Richard Zeifman

Richard Zeifman

Richard is a PhD student in Clinical Psychology at Ryerson University. Richard’s research focuses on evidence-based interventions for highly suicidal individuals. He is particularly interested in augmenting psychotherapeutic interventions with psychedelics and related pharmacological agents (e.g., ayahuasca, MDMA). Richard’s research also focuses on emotion regulation, mindfulness and self-compassion​ as mechanisms of change in interventions for suicidal individuals. In the Borderline Personality Disorder Clinic at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Richard contributed toward a clinical trial exploring the efficacy of dialectical behavior therapy for treatment of borderline personality disorder. He is currently completing a practicum at the Anxiety Treatment and Research Clinic at St. Joseph’s Hospital, where he is conducting psychological assessments and psychotherapy for anxiety and trauma related disorders. ​

Ayahuasca as an Intervention for Suicidality

Suicide is a major public health problem, accounting for nearly one million deaths annually. Given increasing suicide rates, global financial burden due to suicide and limitations surrounding current interventions, there is an urgent need for innovative interventions for suicidality (NIMH, 2014). One potentially promising intervention for suicidality are psychedelics (e.g., ayahuasca). Research shows that psychedelics are efficacious as interventions for mental health issues associated with suicidality, including depression and hopelessness. Additionally, lifetime use of psychedelics is associated with lower suicidality and risk of becoming suicidal. However, research has not yet experimentally explored the therapeutic efficacy of psychedelics as an intervention for suicidality. Therefore, using data from a randomized placebo-controlled trial of ayahuasca for treatment-resistant depression, we conducted secondary analyses on the impact of ayahuasca on clinician rated suicidality (MADRS; Montgomery and Asberg, 1979). Compared with placebo (n=15), one dose of ayahuasca (n=14) resulted in large reductions in suicidality (Cohen’s d=1.18, p=.005), that were sustained seven-days after intervention (Cohen’s d=1.22, p=.003). These findings expand upon research on the potential for using psychedelics, such as ayahuasca, as an intervention for difficult to treat mental health issues. Furthermore, they highlight the potential for using psychedelics as an intervention for suicidality.