At 6.30 a.m. on Thursday, October 29, 2009, Friederike Meckel Fischer’s doorbell rang. There were 10 policemen outside. They searched the house, put handcuffs on Fischer—a diminutive woman in her 60s—and her husband, and took them to a remand prison. The couple had their photographs and fingerprints taken and were put in separate cells in isolation. After a few hours, Fischer, a psychotherapist, was taken for questioning.
The officer read back to her the promise of secrecy she had each client make at the start of her group-therapy sessions:
I promise not to divulge the location or names of the people present or the medication. I promise not to harm myself or others in any way during or after this experience. I promise that I will come out of this experience healthier and wiser. I take personal responsibility for what I do here.
“Then I knew I was really in trouble,” she says.
The Swiss police had been tipped off by a former client whose husband had left her after they had attended therapy. She held Fischer responsible.
What got Fischer in trouble were her unorthodox therapy methods. Alongside separate sessions of conventional talk therapy, she offered a catalyst to help her clients reconnect with their feelings, with people around them, and with difficult experiences in their lives. That catalyst was LSD. In many of her sessions, they would also use another substance: MDMA, or ecstasy.
Fischer was accused of putting her clients in danger, dealing drugs for profit, and endangering society with “intrinsically dangerous drugs.” Such psychedelic therapy is on the fringes of both psychiatry and society. Yet LSD and MDMA began as medicines for therapy, and new trials are testing whether they could be again.