Cassandra Vieten, PhD is a licensed clinical psychologist, mind-body medicine researcher, author, consultant, and public speaker. She is the Executive Director of the John W. Brick Mental Health Foundation. Founded by Victor and Lynne Brick, in honor of Victor’s brother John who suffered from schizophrenia, the JWB Foundation funds and promotes empirical research on fitness, nutrition, and mind-body approaches to foster mental health, and to better prevent and treat mental illness.
Cassi is also Director of Research and Associate Scientist at the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination at the University of California, San Diego. The Clarke Center advances understanding of the phenomenon of imagination and its practical applications. We research, enhance, and enact the gift of human imagination by bringing together the inventive power of science and technology, with the critical analysis of the humanities, and the expressive insight of the arts. And, we work to develop more effective ways of using imagination to cultivate public engagement with the big questions of our time, to improve education and learning, and to enhance the application of imagination in meeting humanity’s challenges.
Cassi is also co-founder and Clinical Psychology Director at the Psychedelics and Health Research Initiative at UCSD, where a flagship study focuses on psilocybin for phantom limb pain in patients with amputations.
Cassi is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS), founded by Apollo 14 Astronaut Edgar Mitchell, where she worked for 18 years. She served as CEO/President from 2013-2016 and President from 2016-2019. The mission of IONS is revealing the interconnected nature of reality through scientific exploration and personal discovery, creating a more just and thriving world. In addition to her contributions to the overall mission, vision, strategic direction, financial health, board and staff development, and activities of the organization, she headed up several initiatives including Mindful Motherhood, Living Deeply and the Transformation Project, and the Future of Meditation Research Project.
Her current research projects focus on establishing training guidelines for spiritual and religious competencies for mental health professionals, developing tools and experiences designed to induce perspective shifts that change people's worldviews, and training progressive change agents and political activists to be more effective.
She is co-chair of the Board of Directors of Partners for Youth Empowerment, Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors of the Consciousness and Healing Initiative, and serves on the Board of the Virtual World Society.
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Cassandra Vieten grew up in Southern California, with parents who were public high school teachers and counselors, and university scientists/professors in biochemistry and medical school education. She has two brothers, one sister, and two step-brothers. She graduated from Redlands High School in 1987, and received her BA in Psychology from California State University, San Bernardino. There, she became interested in meditation and its potential for intersecting with psychology to reduce suffering and foster thriving.
Cassandra received her PhD in clinical psychology in 1998 from the California Institute of Integral Studies, an independent accredited graduate school in San Francisco that combines Eastern philosophy, indigenous wisdom, and Western psychology. Her practicum and internship training took place at Haight-Ashbury Psychological Services (HAPS), a low-fee psychotherapy clinic in San Francisco, and the Center for Special Problems, a San Francisco County Mental Health clinic focusing on domestic violence and sex offenders, victims of violence and trauma, transgender, and HIV+ individuals with serious mental illnesses. Prior to that Cassi worked as a counselor for six-years in long-term social model drug treatment centers including My Family and MFI Recovery Centers in Riverside, CA, and Centerpoint in San Rafael, CA.
Cassi completed her pre-doctoral, dissertation, and post-doctoral training from 1993-2001 at the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center at the University of California, San Francisco, where she began as a research assistant and became a clinical co-investigator on studies examining the biological basis of alcoholism. In the UCSF Family Alcoholism study, led by geneticist Kirk Wilhelmsen, she led a team of research assistants who assessed over 2,000 people from families with alcohol dependent members, working to localize genetic variations that increase risk for alcoholism and co-occurring disorders. There, she received her first R03 grant from NIH to study the role of affect regulation in alcohol dependence and recovery, also the topic of her dissertation.
In 2001-2003, she worked on the Cultivating Emotional Balance project at UCSF, led by Margaret Kemeny and launched by Paul Ekman and the Dalai Lama. After obtaining a grant to study mindfulness with pregnant women at risk for post-partum depression, she left UCSF to become a Scientist at California Pacific Medical Center’s Research Institute from 2001-2013. Along with colleague John Astin, she co-directed the Mind-Body Medicine Research Group and collaborated on studies developing and pilot testing mindfulness and acceptance-based approaches to smoking cessation (California state-funded), and preventing alcohol dependence relapse (NIAAA-funded). After giving birth to her daughter Indigo in 2001, Cassi became interested in the potential for mindfulness for pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum wellness. She and John Astin launched the Mindful Motherhood project (funded by the Bella Vista Foundation), which later became a book, an online course, and a professional training. The curriculum was adapted for the Maternal Adiposity and Metabolism Study (MAMAS) at UCSF, where Cassi served as a coinvestigator with Elissa Epel, Barbara Laraia and colleagues on a five-year NIH-funded project examining mindfulness and nutrition training on health outcomes in at-risk inner-city pregnant women.
Through her role at California Pacific Medical Center starting in 2001, Cassi met Marilyn Schlitz and began working on research projects at the Institute of Noetic Sciences. Founded by the Apollo 14 Astronaut Edgar Mitchell, IONS' approach to bridging science and spirituality became an 18-year passion for Cassi. After several years as a scientist there, she became Director of Research, then in 2013, the 7th President and CEO of the organization. During her tenure at IONS she grew the science program at IONS to six scientists and five international fellows, all dedicated to studying the extended reaches of consciousness. She had the opportunity to work with scientists, futurists, astronauts, spiritual leaders, healers, and scholars throughout the world, to investigate how consciousness studies could contribute to creating a better future for all. She also wrote three books, dozens of academic research articles, and led dozens of workshops on transformation around the world.
Cassi convened and participated in several Center for Theory and Research meetings and has led over a dozen workshops at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, CA. She has given two TEDx talks, one in Napa Valley and one at Burning Man where she and colleagues were conducting an experiment on collective consciousness. Her new ventures - transforming mental healthcare at the John W. Brick Foundation, exploring the science and innovative potential of imagination at the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination at UCSD, and consulting with people and organizations to amplify their impact - feel like the perfect next steps.
Her daughter is now a freshman in college, and Cassi is based in San Diego, CA with her partner and dog. She loves being near the ocean, singing, art, poetry, travel, geeking out on space exploration and science fiction, exploring big ideas, learning about the world's spiritual and religious traditions, being with friends and family, and working with community to make a positive difference in the world.
Cassandra Vieten is Executive Director of the John W. Brick Foundation, Director of Research and Associate Scientist at the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination at the University of California, San Diego, and a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, where she served as President from 2013-2019.
Cassandra Vieten is Executive Director of the John W. Brick Foundation, Director of Research and Associate Scientist at the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination at the University of California, San Diego, and a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, where she served as President from 2013-2019. Her research has focused on spirituality and health, transformative experiences and practices, the development of mindfulness-based interventions for emotional well-being, and development of media technologies to inspire awe. She received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies, and completed her research training in behavioral genetics at UC San Francisco. She has authored three books, published numerous articles in scientific journals, and is an internationally recognized keynote speaker and workshop leader.