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Psychedelics and end of life distress

I've been asked to write a short book section on "Psychedelics and dying" and that has nudged me into looking at this territory here on the blog.  It's a fascinating subject in all kinds of ways.  With the limited space I have, I'd like to comment briefly on four overlapping areas.  One is the growing body of research showing that psychedelic-assisted therapy can dramatically ease severe existential distress associated with terminal illness.  A second, less well studied area, is the observation that psychedelic experience reduces death anxiety in the general population.  Thirdly, it's interesting to note the similarities between some descriptions of psychedelic states and reports of near death experiences.  And lastly I'd like to talk about how psychedelics might produce these effects.

Glasgow BABCP conference: Pre-conference workshop - Michelle Craske on 'Exposure therapy in the 21st century' (2nd post)

I recently wrote a first blog post introducing the excellent workshop that Michelle Craske ran before this year's BABCP annual conference.  It's easy to see Michelle's work as only relevant for improving outcomes in exposure therapy of anxiety disorders.  However I think these ideas are important much more widely than this.  Probably most of us have significant areas of our lives where we would benefit if we had the belief & courage to change.  Self-determination theory research has underlined the wellbeing benefits of living more autonomously, while Shalom Schwartz's work on values highlights how self-direction in thought & action (when balanced with warm-heartedness & kindness) is so widely respected all around the world (for more on this important balance, see the se

Glasgow BABCP conference: Pre-conference workshop - Michelle Craske on 'Exposure therapy in the 21st century' (1st post)

This pre-conference workshop with Michelle Craske on "Exposure in the 21st century" was great.  A few years ago - in the blog post "Maximising exposure therapy" - I wrote "Michelle Craske & colleagues from the Anxiety Disorders Research Center of UCLA have, for many years, been publishing careful, challenging research on underlying mechanisms & on ways of boosting the effectiveness of exposure therapies for different forms of anxiety.  Michelle's list of publications & research presentations runs to 50 pages and begins with a study on musical performance anxiety published in 1984.

Reappraisal training can help hugely in coping with difficult experiences

Reappraisal (changing the meaning we give to experiences) has been repeatedly shown to be one of the most effective ways we have to regulate our emotions.  It's one of the star components of effective emotion-regulation, coping-skill toolkits ... and it's important to realise that these toolkits can be very helpful (De Castella, 2017).  Reappraisal is important across a variety of difficult states ... depression (Cheng, 2017), anxiety (Goldin, 2017), anger, interpersonal conflict, minor hassles (Richardson, 2017), and major life difficulties.

Kidney donation: preoperative preparation & facing challenges generally - aspects of self-compassion

I've woken early.  Lying here I feel an unfamiliar hollow pressure in my gut.  What is this?  Fear?  Anxiety? Tension?  "Tense apprehension" seems to fit.  I'm lying here in the early hours of the morning, a hollow tense apprehension in my belly.  And it isn't surprising.  Pretty normal in fact as I move closer & closer to major surgery.  Consciously.  By my own decision.  On this journey, travelling down the "kidney donation river", I can hear the roar of the approaching rapids.  Surgery soon.  It's a pretty standard, basic, healthy response to tense a bit as I move towards the crux, possibly the most intense section of this "donation river".  And I don't have to tighten the rest of my body around the belly apprehension.  I can let go, loosen in my arms, my face.  It's OK. Nothing to do right now.

Kidney donation: preoperative preparation & facing challenges generally - goals and journey

I'm due to donate a kidney soon, and I have been writing about what's involved - see "Kidney donation: why it's well worth considering", "Kidney donation: what are the risks?" and "Kidney donation: preoperative preparation & facing challenges generally - values are central".  Primarily these posts are for other donors, but aspects of what I write are also relevant for facing challenges more generally as well.

Kidney donation: preoperative preparation & facing challenges generally - values are central

I'm soon due to have an operation on my left kidney.  I'm donating it anonymously to someone else who needs it pretty desperately.  I have already written about this process - see "Kidney donation: why it's well worth consideringand "Kidney donation: what are the risks?".  Primarily these kidney-focused blog posts are to help other donors and their families & friends.  However, some aspects of the posts are likely to be of interest more generally.  For example, these ones on pre-operative preparation have some relevance to many situations where one is facing a potentially daunting challenge.

Non-drug treatments for bipolar disorder (1st post) - the value of psychotherapy

I am due to give a talk for the Lothian branch of "Bipolar Scotland" on "Recent research on non-drug treatments for bipolar disorder".  Here is the downloadable Powerpoint presentation (with pictures removed to reduce the size of the file) and here is a slide illustrating the main points that I touch on:

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