The Impact of Psychedelic Harm Reduction In Therapy

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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. 

  • Psilocybin will cure your [insert mental health issue/concern here] 
  • Psilocybin is a short experience (akin to ketamine duration) 
  • Psilocybin-assisted therapy is with a regular microdose 
  • Psilocybin is “natural” so it can replace SSRIs 
  • Unawareness of aftereffects of psilocybin (perhaps more so the physical sensations) 
  • Psilocybin-assisted therapy is dosed with raw material (magic mushrooms) 
  • Psilocybin is legal for use in Canada 
  • Psilocybin-assisted therapy is free because it is all done through clinical trials and is covered by the government 

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.


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