Magaly Mauer, Ph.D.
In her decades of experience as a clinical psychologist, Magaly Mauer, Ph.D., has drawn from a wide variety of therapeutic orientations and techniques, from clinical hypnosis and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), to cognitive-behavioral methodologies and humanistic psychology. Her core belief as a therapist is that everyone has an innate ability to heal themselves. Over the past few years of learning about psychedelic medicine, she has come to champion the unique ability of psychedelics to catalyze this self-healing capacity. A former research faculty at the University of Miami School of Medicine who has been in private practice since 1994, Mauer became a Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) supporter in 2014.
Dr. Mauer, tell us a little about your personal and professional background.
I was born in Colombia and came to the United States when I was 21. I’ve been here ever since, living almost the entire time in Miami. When I was 40, I was doing human resources for a medical company and realized that the only aspect of my job that I enjoyed was the counseling. So I went back to school and got my Ph.D. in psychology. I’m now 70.
What elements of psychology have most influenced you?
From the beginning, I was interested in what the client is able to find within themselves. I was lucky to learn a lot about Carl Rogers, a psychologist who came away from traditional psychoanalysis into a whole other way of listening to people. He believed that we all have a drive toward health, and that the job of the therapist is to remove the obstacles so that drive can reengage. The healing is not done by the therapist—the healing is always done by the person. The therapist is a facilitator of that force of self-healing that we all have.
What has your experience been as a psychologist of color?
Miami is a haven for people of color, especially Latin American people. It’s not like the rest of America. I never feel that I’m in a minority. However, when I’m traveling in other parts of the country—teaching somewhere or attending a conference—then I can tell that there’s a difference in how a brown person is seen. People have acted surprised that I have a Ph.D., for example. I think if you’re going to be a brown anything, be it in Miami! Even in the Florida chapter of the American Psychological Association, there’s a very big group of Hispanic psychologists. We’re not marginalized here.
Are there mental health needs specific to the Latin American community?
I can only speak about what I see here in South Florida. When you look at mental health needs in this area, you have to look at socioeconomic status. In Miami, any needs of someone who is Latin with high socioeconomic status are met. When you’re talking about someone who doesn’t have economic power, there is a lack, plus there might be a language barrier that makes it more difficult to get help. The other thing I see related to mental health needs is that Latina females with anxiety go to the doctor, and they are given Xanax or another benzo, and they can stay on it for years. This is at all levels—working class, middle class, upper class. It’s like a way of shutting them up instead of helping them feel negative emotions and work through all the difficulties that led them to be anxious in the first place. Psychiatrists put women on these drugs for years, when they’re supposed to be used for no more than three weeks.
Magaly Mauer celebrates her 70th birthday.
How did you become interested in psychedelics?
Several years ago, I was exposed to ayahuasca. I had a series of experiences with maestros from the Shipibo tribe in the jungle of Peru. I was there for 12 days or so. Each experience was powerful in itself, and at the end when I came back, I could see how different I was in my ability to see that there is a bigger picture than my everyday life, and really having a sense that we’re in this together. We’re not so separate, we’re not so isolated. I think the emphasis on individuality is how Western civilization lies to us. When you have an experience with ayahuasca or mushrooms or any other psychedelic, what you experience is unity, and that we’re one not just with each other but with the plants, the animals, the stars, and the moon. It’s an experience that changes your perspective. That was the start of my exploration.
How did you become involved with MAPS?
Somebody told me about MAPS, and that they were doing dinners around the country to raise funds for psychedelic research, so I offered to host a dinner. There I met Rick Doblin and really, really liked him. When I learned more about his story and all the work he’s done, I thought: I want to help. I want to participate in this. Because as a psychologist, I’m amazed at the transformational power of psychedelics. You have a couple of sessions and you’re able to see what has happened to you from a different perspective, and something changes. The obstacles that prevent the inner drive toward health are removed, so the drive can re-engage. How? I don’t think we know the mechanism of action, how MDMA does what it does, or mushrooms or ayahuasca or even cannabis. But something happens when these substances are used with the intention of healing. We don’t know exactly how, but that understanding will come.
Do you foresee receptivity to psychedelic medicine in the Latin American community?
Well, the public has to be educated. In most Latin American communities that I’m familiar with, there’s a belief that psychedelics are party drugs. I think education to the public, not just professionals, about the benefits of psychedelic medicine has to happen now for people to feel comfortable when they become legally available.
How do you hope to see MAPS make its work more accessible to and inclusive of the Latin American community?
I think MAPS should train more therapists of color. Communities with a high concentration of Latin Americans need to have therapists who understand their culture and speak their language. So there should be a concentrated effort to train people who can do that.
What’s your vision for the future of psychedelic medicine?
I’m waiting with bated breath for 2021! With the proper education of professionals and the public, people will surge for legal MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. If we have enough therapists and psychiatrists who are well trained, then we can really change the way we treat PTSD, of course, but also other anxiety disorders that are so disabling. People walk around with so much anxiety, and their quality of life really suffers. I think that psychedelic medicine is going to help not just with big trauma, for which it’s very much needed, but with everyday anxiety also. I have high hopes!
Jennifer Bleyer has written about psychedeli
c medicine for Psychology Today, Tablet, and NYU Magazine. A former senior editor at Psychology Today and contract reporter for The New York Times, her writing has also appeared in Slate, Salon, Cosmopolitan, Self, Real Simple, and The Washington Post, among other publications.