Dr. Stanislav Grof is a Czechoslovakian psychiatrist and expert on non-ordinary states of consciousness. He is among the founding theorists of transpersonal psychology and one of the earliest researchers of psychedelic therapy.
Dr. Grof earned his M.D. from the Charles University School of Medicine in 1956 and his Ph.D. in Medicine from the Czechoslovakian Academy of Sciences in 1965. Both institutions are in Prague. He has also received four honorary Ph.D.’s from the University of Vermont, the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, the World Buddhist University in Bangkok, Thailand, and the California Institute for Integral Studies (CIIS).
From 1954 until 1956, Dr. Grof conducted clinical research with LSD and studied psychiatric patients’ artistic expression. He began his psychiatric residency in the State Mental Hospital in Kosmonosy, Czechoslovakia in 1956 and carried out lab research with psychedelic substances into the 1960s. Dr. Grof was one of the recipients of LSD that was synthesized at Sandoz Pharmaceuticals for psychiatric research. When LSD was outlawed, he sought alternative means for inducing non-ordinary states of consciousness. which eventually led to Dr. Grof’s development of Holotropic Breathwork.
Dr. Grof trained in Psychoanalysis with Dr. Dosužkov at Prague’s Psychiatric Research Institute from 1960 until 1967. In 1967, he joined Johns Hopkins University’s Henry Phipp’s Clinic as a Clinical and Research Fellow and led some of the first studies of psychedelics’ potential to treat existential suffering. He later became Chief of Psychiatric Research at Spring Grove Hospital (now the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center). He directed clinical trials there that studied the effects of high doses of LSD on cancer patients. The study, summarized in a Psychedelic Science Review article, found significant reductions in depression, isolation, anxiety, and other symptoms relating to end-of-life distress.1 He has published a number of other articles in the Journal of Transpersonal Psychology reflecting on his research with LSD-assisted psychotherapy.2-4 An inventory of Dr. Grof’s writings was published and is maintained by the Purdue University Libraries.
In his doctoral dissertation, MAPS founder Rick Doblin credited Dr. Grof with inspiring his professional pursuits. Dr. Grof’s work also influenced Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris’s entry into the psychedelic field.
Teaching and Training
In 1969, Dr. Grof became an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University. He joined the Esalen Institute as a Scholar-in-Residence from 1973 to 1987, co-founding the International Transpersonal Association (ITA) along the way in 1978. In 1988, he and his late wife Christina Grof launched Grof Transpersonal Training (GTT). The program taught Holotropic Breathwork, an experiential, facilitated group practice the Grof’s developed while at Esalen. Dr. Grof coined holotropic, a word derived from Greek terms which translate to “moving toward wholeness.” Holotropic Breathwork is defined on the GTT website as “a powerful approach to self-exploration and healing” that “combines accelerated breathing with evocative music in a special set and setting.” He and Christina also coined the term spiritual emergency, referring to what conventional psychiatry deems medicatable psychoses. Their theory posits that “these episodes are actually psychospiritual crises or crises of spiritual opening.”
Dr. Grof married Brigitte Grof in 2016. In May 2020, the couple launched Grof® Legacy Training, a new program to train facilitators in working with holotropic states of consciousness. An announcement on Dr. Grof’s website states that he is no longer affiliated with Grof Transpersonal Training. Currently, Dr. Grof teaches at CIIS in the Department of Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness.
Writings, Media, and Awards
A biography on Dr. Grof’s website states that he has authored more than 160 scholarly articles and written more than a dozen books, including four with Christina. His books have been translated into twenty-two languages. Dr. Grof has shared his expertise through seminars and training around the world, including presenting at MAPS’ 2017 Psychedelic Science Conference. He has consulted on science fiction movies and appeared in a number of films about psychedelics, most recently the 2020 documentary that he co-produced “The Way of the Psychonaut: Stanislav Grof’s Journey of Consciousness.” He has also been interviewed on several podcasts including The Tim Ferriss Show (2018) and The New Health Club (2021).
Dr. Grof has received several awards for his contributions to the field, including The Vize 97 Prize by The Dagmar and Václav Havel Foundation in 2007.
More information regarding Dr. Grof’s work and honors can be found at stangrof.com.