W48 – Psychedelic-Assisted Psychotherapy in Palliative and Cancer Care

W48 – Psychedelic-Assisted Psychotherapy in Palliative and Cancer Care

Saturday, Oct. 29
14:30 – 15:30 (1 hr)
Meeting Room: Sheraton Hall A (Lower Concourse)
Daniel Rosenbaum*, MD; Sarah Hales, MD, PhD; Emma Hapke, MD

CanMEDS Roles:

  1. Medical Expert
  2. Collaborator
  3. Leader

At the end of this session, participants will be able to: 1) Describe the psychedelic-assisted therapy paradigm; 2) Discuss key findings from contemporary clinical trials of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy in palliative and cancer care; and 3) Apply knowledge to care for patients with cancer-associated distress and consider how psychedelic-assisted therapy might fit within the fields of palliative and cancer care.

Advanced cancer and other life-threatening illnesses bring multiple mental and physical challenges for patients, ranging from practical (e.g., complex treatment decisions, shifting relationships) to profound (e.g., life closure, sense of meaning and purpose, existential concerns). Evidence suggests psychotherapy can reduce mortality-related distress and should be offered as a key component of palliative care. Preliminary research has also shown promising results of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy for reducing distress in patients with advanced illnesses. Contemporary clinical trials have demonstrated rapid, robust, and enduring benefits after a course of treatment involving a single high-dose psychedelic session. Importantly, this intervention appears to be safe and well tolerated in this patient population. Of course, many important questions and opportunities for study remain, including what therapeutic mechanisms are at work and what therapeutic protocols may optimize outcomes.

In this workshop, we will review the key components of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy for patients with advanced illnesses and consider the place of psychedelic-assisted therapy in the context of shifting laws and public opinions about access to psychedelics in Canada. A case presentation will shed light on elements of this complex treatment modality, which differs from both conventional pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy. This interactive workshop will include audience polls, breakout groups, and Q and A periods, providing time to discuss and learn together. We will encourage participants to reflect on their attitudes toward psychedelic therapy and consider where and how psychedelic therapy may be integrated within palliative and cancer care settings.


  1. Bossis AP. Utility of psychedelics in the treatment of psychospiritual and existential distress in palliative care: a promising therapeutic paradigm. In: Grob CS, Grigsby J, editors. Handbook of Medical Hallucinogens. New York (NY): Guilford Press; 2021. p 441–73.
  2. Beaussant Y, Tulsky J, Guérin B, et al. Mapping an agenda for psychedelic-assisted therapy research in patients with serious illness. J Palliat Med 2021;24:1657–66.