Increases in Psychological Flexibility Mediate Relationship Between Acute Psychedelic Effects and Decreases in Racial Trauma Symptoms Among People of Color

This survey study (n=313) found that psychological flexibility mediated the relationship between acute psychedelic effects (acute insight & challenging experiences) and decreases in racial trauma among BIPOC.


Background: Previous research showed acute psychedelic effects were associated with decreases in racial trauma (RT) symptoms among black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC). Among samples comprised primarily of white participants, positive outcomes of psychedelic experiences have been mediated by increases in psychological flexibility. Therefore, we examined whether changes in psychological flexibility from before to after a psychedelic experience mediated the relationship between acute psychedelic effects and changes in RT symptoms among BIPOC.

Methods: This cross-sectional online survey study included 313 BIPOC (mean age =33.1; SD =11.2; female =57%). A multiple linear regression analysis was used to examine the association between acute psychedelic effects and decreases in RT symptoms in a nonclinical setting; a path analysis was used to explore whether changes in psychological flexibility mediated this relationship.

Results: Acute insight and challenging effects were significantly (p < .001) associated with decreases in RT symptoms following a psychedelic experience. Increases in psychological flexibility partially mediated relationships between greater intensity of psychological insight and less intensity of challenging experiences and decreases in RT symptoms (ps<.001).

Conclusion: This research suggests psychedelics confer potential benefits in decreasing RT symptoms among BIPOC and psychological flexibility may be an important mediator of these effects. Future research should test this hypothesis in a longitudinal clinical trial among BIPOC.

Authors: Alan K. Davis, Yitong Xin, Nathan D. Sepeda, Albert Garcia-Romeu & Monnica T. Williams


This paper uses the same participants as Williams and colleagues (2020).

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