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Richards, William A.



  • Existence: 1940

Biographical Information

William A. Richards is a clinical psychologist at the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He is a pioneer in researching the therapeutic effects of psychedelic substances, with a career that spans more than five decades. His graduate work includes a Master’s in Divinity from the Yale Divinity School (1965), Master of Sacred Theology from the Andover-Newton Theology School (1966), and a PhD in Counseling from Catholic University in Washington, DC (1975). He studied with Abraham Maslow at Brandeis University and with Hanscarl Leuner at the University of Göttingen (Germany), which initiated his interest in psychedelic research in 1963. From 1967 until 1977, he carried out psychotherapy research with psychedelics at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center, alongside colleagues Stanislav Grof, Walter Pahnke, Sanford Unger, Charles Savage, and others. This research investigated the therapeutic potential of psychedelics in the treatment of alcoholism, depression, narcotic addiction, and in the psychological distress associated with terminal cancer. He was a member of the psychology faculty of Antioch University in Maryland from 1977 until 1981. In 1999, with Roland Griffiths, Robert Jesse, and Una McCann, he was instrumental in ushering in a new era of psychedelic research, embarking on a study that resulted in the landmark article “Psilocybin can occasion mystical-type experiences having substantial and sustained personal meaning and spiritual significance,” which was published in the journal Psychopharmacology in 2006. This was the first rigorously designed, placebo controlled clinical study in more than four decades to examining the therapeutic efficacy of psilocybin, and thus, opened the door to a new era of psychedelic research. In addition to his appointment at the Johns Hopkins Medical Center, Richards is Chief Therapist for Sunstone Therapies at the Aquilino Cancer Center in Rockville, Maryland. He is a trainer and consultant for psychedelic training programs internationally and is closely involved with the Program of Psychedelic Therapy and Research at the California Institute of Integral Studies.


Winkelman, Michael J. and Thomas B. Roberts (eds.). Psychedelic Medicine: New Evidence for Hallucinogenic Substances as Treatments. Westport, Conn.: Praeger Publishers, 2007.


William Richards, PhD. Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research. Accessed May 2, 2023.


Interdisciplinary Conference on Psychedelic Research 2022. Accessed May 15, 2023


MSO 1, Purdue University Archives and Special Collections Oral History Program collection, Purdue University Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

William Richards collection on Walter Pahnke

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: MSP 68
Scope and Contents The William Richards Collection on Walter Pahnke (1952-1972; 0.2 cubic feet) contains materials collected and donated by William Richards that document the life and work of his close colleague, Walter Pahnke. It includes some of Pahnke's important academic writings, copies of personal manuscripts, some biographical information, writings by his wife (Eva Sontum Pahnke), and materials memorializing his untimely passing.
Dates: 1950 - 2009; Majority of material found within 1964 - 1971