Forerunners of the ISSP


As early as the beginning of the 1960s, the Swiss company Sandoz (which discovered LSD and isolated psilocybin from fungi and made it available to researchers and psychotherapists) suggested that an organization should be founded that could control its distribution. It should monitor the professional qualifications of researchers and therapists and set training and therapy standards. But it was not until May 1965, during the second international conference on "LSD in Psychotherapy and Alcoholism" in Amityville (USA) that such an organization was started by LSD therapists. It is documented that conference participants pointed in their discussions to the overlap of psycholytic and psychedelic therapy and that an organization called the "International Association for Psychodelytic Therapy" should be founded. For reasons that are no longer clear, this organization never made it past the planning stage.

One predecessor of the ISSP was the European Medical Society for Psycholytic Therapy (EPT), which was founded in 1965 by hallucinogen researcher and LSD therapist Professor Hanscarl Leuner of the University of Göttingen (Germany) and other therapists working with LSD. The EPT had about 50 medical members, mainly from Germany, Scandinavia and Czechoslovakia. Between 1965 and 1975, the EPT organised about 10 symposia on psycholytic therapy, partly separately and partly integrated within larger congresses.

Some attempts to set up an international advocacy group after the ban on psychedelic substances failed. In the early 1980s, the attempt to found the American Association of Physicans for the Advancement of Psychedelic Medicine by LSD therapists Francesco B. Di Leo and Richard Yensen from Baltimore (USA) failed. The Association for Psychedelic Healing planned in the USA in the 1970s never came into existence.

Around 1980, the Association for the Responsible Use of Psychedelics (ARUPA) was founded as a network of doctors and psychotherapists interested in the therapeutic use of psychedelics. ARUPA was never an official organization, nor did its members want it to be. It saw itself more as a loose network of interested parties. In the years 1980-1985, ARUPA invited selected therapists and researchers to informal meetings at the Esalen Institute on the California coast. This was the low point of therapeutic research. In addition to the exchange of information, some later research projects were inspired here. A focus of interest became the potential of MDMA from 1980 onward.

Efforts for MDMA-supported psychotherapy were accelerated by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), founded by psychedelic enthusiast Rick Doblin in 1986. It is still a recognized non-profit organization today. MAPS supports a wide range of studies with psychedelics, with an emphasis on therapy. With painstakingly gathered private donations and great commitment, MAPS has led MDMA-supported psychotherapy for the indication of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) through the currently ongoing phase 3 studies ( MAPS is seeking a non-commercial approval of MDMA for the treatment of PTSD.

After the EPT ended in 1973, Prof. Leuner, experimental psychologist Prof. Adolf Dittrich, LSD discoverer Albert Hofmann and several others founded the European Collegium for Consciousness Studies (ECBS) in 1986 to coordinate multidisciplinary research on changed states of consciousness and psychedelics in Europe. After the successful organization of three international congresses and national symposia as well as a series of publications, the ECBS ceased its activities in 2004.

The Swiss Medical Association for Psycholytic Therapy (SÄPT) was founded in 1986 and still exists today. It is an association of doctors, psychologists and other therapists who are interested in substance-supported psychotherapy. From 1988 to 1993, five SÄPT psychiatrists received an exceptional license to use LSD and MDMA in psychotherapy. After two SÄPT psychiatrists had successfully carried out scientific studies on LSD- and MDMA-supported psychotherapy beginning in 2010, they (and later a few other psychiatrists) were granted special permits by SÄPT for psycholytic therapy with MDMA and LSD as part of a compassionate use program.