NoríanderEncounters with Avabuasca
A questionnaire was constructed which elicited back-ground data as well as answers to three questions about theirayahuasca experiences:
Explain if you had a special goalor aim in participating in the ayahuasca session, (2) Can youprovide a description of what you went through, and anally,(3) Can you explain how this experience has impactedyour life. Participants were guaranteed full anonymity. Thequestionnaire was constructed in accordance with Swedishethical guidelices for psychological research.
Through a previoasly used neiwoik of contacts (Kjellgrai &Noiiander
Norlander. Kjellgren & Archer 2001) 30 ques-tionnaires were distributed to three ctmtact people who were intum given the task of sending these questionnaires further,accompanied by postage paid reply envelopes, to peoplewho participated at least once in an ayahuasca group ses-sion. From a total of 28 distributed questionnaires. 25 wereretumed by post within a two-week period. Data collectiontook place in January and February of 2008.
Proce^ing the Data
The Empirical Phenomenological Psychological Meth-od (EPP-method) devised by Gunnar Karlsson (1995) wasused in processing the data.
EPP-method comprises ananalysis in five steps:
This stage involved reading respondents'descriptions carefully until a substantial understanding,overview, and "sense" of the material was obtained. Theaim of this reading was to distinguish relevant psychologi-cal phenomenon. The reading excluded the aim of testingvalidity or any specific hypothesis.
In the second step, the text was divided intosmaller so-called meaning units (MUs). This division isnot based upon any rules of grammar, but entirely uponthe content the researcher discovers and at places wherea suitable shift in meaning occurs. An example from onerespondent yielding two MUs:
"Ayahuasca has shownme how everything is interconnected" and "2/ this has mademe more empathetic andwise.
This step yielded a total of468 meaning units.
During the third
each MU was transformedfrom the language of the respondent to the language of theresearcher. This transformation follows no specific rules,however everyday language is preferred to psychologicalterminology. The purpose is to make the implicit and under-lying meaning of a phenomenon visible and explicit. Thetransformed MUs from above:1/The respondent perceivesthat ayahuasca has shown how everything is interconnected;
The respondent experiences getting more empathetic andwise due to ayahuasca sessions.
In the fourth step, the transformed MUs weresynthesized into categories or situated structures. A total of33 categories were generated. An attempt to describe andanswer the questions "how" the phenomenon expressesitself (noesis), and "what" the phenomenon is (noema) werefocused on during categorization. Each category illustrateda special perspective of the phenomena studied and wasdescribed by a synopsis. The categories or situated structureswere developed during processing whereby repeated con-sultations of raw data continued in a hermeneutic manner.
During this final
the categories were movedinto more general themes or typological structures. Thiswas done through a procedure whereby the three authorsindependently organized the synopses into general themes,then jointly compared their results (which were strikinglysimilar), and finally agreed on the themes. The level ofabstraction was decided upon, according to the principlethat clarity should be attained without excessive detail.The purpose was to reflect at a more abstract level. Thethemes included categories that denoted various aspects ofthe experience of participating in ayahuasca sessions, forexample: motivation and aim; sudden transformation ofthe experience; changed worldview and new orientation to
To monitor the reliability of the study results, theNorlander Credibility Test (NCT), designed for phenomeno-logical analysis, was used (Edebol, Bood & Norlander 2008;Aseniöf et
2007). It was conducted by randomly selectingfive of the 33 categories. Thereafter, four of the MUs wererandomly .selected from each of the five categories. Thematerial was then given to two independent assessors. Theirassignment was to put the twenty MUs into the five differ-ent categories. One of the tests yielded an 86% agreement,and the other test yielded an 80% agreement. The overallagreement was thus 83%. According to Karlsson (1995).high validity is ensured by following the stages of the EPPmethod.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
During the course of the study six themes emerged,each assisting of seveialcategories:(a)moti\'aionandaim.(b) con-tractile frightening state, (c) sudden transformation of theexperience, (d) limitless expansive states with transpersonalexperiences, (f) reflections, and (g) changed world view andnew orientation to life. The six themes recurred on a regularbasis throughout the study and constitute a timeline. We wijlfirst discuss each theme separately and then describe thelinks between the different parts of the timeline and howthose links develop into the transcendental circle.
AimThis theme describes various aspects of participationas well as motives for participating in ayahuasca sessions.Each of the participants underscored the importance of hav-ing an aim, and noted that participation was well thought
Journal of Psychoactive Drugs
Volume 41 Í4), December 2009