an IFS informed therapist.  I have done advanced EFT training.  With Somatic Experiencing, when we do psychedelic work, the clients have access to the body.  It is easy for us to help the client focus on their body to relieve the tension or even to open up.  That is how Somatic Experiencing is helpful.  

Liliana:  I love how you integrated EFT, IFS, Somatic Experiencing and psychedelics.

Jyoti:  I love being a psychotherapist.  Now with psychedelics, I love it even more.  I see deep rooted issues being addressed and changes happen so quickly.  I hope it motivates more therapists to come into the field. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the speaker and not, necessarily, of SCV-CAMFT. SCV-CAMFT cannot be held liable for any damages arising from recommendations, advice, or points of view given by our contributors or any actions or decisions arising out of the content of this article. 

Jyoti Nadhani is a tech entrepreneur turned psychotherapist.  She did her Master in Business in India, then did her Master in Psychology in the United States.  She is a South-Asian LMFT who has trained in 3.4- methylenedioxy-methamphetamin (MDMA) from Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) by Rick Doblin and Ketamine assisted psychotherapy from Fluence.  She is currently pursuing a certificate program in psychedelic facilitation from UC Berkeley.  In this training she will learn Psilocybin facilitation and its applications for spiritual and psychotherapeutic care focusing both on traditional uses and this globally recognized medicine and current Western approaches to mental health.  She is also trained in Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), Internal Family Systems, and Somatic Experiencing.  

Hanagan, K. (2021, February 20). Resetting the brain and mind with ketamine. Kathleen Hanagan.
Mac, G. (2017, March 9). The psychedelic miracle: how some doctors are risking everything to unleash the healing power of MDMA, ayahuasca, and other hallucinogens. RollingStone.
Pollan, M. (2018). How to change your mind:  What the new science of psychedelics teaches us about consciousness, dying, addiction, depression, and transcendence. London, UK: Penguin Books.
The ultimate guide to ketamine. (n.d.).  The Third Wave. Retrieved December 4, 2022 from
Trope, A., Anderson, B. T., Hooker, A. R., Glick, G., Stauffer, C., & Woodley, J. D. (2019). Psychedelic-assisted group therapy: A systematic review. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 51(2). 174-188.

doi: 10.1080/02791072.2019.1593559
Yale News. (2012, October 4). Yale scientists explain how ketamine vanquishes depression within hours
Ziegler, M. (2016, December 2). Ketamine: A transformational catalyst. MAPS.

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