n,n-dimethyltryptamine; DMT; ayahuasca; psychedelic renaissance; perception of healing; ethnographic research


Ayahuasca is a psychedelic brew originating from the Amazon in South America. Commonly associated with religious use among indigenous and mestizo populations, ayahuasca has made its way to the United States, where it is currently criminalized as a Schedule I drug. Nevertheless, a church in the United States provides ayahuasca to its members as both a sacrament and tool for healing through spiritual retreat weekends. Based on participant observation and semi-structured interviews with church members, volunteers, and staff in 2023, this thesis examines how members perceived the healing they experienced during multiple ayahuasca ceremonies and interactions with church volunteers and staff. By examining their personal experiences and the extra-drug variables of set and setting, I argue that members received guidance about the next steps in life from the ayahuasca experience itself and from the post-ceremony integration process led by the church. Members often saw this guidance as a path toward mental healing. In addition, members’ ayahuasca experiences were influenced by their intentions for drinking the brew and the overall supportive setting provided by volunteers and staff members. This thesis contributes to the growing body of literature on the renewed interest in psychedelic use for therapeutic purposes in the global north by analyzing ayahuasca use in the unique setting of a spiritual retreat in the United States.

Thesis Completion Year


Thesis Completion Semester


Thesis Chair

Harris, Shana


College of Sciences



Thesis Discipline




Access Status

Open Access

Length of Campus Access


Campus Location

Orlando (Main) Campus



Rights Statement

In Copyright