Research - Ongoing Projects

In the following list you can find the projects that are currently being developed within the framework of the research protocol of the Takiwasi Center.

Intercultural transdisciplinarity in Guatemala and Peru: A North-South-South learning platform for culturally pertinent public health provision systems for indigenous populations

Researcher / Responsible : Caroline Maake (Principal Investigator, Switzerland), Tatiana Paz Lemus (Guatemala), Juan Rubén Ruiz Zevallos (Peru)

Partner Institutions: The University of Zurich (Faculty of Medicine) steers the project in collaboration with local boards in Peru and Guatemala, composed of academic partners, indigenous associations, traditional health practitioners, as well as stakeholders from public health sectors of the different countries.

Despite efforts in the past, the health care of indigenous people in Latin America remains precarious. This is shown, inter alia, in their higher disease probability and mortality rate compared to the rest of the population. The underlying causes are complex. However, a lack of co-operation between divergent medical systems practiced in parallel, namely western biomedicine and traditional indigenous medicine, can be seen as a major obstacle to improved health care in these countries. In our project, which concentrates on Peru and Guatemala we will, thus, create the conditions for a comprehensive, intercultural learning platform that considers both the concepts of traditional indigenous medicine and conventional biomedicine. As a prerequisite for that, an initial project focus will for the first time comprehensively examine and document the fundamentals of indigenous medicine on health, illness and therapy from a medical and socio-scientific point of view. A next step will comprise patient-centered approaches, in which western medical staff and traditional medical practitioners will be setting up joint medical collaborations. Accompanying workshops will be organized for the involved interest groups as a framework for the exchange of experience, transdisciplinary communication and the development of future, efficient, integrative medical concepts. In line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, we hope that our project will sustainably strengthen local traditions, reduce social inequities, strengthen the right to health and education, and, thus, promote the establishment of peaceful and inclusive societies. This project is financed by the Swiss Programme for Research on Global Issues for Development (r4d programme).
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Description of the diet in the Takiwasi Center from the point of view of the participants

Researcher / Responsible : Tereza Rumlerová

Partner Institutions: PhD Candidate, Department of Psychology, Palacky University, Olomouc, Czech Republic.

The path toward the knowledge of oneself, of their own experiences, dreams and mission of life, is something that many people seek today. Some embark on a journey to self-awareness by going to several centers that offer yoga, meditation and much more. Other forms of self-knowledge are the methods that induce altered states of consciousness. Ayahuasca is a hallucinogenic drink belonging to traditional Amazonian medicine that is often used in the Czech Republic. Some travel to the Amazon to experience it. But if we want to learn about traditional Amazonian medicine, we find that most healers perceive the diet as the key to treat many physical and mental health problems. The diet is a practice that so far has not been studied much in the scientific field and includes the intake of master plants that play a key role in the process, and are ingested in isolation in a small hut, where participants spend seven days with a very strict diet. This research will provide a complete description of this method, focusing on the effects perceived in the process, the experiences during the diet and its long-term perception. Data acquisition will be carried out through semi-structured interviews, analysis of written documents (letters of motivation and protocols), and own observations.

Exploring perceptions about ‘the purge’ within Ayahuasca rituals in the context of drug addiction: a qualitative study with healers and therapists in a drug rehabilitation center in Peru

Researcher / Responsible : Svet Lustig Vijay

Partner Institutions: Master's student in public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), UK.

Through face-to-face interviews with therapists, healers and plant preparers at the Takiwasi Center, and a secondary analysis of data from the lived experiences of patients with Substance Use Disorder (SUD), the proposed study aims to investigate the perceptions and narratives of therapists, healers, and patients about "the purge" within the Ayahuasca ceremony in the context of drug addiction. To the best of the author's knowledge, no such study has yet been conducted to date. Given that the proposed study aims to explore perceptions and narratives around purging during Ayahuasca rituals in healers, therapists, and patients with SUD, it seems reasonable to refrain from formulating specific hypotheses, as is often the case in conventional research of mostly quantitative hypothesis testing. However, preliminary analysis of the material published by the Takiwasi Center and the researcher's previous experience at Takiwasi suggests that therapists, healers, and plant preparers may perceive "the purge" in terms of its effects on (A) the "physical body ", detoxifying the body of addictive substances (B) the "psycho-emotional body", through emotional relaxation after intense vomiting, which is reported to release psychological charges, negative emotions or attitudes (C) the" spirit " or the "energetic body", "cleansing" the body of evil spirits that are sometimes reported to possess the patient.

Treating the addiction with the Amazonian medicine: Protocol for assessing the process of the 6 key points of this therapy

Researcher / Responsible : Anne Denys

Partner Institutions: French Ethnopharmacology Association, Public Health School at the Nancy University and APEMAC research Laboratory at Metz – France.

In South America, therapies using techniques of traditional medicine for the treatment of addictions have expanded. Literature suggests that 6 key points underpin one of these therapies: an experience of initiatory death; the release of an emotional charge; the discovery of one's purpose; the acknowledgement of its responsibility; of the sacred aspect of life or nature and that only the ritual use of natural psychoactive substances can be beneficial. The objective is to test the validity of the 6 key points of this therapy and to demonstrate, for each key-point, that patients reaching the key point have better follow-up results than other patients after one year post-treatment.

Exploring the effects of the dieta associated with the Ayahuasca ritual: predictors of therapeutic success at the Takiwasi Center

Researcher / Responsible : Sacha Amato

Partner Institutions: Master's student in psychopathology, Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience, Maastricht University, Maastricht, the Netherlands.

The project attempts to gain an understanding of the relevance of some aspects of the Takiwasi patient experience and how these aspects might predict treatment success. The potential central role of the contents of the visions induced by Ayahuasca will be discussed with the Takiwasi therapeutic team. The data already existing and registered in the Plus system of Takiwasi will be analyzed. Specifically, the ASI and the post-Ayahuasca and post-dieta protocols will be analyzed. The letters of presentation will also be consulted to explore the influence of the motivations of the patients when arriving at Takiwasi. The ASI will serve as a measure of “treatment success.” Interviews with Takiwasi therapists will be conducted to more effectively guide the research approach; that is, the contribution of these interviews will help to select and analyze the contents of the protocols that will take a central focus in the investigation. The expected results are the identification of elements of the Ayahuasca sessions and of the dietas that can effectively predict the trajectory of the treatment of the patients. In particular, we want to investigate the different therapeutic contributions of Ayahuasca without and with dieta, and potentially identify the synergy and the different contributions of the two therapies.

Neurology of perfume rituals: Experimental study of the effect of perfumes and smells on neural activity during the rituals performed in Takiwasi

Researcher / Responsible : Antoine Renard

Partner Institutions: PhD program, art and science SACRe, University PSL (Paris Sciences & Lettres).

This study on the effect of perfumes and smells on brain activity is a development of a larger research on “perfumeros healers”, initiated in 2019. The research aim is to better understand the impact of perfumes and smells on patients during the healing process of Takiwasi center. For this phase of the experimental research, the researcher will undergo a series of perfume related rituals within the pedagogical context of Takiwasi, wearing a special equipment called “EEG” helmet, which is a tool that captures brain activity and codes it into raw data. This data will later be analysed and interpreted into visualisations. It is important to keep in mind that this research is situated in between the academic world and the artistic world. The goal of the PhD program SACRe is to allow artist researchers to work on the creation of knowledge via creative processes, within a frame recognized by academic institutions. Since the beginning of the research on perfumeros, one problematic aspect is to define how the perfumes and smells generate the healing effect, until now the focus has been placed on the sensitive, intellectual and emotional perception of the perfume, the present research sets the aim to access neural data generated by the brain itself, as proof of efficiency of the healing process.

Ikaros in non-tourist models for non-local participants in Amazonian medicine rituals before and after COVID-19

Researcher / Responsible : Owain J. Graham

Partner Institutions: PhD Candidate, Ethnomusicology, University of California Riverside, United States.

The project focuses on the use of ikaros as part of the techniques of traditional Amazonian medicine in the surroundings of the city of Tarapoto. The project attempts to investigate how ikaros are used, how they are learned, what are the stylistic differences between ikaros from different healers in Takiwasi, and how they are experienced from the perspectives of healers/Amazonian medicine practitioners and local and foreign participants with different levels of experience with this medicine. This project is a qualitative and exploratory ethnography; that is, there is no hypothesis being tested. In this project it is expected to delve into three issues that are missing in the academic literature: 1) there is not enough explanation of the ikaros especially in multicultural contexts, 2) there is not enough explanation of non-tourist models in which foreigners can participate in traditional Amazonian medicine practices, 3) because it is a new phenomenon, there is a lack of explanations of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in Amazonian medicine centers, and the response of these centers and healers to the disease and the situation of the prolonged pandemic. Some of the centers that use traditional Amazonian medicine in the department of San Martín, Takiwasi included, offer ways in which foreigners can participate in medicinal ceremonies in non-tourist or “less tourist” ways than those described in the anthropological literature. An objective of this project is to investigate how the operations of these centers are distinguished from tourist ones; for example, if interactions between workers and/or healers and visitors foster a desire to learn about traditional medicine, local cultures, and interact in these contexts in a respectful manner.

Integration of traditional and conventional therapeutic practices. An analysis of the professional evolution of psychotherapists at the Takiwasi Center

Researcher / Responsible : Clémence Forestier-Dupuch

Partner Institutions: Master's student in clinical psychology, Free University of Brussels.

The general framework of this study refers to the integration of traditional medicine with conventional/"Western" one. This topic will be approached through the study of the professional evolution of the Takiwasi Center's psychotherapists when integrating the practices of traditional Amazonian medicine. The main objectives of the research are: to collect the testimony of therapists who use psychotherapy combined with traditional Amazonian medicine in their clinical practice; understand what led these therapists to become particularly interested in Amazonian shamanism as practiced at the Takiwasi Center; understand what path of training and/or initiation was necessary to build their clinical practice; observe if they keep, in their definition of healing, theoretical contributions of their "initial" training and know the theoretical contributions that add to or replace the initial theoretical paradigm of the therapist; highlight the factors that encourage therapists to practice a treatment that includes traditional Amazonian medicine; propose illustrations of this practice with patient cases, to describe the way in which traditional Amazonian medicine is associated and how they perceive the benefits and limits of this therapeutic association, according to the therapist's point of view. We propose to carry out an exploratory qualitative research, through the following data collection procedure: interviews with Takiwasi’s therapists (mostly psychotherapists), in the form of a semi-structured interview; observation of clinical practice as a practitioner in the therapeutic area. Given the exploratory nature of this study, the expected results are open to the discoveries made during the study. We will expect to observe a conception of care and illness different from the one used by "Western" psychotherapists, thus redefining the objective of care and its means. We wish to be able to offer practical examples of clinical practice integration between “traditional” and “Western” medicine.

A Phenomenological Study of Incarnate Transmission

Researcher / Responsible : Jessica J. Hamilton

Partner Institutions: PhD candidate, Pacifica Graduate Institute, Carpinteria, USA.

Phenomenological study of embodied transmission from the perspective of health professionals who participate in healing and therapeutic groups. The objective is to define the characteristics and components of the somatic experiences of transmission from the perspective of those who guide or participate in healing ceremonies. It seeks to record detailed experiences, specifically memories around the transmission of experiences recorded by the body. The experiences can be of individual people or shared in groups, between spirits, nature, or their own soma. How these experiences inform the disciplines of affective neuroscience, depth psychology, and somatic studies is central. A phenomenological method will be used to conduct the interviews. The proposal is to present the data using a combined method of hermeneutics and portraiture as developed by Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, and Jessica Hoffman-Davis. In general terms, it is expected that the information obtained from this study will be of social benefit by socializing the public discourse of healing and medicine, likewise, public health can benefit from a greater understanding of the relevance and efficacy of traditions and technologies of indigenous therapeutics. It is hoped to refine the understanding of micro-experiences that are part of the common experiences in healing groups, and to bridge the wisdom between depth psychology and how somatic experiences are shared and recorded by the body. At the level of the participants, co-creators of knowledge are expected to be sharing their stories and experiences of participation in therapeutic and healing contexts, as well as by sharing their somatically perceived experiences of healing and transformation if they arise in the interview process. The use of professional language, including if the participants want, affective neuroscience and somatic/physical experience can add to the conversations and interviews.

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