Overcoming Trauma With Ayahuasca

Episode 23

Rachel Harris

Psychologist Rachel Harris, PhD, author of Listening to Ayahuasca, talks to us about the psychotherapeutic benefits of the ayahuasca ceremony. We hear about her transformative experiences with the ayahuasca spirit, and discuss how the psychedelic experience can help heal our psychological issues, with the right setting and guidance.

The full episode transcript is available here.

Podcast Highlights

Listen to the podcast to hear about:

  • Our parents being the source of all our trauma?
  • Someone reliving their worst nightmare every single time they took ayahuasca
  • Learning to overcome our personal dogmas using ayahuasca
  • Ayahuasca being the third part of a therapeutic trio
  • Challenging experiences having the most potential for healing

Rachel graduated from college in 1968, and studied in a residential program that focussed on meditation and bodywork. It was this training that gave Rachel a foundation for a different way of thinking from most psychology graduates. Since then, Rachel has worked for 35 years as a psychotherapist, specializing in psychospiritual development and transpersonal psychology.

Rachel had her first spiritual experiences with psychedelics in 1960s California – but it wasn’t until 2005 that she participated in her first ayahuasca ceremony. She drank ayahuasca with Ecuadorian shamans in Costa Rica, and was entranced by its therapeutic potential.

The ayahuasca ceremony can be particularly useful for the healing of trauma, says Rachel. Ayahuasca can help people to witness traumatic events in their lives, as if watching a film. This can allow therapists to do some effective work, and help people see their trauma from a new perspective. This can be really helpful for healing, says Rachel.

Rachel’s first ayahuasca experience took her back to the passing of her father. It helped her understand the terror she had felt at the time. She felt she had shared in her father’s death experience, and describes floating in the “cosmic silence” in pure ecstasy. She calls it a “lesson in how to die.”

It’s this kind of experience that could make ayahuasca an incredibly meaningful tool for psychotherapists.

Finally Rachel tells us about the occurrence of challenging experiences (aka “bad trips”) with ayahuasca. In her experience, every bad trip ends with the statement, “But I learned so much and would do it again.” Challenging experiences are unpleasant because they’re hitting on our psychological issues – but they can be a great source of healing.

Rachel’s book, Listening to Ayahuasca, is available now.

This Week in Psychedelics

The Third Wave’s founder, Paul Austin, will be speaking at the “Psychedelics for Professionals” event in NYC, on June 8th.

The Global Drugs Survey has released its 2017 results – find out more here!

Reader Interactions


  1. Avataririna says

    I have enjoyed your book Listening of Ayahuaswka” very much. exploring the Aya experience since 2012 living in Ecuador. Now back to Toronto. Wonder if you know any Torontians researchers whom are doing currently researches on Aya effects ?

  2. Avatardavid vox says

    This was an amazing episode! Psychologist Rachel Harris, PhD, is truly a wise voice in this world of therapeutic use of Auyahuascha.
    Thank you for bringing her voice forward!

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