Psychedelic Science of Spirituality and Religion: An Attachment-Informed Agenda Proposal

Aaron D. Cherniak, Joel Gruneau Brulin, Mario Mikulincer, Sebastian Östlind, Robin Carhart-Harris, Pehr Granqvist

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


In this paper, we set an agenda for a psychedelic science of spirituality and religion based on attachment theory. Attachment theory proposes that people develop internal working models (IWMs) of interactions with others from their relational experiences with caregivers. Such IWMs then function as high-level priors or predictive models, enabling people, for better and for worse, to predict and organize their interpersonal and religious/spiritual relationships. One mechanism by which efficacious psychedelic interventions may work is by relaxing the grip of rigid, defensive priors (e.g. insecure IWMs with regard to others and God), further amplified by corrective relational experiences with the therapist, God, or others. We outline three key proposals to steer future research. First, individual differences in attachment security predict the phenomenology and integration of psychedelic experiences. Second, efficacious psychedelic therapy facilitates increased attachment security as a clinically relevant outcome. Third, attachment-related dynamics (e.g. a sense of connection to others/God/the universe, alleviation of attachment-related worries and defenses) are process-level mechanisms involved in the clinical utility of psychedelic treatment. Finally, we discuss the role of religion and spirituality in psychedelic experiences from an attachment perspective.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-276
Number of pages18
JournalThe International Journal for the Psychology of Religion
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s). Published with license by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


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