Bridging Trauma and Healing: A Journey through Psychedelic Therapist Training

In October, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) facilitated an MDMA-assisted therapy education program in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The program brought together 55 attendees from diverse backgrounds, with nearly 40 participants hailing from regions subjected to centuries of conflict, creating a unique environment for learning, healing, and reconciliation. Participants hailed from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ukraine, Serbia, Poland, Israel, Lebanon, Armenia, and the Czech Republic, reflecting a truly global community committed to mental health and trauma recovery.

A Journey Through History and Conflict Zones

The attendees’ origins highlighted the diversity of experiences and conflicts they carried with them. Bosnians and Serbians, Israelis and Lebanese, Ukrainians and Armenians, Poles and Czechoslovakians—each conflict woven into the fabric of their respective histories and individual traumas. For some, the journey to the training site was a testament to their commitment, with Ukrainians enduring a three-day bus ride to attend and the Bosnian contingent having a traumatic history with the location where the program was held.

In the Shadow of History

The backdrop to this training was a region steeped in historical turmoil. Bosnia and Herzegovina, having witnessed 18 genocides in two centuries, still bears the scars of the atrocities committed in the 1990s. The horrifying events of July 11, 1995, in Srebrenica, where 8,000 Bosnian men and boys were ruthlessly killed by the Serbian army, serve as a grim reminder of the deep-seated wounds.

Special Moments and Insights

Photo courtesy of MAPS

Throughout the training, moments of profound connection and understanding unfolded:

  • The “Sane Ukraine” initiative in Lviv, training thousands in mindfulness and embodiment techniques, underscored the transformative potential of trauma-informed care.
  • The poignant words of a Bosnian psychotherapist encapsulated the enduring psychological toll of war in the region. “We have lost thirty years to our minds being stuck in war and live in constant fear of the war that is to come.”
  • The idea that “the Balkans produce more history than they can absorb.”

Building Bridges, Healing Wounds

The presence of the founders of the Arab Psychedelic Society and Armenian Psychedelic Society signaled a shared commitment to fostering grassroots movements for change within their respective communities. Also, there was a moment when the therapists from Armenia shared a powerful gesture of solidarity with the Ukrainian participants, transcending political affiliations, exemplifying the spirit of unity felt throughout the program. These endeavors aim to bridge cultural divides and promote healing on a larger scale.

Healing in a War Zone

How can mental health care providers create space for people to heal even in the midst of an active armed conflict? The question was ever-present. Many attendees came from places experiencing war at this moment, and mitigating the ongoing traumas is an ongoing problem. The participants sought answers about how they’ll continue on—“how to live in the sorrow of all sorrows,” as one facilitator described it.

A Beacon of Hope

The MDMA-assisted therapy education program in Sarajevo has served as a beacon of hope and healing. As practitioners from diverse backgrounds come together to learn and share, they demonstrate the potential for transformation and reconciliation, even in the face of deep-seated historical wounds. Through their collective efforts, they pave the way for a future where trauma-informed care is accessible to all, transcending borders and divisions. MAPS looks forward to continuing our work and spreading our message of healing for all around the world.

MAPS is profoundly grateful to Dr. Bronner’s for their sponsorship of this event; and Steve and Genevieve Jurvetson, whose philanthropy also helped make this educational event possible.

Author Profile

Liana Sananda Gillooly

Liana Sananda Gillooly is a lifelong advocate for social justice, drug policy reform, ending war, and environmental protection. Liana has worked as a gallerist, art curator, event producer, and held management positions at Greenpeace and Essential Living Foods. She is a movement builder deeply committed to collective liberation, and works to build “the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible” by intersecting with movements in humane tech, regenerative ecology, indigenous protection, and purpose driven economics.

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