Perceived benefits of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy beyond symptom reduction: qualitative follow-up study of a clinical trial for individuals with treatment-resistant PTSD

This long-term follow-up study (n=24) applied qualitative interviews, an interpretative phenomenological analysis, and quantitative questionnaires to assess the perceived benefits of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, following a two-year period after the completion of a Phase II clinical trial. Participant depictions of their experience before, during, and in the year after the treatment provide a rich context that demonstrates how MDMA-assisted psychotherapy can impact important areas of functioning as well as the overall quality of life, regardless of changes to PTSD symptoms.


Introduction: We present select findings from a long-term follow-up qualitative study of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for veterans, firefighters, and police officers suffering from chronic, treatment-resistant PTSD.

Methods: Semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted at participants’ one-year follow-up after a recently completed phase 2 clinical trial. Available interviews from 19 of 24 participants were analyzed. This qualitative analysis sought to complement, clarify, and expand upon the quantitative findings obtained from the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS-IV) and supported by the Long-Term Follow-Up (LTFU) Questionnaire. Pertinent data from interview transcripts were coded and analyzed using an interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) methodological framework. We explore prominent thematic elements from participant accounts to better understand the outcomes experienced in this trial.

Results: All participants reported experiencing lasting personal benefits and enhanced quality of life that extend beyond quantifiable symptom reduction.

Discussion: We explore a range of treatment benefits beyond symptom reduction to highlight the utility of qualitative investigations of the process and effects of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. Limitations and challenges encountered in conducting this study are discussed along with recommendations for improved qualitative research protocols in future clinical trials.”

Authors: William Barone, Jerome Beck, Michiko Mitsunaga-Whitten & Phillip Perl


This study is a qualitative investigation with the participants from an earlier study by Mithoefer and colleagues (2018). The specific group studied here is military veterans, firefighters, and police officers.

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