Learning how to become a psychedelic practitioner can be more accessible than you think. Join Janelle Lassalle in learning about the different resources you can use to start your journey towards becoming a psychedelic professional.
As mental health disorders continue to rise, interest in psychedelic therapies does as well. It’s no small wonder why: a number of psychedelic therapies have shown great promise when it comes to treating a number of health conditions including depression and anxiety. MDMA, for instance, is currently in its last phase of clinical trials, with legalization expected to happen in the next 1-2 years. The state of Oregon also recently legalized psilocybin on a state level, opening up an entirely new modality of therapy from which patients can benefit.
What was once a keen interest in psychedelics, however, has quickly shifted into something far more pressing since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The impact of COVID-19’s on mental health includes sharp rises in post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as well as cases of depression and anxiety that can persist for months afterwards. As desperate patients turn to at-home psychedelic use to cope, many healthcare practitioners are now looking for ways they can become trained in psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy.
With demand for psychedelics at an all time high, practitioners can rejoice in the knowledge that there are a number of psychedelic therapy programs available to enroll in today. Interested practitioners, however, may want to consider the following elements before proceeding.
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Types of Psychedelics to Work With
Practitioners may want to begin by giving some thought as to the types of substances they’d like to work with.
Classical psychedelics are substances that act on the serotonin 2A receptor (5-HT2A), reliably producing psychedelic experiences as a result. These include compounds like lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), psilocybin and N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT).
While classical psychedelics may have pioneered today’s “Psychedelic Renaissance”, they are no longer the only substances included under the psychedelic therapy category. In fact many psychedelic therapies today are focused around the study and administration of ‘entactogens.’
Entactogens, also sometimes called ‘empathogens’, are a class of drugs known for their ability to produce a positive emotional state. MDMA is perhaps the most famously known type of entactogen.
Traditionally classified as a dissociative anesthetic, ketamine can also act as a psychomimetic agent, or substance that can induce profound changes in perception. This is why it’s now commonly included as its own type of psychedelic therapy (Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy, or KAP).
As such many psychedelic therapy programs today offer insight into training with a mixture of substances under the psychedelic umbrella including psilocybin, MDMA and ketamine.
Some programs also offer practitioners the chance to train with other plant medicines such as ayahuasca. This type of training, however, is usually restricted to international retreats or online programs.
To begin, consider your own personal goals and values. What excites me about becoming a psychedelic practitioner? Why do I feel called to do this? Some may wish to help those suffering from depression or addiction, while others may want to support individuals on spiritual or self-growth path.
These may not be mutually exclusive, but the type of training and skills needed to work clients with various intentions can differ.
For example, if you would like to offer MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD then it is advisable you get a lot experience working with individuals who have experienced trauma before adding the MDMA to your practice.
On the other hand, if your primary intention is to provider a safe, supportive space for someone to take a journey then other modalities could be more valuable to learn. Signing or shamanic drumming may be skills you’d like to sharpen rather psychotherapeutic techniques.
Answers to these questions will dictate practitioners’ paths forward as legal routes of working with psychedelics may require certain training, licensure or experience while other paths have no formal requirements.
Who Can Become a Psychedelic Practitioner?
Psychedelic practitioners aren’t just limited to therapists and MDs. Many different types of professionals can enroll in psychedelic therapy training including nurses, social workers and life coaches. Clergy members, too, are often granted certain permissions to work with these types of therapies.
The legalization of psilocybin in Oregon with Measure 109 has also created a new type of psychedelic practitioner: state licensed Psilocybin Service Facilitators. These individuals supervise and facilitate psilocybin administration to patients in a controlled setting.
Other, less conventional psychedelic practitioners include roles such as psychedelic guides and trip sitters.
Creating Your Own Track
There’s no formalized system or track in place for becoming a psychedelic practitioner at this point in time. This leaves providers having to piece their training together via a number of different certifications, programs and community engagements.
Dr. Geoff Bathje, a psychologist at Sana Healing Collective who provides ketamine-assisted therapy and psychedelic integration, says he had to “piece my training together” by completing CPTR training, MAPS MDMA training, participating in supervision groups, obtaining ketamine training, and “otherwise reading, learning, and collaborating with others.”
Useful Modalities To Study
Formalized schooling isn’t a requirement for becoming a psychedelic practitioner since the type of professionals involved are diverse in their skills and expertise. However some training, particularly as a therapist, is ideal.
“I would recommend having foundational training as a therapist or something adjacent in the mental health world,” says Dr. Peter H Addy, Licensed Professional Counselor. Dr. Addy is a long time member of the Psychedelic Support Network who shared ways for practitioners to pursue legal psychedelic experiences as part of their training.
While it “probably helped that I attended grad school at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, which has been involved in psychedelic science for decades,” Dr. Addy suggests providers educate themselves about transference and countertransference and the neurobiology of trauma.
Other complementary modalities providers can study that may assist them in their journey include Somatic Experiencing, IFS (Internal Family Systems), Hakomi, Holotropic Breathwork and Sensorimotor practices says Rebecca Hendrix, LMFT, a practicing psychotherapist who has completed the MAPS MDMA-assisted psychotherapy training program.
Commit To Personal Healing
The importance of a commitment to personal healing before taking on this kind of work is foundational. Facilitators must be committed to their own healing journey so they can show up clearly for others—and minimize the risk of ethical issues around transference and countertransference.
In our course Ethical Right Relationship in Psychedelic Therapy, Kylea Taylor, LMFT teaches us how to provide “a self-reflective and self-compassionate approach to Right Relationship; an internal approach which puts our focus on motivations, those deep, not always conscious urges that precede our behaviors with clients.”
Develop Your Own Personal Relationship With Plant Medicines
Practitioners looking to train in this field should also possess a willingness to develop their own personal relationship with plant medicines. This can mean experiencing plant medicines firsthand and familiarizing themselves with ‘non ordinary’ states of being:
“It seems important that clinicians develop their familiarity with ‘non ordinary’ states of consciousness and comfort with sitting for people in those states,” says Dr. Bathje.
Firsthand experience is the only way to really grasp what a client is experiencing. Without having done so yourself, it’s left to the imagination and a cognitive understanding, but not lived experience.
You surely wouldn’t hire a guide to take you to the top of Mount Everest who had never gone themself. The unknown terrain of altered states can be similarly as challenging to navigate without a lot of training and personal work.
Practitioners seeking to continue their journey may then often seek out firsthand training or apprenticeships before opting for formalized training programs. MAPS offers clinicians the opportunity to enroll in healthy volunteer study of MDMA to have the opportunity to experience the effects in a legal setting.
Since directly working with plant medicine can be challenging, providers should get some sort of formal apprenticeship or ability to shadow others doing this work.
Recommended Psychedelic Training and Courses
This 40-hour online program includes 5 modules live taught by experienced ketamine clinicians. This training program is available to physicians, psychologists, therapists, nurses, and other healthcare professionals.
Designed for the busy practitioner, this 1-year online program prepares clinicians to deliver ketamine, MDMA, and psilocybin assisted therapies. Students learn from over 30 faculty experts in this 200 hour program.
In two online works (16 hours of live taught), students learn how to integrate diverse clinical theories, traditions, and philosophies offering participants an increasing wide-angle lens on the evolving field of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, grounding it in clinical wisdom, psychoanalytic and archetypal/Jungian theory and mindful practices.
This 4-hour online workshop is to help medical providers become well-versed in the medical topics and safety issues around ketamine-assisted psychotherapy. Clinicians learn how to safely and confidently operate a ketamine clinic or to perform ketamine-assisted psychotherapy.
If you would like to start learning in shorter online courses on your own time, Psychedelic Support offers several great options with continuing education (CE/CME) credit available.
Psilocybin Focused: State Licensed Facilitators
The passing of Measure 109 in Oregon legalizing psilocybin has led to the creation of The Oregon Psilocybin Services Section, a division of the Oregon Health Authority Public Health Division’s Center for Health Protection. This new department is tasked with building the country’s first regulatory framework for psilocybin services which includes developing a psilocybin facilitator training program and approval system.
Hopeful psilocybin facilitators are required to complete a training program with a curriculum that has been approved by the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) to become licensed with the state. Facilitators must possess a high school diploma or its equivalent but will not require any additional degrees or certifications.
Select companies such as InnerTrek are already offering training programs for students studying to become state-licensed Psilocybin Service Facilitators in Oregon. InnerTrek’s program includes 120 hours of “core training” as well as 40 hours of supervised “practicum.”
How Do I Find a Supervisor To Meet Certification Requirements?
“If you are enrolled in a certificate program like MAPS’ MDMA training, they will assist you to find a supervisor/practicum to do the hours you’ll need to be certified,” says Hendrix. Hendrix also advises looking for a supervisor by searching for someone or a facility trained in your modality on Psychedelic Support’s Professional Connect (free to join!).
Many if not all of the providers we spoke with emphasized the importance of getting involved with the community as the next step in their psychedelic training journeys.
Providers should consider connecting with a community of peers to share knowledge and better develop your skill set.
Providers can connect with others interested in psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy by joining Psychedelic Support’s monthly speaker and professional networking series, volunteering at the Zendo or Fireside Projects, listening to podcasts, attending workshops, conferences and trainings, and keeping in touch with colleagues you like and respect.
Dr. Bathje also recommends connecting with alumni associations unique to training cohorts as well as joining listservs for ketamine treatment providers like Psychedelic Support’s private forum for providers.
The opportunity to become a psychedelic practitioner has never been so widespread or accessible. We look forward to seeing what new types of practitioners will emerge during this psychedelic renaissance, and hope this guide can help you navigate your journey whatever it may be.