Keren Tzarfaty, Ph.D., M.F.T., is the co-founder of the Hakomi Institute of Israel and a trainer for MAPS in Israel (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies). She is a clinical investigator in the MDMA PTSD FDA-approved clinical trial, examining the impact of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy on severe PTSD patients. Keren is the clinical director of the Open Access project of MAPS and the Israeli MOH, which offers MDMA-assisted therapy for 50 participants in five governmental hospitals in Israel. She is also one of the founders of the new MA program at Haifa University: Integrative psychotherapy: Body, Mind, Spirit. Keren holds an M.A. in Somatic Psychology and a Ph.D. in East-West Psychology, both from the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. She specializes in integrating mindfulness-based psychodynamic psychotherapy with somatic psychotherapy, attachment psychotherapy, trauma psychology, and transpersonal psychology. Her approach is grounded in traditional western psychologies as well as inspired by Eastern and Shamanic spiritual traditions.
PsyTech: How did you get into psychedelic research?
Dr. Tzarfaty: I was at the California Institute of Integral Studies, studying somatic psychotherapy while doing a psychology MA, and then a PhD in east-west psychology—while also studying Hakomi at the Hakomi Institute of California and deepening into the different layers of who I am, both personally and professionally. I learned about psychedelics, met Stan Grof, and became familiar with his work. I read a lot about the research he conducted in the 50s. When I came back to Israel twelve years ago I met with Rick Doblin, who is a force of nature—full of wisdom, love, and creativity. He asked me to join a study that was kind of stuck due to therapists not using the right psychotherapy models, and I accepted.
PsyTech: How would you describe your area of research focus?
Dr. Tzarfaty: I’m passionate about the integration of body and spiritual exploration into psychotherapy. That means really exploring the different wounds of who we are: attachment, traumas, developmental wounds. In this I would also include the essence of who we are—the parts of us that are beyond the wounds and are full of health, wellbeing, and wisdom. So, that’s what I’m curious about, that’s the area of research: really looking at different psychotherapeutic modalities that can help us reduce the impact of our wounds, and grow the potential of who we are.
PsyTech: Looking back on your career, can you describe a profound moment or experience that stands out to you?
Dr. Tzarfaty: Discovering Hakomi in California and learning about the integration of experiential psychotherapy in clinical psychology was big. Also, meeting Aharon Grossbard and Francoise Bourzay from the School of Consciousness in California. They really exposed me to psychedelic work with mushrooms in Mexico as part of the Mazatec tradition and its knowledge and practices.
PsyTech: What’s it like being a female leader in this field? Are there any particular challenges or advantages?
Dr. Tzarfaty: I feel very blessed and grateful for the ability to take part in leading psychedelic research and psychedelic education. And being a female is part of it—going back to the ancient ways of being, trusting ways of knowing beyond what would be traditionally more masculine ways; more linear or “heady” ways of thinking and being.
I think that for me, part of being a woman is acknowledging the wisdom of being, and the wisdom of other ways of knowing such as psychedelics, body knowledge, and intuition. These are all meaningful for me. And of course, to clarify, that’s not to say that these ways of knowing are not accessible to men, or are not coming from men. But in an archetypal sense, they are more connected to the feminine part of who we are. So I feel very blessed to be able to connect to those ways of knowing, and bring them into the mainstream. And I hope that my work, being a woman, is encouraging other women – young women, wise, creative and loving women – to come forth with their work and manifest themselves and their knowledge.
PsyTech: What do you feel are the unique qualities that a woman can bring to psychedelic research?
Dr. Tzarfaty: Again, I think it’s not so much about being a woman or being a man—but rather about embodying the qualities of womanhood, which can happen for a man and for different forms of identity. It’s about being in connection with embodied knowledge, with spiritual knowledge that is in the body, with love, with compassion. I think these are traditionally seen as being connected to womanhood, but I would say that they are definitely accessible to all of us and are important to bring into psychedelic research and practice.
PsyTech: What’s the next big step medicinal/therapeutic psychedelics needs to take to bring it to the next level?
Dr. Tzarfaty: I think the next step is to find our way into medicalization, creating psychedelic clinics—specifically in Israel, but also elsewhere. We need to create the trainings for psychedelic therapists in a way that would be accessible to many people. We also need to find the right modalities for different needs—to understand and explore how each medicine, compound, or substance works with different types of difficulties. Important also is bringing psychedelic research and legal psychotherapy to healthy individuals, working not only with the disorders and difficulties of individuals with mental health challenges, but also with healthy or “normal” neurotic people. I think this is very important in order to expand consciousness and learn creative new ways of being—to bring this into what I think is a crisis of global warming, global politics, and lots of ignorance.
PsyTech: What would you like to see happen to help increase the number of women in the psychedelic research field?
Dr. Tzarfaty: I’m not quite sure how to answer that. In fact, in my own little “heaven” there are many wonderful wise women running the show. From MAPS Public Benefit Corporation I’m privileged to work with Amy Amerson, CEO, Rebecca Matthews, CCOO, Berra Yazar-Klosinki, CSO, Natalie Ginsburg from MAPS, Dr. Rachel Yehuda, Shannon from the training committee, and many many more. So I think what’s important is just making sure that we can acknowledge this amazing work—the difficult, challenging, time-consuming work that these wonderful women are doing.
PsyTech: What advice would you give to a woman who is considering entering this field?
Dr. Tzarfaty: My advice to any woman considering entering this field is to work on a personal level: grow, become more familiar with your wounds and more familiar with your beauty, resources, and wisdom. And don’t be afraid of creating the path for yourself.