He completed his post-graduate training at the Gestalt Associates for Psychotherapy in New York, and has continued his professional development the past ten years at New York’s Soma-Psyche Institute, where he learns intuition and empathic attunement skills.
Before settling on psychotherapy as a career, Charley was an executive recruiter for the financial services and IT industries; a freelance writer (published in Travel and Leisure; mentioned in Time); and is the former editor in chief of The New Sun, a holistic health and human potential magazine. He has often been featured in The New York Times and Newsday as “The Love Doctor”, and has appeared several times on television.
For the past 20 years, Charley has been a member of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (www.maps.org), which funds research into the use of MDMA (Ecstasy) for treating PTSD, social anxiety and other ailments. He and his wife Shelley have been instrumental in building the local MAPS community here in New York since 2004.
Charley sits on the Board of Advisors of The Psychedelic Education and Continuing Care Program at the Center for Optimal Living in New York, and regularly speaks there on the topic of “Psychedelics Across The Lifespan”.
Although he doesn’t use MDMA in his therapy practice, he continues to benefit from personal experience with this medicine as it informs and improves his performance as a psychotherapist.
Charley likes to say he was raised in the suburbs of Long Island, but didn’t grow up until he left. He’s been a New York City resident since 1969, and currently lives in Brooklyn with Shelley, his remarkable second wife.
This interview is part of our exploration into the theme of Aging. Be sure to check out our short documentary on MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD to learn more about the therapeutic benefits of psychedelic drugs.
Charley Wininger is an “elder” in New York’s underground psychedelic community, meaning he’s had his fair share of encounters with substances like LSD, MDMA, and psilocybin. Like any good elder, Charley is ready and willing to impart the wisdom he’s gained as a result of these experiences, but unlike your typical “elderly” person, he is here to amplify an infrequently heard message: psychedelics aren’t just for the young and folly.
This message comes at a historically relevant time: just as MDMA receives “breakthrough” status for treating PTSD and other psychoactive drugs like ketamine are becoming more widely available to the public as a treatment for depression, advocates are beginning to question whether psychedelics can be used not just for treating maladies, but as an ingredient for otherwise “healthy” people to live a more “optimal" life.
At 69 years old, Charley uses psychedelics as a tool for better understanding his own perspectives on aging, love, masculinity, and mortality, and firmly believes that all people, (especially those approaching or in twilight years… with the OK from their doctors, of course) could experience profound benefits from recreational use of psychedelics. As a former flowerchild of the 60s, he’s lived through multiple eras of psychedelic culture and was an enthusiastic participant in the counterculture of the 70s, and carries with him the same spirit of love and revolution today. And as a psychotherapist with over 30 practicing years under his belt, he combines his unique and studied expertise with his lived experience to provide us with real wisdom and insight from “the psychedelic underground.”
Charley currently sits as an advisor on the board of Psychedelic Education and Continuing Care Program at the Center for Optimal Living. He also collaborates with MAPS as a longstanding member to network and rally support for the research of psychedelics drugs. He’s currently working on a book called, Listening to Ecstasy which depicts his first-hand knowledge of the sacred American psychedelic culture and its revelatory wisdom that you can experience for yourself should you be willing and informed.
As someone who is breaking the mold of what it means to "age" while advocating the facing of one's own pain through the use of psychedelic drugs, we were excited to interview Charley for our month exploring the theme of Aging. Click above to listen to our interview with Charley.