Summary: As vigorous clinical trials for psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy continue to expand and show promising therapeutic results, public opinion of psychedelics is beginning to shift as the use of these substances moves out from the fringe into mainstream culture. This shift can be seen in the media through new shows, such as the Netflix docuseries, The Goop Lab, which dedicated an entire episode to the potential therapeutic effects of psychedelic therapy and the potential for challenging experiences when psychedelics are taken out of a therapeutic context.
Originally appearing here.
“When I started Goop in 2008, I was like, my calling is something else besides making out with Matt Damon on screen.” So says Gwyneth Paltrow, the Oscar-winning actress-turned-lifestyle mogul, in The Goop Lab, her new six-part docuseries which delves into a wide range of wellness topics. Each episode centres on a different subject – from energy healing to cold therapy, anti-ageing to psychics – and weaves together case studies, Paltrow’s interviews with experts and footage of Goop staffers going out into the field to gain a better understanding of the issue. They travel to Jamaica to take magic mushrooms, dive into a freezing Lake Tahoe and participate in a transformative workshop on female pleasure. Many will find it inspiring, others laughable and some even problematic. The only thing we can all agree on? It’s deliberately provocative and will be sure to ignite debate.
Ahead of its release on 24 January, Vogue gets a first look and takes notes: from the benefits of psychedelics over Prozac, to Paltrow opening up about her personal struggles.
Whether it’s Paltrow’s elated reaction to completing a detox or a Goop staffer’s sceptical response to psychic mediums, The Goop Lab is packed with laugh-out-loud moments. Many of them are in the opening episode, which sees four of Paltrow’s colleagues attend a magic mushroom ceremony in Jamaica. “This is a sacrament,” says one of the men leading the session, as he burns sage. “So, we can be with the spirit of the mushroom.” If that isn’t meme-worthy, we don’t know what is.
Alongside the field trips and Paltrow’s discussions with medical professionals, the show slots in first-person accounts from an array of case studies. A physician speaks about using cold therapy to manage depression following the death of her patients, while an Iraq War veteran shares his experience of participating in MDMA trials to combat PTSD. “This therapy has ensured that my stepson has a father instead of a folded flag,” says the latter. Equally moving are the stories of Goop staffers who face their fears, from overcoming panic attacks to embracing their sexuality.
Controversial though it is, the experts quoted on the show insist that psychedelics can treat certain disorders more effectively than drugs like Prozac, Celexa and Zoloft. “Depression, anxiety and suicide are increasing, despite what we thought in the 1990s was this renaissance of psycho-pharmacology,” psychiatrist Will Siu tells Paltrow. “Psychiatry left psychotherapy behind and we embraced drugs that we all know have terrible side effects. As a culture, we are hungry for something else to help us heal.” The solution? Using psychedelics in a therapeutic setting.
The polar opposite of hot yoga? Doing a warrior pose while ankle-deep in snow. In the second episode of The Goop Lab, extreme athlete Wim Hof teaches the Goop team a breathing technique that can help fight fear and put mind over matter. Then comes a session of snow yoga and a leap of faith into the icy depths of Lake Tahoe. For those who would prefer to dip a toe into the water first, Hof recommends regular cold showers. “The original state of our mind is able to take on stress, but not the way we live,” he adds. “We have gone into cities. We never feel the elements. Thus, our bodies are in a different state, like a muscle which becomes weak without training.”
The most divisive episode of the series is sure to be the third. It centres on female pleasure, with sex educators Betty Dodson and Carlin Ross discussing masturbation, labiaplasty and the unrealistic expectations set by porn. The pair tell Paltrow about their workshops, which involve “genital show and tell”, where women explore and speak about their own bodies. “What we’re talking about is this deep resistance we have to our own genitalia,” says Paltrow of viewers who may find the episode too explicit. “It is really time for that to change.” The show employs shock tactics to achieve this: a slideshow of different women’s vulvas and footage of Ross having an orgasm. It can make for uncomfortable viewing at times, but also feels revolutionary.
What is your biological age? That is the question at the heart of episode four, in which Paltrow and her colleagues change their calorie intake in hopes of extending their lifespans. Her chosen regimen is the fast-mimicking diet, which simulates the effects of fasting but gives the body enough nutrients to avoid damage. “My kids are going to bum out!” she says. “Every time I do a cleanse they’re like, ‘Oh no!’ I get all grumpy. Also, I’ve never been vegan, but people still think I’m vegan!” Once they survive their detoxes, the focus shifts to anti-aging facial treatments: acupuncture and, for Paltrow, a vampire facial (or platelet-rich plasma – PRP – therapy) which seems to have the desired effect. “My baby daddy was like, ‘You look five years younger’!” she declares at the end of the show.
The star of The Goop Lab’s fifth episode is John Amaral, a chiropractor who specialises in working with people’s energy fields. “You have energy that’s bound up in the muscles when you’re under stress,” he explains. “I influence how energy is moving so your body can heal faster.” Amaral then demonstrates his skills in a session with staffers, moving his hands through the air to change their energy as they writhe on massage tables. The best response comes from Goop’s chief content officer Elise Loehnen, who says: “I had an exorcism.” Paltrow replies, “Could you get any Goopier?”
The final episode of The Goop Lab is perhaps the most cultish, featuring psychic medium Laura Lynne Jackson. “Being a psychic means that I read energy and being a medium means I can connect with the consciousness of people who have left their physical bodies,” she tells Paltrow. “If you ask for signs and messages from the other side you will get them. You don’t need a psychic medium to prove it to you.” Several Goop staffers prove to be as intuitive, working with Jackson to channel their energy positively, sketch each other’s auras and connect with deceased loved ones.
One of the main draws of the docuseries is the insight viewers are given into Paltrow. She opens up about taking MDMA in Mexico, being critical of her own body and reeling from an emergency caesarean section. “It was after being in labour for three days,” she explains. “The scar is still emotionally painful.” Another revealing moment comes early on, when Loehnen speaks about a cultural lack of connection. “If everybody felt connected they would understand that I, as well, have had incredibly painful and traumatic experiences,” Paltrow replies. “I have a lot of trauma in my childhood and being the person that people perceive me to be is inherently traumatic.”
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