Women in Psychedelics: Dr. Monnica Williams

Monnica Williams, Ph.D. is a board-certified, licensed clinical psychologist, specializing in cognitive-behavioral therapies. She is an Associate Professor in the School of Psychology at the University of Ottawa, Canada Research Chair in Mental Health Disparities, and Director of the Laboratory for Culture and Mental Health Disparities. She is also the Clinical Director of the Behavioral Wellness Clinic, LLC in Tolland, Connecticut, and she has founded clinics in Kentucky, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

PsyTech: How did you get into psychedelic research?

Dr. Williams: As a clinical psychologist, new research on methods to treat PTSD, depression, and anxiety is of great interest to me. MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) reached out to me originally for advice on diversifying their research studies. It made me ask myself, “When psychedelics go mainstream, how can we ensure mental health professionals are equipped to do this important work with people of color?” Many people of color suffer from trauma and need healing from traumatic experiences of racism. Unfortunately, Black Americans and other people of color are being left out of psychedelics research. And if White patients are benefiting from this treatment, surely people of color should too.

PsyTech: How would you describe your area of research focus?

Dr. Williams: I think psychedelics will constitute a new paradigm in mental health care. My main area of work is focused on ensuring it will be accessible to those who need it most. More than 80% of participants in psychedelic trials since 1993 have been white. Diversifying not only research participants, but research staff themselves is very important for bringing in people of color. We also need to diversify the people trained to offer the therapy. Working with clinicians who share a similar ethnic background helps promote a sense of understanding of client issues and needs. 

PsyTech: Looking back on your career, can you describe a profound moment or experience that stands out to you?

Dr. Williams: Seeing firsthand how psychedelics can be used to cure very severe PTSD really shifted my perspective and helped me to see how important all of this is.

PsyTech: What’s it like being a female leader in this field? Are there any particular challenges or advantages?

Dr. Williams: Racialization is the biggest challenge. It keeps women from working together in solidarity toward the greater good. I find that within the American context few White women will include or collaborate with Black women.

PsyTech: What do you feel are the unique qualities that a woman can bring to psychedelic research? 

Dr. Williams: A holistic approach.

PsyTech: What’s the next big step medicinal/therapeutic psychedelics needs to take to bring it to the next level?

Dr. Williams: As a field, we need to find ways to be truly inclusive and collaborative with marginalized groups. There is little to no government funding for this work, so please reach out to me to help support this research and treatment for people of color and other marginalized groups. Here are links with more information about the psychedelic research in my lab:

https://www.mentalhealthdisparities.org/psychedelic_therapies.php

http://www.monnicawilliams.com/psychedelics.php

PsyTech: What advice would you give to a woman who is considering entering this field?

Dr. Williams: Get the best training and mentorship you can find.