What Is MDMA Therapy: All You Need to Know

This is a drawing of a hand holding an MDMA pill for MDMA therapy

This post contains affiliate links. Commission earned goes back into creating more content for Never Alone and into our mental health help community.

In this blog I am going to help you understand what MDMA Therapy is and give you the general overlay on the drug itself. Please remember that every therapy session you have should be done with a professional, especially when using psychedelic drugs like MDMA, LSD and psilocybin (magic mushrooms.)

Some people live with a mental disorder or chronic pain so severe that they cannot go about their day-to-day lives. The suffering and anxiety of conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be crippling and interfere in every aspect of life, from work to relationships.

The path to relieving that suffering can also feel overwhelming, as you are forced to confront horrifying and painful memories to move through them — when all you feel compelled to do is avoid them.

Each of us who struggles with a difficult condition or has ever faced trauma has a different narrative from the person next to us. We all have different stories to tell, different defense systems that try to keep us stuck in our past pain. Given this, there will never be a one-size-fits-all treatment for something as intense as PTSD that can feel so devastating and permanent.

While many people find some relief from their conditions with traditional treatments, what if there were a solution that could help them find more of it?

Or help those who haven’t yet found any relief feel better and hopeful about life again?

What if you could take something a handful of times rather than take something for the rest of your life that isn’t truly helping?

This is where MDMA Therapy comes into play.

MDMA is a psychoactive drug that belongs to the amphetamine family of drugs and produces feelings of euphoria, intimacy, and empathy when administered.

In today’s blog on what is MDMA therapy, we’ll take an in-depth look at MDMA, what is MDMA therapy and why it’s so effective, as well as what you can expect during an MDMA-assisted therapy treatment. Plus read our founders own personal story about doing MDMA therapy for his PTSD and anxiety.

What Is MDMA Therapy?

MDMA Therapy is a treatment that optimizes the benefits of psychotherapy through supplementation with MDMA.

When ingested under safe, controlled circumstances by someone who has been given explicit instructions on how much should be taken, MDMA can produce an extremely beneficial effect such as alleviating symptoms associated with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), anxiety disorders like situational anxiety, including social phobia and OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), and depression.

Clinical trials also show that MDMA-assisted therapy is beneficial for autistic adults who suffer from PTSD, crippling depression and social anxiety.

MDMA gained popularity as a street drug in the 1980s and remains listed as a Schedule 1 narcotic according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) due to its high potential for abuse, harm, or addiction. That said, MDMA therapy has been designated as a “breakthrough therapy” by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States.

Currently, MDMA-assisted therapy is being tested in large randomized controlled trials sponsored by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, or MAPS.

But because MDMA shows significant promise as a supplement to psychotherapy, particularly in individuals with PTSD, in 2018, it was predicted that MDMA would be approved by the FDA this year. However, due to clinical trials slowing down because of COVID-19, MDMA’s approval by the FDA for therapy has been pushed back to 2023.

Apart from clinical trials demonstrating significant improvement in the PTSD of individuals after only three sessions, one reason why this approval is so likely to occur is that there has only been one serious adverse reaction among thousands of human subjects.

Plus, MDMA only needs to be administered a handful of times in a therapeutic context, whereas the only FDA-approved treatments for PTSD – SSRIs sertraline and paroxetine – require patients to take them for the rest of their lives!

What Does MDMA Stand For?

MDMA is short for methylenedioxymethamphetamine. It is a synthetic chemical stimulation made in labs and has recreational use names including Ecstasy, E, or Molly in non-clinical settings.

MDMA’s ability to alter one’s mood and perception of time and space is impressive. What makes MDMA unique from other stimulant drugs like cocaine or methamphetamine is its ability to be used safely and effectively in therapy sessions with trained professionals.

How Does MDMA Help Therapy?

MDMA helps therapy by enhancing the release of chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) and hormones that change your brain activity. The increased levels of serotonin, dopamine, vasopressin, and norepinephrine in your brain – aka, your “feel-good” hormones – cause you to experience increased feelings of happiness.

MDMA has proven especially useful in therapy settings because it also reduces activity in the fear centers of your brain, making it more possible to confront issues that may be severely debilitating. Furthermore, the blissful feelings one experiences help them revisit traumatic memories and emotions with less avoidance and greater ease.

A few common effects include less anxiety and increased:

  • Empathy
  • Self-awareness
  • Sensory pleasure
  • Energy
  • Ability to open up about emotions

What Does MDMA Feel Like?

MDMA feels like a controllable wave of euphoria surging through your body.

When you ingest MDMA in capsule form, it will take around 30-45 minutes for the capsule to dissolve, allowing the MDMA to get into your system. Once it does, the MDMA feels like a wave of positivity washing over your body. You feel happy, positive and confident all at once.

The wave of euphoria surges through your body, allowing you to deal with any situation in front of you with ease and confidence that nothing can harm you.

What Happens In An MDMA Therapy Session?

An MDMA Therapy session usually lasts six hours. Throughout this period, you will spend a bit of time before taking the drug with your therapist prepping, the majority of the time talking with your therapist while under the influence of the MDMA, and finally the end of the session coming down from it and making sure you are in a good space.

Unsure of what to talk about in therapy? This will help you prepare.

MDMA couples therapy

MDMA-assisted couples therapy/relationship therapy can enhance intimacy and help heal PTSD in couples.

In a pilot trial supported by MAPS, six couples engaged in cognitive-behavioral conjoint therapy (CBCT) combined with MDMA for PTSD. The therapy successfully alleviated PTSD symptoms in the majority of the couples, who also experienced an improvement in their relationship satisfaction.

If you’re interested in MDMA-assisted couples therapy, here is an idea of what you can expect:
Your first experience with MDMA couples therapy will likely be the most intense since you will be expected to spend up to eight hours with your therapist.

MDMA sessions begin when the therapist provides an orientation for both participants, explaining exactly what they can expect from their experience.

As the MDMA takes effect, you may spend the first hour or two of your session talking with your partner about how you are feeling and processing emotions. A period of warmth and affection follows as feelings of empathy flow between both participants.

You will then be asked to engage in dialogue exploring core issues within the relationship and memories, insights, and decisions about how the relationship will move forward. What typically follows is a period of emotional honesty.

When the session comes to an end, you both will discuss what happened during your time together with suggestions for continuing to grow as partners.

MDMA therapy for PTSD & C-PTSD

PTSD & C-PTSD are common yet debilitating mental health conditions that affects hundreds of millions of people every year.

PTSD can develop after someone experiences something traumatic, such as a serious accident, abuse, war, or loss of a loved one. This condition is often marked by avoidance behaviors, nightmares, or flashbacks that force someone to relieve that traumatic experience. And in severe cases, it can lead to suicide.

Not only that, but PTSD is associated with several comorbid conditions, including severe anxiety, crippling depression, alcohol and substance use disorders, and dissociation.

Given that there is no medication specifically for treating PTSD, and almost one-third of individuals drop out of talk therapy, we need to keep up with this exploration of alternative treatments to find help for those who have not experienced much success, if at all, with traditional treatments.

And so far, experts have found that MDMA, when given to those with PTSD in a clinical setting, can help them work through their trauma. This is because MDMA helps support:

  • An alert state of consciousness 
  • Decreased feelings of fear
  • Decreased defensiveness
  • Increased feelings of wellbeing
  • Increased sociability & extroversion 
  • Increased interpersonal trust .

Essentially, the effects of MDMA create an ideal setting to allow individuals to open up, engage in self-reflection, and work through the event(s) that triggered their condition.

While more studies are needed to determine the long-term effects of MDMA therapy, the current research shows great promise for this type of therapy in helping people who have PTSD. If you have PTSD and are interested in MDMA therapy, please talk to your doctor about whether this treatment could be right for you.

Explore our favorite online therapy apps


BetterHelp is an online counseling platform connecting individuals with licensed therapists for convenient mental health support.
Learn More


An online therapy platform offering access to professional therapists for personalized and confidential mental health services from the comfort of home.
Learn More


Evidence-based therapy support through interactive worksheets, live sessions, and messaging with professionals.
Learn More


Experts are tapping into MDMA’s effects as part of therapy for severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a mental health condition that affects nearly 3.5% of U.S. adults.

MDMA in psychiatry, more popularly known as ecstasy or Molly, is a psychoactive drug that acts as stimulant and releases chemicals in your brain to give an energizing effect, heighten your senses, and boost emotions like self-awareness and empathy.

MDMA is currently being tested and looking into by professionals in a legal fashion as a potential new aid in combating PTSD.

Like this article?

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on Linkdin
Share on Pinterest

Leave a comment

Mental Growth Community

Subscribe To The Weekly Newsletter

Lets grow together