Altered States of Consciousness During Psychotherapy: A Historical and Cultural Perspective

Peter Buckley, Marc Galanter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


This paper reviews the frequent phenomenon of altered states of consciousness in disparate cultural psychotherapeutic contexts. The historical antecedents of contemporary Western psychodynamic psychotherapy are examined and the central importance of altered states in the therapeutic effects of religious institutions such as the Dionysian rite and the Asclepia is illustrated. The continued presence of this phenomenon in Western psychotherapy from Mesmerism to psychoanalysis is shown. The use of trance states in the healing rituals of non-Western societies is examined and further evidence is found for the frequency of this phenomenon in culturally variegated therapeutic settings. The ubiquitous nature of the altered state phenomenon in such widely varied cultural contexts suggests the possibility of its being a universal component of psychotherapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)118-124
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Social Psychiatry
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1979

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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