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This MDMA Zoom Therapist Is Not Who He Claims to Be 

An investigation uncovers a mountain of misleading claims about a “pioneering” psychedelic therapist guiding MDMA sessions via Zoom.

DoubleBlind Mag

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Published on
Updated July 1, 2024

UPDATE July 1, 2024: As of the morning of Monday, July 1, 2024, DoubleBlind was made aware of the Shift Network canceling an upcoming program with Jonathan Robinson on MDMA couples facilitation in September. The reason, the network explained in a public announcement, is because it found that many of Robinson’s professional misrepresentations reported in Ecstatic Integration were accurate after conducting a “30+ hour investigation” of its own.

“After undertaking a thorough, 30+ hour investigation personally, in which I gave Jonathan the full benefit of the doubt, I found that, despite Jonathan’s promise at the beginning of the process, that he did not come clean about all past misrepresentations,” the statement says. “When he did confess to a fuller truth in key areas, the misrepresentations he admitted to, particularly in terms of his training, research, and experience, were sufficiently serious for us to remove him from our teaching roster permanently.”

The announcement goes on to say that Robinson admitted to having a compulsive tendency for exaggeration and shading of the truth to his benefit. Such a tendency, which Jonathan said has been compulsive and which he hasn’t been able to curb, even with requested help from allies, is particularly risky and problematic, I believe, in a new and less studied field,” the network said.

DB’s Original Coverage Below:

In the psychedelic industry, Jonathan Robinson is known as an advocate for conducting MDMA-assisted therapy on Zoom. Robinson claims to have guided a thousand sessions of MDMA therapy, many of which are held through video conferencing, and he runs online courses to train aspiring facilitators to become underground practitioners for their friends or paying customers. He is also the author of multiple spiritual self-help books, most recently Ecstasy as Medicine, and claims to have “numerous appearances” on the Oprah Show and CNN. But a recent investigation by the psychedelic newsletter Ecstatic Integration, written by journalist Jules Evans, has found that Robinson’s resume is built on false and misleading claims—and that the so-called MDMA Zoom therapist is not who he says he is. 

Evans’ reporting uncovered that Robinson’s license as a marriage and family therapist lapsed in 2007. Yet, Robinson still claims that he’s a licensed therapist in articles, podcast appearances, and on his website. When Evans asked Robinson about the discrepancy, he responded that he gave up his license because it was “not useful”: He wasn’t taking insurance, and had never received a complaint from a former client that would necessitate the oversight of a licensing board. As Ecstatic Integrations noted, it is illegal to falsely advertise that you’re a licensed therapist, as this violates the rules of the California Board of Behavioral Sciences. 

Ronbinson’s most dangerous claims involve the effectiveness of MDMA-assisted therapy, which he regularly touts in his marketing materials. One of his most recent offerings is a couples therapy course for $4,997, available on The Shift Network, a leading New Age platform. The courses are available to anyone interested in learning how to be an MDMA guide, even without holding an existing professional license. Robinson positions MDMA therapy as “spectacular” and nearly miraculous, writing that his success rate has been “over 90%” and that this modality is “as effective as about 60 to 75 weekly talk-therapy sessions.” He also claims to have come up with ways to help anyone overcome a challenging trip in less than five minutes. 

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However, research has shown that MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD comes with some notable risks, including increased suicidality, anxiety, and trauma re-activation. An FDA advisory panel also voted against MDMA-assisted therapy last month, citing concerns that the clinical trials’ data had intentionally left out adverse effects of the treatment, among other issues. Robinson’s marketing materials for the course do not mention these risks. As Ecstatic Integration reported, his book merely states that 5 percent of folks who take MDMA can experience “tiredness and/or sadness” that will dissipate in a number of days. 

READ: 4-AcO-DMT Is the Most Accessible (and Mysterious) Drug on the Market Right Now

Robinson also misrepresented his professional background, claiming in his book The Enlightenment Project that he conducted psychedelic therapy sessions “under the direction of Dr. Sidney Cohen”— a psychoanalyst who was one of the leading authorities on early LSD research — when he was an undergraduate student at UCLA in 1977. These sessions, if true, would have been significant, since studies on psychedelics almost completely ceased after the passing of the Controlled Substance Act in 1970, which made LSD a Schedule I substance. This claim also forms the basis of how Robinson positions himself in marketing materials as a “pioneer” in the field whose early work has earned him “global recognition.” 

After Evans pushed back and fact-checked these claims, Robinson revealed that these sessions were not conducted under Dr. Cohen at all; Robinson had actually guided psychedelic sessions with fellow undergraduate friends at the university without telling Dr. Cohen what was happening. Robinson also claimed he had written what would have been the first-ever study of MDMA therapy for PTSD as part of his Master’s thesis in the early ’80s, but the only copy of the paper was lost when his house burned down in 2002. 

These revelations of Robinson’s half-truths and misleading claims are notable, as the unregulated market for MDMA therapy continues to grow due to rising public demand. With the FDA advisory committee’s recent rejection of MDMA therapy, the medical model for legalizing MDMA is beset with complex challenges that will take time to work through. Meanwhile, unlicensed therapists like Robinson with unchecked claims are able to sell themselves as experts and profit off a public that is eager to access these modalities, regardless of their legal status. 

For now, Robinson’s course on The Shift Network is still selling spots. We’ve checked in with Evans for more and will update this story as it develops. 

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DoubleBlind is a trusted resource for news, evidence-based education, and reporting on psychedelics. We work with leading medical professionals, scientific researchers, journalists, mycologists, indigenous stewards, and cultural pioneers. Read about our editorial policy and fact-checking process here.

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DoubleBlind Magazine does not encourage or condone any illegal activities, including but not limited to the use of illegal substances. We do not provide mental health, clinical, or medical services. We are not a substitute for medical, psychological, or psychiatric diagnosis, treatment, or advice. If you are in a crisis or if you or any other person may be in danger or experiencing a mental health emergency, immediately call 911 or your local emergency resources. If you are considering suicide, please call 988 to connect with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

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