Dr. Alexander Belser – How Privilege Affects Gender Inclusivity in Psychotherapy

June 18, 2019
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In this episode, Kyle interviews Dr. Alexander Belser, a Clinical Researcher who has done a variety of works in the psychotherapy and psychedelic fields, helping patients heal from depression, OCD, suicide, and other illnesses, all while focusing on gender neutrality and equality. In this episode, they cover topics on privilege, inclusivity and recommendations for the psychedelic space.

3 Key Points:

  1. Privilege is commonly seen in therapist roles and as well in an individual’s access to treatment. It’s important for the psychedelic community to be vocal about privilege and be inclusive of all types of people, all repressed groups.
  2. Psychedelics have the power to help people come to terms with their own sexuality, as well as become accepting of other individuals sexual identification.
  3. In order to see more equality in the psychedelic space, we need to confront structural heterosexism and transfobia, retire the male/female therapy diad, and develop acknowledgement in the psychedelic world of the stresses that LGBTQ people face.

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Show Notes

About Alexander

  • Alexander started attending psychedelic conferences in college
  • He works at Yale currently, treating individuals with major depressive disorders with psilocybin assisted psychotherapy
  • He lives in New York and works on a team for the MAPS, MDMA trial for the treatment of PTSD

Queering Psychedelics

  • Queering Psychedelics is a Conference put on with the help of Chacruna
  • Its an opportunity for Queer folk to come together and talk about psychedelic medicine
  • Alexander’s presentation was on Queer Critique for the Psychedelic Mystical Experience

Privilege and Inclusivity

  • People with more privilege have more power, more access to funding, more access to expanding the research agenda
    • Many of the people in psychedelic research are privileged, white, cisgender individuals (and Alexander believes they are using the privilege for good)
    • But it’s important for the psychedelic community to be vocal about privilege and be inclusive of all types of people, all repressed groups
  • Alexander thinks that we need to eliminate the male/female diad
    • The typical structure for psychedelic therapy is to have a male cisgender therapist and a female cisgender therapist
    • But Alexander thinks this is gender essentializing
    • Its totalizing of gender, assuming that the masculinity is held by the male therapist, and femininity is held by the female therapist
    • Alexander thinks that the therapists should be more gender neutral
  • Its essential to assess the individual needs of the client for specific gender pairing


  • Alexander’s Reccomendations
    • Confront Structural Heterosexism and Transfobia
    • Retire the Male/Female Therapy Diad
    • Acknowledgement in the Psychedelic world of the stress that LGBTQ people face
  • We need to be able to run moderation analyses to see if a type of psychedelic treatment works the same for sexual minority populations as it does for straight folks
    • Are there unique clinical considerations for sexual minorities?
  • The psychedelic Renaissance is maturing and reaching a point where our approaches can be more inclusive
    • He thinks it’s important for straight folks to think about this too
    • “We all suffer, including straight folks, in a world where the idea of gender and sexuality is firmly printed as either being A or B. It’s a disservice to our identities.” – Alexander
  • It is common to feel “oneness” after a psychedelic experience, and it’s common for gender roles to change throughout the process
    • And on the flip side, maybe our perception of other people’s gender (homophobia) transforms from a psychedelic experience, and we can become more accepting of other forms of gender

Mystical Experience

  • When people score higher on the mystical experience questionnaire (profound unity, transcendence of time and space) its predictive of their improvements on depression and anxiety
  • It’s important to be mindful of what value we put on marginalized people’s psychedelic experiences
  • The most common issue Alexander sees is people feeling ‘stuck’ in these bodies
    Psychedelic medicine encourages (at least in appeal) embodiment

Final Thoughts

  • First, we need to come to terms with our own internalized homophobia, transphobia and racism
  • Together, we learn from each other, how to dismantle types of patriarchal, homophibic and transphobic structures
  • MDMA expanded access may probably end up being very expensive, we need to think about privilege and access to mental healthcare broadly
  • It’s not just about diversity, Alexander encourages people to create allies
    • He has hope that we can proceed with integrity in these topics


Alexander’s website
Center for Breakthroughs

About Dr. Alexander Belser

Alexander Belser, Ph.D., is a Clinical Research Fellow and clinical supervisor at Yale University. He is the Co-Investigator of two studies at Yale exploring psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy to treat OCD and depression. His research with sexual minority people has focused on preventing suicide among adolescents and on the protective role of gay-straight alliances for students. Dr. Belser was a founding member of the Psychedelic Research Group at NYU in 2006, and he is currently an Adjunct Faculty member in NYU’s graduate program in Counseling Psychology. He has been a researcher on various psychedelic studies of depression, anxiety, OCD, addiction, trauma, and among religious leaders. He is a study therapist for the MAPS study of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD. Dr. Belser serves as a peer reviewer and has published peer-reviewed articles on topics such as psychedelic mysticism, altruism, patient experiences in psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy, cancer and psychedelic therapy, case studies, psilocybin treatment and posttraumatic growth (forthcoming).