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.

Mental Health Services Transition to Online Care

The coronavirus pandemic is wreaking unprecedented havoc on our healthcare system, economy and communities. The combination of high stakes, uncertainty, lack of control and limits on social connection is creating a perfect storm for psychological distress. Undoubtedly, there is a mental health crisis lurking underneath the public health and economic crises unfolding before our eyes. And this, while everyone is forced to stay home.

The one bit of good news is that psychotherapy works online. Numinus has been offering virtual sessions for many years. But in the last week, we managed to transition our entire clinic operations online. While the virtual therapy session takes some getting used to—for clients and therapists alike—the results have been positive. Clients are grateful that they continue to have access to services. Sarah, one client said “I still had a real connection with my therapist, still able to make progress on issues that I have been working on for a while, and reduction in anxiety from what’s going on today.” Therapists also report that they are having positive experiences despite the remoteness. Jessica said “I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the quality of the connection I’m making with my clients despite the distance.” Julien even found some clinical advantages to virtual sessions: “I also find that there are advantages to meeting clients in their natural environment.”

The research on virtual psychotherapy supports these experiences. A 2012 review paper by Backhaus et al. concluded that virtual therapy is “feasible, has been used in a variety of therapeutic formats and with diverse populations, is generally associated with good user satisfaction, and is found to have similar clinical outcomes to traditional face-to-face psychotherapy.” Surprisingly, according to Simpson and Reid (2014), meeting a therapist online does not seem to compromise the quality of the client-therapist relationship, which is an important ingredient in successful therapy. So good quality mental health care is available online.

This mental health crisis is affecting organizations as well, as they rely on the sustained performance of their people to adapt to sudden, tectonic shifts in the business landscape. Virtual psychotherapy may be an essential ingredient to maintain employees health and functioning at work. Many organizations try to support employee well-being by offering extensive health insurance benefits. In this post-COVID world of social isolation, the primary headwind to employee wellness are feelings of anxiety and disconnectedness that arise from suddenly being thrust into working from home in an uncertain world. Psychotherapy is typically covered under these policies, but often not sought out. Alayacare, a Montreal-based health tech company contributing to COVID-19 solutions, is encouraging employees to make use of these benefits. CEO Adrian Schauer says “we are aware that some of our people are having difficulty coping with the current circumstances, which is totally understandable. We feel like working with an organization like Numinus to give our people access to licensed mental health professionals just makes sense.”

The insurance companies providing mental health coverage are just as motivated to facilitate services. For one, like many of us, they are often looking for ways to make meaningful contributions to their communities in this crisis. They also fundamentally want their customers to get good value for their policies, or else organizations won’t renew their policies. For example, SunLife’s  indicates: “We want to ensure plan members continue to receive the health care they need. Now, we’ll cover virtual services for appointments where they do not need direct physical therapies.”

Do you work with or represent an organization looking to support its employees through this crisis? Have a look at Numinus comprehensive offering for organizations during the COVID-19 crisis.

How To Get the Most Out of Your Online Therapy Experience

Most of us are stuck at home weathering the coronavirus storm. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that our anxieties, depressed mood, relationship problems, post-traumatic stress and bad habits suddenly disappear. To make matters worse, the public health crisis and economic meltdown we’re all witnessing are providing additional triggers for existing mental health issues, and in many cases creating entirely new challenges.

One piece of good news is that despite mandated lockdowns, you can continue addressing your therapy needs and get support for any new stressors by meeting your therapist online. Evidence suggests that virtual therapy is accessible, useful for a variety of conditions, and shows similar outcomes to traditional in-person therapy (Backhaus et al. 2014). Surprisingly, research also shows that meeting a therapist online does not seem to compromise the quality of the client-therapist relationship, which is an important ingredient in successful therapy (Simpson and Reid, 2014).

Here are some tips for getting the most out of your experience, ensuring a seamless transition to virtual therapy.

  1. Privacy is still important. If others are listening in—even loved ones that you trust—you might not be able to communicate with the same level of authenticity. Make it a point to ensure you can get some privacy, using the flexibility of the medium if necessary (see below).
  2. Take advantage of the flexibility of the setting. If you’re fortunate to enough to have privacy at home for the purposes of therapy, then great! But you don’t necessarily need a separate, soundproof home office to conduct a therapy session. Many virtual therapy sessions take place in cars or parks. Audio-only through a phone line can be sufficient to have a good conversation with your therapist, and might even feel more intimate than a video call in some instances. Going for a walk while you talk to your therapist could unlock some energy and creativity, which can be leveraged for insight, motivation and purpose.
  3. Try to minimize distractions. If your therapy session is reduced to a Zoom window, other apps like email, social media or news are just a click away. So it’s easy to lose your focus. Mountains of research show that multitasking is a myth – you will definitely not get the full value from your conversation with your therapist if 20% of your attentional bandwidth is taken up for reading or looking at something else. Put your smartphone away; close all other windows on your computer; turn on “full-screen” mode on your video-conferencing app; and turn off all notifications to prevent your attention from getting hijacked. Don’t forget to turn those essential notifications back on after the meeting.
  4. Don’t sit right in front of the computer screen: So much of the communication between client and therapist happens with your body language. All of that will be lost if you only see each others’ faces. Push back from the computer a bit so that you can see each other’s upper bodies, at least.
  5. Introduce your therapist to loved-ones. If you’re doing your therapy session from home, it can be very meaningful to briefly introduce your therapist to pets, children and/or partners. It can enrich your therapist’s understanding of your home environment and support system. You might even consider involving them in the process (see below).
  6. Consider family or couples therapy. If some of the issues you’re wrestling with involve family members or loved ones with whom you are quarantined, consult with your therapist about the possibility of bringing them into the process. You might find that a broader, more inclusive conversation opens up new possibilities.
  7. Tips for optimizing your tech setup:
    1. Use headphones. This subtle adjustment delivers a surprisingly big impact. In addition to improving the sound quality, it will be a more immersive and intimate experience.
    2. Use a big screen: Go for computers or tablets over a smartphone. It’s simply easier on the eyes.
    3. Ensure a reasonably fast and stable internet connection: Nothing is more annoying in an online meeting than frozen faces or choppy audio. A connection that offers 5 MBPS download speeds should be sufficient. Most cellular connections easily reach that speed, so you can tether your phone to your computer if necessary.
    4. Turn off the selfie camera. Most video conferencing apps will show you the live stream of what you look like to your therapist. It is almost impossible to ignore it and will invariably eat into your attentional bandwidth.

Hopefully these tips will help you stay connected to your therapist and engaged with your healing, even in these difficult moments. Good luck.