Can Psychedelics Heal Your Emotional Pain? With Psychologist Brian Pilecki

Brian Pilecki

Verywell / Julie Bang

Every Monday on The Verywell Mind Podcast, Editor-in-Chief Amy Morin, LCSW, interviews experts, authors, entrepreneurs, athletes, musicians, and other inspirational people about the strategies that help them think, feel, and do their best in life.

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Meet Brian Pilecki

Brian Pilecki is a psychologist based in Portland, Oregon. He specializes in the treatment of anxiety disorders, trauma, and PTSD. He also treats depression, issues related to general life dissatisfaction, grief and loss, sleep difficulties, and identity issues

He’s passionate about the potential for psychedelic substances to be used in a therapeutic environment—something that is likely to happen in Oregon soon. He has spent more than 20 years studying psychedelics such as psilocybin, MDMA, and ayahuasca and their potential role in mental health treatment.

Why Brian Pilecki Is Mentally Strong

Psychedelic use is often stigmatized. Drugs like mushrooms and MDMA have long been considered “club drugs” without any medicinal purposes.

But, Brian has been on the forefront of psychedelic research. He’s discovered many ways in which psychedelics may be a useful therapy tool. One study he was involved in was a clinical trial that investigated the use of MDMA in treating social anxiety

He’s also heavily involved in public education and advocacy to reduce the stigma associated with psychedelic use.

He organized a support group to give people a place to talk about their psychedelic use—something many other therapists may shy away from. 

He’s clear that traditional treatments don’t work for everyone. And he shows mental strength in his willingness to talk about alternative treatments and cutting-edge research.

What You’ll Hear on the Show

  • What’s happening in Oregon that may allow psychedelics to be used in treatment soon
  • What the research says about various psychedelics such as MDMA, mushrooms, and LSD
  • The difference between using psychedelics recreationally and therapeutically
  • What it means to set an intention before using a psychedelic and why that’s important
  • Why some people go on “bad trips”
  • What people should know about “Ketamine clinics” that are popping up around the country
  • How “integration” is used to gain the most benefit from psychedelic use
  • Who shouldn’t use psychedelics 
  • The potential risks of using psychedelics
  • How microdosing works and the potential benefits
  • The benefits of attending a psychedelic support group
  • What to expect from the future of psychedelic treatments

What You’ll Learn About Mental Health and Mental Strength

Sometimes, people assume that mental health issues should respond to traditional treatments, like cognitive behavioral therapy or antidepressants. 

But, traditional treatment doesn’t always reduce the symptoms. We’ve even developed terms like “treatment-resistant depression” because some mental health conditions just don’t respond to common interventions.

That’s why it’s so important to keep exploring more treatment options and methods. The same treatments just don’t work for everyone. 

A lack of response to treatment, however, isn’t necessarily a sign that someone lacks mental strength or that they have a serious mental illness. Instead, it just means that their particular condition isn’t responding to the treatments that usually help others. 

That’s why it’s so important to keep exploring new treatment options, like psychedelics. They may help some people in ways that other treatments can’t.

Quotes From Brian

Brian Pilecki, PhD

Attitudes around drugs are changing very quickly. We're seeing this with cannabis. So it's possible that as psychedelics become more known and widespread people will understand that these experiences can actually be beneficial.

— Brian Pilecki, PhD
  • Psychedelics can be really good at showing us what we’re avoiding in our lives.
  • In our culture, we have this thing where people believe it's bad to have fun.
  • One of the big lessons we learned from the sixties when people were using psychedelics in the U.S. for the first time on a widespread basis was that people were having these transformative experiences where they were seeing things in a different way. They were having clarity about their lives and their purpose.

More About the Podcast

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Links and Resources

By Amy Morin, LCSW, Editor-in-Chief
Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a licensed clinical social worker, psychotherapist, and international bestselling author. Her books, including "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," have been translated into more than 40 languages. Her TEDx talk,  "The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong," is one of the most viewed talks of all time.