Programme Leader: Pascal Michael, PhD

Psychedelics, Altered States and Transpersonal Psychology

Study the transpersonal nature of the psychedelic experience, altered states of consciousness and exceptional experiences.

Applications are now open for February 2025. Please contact us to receive further info and an application form.

Join us for the Open House

Wednesday, December 6th at 1800 GMT
Register in advance for this meeting.

Start date: February 2023. Length of study: 12 months, 100% online. Tuition: £3,300

 This programme does not promote or in any way involve the consumption of psychedelics.

Our one-year Psychedelics, Altered States and Transpersonal Psychology Certificate Programme at Alef Trust is now in its 4th year and provides a collaborative environment to study the transpersonal nature of the psychedelic experience, altered states of consciousness and exceptional experiences.

With a renaissance in psychedelic research suggesting that traditionally prohibited substances such as psilocybin and MDMA might have a valuable role to play in revolutionising psychiatry and in the treatment of mental health problems, this programme offers a roadmap through the complex psychological terrain of the psychedelic experience and other altered states of consciousness within the intellectual and therapeutic envelope of transpersonal psychology.

This programme of study will explore the transpersonal nature of the psychedelic experience and other altered states, drawing upon transpersonal psychology, parapsychology, cross-cultural psychiatry, neurobiology, cognitive neuroscience, anthropology, ethnobotany, and the study of religions, as well indigenous and psychonautics perspectives, among other disciplines.

It will cover the study of a range of transpersonal and exceptional experiences, such as mystical, shamanic and mediumistic experiences, inter-species communication, entity encounters (e.g., divine beings) , psi experiences, out-of-body and near-death experiences, insight and creativity, love, compassion, connectivity and empathy, and other experiences and concomitants of the psychedelic encounter.

In addition, you will learn of recent research developments in understanding the state induced by, and the potential applications of, psychedelics, as well the psychological outcomes of such states, and what the research tells us about integrating such experiences, including challenging experiences.

Taking a cross-disciplinary approach the programme will both encompass and challenge the prevailing ontology of materialistic-reductionism and draw upon multiple cross-cultural worldviews in the epistemology and interpretation of the psychedelic experience and other altered states.

While the course is dedicated to providing a highly rigorous and stimulating environment of academic/intellectual exploration of the transpersonal, the deeply interpersonal nature of the course itself should also be emphasised. Some could imagine that the online format of the course may be detached – but alongside the clear flexibility it affords, students reliably report their gratitude for the opportunity to belong to a new community of like-minded people just as curious and passionate as themselves. You may remain not just colleagues but friends long afterward.

This programme does not promote or in any way involve the consumption of psychedelics.

Accordion Content

Students studying on the Psychedelics, Altered States and Transpersonal Psychology certificate programme offered by Alef Trust CIC are required to abide by a set of responsibility statements that are included on the application form, to which they sign their agreement.

Alef Trust CIC disclaims liability for any eventualities that may occur following student behaviour that breaks the areas of responsibility.

In particular, within the context of activities undertaken as part of the programme, students must not engage in any illegal activity involving the use of substances that are controlled in the geographical region that they are in at the time.

Possession or supply of a controlled drug in the UK exemplifies such an illegal activity.

Alef Trust CIC accepts no liability for activities undertaken by students for personal exploration of altered states, when these are not sanctioned by the Programme Leader.

It is the responsibility of the student to pursue only those activities that adhere to local legal requirements, and to ensure their own safety and wellbeing at all times.

Programme overview

Accordion Content

  1. Explore the nature or altered states of consciousness induced by psychedelics and other techniques

  2. Learn about the variety of exceptional human experiences induced by altered states, and what challenges and potential opportunities for growth these can provide for the individual, for society and our ecosystems

  3. Discover the history and current uses of the study of altered states and psychedelics, the relevance of transpersonal psychology for personal growth, and the importance of multidisciplinary and transcultural perspectives in coming to understand the full spectrum of human experience

  4. Investigate your own personal mythology, the realm of the unconscious, the cognitive processes of the psychedelic experience, shamanic worldviews, the healing potential of transcendence, the nature of mind and the limits of experience, among other things

  5. Experience working with altered states as a means of personal growth and transformation, exploration, discovery, healing, connection and insight

  6. Develop a deeper understanding of; the range of experiences of altered states, approaches to their study and management, and the knowledge and wisdom embedded within transpersonal, indigenous, clinical, therapeutic, academic and psychonautic perspectives on altered states and exceptional human experience.

Applications for the programme are welcome from those having an interest in psychedelic and other altered states therapy and research within the context of transpersonal psychology. Candidates will be required to be sufficiently fluent in use of English to be able to study at this level.

A specific background in psychology or allied subject is not essential, although academic orientation to the subject matter will be beneficial.

Those attracted to the programme may be therapists and other clinicians, psychologists and other researchers and academics with an interest in psychedelics.

As well the interested lay public, such as:

  • practitioners of mind exploring activities – meditators, psychonauts, neo-shamans, lucid dreamers, etc.
  • those considering altered states practices for self-development or mental wellbeing
  • budding psychedelic researchers, entrepreneurs and investors interested in the psychedelic renaissance
  • as well the psychologically inclined and intellectually curious

This programme does not confer a qualification to work as a psychedelic psychotherapist, or as a therapist or counsellor, however it does provide a good grounding for those wishing to pursue such a career direction, and for clinicians, therapists and counsellors already working with altered states or seeking to do so.

The programme offers both a sound academic approach, rooted in transpersonal psychology, and practical reflexive supervised experience in the observation, study, research, exploration, care, or guidance of experiences in altered states.

We are currently witnessing a psychedelic research renaissance, as evidenced by the surge in academic publications of research papers on psychedelics, with dedicated centres for research opening up recently at leading institutions globally, such as Johns Hopkins University, USA,  Imperial College London, and at UC Berkeley, USA.

Furthermore, the announcement in 2018 that psilocybin and MDMA have been granted ‘breakthrough therapy’ status by the FDA in the US indicates that these substances are likely to be licensed for medical use in the next few years, ushering in venture capital investment in psychedelic pharmacology and therapy to the tune of an estimated $2bn this in 2020 alone. In 2023 Australia announced the medical licensing of both psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression and MDMA for PTSD. In addition there have numerous states and cities in the USA that have moved to legalisation or decrimialisation of psilocybin and other psychedelics. The UK has seen its first psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy clinic appear open, and in the US there are now already hundreds of  ketamine clinics for treating depression and addictions, which looked poised to adopt new psychedelic substances as they become licensed and legalised for medical use.

In addition, the considerable growth in ‘plant medicines’ recently has seen numbers of retreat centres internationally grow exponentially (e.g., in 2020 there were 70 ayahuasca retreat centres in the Iquitos region of Peru alone listed on Trip Advisor). The explosion of interest in psychedelics, coupled with the coming use in psychotherapy will require thousands of therapists, psychologists and ‘sitters’ (guides), versed in the transpersonal realms that emerge during a psychedelic experience.

The Certificate in Psychedelics, Altered States and Transpersonal Psychology is awarded by Alef Trust upon successful completion of the learning tasks – such as assignments and personal experiential work.

Programme tutors

David Luke, PhD

Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Greenwich, Honorary Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Psychedelic Research, Imperial College.

Pascal Michael

Pascal Michael, PhD

Pascal received a BSc Hons (University of Aberdeen) in Neuroscience, where he identified the neurotrophic capacity of the Omega-3 fatty-acid EPA, and an MSc (University College London) in Clinical Mental Health Sciences, exploring the post-acute effects on wellbeing of DMT. He completed a PhD at the University of Greenwich with Dr. David Luke, where his research encompassed nuanced qualitative analyses of mystical-type human experiences, both neuropharmacological and spontaneous.


Accordion Content

In this module you will explore the transpersonal nature of the psychedelic experience, drawing upon transpersonal psychology, parapsychology, cross-cultural psychiatry, neurobiology, cognitive neuroscience, anthropology, ethnobotany and the study of religions, among other disciplines. The module covers the applications and implications of transpersonal psychedelic experience, and the varieties of altered states of consciousness. You will also explore the history, culture and resources of the altered states community.

Overall, the module involves engaging in eight live webinars (4 interactive taught webinars + 4 group work seminars), as well as two online forums, and it is assessed with a group presentation and reflective account. There are also 1-2-1 meetings with tutors, dedicated reading and access to other resources.

The first part of this module focuses on transpersonal psychology and altered states. In the second part, we will go deeper into the mystical experience, before branching out in the third part into other exceptional experiences in altered states and their challenges and potential for personal growth. The final part provides an opportunity to start researching and exploring transformative experience.

This module also involves engaging in eight live webinars (4 interactive taught webinars + 4 group work seminars), as well as two online forums, and it is assessed with a 2500-word essay, peer-marking and a practice/experience module plan. There are also at least two 1-2-1 sessions with tutors in this module.

This is a practice-based/ experiential module, based on the reflexive engagement in some – ongoing or new –  activity that includes the observation of, and/or communication with individuals – self or other – that are pursuing an activity that often reliably induces altered states of consciousness – mild or otherwise

And takes the form of an ethnographic or auto-ethnographic report, such as:

  • using interviews
  • observations
  • journaling and commentary in relation published literature and research

The module could also be approached as a simple research project (e.g., case study, interviews, or survey) with participants engaged in an altered state of consciousness-inducing practice. Guidance, supervision, and, in some cases, introductions and directions towards appropriate organisations will be given by the course leader.

The module includes an introductory webinar, four live sharing circles with tutors, and ongoing online supervision of your project through emails and 1-2-1 meetings with tutors.

The final assessment consists of a 4000-word report and short live online presentation report in which creative expression is very much encouraged (e.g., student produced film, music, poetry, art, lecture, etc).

Some recent project titles:

  • Nature as a support for well being and integration of psychedelic experience
  • Tough Love – Description and integration of an extraordinarily challenging ayahuasca experience 
  • Exploring the relationship between psychedelics /entheogen use and social anxiety in neurodiverse individuals.
  • An personal exploration of temporal lobe epilsepy and shamanic drumming
  • A survey of the use of psychedelics at music festivals 
  • Psychedelic-assisted meditation training: an anonymous survey among meditators  
  • Shock and awe: Wild swimming and cold water emersion 
  • An intuitive inquiry and co-creative exploration into questions about death, death anxiety and ego dissolution after a psychedelic experience. 
  • Intuitive Inquiry into hypnotherapy as a treatment for addiction
  • Dream induction and harvesting as gateway to transformative events
  • An exploration of psychedelic integration through interviews with psychedelic therapists 
  • An in-depth survey of experiences of spiritual emergency with psychedelics

Every module we invite one or two special guest lecturers to give a special presentation or workshop about their area of expertise, which often especially excites students. Past examples include, Dr. Rosalind Watts, Maria Papaspyrou, and Iryana Mosina…

Iryana is an alumnus of this professional certificate (2022-23 cohort) and has gone on to continue her research interests, for instance, at academic conferences. Her guest webinar was entitled “Consciousness Exploration in Recreational Settings: Motivation, Nature of Experiences & Learnings”, based on her own results of a research study carried out for her final project on the certificate. The study investigated recreational use of psychedelics at music festivals, asking the question whether the resulting experiences could possibly be recognised as valuable in terms of preventive mental health strategies. Quantitative & qualitative methods illuminated 3 main topics: motivation for the setting choice; the nature of the resulting experiences & their influence on people’s lives; learnings from psychedelic experiences at music festivals.

Maria Papaspirou is a Senior accredited psychotherapist and author based in Brighton, UK, as well as the co-founder of the Institute of Psychedelic Therapy. Her webinar was entitled “Jungian Perspectives on Psychedelic Integration”, exploring Carl Jung’s work which shed light on the psyche in ways that were more aligned with indigenous than psychological traditions. The collective unconscious and archetypes can illuminate our deep experiences through expanded states in unique ways. Jung’s map of the psyche was discussed, and its relevance to the psychedelic experience with regards to preparation, the session and integration.

Rosalind Watts’ was Clinical Lead of the Psilocybin for Depression Study at Imperial College London, which facilitated over a hundred psilocybin treatment sessions in just over a year. She has published qualitative research into the psychological mechanisms of psilocybin treatment, a model of psychedelic therapy- ‘Accept, Connect, Embody (ACE)’ -and designed a psychometric tool for measuring connectedness. Her webinar was entitled “Psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy and ecopsychology: A fireside discussion“, exploring the current psychedelic research renaissance, the treatment of mental health conditions such as depression with psychedelics like psilocybin, and the role of transpersonal psychology and ecopsychology.

Frequently asked questions

Accordion Content

This one-year course is considered part time. It includes three modules, spanning four months each. The course offers an immersive and intensive learning journey that is designed to stretch you.

You can expect to spend approximately 10-12 hours per week studying learning resources, partaking in webinars, communicating in forums, preparing assignments, and engaging in peer dialogue, as well as supervision sessions.

The course structure should be manageable alongside your other responsibilities. We will provide you with comprehensive schedule information, so you can plan ahead.

Psychedelics – “mind/soul manifesting” – or entheogens – “creating the divine within” – are substances that stimulate profound qualitative changes to one’s state of consciousness.

These substances, in the form of flora, fungi, and occasionally fauna, have been used by humans for millennia in their magico-spiritual practices, often termed ‘shamanic’.

More recently these substances have been explored scientifically and medically for their potentially beneficial properties in the treatment of psychological and, increasingly, physical health problems, as well as in the catalysis of creative problem solving and spiritual insight, and for personal growth.

Core to the psychedelic and altered states journey is the enhanced occurrence of ‘exceptional human experiences’ – a range of psychic manifestations that have largely been ignored, pathologized or demonised within Western culture – but which can be a wellspring of personally transformative events that can lead to psychological, philosophical, moral, spiritual, ecological and inter-personal reorientation, insight, healing and growth, albeit dependent to a large extent upon of a culture and community of understanding, preparation, integration and acceptance.

In the current era of what has been called the psychedelic research renaissance, it is becoming increasingly important to explore, study and understand the transpersonal dimension of psychedelic experiences, and concomitantly other altered states of consciousness, as these have been shown to go hand in hand with these experience and they have important implications for the treatment of psychological conditions in clinical research.

Furthermore, much can be learned about the nature of consciousness and its underlying neurobiology from examining the transpersonal nature of psychedelic experiences and other altered states and this research is at the cutting edge of consciousness research.

Now that psychedelics are once again on the menu as mental health treatments, and as more and more people take psychedelics and explore other altered states for personal growth, psychological healing, creativity, insight, and spiritual, intellectual and philosophical stimulation there will become an increasing need for people to understand, embrace and deal with the transpersonal dimensions of human consciousness.

It is a strong assertion that students do not participate in any illegal activity – e.g., some psychedelics are controlled substances in some countries – nor endanger themselves mentally or physically beyond their normal activities, experience or ability, and that they take responsibility for themselves, nor put anyone else at risk.

Prospective students are indeed able to collect data, quantitative or qualitative, from participants who are reporting on their own psychedelic experiences. No implicit or explicit advocation or encouragement of such use is acceptable. Ethical approval will always have to be sought by students and approved by the course leaders.

Any proposal for reflexive study that is considered a risk in this regard, beyond that individual’s current experience and activity will be rejected.

All research-based projects must be ethically sound to be accepted.

Observation can either be one’s personal activity – example pursuits above –  or the research – e.g., ethnography, online survey, case report – of others’ experience.

Examples of observation and research of others’ activities could include reflexive reports of working with people having psychedelic experiences.

Such as a therapist, a retreat experience ‘sitter’/facilitator, or as a festival drug welfare volunteer.

Ethnographic research, such as interviews, live observation – with trance mediums, neo-shamanic practitioners, meditators, yoga practitioners, etc.

Or anonymous online surveys exploring telepathic experiences among MDMA users.

Student stories

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