There is growing interest in the potential of therapies involving psychedelics (e.g. psilocybin, ketamine and MDMA) to treat psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety disorders post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and addiction. Studies suggest that they may also work for patients with more severe, treatment resistant disorders, for whom regular treatments have not provided lasting relief.

The application of psychedelics requires a carefully designed (psycho)therapeutic framework; both in during treatment sessions and in the aftercare program. Especially with vulnerable patients with complex symptoms and life experiences, psychedelics need to be used with great care by experienced, trained therapists and in combination with targeted psychotherapies. Working with patients in an altered state of consciousness demands specific therapeutic skills and thus for high quality training and adequate follow-up care. Additionally, we offer long-term support and integration with existing evidence-based treatments provided at the UCP.

Transdiagnostic and transdisciplinary

No individual patient lives outside of their social, personal, physical, existential, or emotional environment; no treatment exists in a vacuum either. Rather than only reduce patients to measurable metrics, we also seek to better understand these complexities by taking a multidisciplinary research approach, and by actively seeking collaborations with other faculties and academic disciplines (e.g. philosophy, psychology, [medical] anthropology, ethics, neuroscience) both inside the University of Groningen and outside. Investigating these psychedelic-assisted treatment, we take into account and systematically evaluate how non-pharmacological factors influence patient experiences and treatment outcomes, ultimately aiming to better understand how these interventions can be improved, and how treatment outcomes can be optimized.

What do we do?

Using rigorous, interdisciplinary and complementary research methods (e.g. clinical trials, psychometrics, biomarkers, qualitative research methods), our research group takes a transdiagnostic approach to studying novel substance-assisted treatments for patients with mental disorders.

Our aim is to create and critically evaluate novel approaches, in order to develop safe, effective, and ethical treatments for patients with various severe, often treatment-resistant, disorders. Some of the questions we aim to answer include:

  • what works for whom; are specific compounds more or less effective for subgroups of patients, and how can they optimally be applied?;
  • how can we predict who will respond (and who will not)?;
  • what are the psychological and biological working mechanisms of psychedelic treatments?;
  • how do contextual factors (e.g. in preparation, expectation, therapeutic model, physical setting, music) impact treatment experience and outcomes?;
  • what models are best suited to provide high quality care on the long term?;
  • what levels of professional training and regulation are needed to provide broader, safe and effective implementation?

How our research benefits to society

One in four persons experiences an episode of mental disorder in their lifetime. They not only lead to tremendous individual suffering for patients and those close to them, but mental disorders combined rank first in terms of population disease burden and loss of productivity, with economic costs in the Netherland alone estimated at 22 billion euros per year. Evidence-based stepwise psychotherapeutic and pharmacological treatment protocols for major mental disorders are widely implemented, but 20-30% of patients do not have a satisfactory response to these treatments. They constitute the highest disease burden, societal and treatment costs, and may face despair and suicidal ideation. Better treatments are urgently needed. It is our aim to help develop more effective treatments for these patients.

Psychedelics also present us with major scientific challenges. Studying the underlying mechanisms of these treatments across mental disorders, will help us uncover generic underlying mechanisms of psychopathology, and develop more effective treatments.

It is our objective to ensure that advances in psychedelic research contribute to better treatment for mental disorders, and to safeguard sustainable, responsible and safe integration of psychedelic therapy in mainstream mental health care. We aim to achieve this by bringing together therapeutic knowledge and scientific expertise from experts; ensuring that therapists are well trained; that standards are development around the education, screening, and preparation of patients; the development of safe and comfortable treatment settings that maximize safety for patients and that are conducive to beneficial experiences; and to ensure long-term after-care, meaning-making and integration with additional (conventional) therapies in the healthcare system. If findings are suceesful, we will also help implement these treatments in mental healthcare. This requires thorough training and tutoring a new generation of multidisciplinary clinicians and researchers from different countries and cultures, and collaborate with patients and caregivers in tailoring research to their needs and questions.

Given the enormous personal and public health impact of mental disorders, we collaborate closely with other academic partners, mental health institutions, healthcare insurers, and policymakers on both a national and international level.

Our current research


University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG)
University Center of Psychiatry (UCP)
PO Box 30.001
9700 RB Groningen
The Netherlands

Visiting address
University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG)
University Center of Psychiatry (UCP)
Hanzeplein 1, Triadegebouw
9713 GZ Groningen