World-first clinical trial places St Vincent’s at the forefront of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy


Image: Clinical psychologist and Chief Principal Investigator Dr Margaret Ross and psychiatrist Dr Justin Dwyer

Researchers at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne (SVHM) are undertaking a clinical trial into psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy for terminally ill patients experiencing debilitating depression and death-anxiety.  

Esteemed clinical psychologist Dr Margaret Ross and psychiatrist Dr Justin Dwyer are examining the use of psilocybin, combined with psychotherapy, to potentially offer an effective treatment for the depression and death-anxiety often experienced by these patients. 

ABC’s Australian Story will feature the trial in an episode on Monday 22 May at 8pm. The episode includes a patient from the trial, Lindy Bok, who shared some of her insights and experiences using psilocybin-assisted therapy.

Read more about the episode on ABC News.

The St Vincent’s trial is an Australian-first, and a world-first in that it investigates psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy for patients with a variety of terminal illnesses, not only cancer, as has been the focus of other studies in the past. 

The trial aims to reduce depression and death-anxiety in terminally ill patients, particularly those nearing end-of-life and suffering fear, demoralisation and depression, who don’t respond to traditional anti-depressant and anti-anxiety therapies. 

Lead therapist and Chief Principal Investigator of the trial, Dr Margaret Ross, describes the trial as one of the most exciting developments in psychiatric research in decades.

“There are very few treatments available for people experiencing distress around dying, so it is a privilege to lead research into this innovative treatment that has the potential to help some of our most vulnerable patients,” says Dr Ross.

“We are hopeful the trial treatment will not only alleviate existential fear and distress but may potentially offer an enriching and beneficial experience for people approaching end-of-life.”

Dr Ross says findings from overseas trials and the experiences of the St Vincent’s trial participants suggest that the benefits of psychedelic-assisted therapy can be significant if used correctly in a clinical setting.

“When used by skilled psychotherapists in a clinical setting, the benefits of psychedelic-assisted therapy can transform people's lives.

“It is important that people are aware that the drug and therapy are inseparable. It is not a simple pill that is taken in isolation. It is a week-long psychotherapy process that uses the psychedelic drug to amplify the psychotherapy experience.”

The St Vincent’s trial involves 35 terminally patients. Participants undergo two dose sessions – the first is a randomised controlled dose (either niacin or psilocybin). Then several weeks later, they receive an open-label dose of psilocybin in conjunction with guided psychotherapy. 

The trial recently finished its treatment phase and is not accepting new patients. It is expected to be completed in late 2023.

Further updates about the trial and its results will be available on our website as this information becomes available.

For media inquiries regarding the trial, please contact