rachel harris podcast

In our latest Psychedelic Times podcast, Joe Mattia speaks with Dr. Rachel Harris, psychotherapist, ayahuasca researcher, and author of the wonderful book Listening to Ayahuasca: New Hope for Depression, Addiction, PTSD, and Anxiety. In this hour-long conversation, Rachel and Joe discuss a wide array of subjects surrounding ayahuasca, including the importance of family connections, the process of becoming a shaman, the link between ayahuasca and nature, and much more.

You can listen to our hour-long podcast with Rachel Harris here:

You can also stream this podcast on iTunesLibsyn and Stitcher, or download it as an MP3 by right-clicking and choosing “Save As.”


Center for Psychedelic Therapies and Research
CIIS created the Center for Psychedelic Therapy and Research (the Center) in 2015 to address the demand for trained psychotherapists to work in the expanding field of psychedelic studies. The Center is directed by clinical psychologist Dr. Janis Phelps, who is also a professor in the East-West Psychology program.

Dr. Bronner’s
Dr. Bronner’s was founded in 1948 by Emanuel Bronner, a third- generation master soapmaker. He used the labels on his superb ecological soaps to spread his message that we must realize our unity across religious & ethnic divides or perish: “We are All-One or None!” Still family-owned and run, Dr. Bronner’s honors its founder’s vision by continuing to make socially & environmentally responsible products, and by dedicating our profits to help make a better world.

Show Notes:

Ayahuasca and family healing [1:00]
Ayahuasca and nature [2:23]
Esalen in the 60’s [4:00]
The War on Drugs [5:40]
Underground ayahuasca research [6:25]
Accounts of “miracle cures” [9:20]
Ayahuasca integration [12:20]
Spiritual bypass [15:10]
Psychotherapy vs. integration [17:15]
Finding ayahuasca [20:05]
Becoming a shaman [20:10]
Navigating difficult experiences [23:00]
The importance of lineage [24:55]
How psychedelics affect the brain [28:35]
Traumatic experiences on ayahuasca [31:00]
Traditional vs. underground ayahuasca use [34:15]
Psychedelic research challenges [36:30]
Why ayahuasca? [41:25]
Psychic surgery [45:00]

Selected Quotes:

On Dr. Harris’ underground ayahuasca research:
“It was underground research. It didn’t go through a human subjects committee, I was not part of the university, and so the data collection was through networking with people. People would take a bunch of questionnaires and hand them out to their friends, and it was just a rolling kind of admission through the networks, both on the east coast and on the west coast and a couple in the middle. And this was in 2009, maybe 2008-2011; it was a long number of years of data collection. The questionnaire itself was 16 pages, which is crazy for a research questionnaire. It took people hours to complete it; it was mostly essay questions. And people were thrilled to write to me and to complete the whole questionnaire. It was very touching for me to experience this, in this community.”

On ayahuasca neo-shamans:
“What I want to talk about is, how many years does it take to become a shaman? In our culture, we don’t really appreciate what an apprenticeship means… we should be talking about decades. And there are now some programs where you can go to a retreat center in Peru for 6 weeks and be trained- I can hardly say it without laughing- you can be trained to be a shaman. I mean, it doesn’t make any sense to me. So I want to really emphasize that there’s a long personal process in really learning how to manage these ceremonies and use this medicine, as well as a whole array of other medicines, in ways that are helpful and healing.”

On the difference between taking ayahuasca in the jungle vs. underground in the US:
“Yeah, it’s a world of difference… the big thing they talk about is the sounds of the jungle, because they’re in open air and the jungle becomes a part of the ceremony- and that’s pretty difficult to duplicate up here. And so we lose that, and that’s a terrible loss- that we’re not in raw nature when we’re doing a ceremony. That’s one of the big challenges: finding a place amongst trees and nature. This is a medicine that reconnects people to nature and to the planet, as well as the cosmos. That’s one of the standard things that comes, is a wanting to be closer to nature.”

Explore Links Related to this Podcast:

Listening to Ayahuasca: Interview with Dr. Rachel Harris
Underground Ayahuasca: Discussing Pitfalls and Therapeutic Potential with Dr. Rachel Harris
Esalen’s Psychedelic Legacy: 9 Psychedelic Pioneers Who Taught at the Esalen Institute