Interested in becoming a psychedelic facilitator? Here's everything you need to know.
Psychedelic therapy is becoming a useful weapon in the fight against burgeoning global mental illness, which means it's becoming a very viable career path.
Recent evidence has positioned psilocybin as at least as effective as market antidepressants in treating depression, and evidence is mounting that psychedelics may be fruitful in the treatment of addiction.
There are many positions in the field of psychedelic medicine. Psychologists and neuroscientists work together to uncover what’s going on in the mind. However, another integral character in the psychedelic journey is the psychedelic facilitator. But what is a psychedelic facilitator, and how do you become one?
What is a psychedelic facilitator?
A facilitator is there to guide a patient through the three phases of psychedelic therapy. The first phase, preparation, requires the facilitator to ensure that a patient is sufficiently ready for the sometimes life-changing experience. Through the facilitator’s guidance, a patient can feel more settled and grounded prior to the psychedelic session.
The second phase, the psychedelic session itself, is what most people think of during the psychedelic therapy. Facilitator’s are there to accompany patients on their trip. During the session they will quell anxieties, and ensure the patient is safe throughout.
The third and final phase requires the patient and facilitator to work together to synthesise any insights from the psychedelic session. By teasing out any insights from the experience, a facilitator may help a patient integrate these lessons into the wider context of their life.
Most facilitator’s within institutions already have formal education in mental healthcare. However, since the psychedelic renaissance, there has been a huge spike in courses specifically offered in the field of psychedelic facilitating. Many experts in the field and leading institutions are developing programmes providing a solid foundation into the application of psychedelic medicine.
California Institute of Integral Studies
The California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) is a private University located in San Francisco. It positions itself as one of the foundational institutions of psychedelic medicine; a huge amount of important clinical work was conducted here in the 1960s and ‘70s.
Since 2016, the CIIS has offered their Certificate in Psychedelic-Assisted Therapies and Research, an approximately 9-month course consisting of lectures and workshops delivered by a range of experts in the field. Both classic psychedelic medicines (such as psilocybin, LSD, and ayahuasca) and empathogenic substances (such as MDMA) are covered in the certificate.
Due to high demand, the CIIS has also created an additional Boston location, thereby opening up the opportunity to mental healthcare professionals on the East Coast, as well as therapists located in California or neighbouring states. If studying at the Boston location, there are opportunities to collaborate with other prestigious institutions, such as the Boston Psychedelic Research Group, and Center for the Neuroscience of Psychedelics at Massachusetts General Hospital.
This certificate is aimed at mental healthcare professionals looking to broaden and deepen their understanding of psychedelic substances, and the way that these substances relate to psychotherapy and consciousness.
Compass Pathways have been at the forefront of psychedelic therapy for the past couple of years. In 2018 they were granted FDA breakthrough status for psilocybin therapy for treatment-resistant depression.
Recently, Compass Pathways have started to offer a course in therapist training for psychedelic medicine. The course includes approximately 10 hours of online self-study, five days of interactive learning led by experts in the field of psychedelic therapy, and supporting patients in at least four sessions of psychedelic therapy.
The training is designed for individuals who already have backgrounds in mental healthcare, such as clinical psychologists, mental health nurses, or psychiatrists specialising in counselling/psychotherapy. Graduates of the programme are being trained to become psychedelic facilitators within Compass’s large phase IIb trial on psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression.
The Netherlands hosts an array of psychedelic retreats, due to the legal status of psilocybin truffles in the country. One such high-end retreat is Synthesis, which offers guided, safe, and legal psilocybin journeys just outside of Amsterdam.
In April 2021, Synthesis started offering their Psychedelic Practitioner Training. The 12-month course is dedicated to training the next wave of psychedelic facilitators, aimed at licensed therapists, as well as practitioners of wellness in other modalities such as holotropic breathwork. The programme uses experiential-based learning in order to inform trainees about the myriad of ways to work within the psychedelic field.
Beckley Psytech – 5-MeO-DMT Training
The Beckley Foundation has been funding psychedelic research for decades now. They have partnered with a variety of institutions, with strong ties to Imperial College London and Maastricht University.
An affiliate of this organisation is Beckley Psytech, aiming to fast-track psychedelic substances into licensable pharmaceutical medicines. Beckley Psytech have recently teamed up with Fluence, a psychedelic education company, who both aim to deliver a training programme for therapists to work with 5-MeO-DMT.
This substance is a particularly potent psychedelic, naturally found in the Sonoran Desert Toad. The effects are fast-acting, peaking and falling to negligible levels well within one hour. Beckley Psytech argues that the potential application of 5-MeO-DMT will allow therapists to deliver the psychedelic to more patients, due to its rapid and fast-acting effects.
The programme will dedicate itself specifically to the effects of 5-MeO-DMT, while also focussing on training therapists to work with patients remotely, and utilise digital healthcare technologies. Moreover, it will lay the foundation for therapists to gain a deeper understanding about working with psychedelic substances.
As interest in psychedelics continues to blossom, there are more needs to connect individuals interested in the field of psychedelics. Psychedelic Grad aims to bridge the gap between psychedelic enthusiasts through the formation of its online community.
While they do not provide any explicit training themselves, they dub themselves as the ‘LinkedIn of the psychedelic space’, allowing individuals to connect based on this mutual interest. Alongside this, there are opportunities to navigate areas of academia, explore topics related to psychedelic therapy, and browse University programmes related to the study of psychedelics. Psychedelic Grad aim to provide a comprehensive overview of the opportunities within the psychedelic space.