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Unger, Sanford


Biographical Information

Sanford Unger received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from Antioch College in 1953. He earned his Master of Arts degree in 1955 from Cornell University while serving as a Teaching Assistant in the Department of Anthropology & Sociology. From 1955 until 1957, he was enlisted in the U.S. Army. Following his enlistment, Unger returned to Cornell, where he earned his Doctor of Philosophy degree in 1960 in the Department of Human Ecology. During his final year at Cornell, he was named Senior Fellow of the Cornell University Graduate School. Subsequently, Dr. Unger was certified as a clinical psychologist by both the Maryland Psychological Association and the National Association of Caregivers in Psychology.

From 1960 until 1965, Unger served as a psychologist in the Laboratory of Psychology of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in Bethesda, Maryland. In 1963, after publishing the highly regarded paper “Mescaline, LSD, Psilocybin, and Personality Change,” he, with colleague Albert Kurland, pioneered exploratory research with LSD at the Spring Grove State Hospital in Catonsville, Maryland. Over the next decade, the psychedelic research program at Spring Grove evolved into a major center for research into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics. In 1969, Unger was appointed Chief of Psychosocial Research at the newly founded and highly distinguished state-of-the-art Maryland Psychiatric Research Center. Clinical research projects included studies with alcoholic patients, neurotic and depressed patients, and those with terminal cancer, as well as a study on the training of professionals involved in psychedelic psychotherapy. These activities are detailed in his article “The Psychedelic Use of LSD: Reflections and Observations.”

In 1973, during the reorganization of the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center, Unger was invited by the Superintendent of the Springfield State Hospital in suburban Eldersburg, Maryland to direct an experimental program for the treatment of hospitalized alcoholic patients. Unger developed and directed this innovative program, known as SPAR (Springfield Program for Alcoholic Rehabilitation), over the next several years. I It was subsequently written up and circulated to all publicly-administered institutions in the country to serve as a model which was widely and successfully followed by many facilities.

In 1978, Unger founded and directed the Stillwater Institute, a private psychotherapy practice. He oversaw this program until his retirement.

In 1992, Dr. Unger retired to Sedona, Arizona where he has taught classes on a variety of topics at the Yavapai College Lifelong Learning Program, including a course on the history of psychedelic research.


Biographical information provided by the donor.

Found in 30 Collections and/or Records:

Unger, Sanford M. "Mescaline, LSD, Psilocybin, and Personality Change," Journal for the Study of Interpersonal Processes. Vol. 26, No. 2, May 1963

 Item — Box: 11, Folder: 3
Identifier: MSP 1, Series 3, Sub-Series 2, File 20, Item 2
Scope and Contents Two copies, one reprint and one photocopy. Front page of reprint signed by Walter Pahnke.
Dates: May 1963

Sanford Unger papers

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: MSP 69
Abstract The Sanford Unger papers contains several articles concerning the effects of psychedelic drugs on alcoholics and individuals suffering from neurotic disorders, as well as the implication of those drugs on religious visions and mysticism. The collection also contains the correspondence between Aldous and Laura Huxley and Sanford Unger, as well as a DVD of "LSD: The Spring Grove Experiment."
Dates: 1961 - 1974

Unger, Sanford. "The Present Status and Direction of Psychedelic LSD Research." (photocopy of typed manuscript), January 1, 1969

 Item — Box: 11, Folder: 3
Identifier: MSP 1, Series 3, Sub-Series 2, File 20, Item 6
Scope and Contents From the Sub-Series: Includes published and unpublished preprints, reprints, abstracts, and drafts of articles on the use of psychotropic substances as a therapeutic agent. It also includes book chapters, letters to the editor, and conference presentations.
Dates: January 1, 1969