Anja Loizaga-Velder, PhD

Anja Loizaga-Velder, PhD

Anja Loizaga-Velder, PhD is a German-Mexican clinical psychologist who has been investigating the therapeutic potential of the ritual use of psychedelic plants for over twenty years.

She is a founding member and Director of Research and Psychotherapy at the Nierika Institute for Intercultural Medicine in Mexico.

She holds an MA degree in Psychology from the University of Koblenz/Landau, a PhD in Medical Psychology from the Heidelberg University in Germany, and is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Health Sciences at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

Anja is currently collaborating in the first comprehensive field research project on the therapeutic use of Ayahuasca to treat addictions, the Ayahuasca Treatment Outcome Project (ATOP) as well as in the collaborative research project: “The role of ceremonial ayahuasca use and the healing of eating disorders: A qualitative study.”


Presentation Abstract:

The Potential of Sacred Plants for Psychotherapy and Personal Development

In appropriate ceremonial contexts, sacred plants can be potent catalysts for psychotherapeutic change and personal growth by inducing powerful non-ordinary states of consciousness. This presentation will review case stories of patients that overcame psychological challenges such as difficult grief, depression, anxiety, eating disorders and substance dependencies by participating in rituals with sacred plants.

Therapeutic mechanisms that facilitate such change processes will be explored. These include catalyzation of body oriented processes, anti-craving effects, psycho-emotional processes, insights, spiritual processes, overcoming of denial mechanisms and facilitation of positive psychological resources and social support. The quality of preparation for the experience, the experience itself, as well as the capacity of the patient for integration, and the therapeutic support provided for integration are factors that can significantly influence treatment outcomes.

Panel Discussion:

Forces Behind the Movement – Presentation of Organizations
Panelist: Anja Loizaga-Velder, PhD

A representative from each organization will describe their organization, their mission and provide a status on current activities.

The Aware ProjectAshley Booth
Botanical DimensionsKathleen Harrison
ERIELarry Norris
GITAJohn Harrison
ICEERSBen De Loenen
MAPSBerra Yazar-Klosinski
Nierika – Anja Loizaga-Velder 
Women’s Visionary CongressAnnie Oak
Moderator: Kenneth Tupper, PhD

More About Anja Loizaga-Velder:

“Sacred plant knowledge and its benefits are a cultural, therapeutic & spiritual legacy for humanity & should be preserved for future generations.” — Anja Loizaga-Velder

Recommended Reading: Books

The Therapeutic Use of Ayahuasca, Editors: Beatriz Caiuby Labate and Clancy Cavnar

Ayahuasca y Salud, Editors: Beatriz Caiuby Labate and José Carlos Bouso Saiz

The Thirtheenth Step by Robert Hayward

A Different Medicine: Postcolonial Healing in the Native American Church by Joseph D. Calabrese

Recommended Reading: Articles

A Psychotherapeutic View on the Therapeutic Effects of Ritual Ayahuasca Use in the Treatment of Addiction by by Anja Loizaga-Velder Dipl-Psych, PhD

Therapeutic Effects of Ritual Ayahuasca Use in the Treatment of Substance Dependence—Qualitative Results by Anja Loizaga-Velder Dipl-Psych, PhD, and Rolf Verres MD

More About Nierika A.C.:

Nierika A.C. is nonprofit multi-disciplinary association based in the State of Mexico dedicated to the preservation of indigenous traditions of sacred plants. Our mission is to study and preserve the ceremonial and therapeutic use of sacred plants within indigenous traditions of the Americas.

The Nierika association has been in evolution since 1998, founded by Anja Loizaga-Velder, PhD and Armando Loizaga-Pazzi, two clinical psychologists, researchers, and educators specialized in the field of addiction treatment. Committed to the development of multidisciplinary and intercultural therapeutic models, they have studied and collaborated with indigenous healers in Mexico, North, and South America for over 20 years.

Nierika Institute for Intercultural Medicine

Nierika A.C. established the Institute for Intercultural Medicine in 2014 with a mission to advance the scientific study and research of indigenous traditions of sacred plants. We apply a model of intercultural medicine that integrates indigenous traditional medicine practices with modern psychotherapy to effectively treat addictions and other mental health problems.

Our model is based on 20 years of research experience in indigenous traditions of sacred plant use, which shows that traditional practices that promote spiritual and self-knowledge, such as the temazcal or sweat lodge, vision quest, plant diets, and other rites and ceremonies originating in the indigenous cultures of the Americas, can work in unison with Western psychotherapy to form new and effective models of intercultural medicine. The development of culturally adaptive treatment models to address health problems in indigenous communities in Mexico is a primary objective of our institute. We collaborate with therapists, doctors, and practitioners of traditional indigenous medicine and researchers from diverse academic fields to advance this vision.

Establishing the Research Basis for New Regulations on the Use of Sacred Plants

Scientific researchers around the world have presented consistent findings on the effectiveness of Peyote, Psilocybin, and Ayahuasca in the treatment of addiction and psychological disorders when applied within well-structured settings. Considering this evidence, Nierika A.C. works to legitimize their therapeutic applications and to make them accessible to the people who could benefit from them.

We believe it’s time for a new comprehensive regulation that considers the evidence on the safe therapeutic potential of sacred plants and that supports collaboration between Western and indigenous medical traditions to reintegrate the wisdom of traditional medicine into Western medical science for the benefit of humanity.

Please visit our website to learn about how you can volunteer or make a donation to support our work.