In this article, we will examine the ethical issues in psychedelic therapy and the responsibilities of therapists and guides, as well as the need for public dialogue surrounding abuse and misconduct. As psychedelics inherently create expanded states of consciousness, there is an exponential increase in a client’s state of vulnerability and suggestibility. Professional psychedelic practitioners are the responsible parties who must uphold a certain standard of ethical conduct with their clients. We will look at ethical issues, considerations, and abuse that’s occurred within psychedelic therapy and discuss appropriate ethics training for practitioners within the field.
Psychedelic-assisted therapy represents a seismic shift in the treatment of mental health. With the mounting evidence of psychedelic efficacy in treating patients and an imminent path to psychedelic legalization within clinical contexts, there is a growing need for trained psychedelic-assisted therapists to assist clients in their journey to healing.
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Recent clinical trials have produced strong evidence that both psilocybin and MDMA effectively treat intractable depression, PTSD, and anxiety. As early as 2023 in the United States, MDMA may be legal for the clinical treatment of PTSD. Following this, psilocybin (magic mushrooms) will likely become FDA-approved for depression in 2024. But as momentum gains for incorporating psychedelic-assisted therapy into mainstream therapy, there must be standardized guidelines for legal and ethical boundaries within the space.
Ethical Considerations in Psychedelic Therapy
Psychedelic-assisted therapy is not new; for thousands of years, indigenous cultures have integrated psychedelics into their societal and spiritual fabric to care for the body, mind, and soul. And, within Western culture, licensed psychotherapists and unofficial psychedelic guides or “trip sitters” have been practicing psychedelic-assisted therapy underground for many years.
The current demand for psychedelic healing has uncovered a need for public dialogue around the ethical considerations within psychedelic therapy. As such, there is a growing need for psychedelic education for those interested in practicing psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. As psychedelics inherently create expanded states of consciousness, there is an exponential increase in a client’s state of vulnerability and suggestibility. Therapists, doctors, guides, etc., are the responsible parties who must uphold a certain standard of ethics in psychedelic therapy with clients.
Unfortunately, the highest degree of care is not always taken with clients undergoing psychedelic-assisted therapy. As a result, ethical boundaries may be crossed, sometimes creating psychological distress for clients, ongoing trauma, and abuse. In less controlled settings, unlike clinical trials, clients can be exposed to adverse events caused by an untrained therapist or guide who may be unaware or in opposition to ethical practices in psychedelic therapy. Even within clinical trials, serious ethical violations have occurred. Unfortunate events may go so far as abuse, including sexual misconduct or psychological mishandling that can cause irreversible harm to the very people seeking relief.
An Online Course in Psychedelic Ethics
Within the Psychedelic Support online course “Ethical Right Relationship in Psychedelic Therapy”, Kylea Taylor, LMFT, teaches an easy-to-learn set of tools to “do self-inquiry and avoid ethical pitfalls.” Kylea is a licensed marriage and family therapist who is also the author of “The Ethics of Caring.” Her book is a guide for InnerEthics®, a reflective journey into self-awareness, which is critical to building ethical relationships with clients undergoing psychedelic-assisted therapy.
Within this ethics course, you will discover how inner motivations guide us and how cultivated inner wisdom helps you choose the right course of action with clients. You will learn how a client’s inherent vulnerability under the influence of psychedelics necessitates ethical and moral conduct within psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy and how traditional western ethical educational models fall short. As someone who works with clients, you will also learn mindfulness and why self-compassion is a prerequisite for self-reflection.
Upon completion of this course, you will have a deep understanding of inner ethical inquiry and the special safety needs of your clients. You will be able to apply mindfulness techniques and ethical decision-making to situations that may arise within psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. Finally, you will be equipped with the tools to analyze and deal with potentially precarious situations within your psychedelic practice with clients.
This is a must for any professional who works with psychedelic clients. People who have taken this course have said, “This was a very well designed course that taught a lot of information in a short time frame. I will watch it over again to gather more details to share. Highly recommend this for other therapists and guides.” You also have an optional 2-hour continuing education (CE) credit within this course available for licensed professionals.
Take the online course Ethical Right Relationship in Psychedelic Therapy