MDMA as Adjunct to Therapeutic Bodywork

Over two decades ago, in response to a number of debilitating health problems which conventional medicine seemed powerless to affect, I began to seek out some kind of alternative approach.

After a lot of experimentation, I found a method of "bodywork" that seemed to hold promise. This term, "bodywork," which is in common usage today, is used to describe a type of psychophysical education. The term seems to derive from the insights of Wilhelm Reich, MD. Reich studied with Freud, and then broke away after noticing that Freud didn't pay much attention to his patient's bodies - to their posture, breathing, and ways of moving about. Reich's simple observation, "Neurotics don't breathe," opened up an entire new way of working with people. His techniques are available today under a variety of names and systems. Many other approaches draw upon his ideas, if not his specific techniques.

"Bodywork" is understood to be a different approach from the "talkwork" performed by many psychotherapists. Some approaches even describe themselves as "body centered psychotherapy."

After working for a while, I found that my excruciating aches and pains began to diminish, and finally, for the most part, to disappear entirely. I met the founder of the method, and was very impressed with the manner in which his work transformed people.

I became so interested in this approach to improving human functioning that I abandoned my first career as a scientist and enrolled in the training program. A few years later I was making my living at it.

I soon found that I could help a variety of people with many different types of problems. This was very gratifying, but I felt that my work was missing something, that there were other, much superior ways of working with people that the founder had evinced, but that, so far, remained beyond my reach.

At some point in time I began to read about psycholytic psychotherapy, in which the client, and sometimes the therapist, worked while under the influence of some kind of psychotropic agent, usually LSD or MDMA, but occasionally some other drug.

I tried MDMA several times, first by myself, then with a few close friends. It was quite an experience. Later I convinced a psychotherapist friend to do an MDMA session with me, even though she had never done such before.

The session was very productive, as therapists like to say.

And so I began to wonder what might happen if I tried my bodywork on a client while we were both under the influence of MDMA. Because even possessing the drug was illegal, I proceeded very cautiously. I finally managed to do a few sessions with friends who were also clients. Since these were experimental situations, I told them that I would forgo my usual fee, but asked for them to pay for the drug that was consumed.

The sessions were phenomenal. I contacted the person at a very deep level, and this contact engendered a new and much more effective way of working. At times I felt that I approached the level of expertise demonstrated by the founder. It was a qualitatively different kind of work, something like the difference between the second chair violin at a moderately large big city high school, and someone like Itzhak Perlman.

I remember one session in particular. The client was a very attractive young woman in her late 30s with a severe kyphosis of the spine. In this condition the thoracic spine curves forward, producing a kind of hunch back. This is fairly common in elderly people, especially women, where is often referred to as a "widow's hump." It's extremely rare in younger people.

I had worked with this woman many times, and managed to reduce her aches and pains considerably, but her back remained bent. I was disappointed. I felt as if she could be better, if only I could do better. But how?

Finally, after some years of work, I asked if she had ever heard of MDMA psychotherapy. She said that she had, but knew little about it, even though she had tried MDMA herself a number of times. I proposed a session with both of us under the influence of the drug, and, after some consideration, she agreed.

On the appointed evening she came to my place. Not wanting to use my office, I had taken my table home, a safe and secure environment, very important for this kind of work. We consumed the appropriate amount, and waited.

About an hour later, as the drug came on, we began to talk. The talk soon developed into a session on the table. I began to work with her, but the work was of a completely different quality from my usual work. I seemed to know exactly what to do, and my hands made strange motions as I followed her movements. An invisible choreographer directed our actions toward some unknown end. I felt like a master dancer on an alien stage.

After some time the session reached a climax, and she screamed briefly as something released inside of her. After some time to integrate whatever had happened, she returned home.

Two days later she called.

"What was it like after?" I asked.

"Great," she replied. "Listen to this. For years, actually decades, my mom has been pestering me to stand up straight. The afternoon after our session I went over to her house, and she took one look at me and said, 'I'm glad that you finally decided to take my advice and straighten up.'" (!)

I told her that I was glad too.

I was amazed that after some 25 ordinary sessions, one single session using MDMA could make such a profound change. My goal is to eventually learn to work like that without using the drug. I think that the capacity to do such powerful work resides in the nervous system, and the drug simply releases it. It can be viewed as a tool to speed up learning, and to open new vistas of what is possible.

I like the descriptive "empathogen" which is applied to MDMA. The drug engenders a level of empathy between two people that reminds me of the idea of "grokking" presented in Robert A. Heinlein's wonderful SF novel Stranger In A Strange Land. To "grok" means to understand something at a very deep level, almost as if you had become the thing itself. When I take MDMA with another person, I almost feel as if I become the person, that I understand them in a very profound way. But, the understanding is not really expressed verbally, descriptively, but in action. During a session, this produces a qualitatively different and much superior way of working.

This kind of therapy holds great promise for making a better society by making better people. Hopefully it won't remain illegal for much longer.