As newly qualified psychologists, Dr. Harlow and a friend first tried MDMA
at a conference at Esalen when it was still legal. They were both amazed by
the clear view that it gave them of their own psychology and by how easy it
was to express to one another what they saw. They talked enthusiastically
about its potential as a therapeutic catalyst. In later practice, until it
was made illegal, she administered MDMA to over 200 clients without any bad
reactions whatsoever, though she did screen out 'borderline' cases, ie
people without clear boundaries between reality and imagination or those
having fantasies about the therapist. Most of her clients were 'normal'
people, those who could manage a normal life but wanted to 'grow'.
Another licensed psychotherapist who started using MDMA with clients in the
early 80s became disillusioned by his role as a therapist, believing it was
the MDMA alone that benefited clients. He followed his conscience by
becoming a dealer, selling MDMA and explaining how to use it as a better
alternative to psychotherapy.
Dr. Harlow was involved in the movement to try to prevent MDMA being made
She undertook research into MDMA at the university of Cambridge (USA),
though eventually that was curtailed by the change in the law. Some of her
research involved using the Rorsach ink-blot test. Volunteers' cognitive
aspects remained the same with the exception that some subjects
spontaneously made connections between images seen on the ink blots and
their own self, demonstrating a unique quality of the drug. For example, a
subject saw an image as "Father about to hit me when he was drunk",
bringing back a forgotten memory. By contrast, on hallucinogens this test
shows very different cognitive aspects.
Dr. Harlow also did work with Jerry Beck for NIDA on the use of MDMA in a
Dr. Harlow suspects that excessive use of MDMA suppresses the immune system.
She is critical of the neo-Reichian use of MDMA because of its analgesic
properties, and thinks that 2CB is much better for body work it does not
She sees the best use of MDMA for "re-patterning dysfunctional object
relationships" - usually transferring one's childhood relationship with
parents to others later in life. Examples are 'having to please' in
relationships, or having to revolt against others in order to define
Asked what she thought about self therapy using MDMA, Dr. Harlow believes
that a helper is essential to accept, listen, acknowledge and give the
support of unconditional love to the client, but not to control the
session. It is easier to emphasise if the helper is also on MDMA, but it is
not necessary. She suggests that MDMA could well be used in
co-counselling-type sessions, where two people take turns at being
therapist and client. Another use of MDMA is as a 'gateway' drug to
psychedelics, as it clears up fear problems.
She feels very sad that the benefits of MDMA have been lost by prohibition.