Therapeutic potential of ayahuasca in grief: a prospective, observational study

Débora González, Jordi Cantillo, Irene Pérez, Magí Farré, Amanda Feilding, Jordi E. Obiols & José Carlos Bouso



Recent studies have assessed the therapeutic potential of ayahuasca for the treatment of depression with promising preliminary results.


Here, we examine the course of grief over 1 year of follow-up in a bereaved sample that attended a center in Peru to participate in indigenous Shipibo ayahuasca ceremonies. We also explore the roles of experiential avoidance and decentering as mechanisms of change.


Bereaved participants who attended the ayahuasca center responded to an online survey that included the Texas Revised Inventory of Grief, Symptom Assessment-45, WHO Quality of Life-Bref, Acceptance and Action Questionnaire, and Decentering. Baseline assessment was completed by 50 individuals (T0). Of these, 39 completed the post-assessment at 15 days (T1), 31 at 3 months (T2), 29 at 6 months (T3), and 27 at 12 months (T4) after leaving the retreat. Pearson’s analysis was performed to examine the relationship between the severity of grief and mechanisms of change during the period of T0 and T1.


A significant decrease in Texas Revised Inventory was observed at all time points (T1: Cohen’s d = 0.84; T2: Cohen’s d = 1.38; T3: Cohen’s d = 1.16; T4: Cohen’s d = 1.39). We found a relationship between experiential avoidance (r = 0.55; p < .01), decentering (r = − 0.47; p < .01), and a reduction in the severity of grief.


Our results suggest that the ceremonial use of ayahuasca has therapeutic value by reducing the severity of grief. Acceptance and decentering are both psychological processes that mediate the improvement of grief symptoms.