We’re delighted to announce the appointment of Dr. Rosalind Watts to the Synthesis Advisory Board. The Lead Clinical Psychologist at Imperial College London’s Centre for Psychedelic Research has been pioneering research in the therapeutic potential of psilocybin.
Dr. Rosalind Watts has been at the Centre for Psychedelic Research since 2015, leading the clinical team exploring the use of psilocybin as a treatment for depression, and training the rapidly growing number of health professionals who wish to explore the psychedelic treatment model. Before joining the Psychedelic Research Centre, for 6 years, Rosalind trained as a clinical psychologist and practised psychotherapy.
During her work she has developed a psychedelic therapy model she coined ACE, which stands for, ‘Accept, Connect, Embody’. Based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and the ‘Psychological Flexibility Model’, she mapped the phenomenological journey individuals go through when, under the influence of a psychedelic, they dive into their experience, extract the meaningful lessons to heal, and then integrate and embody them afterwards. She advocates non-directive psychotherapy as a helpful tool in the treatment of mental and emotional distress; rather than trying to ‘fix’ problems, suffering is explored with courage, curiosity and compassion, which helps individuals open up, connect to insight and rewrite their ‘story’.
Martijn Schirp, Co-Founder of Synthesis says, “the Synthesis team is excited that Rosalind joined our Advisory Board. Beyond being a brilliant therapist, she understands the tremendous role psychedelics can play in the healing of our disconnected society. Her extensive experience will play an integral role in how we optimise our training, research, and therapeutic initiatives.”
Rosalind Watts adds, “Although many of us think of psychedelics as dangerous drugs, it’s time for a rethink. When used carefully in clinical research settings, psychedelics have been reported to have a profoundly beneficial effect on many people’s lives. They are non-toxic, non- addictive, have very few side effects, and could potentially offer relief for people suffering from a range of psychological difficulties. As a scientific researcher working on the therapeutic benefits of psilocybin, I stand by Synthesis’ ethos to make psychedelics accessible to more people, implementing best practices for the community.”
Rosalind works alongside Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris, who has also just joined the Synthesis Advisory Board. The Centre for Psychedelic Research collects data from many retreat sites, and have recognised the consistently positive outcomes for people attending Synthesis retreats. Research found that the Synthesis experience had significantly reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression, improved wellbeing and emotional stability, and increased connection to self, others and nature. Rosalind’s interest in the Synthesis model was captured when she realised that connectedness scores were doubled after truffle retreats, as this is her area of particular interest. The Imperial college team and other medical research centres are currently restricted to individual psychedelic treatments sessions; however Synthesis is able to work with groups of people receiving psilocybin together, which may elevate the post psychedelic experience of connectedness further.
Rosalind has played a key role in both Psilocybin for Depression studies at Imperial. She was a therapist on Psilodep 1, which explored the use of psilocybin to treat individuals suffering from Treatment Resistant Depression (TRD). She is currently Clinical Lead for the ongoing, and much larger Psilodep 2, which is comparing Psychedelic Assisted Therapy with antidepressant medications (SSRIs). This landmark study is exploring how these treatments differ in their effects on the brain, and how effective they both are at reducing depression symptoms, and increasing connectedness and wellbeing in individuals suffering from Major Depressive Disorder (MDD).
The first study of its kind in the United Kingdom, the results of Psilodep 1 were remarkable. It strongly indicated that psilocybin represents a promising paradigm for unresponsive depression. Working with 20 people with treatment-resistant depression, 17 participants’ depression scores significantly dropped after a clinical psilocybin treatment. The reduction in depression scores was much larger than has been seen in trials of conventional treatments like antidepressants and talking therapy. Six months after the psilocybin session, six of the participants who had experienced long-term treatment-resistant depression, were still in remission. A 30% success rate of reducing symptoms of depression for a longer period is groundbreaking, because when people have tried most alternative treatments for severe depression, to no effect, psilocybin gave them the solution. The ongoing Psilodep 2 study will publish results when it finishes in summer 2020.
Rosalind has interviewed many of the Imperial study participants to enquire about their perspectives, which led to her Tedx Talk ‘Can Magic Mushrooms Unlock Depression?’. She comments that when comparing psilocybin with antidepressants they had tried, study participants were resolutely in favour of psilocybin, because immediate and long-lasting reductions in depression were accompanied by only very minor side effects (mild headaches), rather than the problematic list of very unpleasant side effects they had experienced with antidepressants, including emotional numbing. Rosalind concludes that Psilocybin treatment does not seek to ‘numb’ depression, instead it appears to be working on the root cause, to help people become more connected at a deeper level. This coincides with further developments in psychedelic research, for example, the US FDA has announced designated clinical psychedelic psilocybin therapy as ‘breakthrough therapy’ for depression.
Synthesis will be working with Rosalind to develop our offering for clinical therapy for depression, launching in 2020.
ROSALIND’S ROLE AS KEY SCIENTIFIC ADVISOR
- Developing new initiatives, such as implementing research to design tools to optimise Synthesis’ retreat model.
- Continuing scientific research through survey-based results with data from Synthesis participants.
- Developing a clinical model for next year to help people with mental health illnesses like depression.