What I Wish I Had Known Before I Became a Psychedelic Medicine Facilitator 

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What I Wish I Had Known Before I Became a Psychedelic Medicine Facilitator
By Arthur Lee

As of this writing, I've been helping others to prepare for, experience, and meaningfully integrate psychedelic medicine experiences for five years. I came into this work after unknowingly preparing for it my entire adult life. These extraordinary medicines held in safe and ceremonial settings largely facilitated my personal transformation. These experiences were my preparation.

The Start of My Medicine Journey

I was fortunate to have my first psychedelic experience with psilocybin mushrooms in my late teens, which had an immeasurable impact on my self-awareness and ontological perspective. Before the experience, it was as if I'd been living in a walled courtyard; it was a fairly cozy one, to be sure. When the mushroom experience came along, it gave me a ladder to see well beyond the confines of my small mind. It felt like I had come across a vast horizon seemingly without boundaries. It assured me that there was something much larger than myself that I was fundamentally a part of, and whatever it was, it was infinitely loving and safe. It gave me a glimpse of things I'd just started learning about through ancient contemplative traditions like Buddhism. It also showed me that deep down, I didn't love myself completely. These are only a handful of the realizations offered then. Still, in summary, they sparked a profound curiosity and fascination with what was possible for the human mind through greater awareness, self-inquiry, and the intentional use of psychoactive substances. 

This newfound curiosity led me to further explore and learn about ancient traditions, Indigenous perspectives, psychology, drug policy, and—surprise! More psychedelic use. 

When I first realized I could translate these experiences into helping others by becoming a psychedelic medicine facilitator, I had the notion of helping people have transcendent experiences that could radically shift their perspectives and alleviate deep psychological ailments. While these powerful and transformative moments certainly occur, there is so much more to the role that I couldn’t fully appreciate until I was in the thick of it. 

Caring for oneself to avoid compassion fatigue and emotional burnout is essential for facilitators and therapists working with non-ordinary states. This is something I’ve had to learn the hard way. You cannot pour from an empty cup, so self-care routines and periodic respites from this intense work are essential. 
Essential Lessons From My Early Days as a Facilitator

One of my biggest lessons was how psychologically demanding this work would be. You inevitably witness extremely heavy material emerging – repressed traumas, existential terror, messy emotional purges. Remaining grounded, calm, and composed while navigating these harrowing states takes an emotional fortitude, groundedness, and non-attachment that gets tested in the fire over and over again. Developing sincere compassion and care for every single person who comes through the door while maintaining firm boundaries is an ongoing practice. Caring for oneself to avoid compassion fatigue and emotional burnout is essential for facilitators and therapists working with non-ordinary states. This is something I’ve had to learn the hard way. You cannot pour from an empty cup, so self-care routines and periodic respites from this intense work are essential. 

Another important realization is that psychedelics are not a panacea but extraordinarily powerful tools that require immense care, integrity, and wisdom in how they are facilitated. While they can provide access to profound healing and growth, that is just the beginning. The real work happens in skillfully integrating those experiences into one's life in service of substantive change. How that happens is different and dynamic for each person. For some, that acute integration stage may last only weeks, while for others, it may continue for months or even years. We still have a long way to go in the psychedelic community towards fostering this process while living in a world whose conditions often directly oppose it.  

Compounding positive habits, supportive relationships and supervision, and an ongoing commitment to one’s own inner work are also required to bridge the psychedelic realms and our ordinary reality. As a facilitator, you're not just holding space for a journey but planting seeds that need continuous tending to blossom fully. 

The Learnings Continued and Deepend

Another major learning has been the profound importance of thorough screening, preparation, and integration for participants. Simply providing access to a powerful psychedelic experience is not enough-- in fact, it can potentially be destabilizing or even re-traumatizing without the proper container. In the preparation phase, it's essential to deeply understand each individual's unique psyche, emotional landscape, existential orientation, and intentions. Knowing where their edges are and what specific fears or complexes they're working with is key to crafting a ceremonial space that feels utterly safe and supportive for their process to unfold organically. As facilitators, we must also be self-aware and humble enough to admit when a participant’s needs or condition is outside of our scope of practice and to refer out to more appropriate support or services whenever possible. 

The integration period after the experience is just as crucial. The psychedelic realm cracks open vast potential, radical perspectives, and seismic emotional shifts. But really, landing and rooting those revelations into sustainable personal growth requires patience, compassion, and skill. 

The Paradox of Experience

This path has been steeped in paradox – simultaneously cosmic and mundane, rapturous and humble, numinous but requiring meticulous preparation and attention to logistical details. While psychedelics can part the curtains of one’s consciousness and self-awareness, true mastery involves showing up wholeheartedly for the client and the steady work of integration and embodiment. 

There have been many moments of doubt and, more than a few occasions, wondering if I'm indeed up for the responsibility, energy, and hard work this role demands. It has simultaneously been the most challenging and rewarding vocation. And yet, witnessing the healing and transformation in those I have walked this journey alongside makes every ounce of effort worth it. It has been the greatest undertaking of my life, but for those with the right aptitude and calling, I can think of no more meaningful life path than stewarding the gates of such profound human transformation. 

The Role of Facilitation

As facilitators, we're midwives to rebirth—helping shed old skins and habitual patterns so that a more authentic and integrated self can emerge. But that birth process can be messy and painful and is never as simple as we'd like. Helping folks navigate this complexity with tenderness and equanimity is perhaps the greatest challenge of this craft. 

At its most essential, this work repeatedly reveals how little I (or any of us) actually know and how much courage and commitment to continuous learning are required to practice true openness, curiosity, and radical compassion—for others' journeys, for the unfathomable dimensions these medicines can unveil, and for one's own never-ending cycle of growth, death, and rebirth as a human being.   

Numinus provides training for psychedelic medicine facilitators that recognizes these realizations and commitments, recognizing the aptitude and skill set required for this vital role. Their training encompasses comprehensive education on psychological support, harm reduction principles, trauma-informed care, and cultural competency. Their trainees undergo rigorous preparation to handle the diverse range of experiences and challenges that may arise in psychedelic sessions, emphasizing the importance of maintaining a safe and supportive environment for participants. They also emphasize the ongoing commitment to personal growth and self-care for facilitators, understanding that the demanding nature of this work necessitates continuous reflection and support. Through their training programs, Numinus strives to uphold the highest standards of ethical practice and professionalism in the field of psychedelic therapy. As a student of their Foundations of Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy, I’m grateful for the opportunity to build on prior theoretical knowledge and firsthand experience to be even better equipped to provide ethical and competent psychedelic care to those I have the honor of sitting with.

Numinus is proud to preview the community support app project underway at https://numinus.com/community/. We are building a space for all our graduates to connect, share, and learn from one another, even after their training is over. This space will provide bi-monthly supervision with our own Dr. Steven Thayer and other licensed professionals on our team to support your growth and expansion as you find your niche in the Psychedelic Ecosystem. You do not have to navigate this alone; we are with you every step of the way.

 

 


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