Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy Fundamentals & The Numinus Care Model
Dr. Devon Christie is the Senior Lead of Psychedelic Programs with Numinus and one of our lead trainers. This August, we're offering two cohorts of our Fundamentals of Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy training program to meet the growing demand for education in the space. We sat down with Dr.Christie to talk about the program, why psychedelic-assisted therapy is so important, and how the Numinus Model of Care.
Introduce yourself briefly and your experience with psychedelics
I’m Dr. Devon Christie, and I’m the Senior Lead of Psychedelic Programs with Numinus. I’ve played a big role from Numinus’ early days, in developing our psychedelic-assisted therapy treatment protocols, and our psychedelic therapist training programs. Alongside this, I wear a number of hats in my clinical practice - I have a focused medical practice in chronic pain and mental health, and I’m a psychotherapist with certifications in Relational Somatic Therapy for trauma, MDMA-assisted therapy, Ketamine-assisted therapy, Level 1 IFS, and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction. I am passionate about educating future psychedelic therapists and providers and contributing to a more healing healthcare system through careful integration of psychedelic-assisted therapies.
I came across psychedelics quite academically in 2011, when I attended a conference in Vancouver BC featuring an author and colleague whom I have deep respect for, Dr. Gabor Maté. I was surprised to learn about his collaborations with Shipibo-trained healing practitioners working with a brew called ayahuasca - a psychedelic plant medicine from the Amazon. I had never heard of this, and it piqued my interest. In 2012, I had my first experiences with ayahuasca, propelling a deep journey of personal exploration and healing that saw me journey to Peru to study Shamanic Yoga, where I had the privilege to learn with Shipibo Indigenous medicine people working ayahuasca and Quero people working with huachuma (a psychedelic cactus). In 2012, I also learned about promising results from clinical trials on MDMA-assisted therapy treating post-traumatic stress disorder, and this captivated and inspired me to become a trauma therapist, in preparation to pursue a therapist role in MDMA-assisted therapy clinical trials taking place in Vancouver and around the world.
Why should people care about psychedelics and current treatment offerings?
While psychedelic substances come with the baggage of stigma stemming from historic propaganda, the truth is there may be important and significant benefits for a range of health conditions when certain psychedelics are combined with therapeutic protocols in a carefully curated healing environment. Psilocybin (the active compound in “magic mushrooms” producing psychedelic effects) when combined with therapy has been recognized as a possible breakthrough treatment for severe treatment-resistant depression, and there is strong evidence for its role in end-of-life anxiety, and additional evidence for substance use disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. MDMA-assisted therapy is a recognized potential breakthrough treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, with strong evidence demonstrating safety and positive outcomes far beyond other existing therapies. Ketamine-assisted therapy can also be effective for treatment-resistant depression, post-traumatic stress, substance use disorders, and other conditions. What is interesting about all these treatments, is they are combination treatments, where the psychedelic substance is only given on a few occasions and acts as a catalyst or amplifier when combined with therapeutic process inherent in the treatment protocol aimed at healing. This is different from how we typically think about pharmaceuticals, which are generally given daily or multiple times a day as the primary treatment for symptom reduction. I have worked to ensure that our Numinus protocols and therapists delivering our protocols are harnessing the best evidence regarding how to optimize the therapeutic environment and process for our clients.
What is the Numinus Model of Care?
We developed the Numinus Care Model to serve as a framework to emphasize and guide priorities and decision making about how we care for our clients at Numinus, and to inspire other entities in the space to also consider prioritizing, for the benefit of all people seeking care. Our care model is made up of seven guiding principles:
- Trauma-Informed Care
- Justice, Equity, Dignity and Inclusivity (JEDI)
- Cultural Safety and Humility
- Connection: Relationship-centered Care
- Harm Reduction
Our therapists are trained to prioritize these seven guiding principles through their ongoing education, and as they care for our clients in all circumstances. It is the basic framework informing our Fundamentals of PAT program.
What is the Fundamentals of PAT program?
The Fundamentals program is based on a manual we developed to help Numinus scale psychedelic-assisted therapy while maintaining a high standard of therapist training and PAT delivery. While it was initially intended for our internal therapist community, we decided to also offer it externally, to increase access for anyone interested in providing PAT to its valuable content. It is an 8-week program that combines self-paced online modules and weekly 3-hour live sessions with a team of expert facilitators. The live sessions create opportunities to observe, practice and integrate the unique skills and knowledge required for best practice with PAT. It is designed to provide a comprehensive foundation that can be built upon with continued learning and practice, that supports practitioners to become excellent psychedelic therapists and/or members of an interdisciplinary team delivering PAT. As such, it is a foundational component of the Numinus certification path for providers of PAT.
What is it like to teach this program?
It’s delightful and inspiring to interact with interdisciplinary cohorts of people who are earnestly and keenly interested in delivering PAT with integrity and great care. I love guiding and demonstrating practices and skills, and hearing how these impact the participants; I also love hearing about participants’ experiences practicing the skills in small groups, and the ‘aha’’s and the important insights gained. There is such rich experience and knowledge in every cohort, and this inspires and encourages me in my own ongoing professional development and dedication to this work.
Why should providers train with Numinus?
I really stand behind our training, not only for its content which incorporates best evidence and practice and all the principles of our Care Model, but also for it’s emphasis on experience-based learning and practical application of knowledge and skills gained. A lot of trainings out there (and I teach in several of them) are great at delivering up to date information, but lack in opportunities to really embody and practice the skills that are ultimately needed when supporting people in PAT – so our program really shines in this area. We are also unique for our embodiment, mindfulness, and trauma-informed emphasis, which the literature increasingly supports as essential components to optimally synergize with the powerful effects of psychedelic medicines. Finally, our lead trainers are excellent; they all have extensive experience, from plant medicine integration, to psychedelic therapy research experience, to mindful inquiry adult education, to trauma therapy, and collectively have practical experience with a variety of psychedelic compounds including ayahuasca, MDMA, ketamine and psilocybin in a variety of settings.
I really hope you can join us for training at Numinus, would love to see you there!