What I want psychedelic-assisted therapy providers to know

What I Want Psychedelic-Assisted Providers to Know.

 

By Irene Borngraeber

Numinus wanted to share a personal story of healing from our community. Irene is one of our training participants and came to us with the desire to deepen her understanding of these medicines for her own development and to potentially help others navigate their own healing path. Numinus Training is for licensed and unlicensed individuals on traditional and alternative paths. Thank you, Irene, for sharing your story.

Two years ago, psilocybin changed my life. I came to the medicine out of desperation after surgical, holistic, and esoteric modalities failed to help me find a path forward through chronic pain and anxiety. I have a form of skeletal dysplasia (a malformation of all my joints), and I live with chronic pain and limited mobility that has worsened over time. The only corrective option was a joint replacement. Two years after I had both my hips replaced, I was still struggling to walk or move comfortably. My knees were buckling and slipping out of joint, and I did not feel like the left side of my body was “mine.” I couldn’t manage the stairs to do laundry or sit or stand comfortably. I was chronically on edge, literally trying to “grin and bear it,” clenching my jaw and grinding my teeth so hard they cracked.

Like many people who find plant medicine, I came as a last resort after the American medical system failed to help me live a life worth living. After my hip replacements, from an orthopedic standpoint, I was fine (or at least far better than I was before surgery). My joints were in the right place, and I was told I just needed to “give things time.” But I was not fine. I wanted to jump out of my skin: nothing could make me feel ok in my body. I could not relax; I could not sleep; I was trapped in a physical form that was painfully foreign and dysfunctional. Despite the efforts of well-meaning providers, the experiences I had with “traditional medicine” bored me, beat me down, and left me physically whole but unable to function: emotionally hopeless and spiritually dead.

"I could not relax; I could not sleep; I was trapped in a physical form that was painfully foreign and dysfunctional."

Psilocybin brought me back to life. It gave me back control of my body and allowed me to realize that although my physical pain had some very real roots, it was also a symptom of distress that ran much deeper. Psilocybin allowed me to remember how to heal and love myself. It reminded me how much I did not know about the universe.

I initially went to Mexico in order to access this healing. I took time off work and paid out of pocket because I had to find a way to heal. I write this knowing that it is not an option for many people struggling with physical limitations, severe health issues, and financial constraints. Although I am thrilled by the prospect of greater therapeutic access made possible through psychedelic legalization, I can’t help but marvel at just how structurally different these “healing” experiences have been for me. In one instance, I was alone in a hospital or therapist’s office, monitored and measured, and then billed by the hour after jumping through insurance hoops. In the other instance, I was staring at the jungle night sky in a circle of fellow travelers while a Shaman sang for hours on end to clean our spirits and guide us in soothing our souls.    

The American medical system made me feel like something broken to be “fixed”; Shamanistic traditions helped me find wholeness by empowering me to uncover and put together the pieces of my own puzzle. Psychedelics made me realize that I carry deep trauma and revealed just how desperate I had been —to not feel anything. My persistent denial of my own feelings was causing me to collapse physically; my body was screaming for help in the only way it knew how. It took this level of physical distress for me to realize how much emotional and spiritual healing I needed to move forward. I had to change my life. I had to figure out how to acknowledge and give voice to my pain to become whole.

Healing with psychedelics gave me back my autonomy and choice: two things I did not feel I had when subjecting myself to medical interventions from within the current healthcare system. Psychedelic healing is participatory. It works best when there is a mutual effort and, yes, surrender to the medicine and the feelings it brings forward. It’s uncomfortable. It’s messy. And it’s ultimately beautiful.

Since my first experience with psilocybin in Mexico, I have since become a student along this path and entered into what I imagine will be a lifelong process of learning from the plants. I have had many more medicine experiences, ranging from Western-centric science-based retreats to Indigenous ceremonies. While I initially felt more comfortable with a Westernized approach to psychedelic healing, my most profound evolution has come from Shamanistic practices.

Here are the top 5 personal lessons I’ve learned from Shamanism and how practitioners can approach and better understand them in order to empower their clients.

1. Denial Makes You Sick

In the Shamanistic worldview, dis-ease leads to disease. Our individual and collective repression, denial, anxiety, and mental/emotional discomfort build in our bodies and eventually emerge as physical illnesses. This is part of why people in the West are so “sick.” So many of us are constantly covering our feelings and discomfort with alcohol, food, exercise, shopping, and truly, any distraction we can get our hands on. These efforts are made to not feel the cosmic unrest simmering just below the surface.  We tell ourselves that we “should” be ok and have no “reason” to be unhappy. Eventually, the energy needed to maintain that delusion leaves us chronically depleted, just trying to survive. I’m not saying that physical illness and disease aren’t real or that they don’t have biological or genetic markers, but in Shamanism, these are all transmutable. By gently allowing the true source of your discomfort to become known to you and by looking at it with compassion, you can begin the process of releasing what has been poisoning you and start to become better. For me, acknowledging the roots of my chronic stress and anxiety started me on the path of being able to walk comfortably again.

2. Purging is Detoxing

In the West, we’re conditioned to see vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, and many other bodily functions as something to hide. We are used to unconsciously holding them in and attempting to self-regulate through mental control and physical tension or the use of pharmaceuticals (like anti-nausea medication). This is another symptom of chronic repression and stress, and something that is a barrier to initial psychedelic healing. In the Shamanistic worldview, these natural functions are the body’s way of detoxing the physical and spiritual energies that are making us sick, as well as drawing our attention to the fact that we have a need for more energetic cleansing. We need to allow them to happen, and that is not easy. Vomiting, specifically, is said to be good for the release of trauma, and many Shamanistic “dietas” begin by ingesting plants that make you vomit. Think of it as a radical form of letting go. It was scary, and for me, it was even difficult to figure out how to do it at first. My body was in a state of chronic, unconscious contraction that I needed to overcome. Once I was able to actually purge, I was also able to enter into the medicine more deeply and welcome the next stage of healing. I knew I was in good hands should anything get out of hand or if I was in medical distress, and I learned to lean in.

3. Trauma is Energy, and Disassociation is a Coping Mechanism

This was a big one for me. Despite being able to acknowledge I had traumatic experiences, I did not know I had trauma. I remembered everything; I could talk about everything, and I thought I was fine. I had no idea that what I called “anxiety” was actually called “panic attacks” by others and that my coping mechanism had been complete disassociation from my body and my feelings. What I did know was that I had pain. A lot of it. And when I was in ceremony that pain often got worse, building to intolerable levels. I would also get intense surges of energy, like seizures, that I could not control and simply had to allow to move through my body. I would often flop around my mat like a fish out of water. I did not have an explanation for this, but I felt I was desperately trying to rid my body of stagnant/negative energy. It was not until I began working with a very experienced Indigenous healer in Peru that I learned this twitching was known to him as trauma. That was the first time my experience was validated or explained in all of my ceremonies, and it was a huge relief. Trauma is energy. For some of us, it is purely physical. We cannot talk our way out of it; we cannot fully understand it, and often, somatic techniques are not enough to rid ourselves of it. Massage and hands-on techniques were crucial to my progression and the continued work of clearing out these stores of physical trauma.

4. Healing Requires an Undoing

Most of us construct our physical, mental, and emotional lives in order to avoid internal aspects of ourselves that are too difficult or too painful to face. We soothe our bodies and minds in any way we can, creating “safe” containers for us to live with this level of denial. I surrounded myself with work, responsibility, duty, and service to others in order to avoid my own deeply unmet needs. I couldn’t even name them. Daring to strip away these layers of coping, one by one, required me to take a hard look at how I had engineered my life in ways that were essentially not respectful or healthy for my true being. Many of those realizations were devastating. Healing involves significant periods of mourning and grief. For who we were, for how we damaged ourselves for the sake of keeping up appearances, and for all that we denied. It is hard, and it is lonely. I had to undo so many knots, one at a time, to have the opportunity to conceive of a different way forward. This is not a quick fix. It is not a panacea. It is an invitation to dare to change your existence for your own good.

5. Community is Crucial

We are ultimately responsible for our own healing, but that doesn’t mean we have to be alone. Shamanic medicine ceremonies are usually conducted with multiple participants, with opening and closing rituals that encourage openness and the sharing of experiences. Healing in community is powerful, and having the opportunity to bond with fellow seekers and trauma survivors has been one of the most validating experiences I’ve had along this path. I’ve seen how my words and physical experiences have impacted and inspired others, and hearing about their struggles and processes has made me feel stronger, more empowered, and so much less alone. Being honest, raw, and messy around other people who understood trauma allowed me to find my voice and speak my truth in a way I had not been able to before. It helped me own my pain and not be ashamed of my experiences or needs; it gave me perspective and enabled me to see how my story could help others as they walk along this difficult path. I’m so grateful to have been able to learn from these brave seekers, many of whom I’m still in contact with to this day. They are why I feel compelled to go out on this enormous "limb" and speak publicly about my own healing journey.

My own path of self-discovery continues, and building a community that supports this level of healing is increasingly important to me. We are not alone in this work. We are not broken. We simply need to find a better way to honor ourselves and our truths in this complicated world. I hope that medical practitioners will respect and learn from the Shamanic traditions that have kept this knowledge alive and learn into this wisdom-- for the good of their patients and for the good of the world.

Numinus is leading the way in balancing traditional and Western approaches to psychedelic-assisted therapy through psychedelic facilitator training. That starts with their thoughtfully curated education and training programs. Their approach is to weave cultural safety and cultural humility throughout their entire curriculum and offer wisdom from Indigenous voices on ways of knowing and providing healing to humanity. If you are looking to immerse yourself in this type of learning, I would check out their Fundamentals of PAT program. I look forward to learning and growing with Numinus and feel hopeful for the future of this work.

Irene Borngraeber is a recovering non-profit executive, student of the plants, and a companion to those seeking support along their healing journeys. Connect with Irene on LinkedIn.

Psychedelic Therapist Training: The Fundamentals

By Julian Bost

So, you’re thinking about becoming a psychedelic therapist? Numinus' goal is to pave the path to certification for folks interested in this profound healing modality. We offer a range of courses to help fully prepare you for work and experiences in this field. Our Fundamentals of Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy course is the first step. Collaborating with the folks over at Healing Maps, we created this blog series to provide both scientific rigour and practical insights into the training journey of a psychedelic-therapist. Whether you're a therapist looking to expand your skillset, or someone curious about the intricacies of this therapeutic field, you're in the right place.

 

The Emergence of Psychedelic Therapy

The undeniable potential of psychedelics, from MDMA's effectiveness in treating severe PTSD to psilocybin's impact on major depression, signals a profound shift. The word 'psychedelics' now echoes in coffee shops, office corridors, and even the National Football League. This cultural shift is evident when highly public figures like Aaron Rodgers discuss their ayahuasca use without repercussions.

 

On a larger scale, philanthropists and institutions are actively backing psychedelic research. The CEO of TOMS pledged $100 million to this cause, while venerable, longstanding institutions like Johns Hopkins University are conducting groundbreaking studies on the link between psychedelics and consciousness. On a global scale, Australia became the first country to legalize MDMA and psilocybin for prescription use.

 

Psychedelics have entered our culture through various avenues, from microdosing to shamanic retreats. However, the most regulated and standardized path may be through therapy. Over the last seven decades, psychedelic-assisted therapy has proven both safe and effective in Europe and North America, with Numinus being at the forefront of today’s movement. As psychedelics gain more approvals globally, the demand for mental healthcare professionals trained in this therapy is set to surge.

 

The Questions That Arise

The growing prominence of psychedelic-assisted therapy prompts crucial questions: How can one become a psychedelic therapist? What is the path, and what does it entail to step into the realm of psychedelic therapy?

 

In being a psychedelic therapist, your job will combine two key elements: The use of a psychedelic substance (such as psilocybin, ketamine, MDMA, etc.) coupled with traditional psychotherapeutic practices. 

 

It's important to note a couple of critical points. Without the therapeutic component, psychedelic use is often considered “recreational.” While recreational or “underground" use has its place, psychedelic therapy is deemed particularly effective due to its professionalism, safety, and therapeutic integration components.

 

The Role of a Psychedelic Therapist 

 

The role of a psychedelic therapist varies based on location but generally requires being a licensed mental healthcare professional. This includes clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, clinical social workers, registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and chaplains who have received specialized training in psychedelic therapy. In essence, a psychedelic therapist is a licensed mental health professional equipped to combine psychotherapeutic practices with guided psychedelic experiences, unlocking individuals' innate healing potential.

 

How to Get Involved

The future holds significant demand for certified psychedelic therapists, and you could be one of them. Explore Numinus' Certification Pathway for more information. As this field continues to evolve, it is vital to ensure our knowledge is rooted in evidence and thoughtful consideration. 

 

Stay tuned for our next article, where we will explore the global legal landscape of psychedelic therapy.

 

The Impact of Psychedelic Harm Reduction In Therapy

3 Benefits of Using a Harm Reduction Framework in Your Therapy Practice

According to a recent study by the National Institute of Health, psychedelic use is on the rise. The percentages of young people who said they used hallucinogens in the past year had been fairly consistent for the past few decades, until 2020 when rates of use began spiking. In 2021, 8% of young adults said they have used a psychedelic drug in the past year, the highest proportion since the survey began in 1988. Reported hallucinogens included LSD, mescaline, peyote, shrooms, PCP and MDMA (aka molly or ecstasy).

With this increase in recreational psychedelic use, there is a growing need for mental health professionals to expand their practices to support harm reduction and psychedelic integration needs. Here are the top 3 reasons practitioners should adopt a harm reduction framework in their therapy practice.

 

1. Builds Trust & Rapport With Clients

By maintaining a non-judgemental, accepting, compassionate, curious, and positive stance when exploring a client’s substance use, as well as other risky or harmful behaviours, you are directly contributing to the trust that client has with you. Being open and curious signals to the client that they are safe to walk through their thought process and current decision-making around psychedelic use, where you can gently advise on any dangers and practices they should take into consideration. When supported in this way, these clients are more likely to stay with you long-term and if you decide to provide psychedelic-assisted therapy in the future, they may feel comfortable turning towards psychedelic care provided by you. 

 

2. Helps Clients To Make Informed Decisions

When psychedelic medicines are used outside of clinical settings, proper education, preparation, and support can mitigate potential harms and increase the likelihood of clients having productive experiences (Gorman et al., 2021).  

Particularly with the medicines used in psychedelic-assisted therapy, clients may start treatment with some inaccurate information about the psychedelic medicine being used. The internet (particularly social media platforms) is full of misinformation about psychedelic medicines, their effects, adverse effects, and anticipated experiences. 

When a client has a more fulsome understanding of experiences and the decisions associated, potential benefits and harms are affected in ways that can enhance and protect their experiences, further contributing to trust this client has with you. 

 

3. Presents A Unique Opportunity To Work With Your Clients

When discussing psychedelic use, an important role you can play with your clients is to help with the integration work. Working on integration is your opportunity to keep the positive changes engendered by psychedelic experiences alive. In this regard, good integration work with your clients will help facilitate lasting changes and could reduce the need for ingesting medicines recreationally outside of a clinical setting. Not only is this an opportunity to work more with your client, but it’s a unique opportunity to really dive into positive and meaningful changes that are important to your client, which can facilitate deeper connection and meaning making as part of your regular appointments. 

 

In Conclusion: 

“Using a harm reduction framework in your clinical practice allows you to support your clients with non-judgmental, compassionate, and acceptance-oriented care. We should expect that clients may choose to use substances outside of the clinical setting, and that providers can play an important role in mitigating any harms associated with that, through building trust and rapport. We teach a harm reduction framework in our Psychedelic-Harm Reduction and Integration course at Numinus, which includes transparent discussions around the legal and ethical responsibilities in doing this work. Psychedelic use is going to continue to rise as more folks seek the healing potential of these medicines, so education in this area is going to become increasingly important.” 

- Amanda Giesler, Director of Training

 

Learn More: 

Join us for a 2-day introductory workshop on the practice of Psychedelic Harm Reduction and Integration (PHRI) and learn the tools needed for educating clients about altered states of consciousness and how to integrate these experiences. Click here to learn more.

 

*The continuing professional development program in no way promotes, condones, or facilitates illegal activity, and is strictly for educational and harm reduction purposes only. Please be aware that certain psychedelic substances still remain illegal in many jurisdictions, including Canada. This program and the contents of this website do not constitute medical advice, and are not a substitute for professional medical advice and treatment.

The Healing Potential of Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy for Eating Disorders

Eating disorders affect millions of people worldwide, presenting complex challenges that often require comprehensive and innovative approaches to treatment. In recent years, there has been growing interest in the potential of psychedelic-assisted therapy as a transformative tool in the realm of mental health. This blog post explores the emerging field of psychedelic-assisted therapy for eating disorders, shedding light on its promising benefits and the implications it may have for the future of treatment.

Introduction

Eating disorders affect at least 9% of the population, or 70 million people, worldwide[8], and this number is increasing. A review of worldwide data found that eating disorder diagnoses more than doubled from 2000-2018, with the trend was consistent across regions, age groups, and genders.[10]

These conditions are also serious, falling among the deadliest mental illnesses, second only to opioid overdose.[8] Every year, 10,200 deaths occur as the direct result of an eating disorder—that’s one death every 52 minutes.[9]

 

Understanding Eating Disorders

“Eating disorders are a window into the struggle of the soul.”

People don’t choose eating disorders. Nobody wakes up one day and says “I’d like to have anorexia”—If they do, they’re seriously misinformed. Eating disorders aren’t choices, but rather serious multi-faceted and biologically influenced illnesses. An individual may consciously decide to purge or over-exercise at first, but before long, this disordered relationship with food and one’s body can become a deeply-ingrained subconscious pattern that takes on a life of its own. When left untreated, eating disorders can lead to serious, and sometimes life-threatening, physical and psychological consequences, underscoring the urgent need for effective therapeutic interventions.

Thankfully, eating disorder behaviors are learned behaviors and can be unlearned—but it takes time. Everyone has the capacity for full recovery. Part of the work in recovery is to uncover the meaning or purpose behind the symptoms.

 

The Limitations of Traditional Treatments

Conventional treatment approaches, including cognitive-behavioral therapy and medication, have demonstrated some effectiveness in managing eating disorders. However, there are currently no FDA-approved treatment options for anorexia nervosa and only one for bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder respectively. While depression commonly occurs with most eating disorders, traditional antidepressants (i.e. SSRIs) often lack efficacy in patients with anorexia. Even when patients are able to take advantage of available treatments, many continue to struggle with symptoms, and relapse rates remain high.

Studies have found that over a third of all patients treated for anorexia or bulimia end up relapsing within the first few years of completing treatment. The highest risk for relapse from anorexia occurs in the first 18 months (about 1 and a half years) after treatment, with 35% falling back into eating disordered behaviors.[1]

While the onset of bulimia usually occurs during adolescence or early adulthood, it tends to persist for several years, either chronically or intermittently. Treatment does help most people with bulimia achieve long-lasting recovery, but relapse still is a significant concern, with rates of up to 41% of former patients resuming bulimic behaviors within 2 years.[2]

Recognizing these challenges, researchers and clinicians have continued to search for new and improved ways to help individuals with eating disorders find more long-lasting and complete healing, including the use of psychedelic-assisted therapy as a potential alternative or complementary treatment modality.

 

The Role of Psychedelics in Healing

Psychedelic substances like psilocybin, MDMA, and LSD have shown promise in facilitating profound psychological healing in individuals dealing with depression, PTSD, substance abuse, eating disorders, and other mental health conditions. Though theoretical mechanisms of action of psychedelic medicines are still being investigated, a growing body of research points suggest that psychedelics create desirable brain states that can accelerate therapeutic processes and make eating disorder interventions easier to receive. The desirable brain states in

 

Research Studies

Group Ketamine-Assisted Therapy for Eating Disorders [3]

This pilot study, led by Dr. Reid Robison, Chief Clinical Officer of Numinus, explored the use of group ketamine-assisted psychotherapy (KAP) in a residential eating disorder treatment facility. 5 individuals with eating disorder diagnoses and comorbid mood and anxiety disorders received weekly intramuscular ketamine injections in a group setting followed by non-drug psychotherapy over 4 weeks.

Regarding the outcomes, the study found promising results. Group KAP was feasible and well-tolerated, with high patient satisfaction and treatment adherence rates. Participants experienced reduced symptoms of depression, anxiety and showed significant improvements in eating eating symptoms and quality of life, with effects persisting at a 6-month follow-up.

Participant quote:

“Trying ketamine allowed me to see the possibility of a life I could have. While the effects did not last, my very first experience snapped me out of a state of life-long, deep disconnection that I didn't even know I had been experiencing. Suddenly, I was able to live in the world in the way people had always described it. Though I am still trying to figure out how to attain that level of connection after catching a glimpse, that one experience was so essential. I could finally feel hunger and fullness cues. I felt what it's like to live in a body, instead of living a short distance from it. I felt connected to others and genuinely cared about their well-being. I felt human for the first time in a long time.”

 

Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy for Anorexia [4]

This study being conducted by Compass Pathways in collaboration with University of California San Diego,  is exploring the safety, tolerability, and efficacy of psilocybin-assisted therapy for patients with anorexia. Preliminary results from 10 participants who received a single 25 mg dose of synthetic psilocybin (~3.5 grams of dried psilocybin) shows:

 

Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy for Binge-Eating Disorder [5]

This Phase II study is currently underway at the University of Florida in collaboration with Tryp Therapeutics and happens to be the first ever psilocybin-assisted therapy study addressing binge-eating disorder. Interim analysis of five early participants has found:

MDMA-Assisted Therapy for Eating Disorder Symptoms [6]

This study investigated the effects of MDMA-assisted therapy on adults with severe PTSD, specifically exploring its impact on eating disorder symptoms. A total of 90 participants with severe PTSD received treatment in a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. At baseline, 13 participants had EAT-26 scores in the clinical range, and 28 had scores in the high-risk range, despite the absence of active purging or low weight. After finishing the study, there was a significant reduction in total EAT-26 scores in the entire PTSD group following MDMA-assisted therapy compared to placebo. Moreover, significant reductions in total EAT-26 scores were observed in women with high EAT-26 scores (≥11 and ≥20) following the study protocol.

 

Other studies:

 

GROUP PHASE INDICATION STATUS
MAPS Phase II MDMA for anorexia and BED Anticipated start date in 2023
Johns Hopkins Phase I Psilocybin for anorexia Enrollment complete
Imperial College Phase I/II Psilocybin for anorexia Enrollment complete
TRYP Phase II Psilocybin for BED Enrolling
XPIRA Phase II Psilocybin for Anorexia Anticipated start date in 2023
COMPASS Phase II Psilocybin for Anorexia Enrolling

 

 

Integrating Psychedelics with Conventional Models

Integration of psychedelic-assisted therapy with conventional eating disorder treatment requires careful consideration of medical and safety factors, as well as the crucial involvement of specialized eating disorder clinicians. These clinicians have the expertise to navigate the unique challenges and triggers associated with eating disorders, helping patients access and integrate psychedelics in a safe and therapeutic manner. Their involvement ensures a comprehensive treatment approach that combines the benefits of psychedelic therapy with the tailored support required for individuals with eating disorders, leading to more effective and sustainable outcomes. We view the role of psychedelics as an adjunctive to traditional treatments, not a “replacement.”

 

Conclusion

Psychedelic-assisted therapy represents a promising frontier in the treatment of eating disorders, offering new possibilities for deep healing and transformation. While further research is needed to fully understand its effectiveness and establish appropriate guidelines, preliminary studies and anecdotal evidence suggest that this approach holds tremendous potential. As the field progresses, it is essential to strike a balance between innovation and responsible practice, ultimately providing individuals with hope and a path toward recovery from their eating disorders.

 

References

  1. Arcelus, Jon et al. “Mortality rates in patients with anorexia nervosa and other eating disorders. A meta-analysis of 36 studies.” Archives of general psychiatry 68,7 (2011): 724-31. https://doi.org/10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2011.74
  2. BMC Psychiatry. 2019; 19: 134. Published online 2019 May 6. doi: 10.1186/s12888-019-2112-9
  3. https://jeatdisord.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40337-022-00588-9
  4. https://compasspathways.com/comp360-psilocybin-therapy-shows-potential-in-exploratory-open-label-studies-for-anorexia-nervosa-and-severe-treatment-resistant-depression/
  5. https://tryptherapeutics.com/updates/tryp-therapeutics-announces-interim-results-for-its-phase-ii-clinical-trial-for-the-treatment-of-binge-eating-disorder-with-psilocybin-assisted-psychotherapy
  6. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022395622001303
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9797933/
  8. (Ghaderi et al., 2018, Ward et al., 2019)
  9. Deloitte Access Economics. The Social and Economic Cost of Eating Disorders in the United States of America: A Report for the Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders and the Academy for Eating Disorders. June 2020. Available at: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/striped/report-economic-costs-of-eating-disorders/.
  10. Galmiche M, Déchelotte P, Lambert G, Tavolacci MP. Prevalence of eating disorders over the 2000-2018 period: a systematic literature review. Am J Clin Nutr. 2019;109(5):1402-1413. doi:10.1093/ajcn/nqy342

The Importance Of High Quality Therapist Training

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:

  1. Trauma-Informed Care
  2. Justice, Equity, Dignity and Inclusivity (JEDI)
  3. Cultural Safety and Humility
  4. Connection: Relationship-centered Care
  5. Mindfulness
  6. Embodiment
  7. 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!

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To learn more about the Fundamentals of Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy, click here. To view all of our training programs, click here.

Experience & Collaboration: A Practitioner's Approach To Teaching

Foundational Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy Training, Taught By Experts. 

Dr. Steve Thayer is a licensed clinical psychologist and psychotherapist. He started his career in the U.S. Air Force, overseeing a mental health clinic and managing programs for preventing and treating alcohol and drug abuse. Currently, he focuses on helping his clients through psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, teaching counselling courses, and co-hosting a podcast on psychedelic therapy. Steve is facilitating the upcoming cohort of the Fundamentals of Psychedelic Assisted Therapy, and we asked him questions about the course and his teaching approach.

 

What experience do you bring to the Fundamentals of Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy course?

As a clinical psychologist specializing in psychedelic-assisted therapy, I have helped thousands of clients navigate their own healing journeys. I have been trained by MAPS in MDMA-assisted therapy, provide ketamine-assisted therapy in my practice, and serve as lead therapist on several psychedelic clinical trials. I also supervise clinicians providing psychedelic-assisted therapy and facilitate psychedelic medicine retreats abroad.

 

What can students learn from you?

Students can expect to learn the essential skills, qualities, and principles necessary to provide effective, compassionate, and ethic psychedelic-assisted therapy. I like to emphasize the importance of clinician self-knowledge, self-development, and self-care as a key component to doing this work well.

 

How do you approach teaching this course?

I take a collaborative approach to teaching. There is so much we can learn from each other! I try to draw out the collective wisdom of each group I teach so that we can elevate and support one another .

 

Why should people take this course?

This course will equip professionals with the foundational knowledge and skills to practice psychedelic-assisted therapy. I have extensive experience teaching, supervising, and mentoring therapists and I am committed to helping the rising generation of practitioners wield psychedelic tools safely, powerfully, and responsibly.

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To learn more about the Fundamentals of Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy, click here. To listen to Steve on the Psychedelic Therapy Frontiers Podcast, visit Spotify, here.