LSD and psychotherapy in 1958
July 9, 2010 4:39 PM   Subscribe

Cary in the Sky with Diamonds. "Before Timothy Leary and the Beatles, LSD was largely unknown and unregulated. But in the 1950s, as many as 100 Hollywood luminaries—Cary Grant and Esther Williams among them—began taking the drug as part of psychotherapy. With LSD research beginning a comeback, the authors recount how two Beverly Hills doctors promoted a new 'wonder drug,' at $100 a session, profoundly altering the lives of their glamorous patients." [Via]
posted by homunculus (12 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
posted by homunculus at 4:39 PM on July 9, 2010

Geez. How many more times for this one?
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 6:07 PM on July 9, 2010

The attitude of the therapists reminds me of my dad. My mom, dying of cancer, was given a joint of strong pot by my sister to help with the chemo nausea. Strangely, my dad, a psychiatrist, just read in the other room while Mom was having her first psychedelic experience.

When asked about how it felt, she said, "Well, it was funny. I really felt like going to the refrigerator...but I just couldn't get out of bed!"
posted by kozad at 6:23 PM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

In some sense, all these women were living the lives they had been raised to think they wanted. John Foreman later summarized the classic conundrum of marriages in the 1950s: “The guy rides up on a white horse, sweeps the girl off her feet, and says, ‘Marry me and I’ll give you everything you want.’ Years pass and the wife comes to the painful conclusion that she is miserable. ‘Why are you unhappy?’ asks the husband. ‘What do you want?’ ‘I don’t know,’ the wife responds helplessly. ‘I thought you knew and were going to give it to me.’ ”

Is it just me or is Hollywood totally obsessed with this theme? It's like they keep making the same movie over and over and over thinking "Why is my wife unhappy? Why is my wife unhappy?" while they're in the midst of pounding away at the newest starlet they cast in the role of their unhappy wife in the movie.
posted by amethysts at 7:24 PM on July 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

I have to ask, how long was this $100 session? Did the therapists dose the clients, wait 1/2 hour for them to come on, and then hold their hands during the rush, and send them out to the secretary for billing, at the end of the hour? Help me with this. Do you think the therapists in that day, worked 12 hours for $100, or just did serious malpractice?
posted by Oyéah at 7:50 PM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

If Dragnet (the 60's version) is to be believed, LSD was legal until 1966 or so, as they had an episode where Joe Friday got to go bust some kids when "they got their law" and it became illegal.
posted by rfs at 7:58 PM on July 9, 2010

Just the facts, man, just the facts.
posted by Oyéah at 8:05 PM on July 9, 2010

Ha.. this reminds me of the last time I saw my old pal Tim Leary.

I was walking down Haight Street, a block from my apartment in San Francisco, and there is Timothy Leary, standing at a pay phone, fumbling in his pocket for some change. I couldn't believe it, here is my old friend, on Haight, and nobody even recognizes him. So I approached him and said, "Timothy, what are you doing here in The City?" He said he was doing his cybernetics and psychology lecture tour. We chatted about that for a bit, since I was his old "computer guru" (that's how I knew him). He asked what I was up to in SF, since he'd last seen me in LA, and we caught up a bit. I will skip the description of what I told him I'd been up to, nobody would believe me.

Then he said he needed some change for the phone. I decided to tease him and suggested we go into the used bookstore we were standing right in front of and get some change. I said, "Hey did you know this bookstore specializes in selling your books and papers? They have a bunch of your old psychology science papers in a big glass case up front, some of your earliest LSD and psychotherapy papers, and most of them are signed. But I don't think they really look your signature. Hey let's go in, see if they even recognize you. Maybe you could bust him for some faked signatures, or make a quick buck signing some books, ha ha." Well he laughed, but he didn't want to go in. He was afraid he'd never get out of there, he'd get sucked into dealing with a fanatic collector, and he was trying to go incognito.

But he said he still needed change for the phone. So I gave him a handful of loose change, bade him farewell, and he turned to the phone and deposited some coins and made his call. As I walked away, I laughed to myself, after all the times I've been panhandled on Haight and never given anyone a red cent, I just got panhandled by Timothy Leary.

I never saw him again. He died a few years later.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:01 PM on July 9, 2010 [19 favorites]


look your signature/look like your signature
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:03 PM on July 9, 2010

Re: Oyéah

I've done therapy sessions with medicine work like this. Typically they cost quite a lot and last a lot longer than an hour. LSD probably won't find use in modern settings since a journey can last all day and the doctor will bill you for it (at reduced rates typically). Modern practitioners usually use mushrooms, MDMA, ketamine, ayahuasca/DMT, or other much shorter duration compounds. A 4-6 hours session is typical and billing is as you would expect. There are always session for preparation and follow up, too.

$100 for a doctor in Grant's time was probably for several hours of sitting. A doctor won't let you go until you say you're ok and will usually be ok with you spending the night. Obviously, a normal therapy office is not suitable for this kind of work.

It still makes mes sad that this kind of therapy is viewed as a freakshow rather than just another kind of therapy.
posted by chairface at 2:25 PM on July 11, 2010

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