Stan Grof, Lessons from ~4,500 LSD Sessions and Beyond (#347)

Stan Grof (right) with the legendary Albert Hofmann (left), the first person to synthesize LSD.

“I realized people were not having LSD experiences; they were having experiences of themselves. But they were coming from depths that psychoanalysis didn’t know anything about.” — Stanislav Grof

Stanislav Grof, M.D., ( is a psychiatrist with more than 60 years of experience in research of “holotropic” states of consciousness, a large and important subgroup of non-ordinary states that have healing, transformative, and evolutionary potential.

Previously, he was Principal Investigator in a psychedelic research program at the Psychiatric Research Institute in Prague, Czechoslovakia, Chief of Psychiatric Research at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD, and Scholar-in-Residence at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, CA.

Currently, Stan is Professor of Psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) in San Francisco, CA, and conducts professional training programs in holotropic breathwork and transpersonal psychology, and gives lectures and seminars worldwide. He is one of the founders and chief theoreticians of transpersonal psychology and the founding president of the International Transpersonal Association (ITA).

His publications include more than 150 articles in professional journals and books like Psychology of the Future, The Cosmic Game, and Holotropic Breathwork, among many others.

In this wide-ranging interview, we cover many topics, including:

  • Some of his main takeaways after supervising or guiding ~4,500 LSD sessions
  • The place and role of “wounded healers”
  • Limitations and uses of traditional psychoanalysis and talk therapy
  • Holotropic breathwork and some similarities to MDMA
  • Stories of odd synchronicities and the seemingly impossible
  • Stan’s strangest personal experiences on psychedelics
  • What Stan believes humanity most needs to overcome: division and destruction

I hope you’ll enjoy this in-depth conversation with Stan Grof!

#347: Stan Grof, Lessons from ~4,500 LSD Sessions and Beyond


Want to hear another episode that explores science and psychedelics? — Listen to my conversation with Paul Stamets, an intellectual and industry leader in the habitat, medicinal use, and production of fungi. Stream below or right-click here to download.

#340: Paul Stamets — How Mushrooms Can Save You and (Perhaps) the World


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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…


  • Connect with Stanislav Grof:

Website | Grof Transpersonal Training | California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) | International Transpersonal Association (ITA)


  • How did Stan first become interested in psychedelics, and what application was he hoping it could serve? [8:32]
  • In how many LSD sessions does Stan estimate he’s been involved, and what accounts for his initial conclusion that it would change psychiatry and psychology? [13:18]
  • When did Stan have his first personal experience with LSD, what were the conditions like, and how did it change his career path from that point forward? [18:45]
  • Why we don’t always have the right words on hand to describe psychedelic experiences. [21:40]
  • After more than six decades studying non-ordinary states of consciousness, how does Stan view consciousness today (in comparison to some other equally controversial views)? [25:22]
  • Why does Stan prefer the term non-ordinary states of consciousness to altered states, what are holotropic states of consciousness, and how have human beings operated in these states over the course of history? [28:26]
  • Stan’s thoughts on 5-MeO-DMT (methoxy DMT) and the psychedelic venom of the Bufo alvarius toad — which gave him “by far, the most powerful psychedelic experience” he’s ever had. [37:43]
  • Stan elaborates on his famous statement that “Psychedelics, used responsibly and with proper caution, would be for psychiatry what the microscope is for biology and medicine or the telescope is for astronomy,” and how he feels about the relevance of traditional psychoanalysis or psychotherapy in combination with some of these psychedelic compounds. [44:42]
  • What would Stan’s ideal experiential, psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy look like? [56:10]
  • Stan points out that there are non-pharmacological ways to achieve holotropic states — such as holotropic breathing, which I can confirm actually works. [56:57]
  • What substances, dosages, and frequency would psychedelic assistance take under Stan’s guidance? [58:52]
  • Exploring the neglect of etiology in modern psychology and how Stan would correct this problem. [1:03:30]
  • What makes the difference between someone emerging from a psychedelic state profoundly transformed or just experiencing it as a casual tourist with no persistent change of perspective? [1:08:47]
  • Stan talks about his experiences with Siddha Yoga founder Swami Muktananda. [1:18:07]
  • The reasons Stan wrote When the Impossible Happens, the stories surrounding this time in his life, and an explanation of synchronocity. [1:25:17]
  • On out of body experiences and a moving example of how unorthodox psychiatry helped someone overcome depression in a surprising way. [1:36:32]
  • What psychedelic at what dose is most similar to the effects or the experience of holotropic breathwork? [1:44:34]
  • Does the common psychedelic phenomenon of encountering entities seemingly separate from the person in such a state carry over to breathwork? Has Stan encountered these entities during his own experiences? [1:45:49]
  • What are Stan’s thoughts on microdosing, and what has he experienced at the tail end of high-dosage sessions? [1:51:18]
  • What constitutes a “spiritual emergency,” and are there any differences between a naturally occuring spiritual emergency like schizophrenia or one precipitated by psychedelics? Can any good come from a bad trip? [1:55:15]
  • What might treatment for someone experiencing a psychotic break look like in a hypothetical alternate world where the collective unconscious is recognized by psychologists and psychiatrists? [1:59:25]
  • From his first psychedelic experience to now, how has Stan’s concept of the inner world changed over the past 60 years? [2:04:36]
  • Is there any particular synchronicity or experience in any of the holotropic states that Stan has experienced that he finds the hardest to explain or the most unusual/remarkable? [2:08:42]
  • If Stan were a young scientist starting out today and all compounds could be legally studied, what would his focus be? [2:16:33]
  • At age 87, how does Stan stay sharper and more energetic than a lot of people in their 20s? [2:23:34]
  • What does Stan think humanity needs most of all right now? [2:27:46]
  • One final story: a lesson in forgiveness. [2:31:16]
  • Parting thoughts. [2:40:59]