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Psilocybin for Cancer-Related Anxiety and Depression: NYU Phase 2 Randomized Controlled Trial and Proposed Mechanisms
Stephen Ross, M.D., and Gabby Agin-Liebes, Ph.D. Candidate
Sunday, April 23, 2017 • 4:30 PM - 5:30 PM • East Hall
Continuing Education


Stephen Ross headshot

This presentation will provide an overview of theorized psychological mechanisms underlying the effects of Ross and colleagues’ (2016) psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy study for cancer-related distress, and explore how this treatment may lead to sustained therapeutic benefits, and facilitate growth and meaning-making. Guided by findings of a qualitative study of participant experiences utilizing Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis, hypotheses regarding psilocybin’s capacity to support self-awareness and self-transcendence, and facilitate the realization of the self as interdependent and relational through a metacognitive process of decentering, will be presented and explored.

Stephen Ross, M.D., is Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Child & Adolescent Psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine and Associate Professor of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, Radiology, and Medicine at the NYU College of Dentistry. He directs the Division of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse and the Opioid Overdose Prevention Program at Bellevue Hospital Center in New York City. He is Director of Addiction Psychiatry at NYU Tisch Hospital and Director of the NYU Addiction Psychiatry Fellowship. He is certified in General and Addiction Psychiatry by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN) and in Addiction Medicine by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM). Dr. Ross has received a dozen local and national teaching awards related to education of medical students, psychiatry residents, and post-graduate fellows. Dr. Ross is an expert on the therapeutic application of serotonergic hallucinogens to treat psychiatric and addictive spectrum illnesses. He directs the NYU Psychedelic Research Group and is Principal Investigator of the NYU Psilocybin Cancer Project. Dr. Ross receives his research funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Heffter Research Institute.


gabrille agin-liebes headshot

Gabrielle Agin-Liebes, Ph.D. Candidate, is completing her training in clinical psychology at Palo Alto University (PAU) under the joint mentorship of Matthew J. Cordova, Ph.D. and Josef Ruzek, Ph.D. She is a member of PAU’s Early Intervention Clinic (EIC) clinical research lab, which provides and evaluates evidence-based treatments to prevent trauma-related problems in recently traumatized individuals. As part of this research laboratory, Gabrielle is examining the effects of self-compassion on trauma-related guilt cognitions and shame. She is also an insight meditation group leader at Kara Grief Support Center in Palo Alto.

Gabrielle's other research focuses on novel and progressive psychotherapies for a variety of clinical indications, with areas of interest in anxiety, existential distress and traumatic stress disorders precipitated by life threatening illnesses. Through the University of California San Francisco, Gabrielle is co-leading the qualitative investigation of a pilot study examining the safety and feasibility of Psilocybin-Assisted Supportive-Expressive Group Psychotherapy for demoralization and existential distress in Long-term AIDS Survivors. Prior to beginning her graduate studies, Gabrielle served as Project Manager of the NYU School of Medicine Psychedelic Research Laboratory led by Stephen Ross MD in the Department of Psychiatry. Through the NYU laboratory, she has received funding to investigate the qualitative experiences of participants undergoing psilocybin treatment for cancer-related anxiety and alcohol dependence, and the phenomenological effects of religious leaders receiving psilocybin at NYU and Johns Hopkins University. Gabrielle's other research interests include the role of self-compassion in addiction recovery and the therapeutic applications of loving-kindness meditation and compassion-based mindfulness. Gabrielle's most recent work has been published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology and Journal of Humanistic Psychology.

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