Psychedelic Psychotherapy Forum 2018: The Unfolding Promise was held Oct 11 – 14, 2018, in Victoria, on Vancouver Island, BC, Canada — with two full Forum days at the Westin Bear Mountain Golf Resort and Spa (Thursday Oct 11 and Friday Oct 12), and a third and fourth day dedicated to weekend workshops held in downtown Victoria (Saturday Oct 13, and Sunday Oct 14).
Our keynote speaker this year was Robin Carhart-Harris, PhD, Head of Psychedelic Research, Centre for Neuropsychopharmacology, Division of Brain Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College London. He was joined by Joe Tafur, MD, Philip Wolfson, MD, Anthony Bossis, PhD, Rachel Harris, PhD, Leanna Standish, PhD, Devon Christie, MD, Janis Phelps, PhD, Donna Dryer, MD, Richard Yensen, PhD, Bruce Tobin, PhD, Kenneth Tupper, PhD, and many more.
Highlight topics at the Forum included psychedelics and the “entropic” brain, Ketamine-assisted psychotherapy, activist therapists who are taking initiatives to change laws, and the training of psychedelic psychotherapists. Post-forum weekend workshops included Bringing Art Therapy into Psychedelic Medicine; Intention and Integration; and self discovery through Holotropic Breathwork™, SpiritDanceSoulSong™, and Gestalt Practice.
Robin Carhart Harris, PhD, Head of Psychedelic Research, Centre for Neuropsychopharmacology, Division of Brain Sciences, faculty of Medicine, Imperial College London
Dr. Carhart-Harris, the world-leader in MRI imaging of psychedelic states, will explore relationships between psychedelic experience and neurological processing. He will introduce the Entropic Brain Hypothesis – an account of how psychedelics affect brain functioning to alter consciousness. He will lay out a model for understanding psychedelic psychotherapy based on the three phases of therapy (preparation, medicine-induced experience, and integration) and describe the brain processes underlying each phase. Bring your questions!
Janis Phelps, PhD
This presentation will review the curriculum and program outcomes from the inaugural two years of training psychedelic therapists in the first academically accredited post-graduate program in psychedelic-assisted therapy and research. This training program conducted at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) is focused on the growing need for more trained psychotherapists, medical professionals and clergy in light of future FDA-approved and EMA-approved research studies and expanded access clinical programs. Dr. Janis Phelps founded the CIIS certificate program in 2015 and launched it in 2016 (www.ciis.edu/psychedeliccenter). Thus far, CIIS has graduated 89 ordained clergy, and licensed medical and mental health professionals from the psychedelic certificate training program (64 students are attending the 2018 program). Innovations such as the 12 areas of study in the training curriculum, individual mentoring, peer support, and volunteer work will be discussed. Future prospects for training research clinicians within academic settings will be addressed with an eye to the dynamic between the robust empirical findings in the field and the current political climate in the U.S., Canada and Europe.
Bruce Tobin, PhD, RCC
Psychedelic experience is often described as ineffable: “I just can’t put it into words!” But a picture is worth a thousand words! Bruce Tobin invites you to focus on a psychedelic experience you have had that has played a role in your personal healing or growth. (Those who have not yet had a psychedelic experience are invited to imagine, based on what they understand so far, what such an experience might be like.) You will be invited to represent that experience (or imagination) by creating a visual image on paper with provided art materials, and then to share something about your image and experience conversationally with others in a small group setting. Finally, you will be invited to contribute your individually completed pages to create a public “gallery” of psychedelic experience that will be displayed for the remainder of the conference.
Joe Tafur, MD
Drawing from his first-hand experience at Nihue Rao Centro Espiritual, a traditional healing center near Iquitos in the Peruvian Amazon, Dr. Tafur will review the role of spiritual and emotional healing in modern healthcare. He will discuss how emotional trauma contributes to medical illness, and how spiritual healing techniques can lead to improvements in the mind-body. Ayahuasca shamanism and other psychedelic assisted therapies may be effective (in some cases) because of their ability to induce relevant changes in epigenetic imprints associated with emotional trauma stored in the psychoneuroendocrine immunologic network, which Dr. Tafur theorizes is the physiologic manifestation of the emotional body.
Anthony Bossis, PhD
This presentation reviews the exciting findings from FDA-approved research at NYU School of Medicine using psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy with cancer patients suffering end-of-life distress. The NYU clinical study published in 2016 showed that a single psilocybin-induced mystical experience led to marked reductions in anxiety and depression, and to increases in personal meaning, existential and spiritual well-being, acceptance of the dying process, and openness to the mystery of death. Dr. Bossis, a world-leader in this research, will share his work, and explain the connection between mystical experience involving deep feelings of sacredness and love, and the reduction of end-of-life emotional and existential distress. He will also suggest implications of the NYU research for studies of religious experience and consciousness.
Kenneth Tupper PhD
Recent scientific research on psychedelic medicine is yielding exciting knowledge about the potential therapeutic benefits of these substances and treatments. But what’s next? Where is this all going? Could psychedelics ever become part of standard medical care, or first-line treatments for certain disorders? This presentation will explore some of the practical considerations in changing the health system to make psychedelic therapies available to people who might benefit from them. Steps forward include continuing to advance the science, training clinicians and other professionals, and creation of new standards within regulatory bodies such as professional colleges and associations. Finally, scientific and clinical knowledge will need to be translated for policy-makers and other health system decision-makers so that they understand the implications of psychedelic treatments and how to embed them within the current healthcare delivery system. Come hear Dr. Tupper explain how today’s breakthrough research in psychedelics will become tomorrow’s mainstream healthcare.
Devon Christie, MD, CCFP, IFMCP, RTC
When we are disconnected from our right-brain felt experience there are personal, societal and ecological consequences. Dr. Christie will explore how over-emphasis on left-brain ways of knowing has negatively impacted our connections with ourselves, each other, and the planet – and how Somatic Psychedelic Therapy can help restore us to our “right” minds. Somatic Psychedelic Therapy is a powerful synergy, combining psychedelic adjuncts with relational, body-centered therapy – each amplifying the effects of the other. Psychedelics offer a unique opportunity to inhabit a sense of self that is experience-based, as opposed to our usual ‘default-mode’ stories of self. Dr. Christie will describe how Somatic Psychedelic Therapy can help us to reconnect with the wisdom of our bodies, release stored tensions and traumas, and bring us into “right” relationship with all that is.
Philip Wolfson, MD; Donna Dryer, MD; Richard Yensen, PhD; [Moderator: Veronika Gold, LMFT, SEP]
Ketamine has long been used as an anesthetic. But it has certain psychedelic-like properties, and has recently shown promising results in the treatment of depression – even with individuals who have not responded well to other interventions. This panel will focus on the current state of ketamine-assisted psychotherapy: merits, methods and potential. Could this treatment benefit you?
Bradley Foster, MA, RP; Carolyn Green, PhD; Tarzie McLean, MC; [Moderator: Trevor Millar]
Bradley Foster will provide an overview of psychedelic medicine community networks throughout Canada and beyond – including psychedelic societies, events, educational/consciousness groups, and university associations/clubs.
Tarzie McLean will share how she founded the “Community of Practice” (CoP) – which offers a forum for peer consultation and supervision, and provides an opportunity for reflection about personal practice. It also highlights ethical issues pertinent to the specifics of these practices, and assists in networking for psychedelic psychotherapists who are either actively providing or interested in gaining competencies to provide individual or group healing sessions.
Carolyn Green will update on the launch of the Canadian Holotropic Breathwork TM Network that makes therapeutic breath work available to Canadians for psycho-spiritual healing and self-development. Carolyn will outline the Network’s goals and discuss how breath work offers participants a means attaining a non-substance psychedelic experience.
Anthony Bossis, PhD; Donna Dryer, MD; Philip Wolfson, MD; Janis Phelps, PhD; [Moderator: Jay Wang, MD]
With the resurgence of psychedelic research in the past decade, there is increasing interest amongst mental health professionals to learn about psychedelic-assisted research and therapies. How will credentials for psychedelic practice be obtained? With MDMA clearing some of the hurdles to become a legally viable therapeutic substance, and ketamine already being used in the treatment of depression, can psilocybin and LSD be far behind? Panelists will discuss what counts as appropriate training, and share their experiences in training therapists.
Rachel Harris, PhD; Joe Tafur, MD; Leanna Standish, PhD; [Moderator: Kevin Parker, MA, RCC]
We will look at bridging two distinctively different models for understanding the Ayahuasca experience, showing how the two might integrate to create a common language and dialogue. We will contrast the conceptual framework of western psychology with that of South American shamanism in which the efficacy of the medicine is attributed to the “spirit” of the plant.
A 2012 study of ayahuasca use in North America found that seventy-five percent of respondents reported an on-going relationship with the “spirit” of Ayahuasca following plant medicine ceremonies. This panel will explore how both therapist and client integrate an ongoing relationship with a plant spirit in a therapeutic setting following an Ayahuasca ceremony. Some questions to be explored: How do the first few days following a ceremony offer a unique opportunity for transformation when the feeling of being connected to ayahuasca is still strong? How does an on-going relationship with a plant spirit change a person’s worldview? Can a secure relationship with Grandmother Ayahuasca help heal attachment issues from childhood?
Bruce Tobin, PhD, RCC; Bradley Foster, MA; Tom Eckert; MS, LPC; Sheri Eckert, MA; [Moderator: Eleonora Molnar, MA]
Psychotherapists frequently see clients in great distress from acute mental disorders – involving addictions, anxiety, depression or PTSD – people who have not responded to orthodox medicines or treatment forms. Despite the growing body of research affirming the merits of psychotherapy with psychedelics, therapists risk serious professional and legal consequences if they use these medicines in helping these distressed clients.
Four therapists — two Canadians and an American couple – are taking bold steps to change laws that prohibit the therapeutic use of psychedelics. Based in Toronto, Bradley Foster has petitioned the federal Minister of Health to fund psychedelic research. In Victoria, Bruce Tobin is pushing to legalize access to psychedelic treatment for the Canadians most in need. Meanwhile, Tom and Sheri Eckert are campaigning to mainstream “psilocybin services” in the U.S. state of Oregon. Discover what motivates them and hear them report on their progress.
Charlotte Jackson, MA, RCC; Rick Miners, PhD, RPsych; Hayden Rubensohn, MD; [Moderator: Veronika Gold, LMFT, SEP]
Clinical trials sponsored by MAPS are underway in several cities around the world using MDMA to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. These panelists represent the vanguard of a new type of therapist that will be using MDMA and psychedelic substances in a therapeutic setting. They will share their knowledge and insights as well as taking your questions regarding this pioneering work. In addition to sharing personal experiences and findings from their work on both Phase II and III clinical trials, they will discuss what expanded access to MDMA might look like in Canada. They will also review the challenges including race-based trauma and the under representation of minority populations.
Workshop A: Bringing Art Therapy into Psychedelic Medicine (Oct 13) – Bruce Tobin, PhD, RCC, ATR
Workshop B: Intention and Integration: Realizing Transformation in Psychedelic Therapy (Oct 13) – Joe Tafur, MD; Cvita Mamic
Workshop C1: Holotropic Breathwork (Oct 13) – Ellen Watson (of Esalen Institute); Carolyn Green, PhD; Neil Hanon, MD, FRCP(c), DABPN
Workshop C2: Occupy YourSelf: The Practice of Presence (Oct 13 – 14) – Ellen Watson; Carolyn Green, PhD; Neil Hanon, MD, FRCP(c), DABPN
Note: Workshop C1 and C2 can be combined seamlessly to provide an entire weekend of self discovery with community, through Holotropic Breathwork™, SpiritDanceSoulSong™, and Gestalt Practice.