Thank you to all our presenters and panelists, sponsors and partners, volunteers and committee members for your contribution towards a successful 5th iteration of the Psychedelic Psychotherapy Forum — Canada’s premiere and most comprehensive biennial conference, facilitating dialogue and shared learnings about psychedelic-assisted therapies and research, including the ethical, cultural, indigenous and spiritual use of plant medicines and psychedelic substances for personal and collective healing and transformation.
The 2020 Psychedelic Psychotherapy Forum // Vision & Visionaries — held Oct 14 – 18 — offered continuing education credits for healthcare practitioners (who participated in-person or virtually during the forum/workshop day in its entirety) including psychologists, clinical counsellors, psychotherapists, nurses, and family physicians. This year’s three-day forum (Oct 14 – 16) was livestreamed from a venue with world-class conference facilities, Vancouver Island Conference Centre on traditional, unceded, ancestral territories of the Snuneymuxw, in Nanaimo, British Columbia. Our virtual post-forum workshops (by separate admission) were scheduled Oct 17 – 18.
It can be said that 2019 was an important year for the Psychedelic Renaissance, as we witnessed the funding and establishment of two major university-based centers dedicated to ongoing research and clinical trials for entheogenic medicines. The first was established in April 2019 at Imperial College, London, The Centre for Psychedelics Research, directed by Robin Carhart-Harris, and the second in November 2019, at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, The Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research, led by Roland Griffiths. The Psychedelic Renaissance is hailed as a rebirth of a movement, and welcomed as the birth of new relationships with the healing properties of entheogens. However, this renaissance comes saddled with old patterns of dominance and a lack of inclusivity based on colonizing relationships with both plants and people. The success of the movement is at stake unless we act quickly to get away from old habits of tokenizing and appropriation that leave communities of color behind and voiceless. Decolonizing the renaissance is essential to full realization of the sacred lessons of empathy and compassion that these medicines are offering humanity.
The most powerful space for a Shaman is in Heart. Heart is the beginning and the end, the Alpha and Omega, it is where the doors of perception open. Opening the Heart can be painful because what usually comes is a flood of Truth, and the truths we have hidden from ourselves modify our perceptions. This presentation will focus on how illness and personal suffering can be transmuted through the mindful and respectful use of plant medicines and heart centered practices and how to bring into balance Physical, Mental, Emotional and Spiritual health through opening to our own truth and highest Self. This experiential path is informed by Jazmin’s own personal experience working with traditional healers and her relationship to her own Cree ancestry. Jazmin’s unique blend of ethno-botany, shamanic practices and open and honest inquiry help to bridge the worlds of Western medicine and the ancient healing arts that are foundational for many indigenous and traditional peoples.
In the recent years, research with psychedelics has been widely talked about and the use of such compounds promise efficient treatments of various mental pathologies. In this climate of moving forward with this medical use of psychedelics, how are ancient traditions anchored in the use of sacred plants and fungi considered? How is it possible to cultivate reciprocity, honoring these traditions, cultures, people while integrating the value of their potency in our Western industrialized world? How are these rituals handled in their own traditions and how do we replicate them without cultural mis-appropriation? The risk of recapitulating a colonialist attitude is present. Yet, once connected with lineages and traditional uses of these sacred substances, our modern world can feel the support and permission to translate their ceremonies.
The lecture will provide a historical overview of psycholytic therapy, its working mechanisms and its recent developments. Psycholytic therapy started in Europe after the publication of Stoll’s first clinical study of low-dose LSD published in 1947. During the 1950s and 1960s, 18 major European universities provided or researched “psycholytic therapy” (a term meaning “soul-loosening”, coined 1960 by psychiatrist Ronald Sandison). Psychedelic therapy, as established in Canada and the US, was never used in Europe. European therapists were eager to use low doses of LSD to activate unconscious conflicts, memories, and archetypes to further therapeutic abreactions and “working through” (as conceptualized by psychoanalytic/psychodynamic therapy). The psycholytic approach was developed and refined by European therapists. They even tend to interpret “cosmic-mystical” experiences as regressions into early childhood periods of ‘primary narcissism’ etc. After the strict legislation against LSD and psilocybin, mainly initiated by the US in the late 1960s, most European centers stopped their treatments and research. However, two university chairs researching psycholytic therapy were left, and few clinics in Chechoslovakia conducted psycholytic therapy until the 1980s. In 1988, some Swiss psychiatrists got special permits to use LSD and MDMA in their offices. From this a new approach developed to use psychedelics in group therapy, which is still used today and may introduce significant additional factors to the treatment.
Dr. Bennett will give an overview of the field of therapeutic ketamine. Ketamine is medicine that was developed as a human surgical anesthetic, but which also has rapid-acting antidepressant effects and visionary properties. Dr. Bennett will describe different ways of working with ketamine, including low-dose infusions and nasal spray, ketamine-facilitated psychotherapy, and psychedelic ketamine journeys. Next she will talk about which patients are appropriate for ketamine treatment and which patients would not be a good fit for this approach, according to the most current medical literature. Then she will explain the legal status of ketamine in the United States and Canada, with an emphasis on safety for the patient and the clinician. Dr. Bennett will end by discussing some of the most recent developments and current controversies in the field, including the use of ketamine lozenges, and the advent of esketamine nasal spray.
This presentation will provide a synthesis of findings from both qualitative research on the use of psychedelics for treating addictions and experiences of the author as clinical psychologist accompanying patients in their recovery from addictions. Many of these patients have also participated in plant medicine sessions with indigenous healers complementary to psychotherapeutic work. Research findings indicate that, in carefully structured settings, psychedelic plants can facilitate both neurobiological and psychological processes that support recovery from substance dependencies and the prevention of relapse. Therapeutic mechanisms from psychotherapeutic perspective include: body-oriented, cognitive, emotional and transpersonal processes. Limits and counter-indications for the therapeutic use of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy will also be explored. Finally also the shadow side of the use of psychedelic plants will be addressed, reflecting on experiences from psychotherapeutic work with patients who have suffered trauma from inappropriate psychedelic use, shedding light on the importance of well trained facilitators and ethical and supportive contexts in the work with psychedelic plants as well as preparation and integration.
This 30 minute presentation will focus on asking you to consider the possibility that the “medicine” we seek has “always been with us, is within us now and will always be within us.” As a Medicine Woman used to constantly remind me, “Grandson, when we do ceremony with the sacred plants, the plants point us in the direction to go in, which is down and in. The ‘medicine” is there, waiting for you. Follow it. Go down and in to your lodge, and see for yourself what you find.” Sadly, in our belief and practice of “separation”, we “think” that what we seek is “out and up”, meaning “out there and up there.” Through a brief teaching, followed by a brief practice, I will ask you to consider an alternative possibility.
Ketamine is increasingly known as an extremely safe, effective (and legal) medicine … in the area of mental health it has growing evidence for remarkable effectiveness for acute suicidality, treatment resistant depression and some anxiety disorders. What seems to have been somewhat ignored is that very low dose Ketamine (what we call the “relational dose”) is, like MDMA, not only a marked empathogen but also moves most people to a place of much reduced defensiveness allowing them to risk greater vulnerability and deeper connectedness. As a couple, we are trained in Imago Relationship Therapy and have been running Imago couples weekend workshops for over 12 years. Over the last 18 months we have been working with small groups of couples (3 or 4 couples per group over 4 weekly sessions) where both partners are given a relational dose of Ketamine to facilitate their Imago-based therapeutic interactions. We have monitored the results with the Couples Satisfaction Index and also have kept a careful log of the subjective reports of the participants. Working with couples in this unique manner, has led us to begin to offer Ketamine Learning Experiences for physicians and psychotherapists to experience and learn more about this ‘relational dosing’ as well as dosing at transformational levels.
Dr. Christie will share her unique perspective on the importance of psychedelic research and psychedelic therapy, as it fits into a trauma-informed, Functional Medicine understanding of the genesis of chronic disease including chronic mental health conditions and chronic pain. She will then go on to discuss the imperative for using embodiment-oriented, trauma-informed psychotherapeutic skillsets/approaches for providing an optimal therapeutic context for working in non-ordinary states of consciousness. Core elements of such a framework will be reviewed.
Neuro and biofeedback technologies can help highlight the various states of awareness that underlie the positive outcomes associated with meditative practices and psychedelic therapies. My focus as a neurofeedback therapist is one of working with clients from a perspective of “state awareness”. Psychedelics are “state” shifting medicines, therefore I believe that the use of neurofeedback inspired therapies can help both therapist and client better acquaint themselves with the human capacity to state shift. Meditation and psychedelic inspired neurofeedback modalities offer a direct experience of how attention alters states, which can offer support toward preparing individuals for the psychedelic experiences, by helping to reduce the preoccupation (i.e. monkey mind) often associated with challenging psychedelic experiences, while simultaneously increasing a state experience of embodied surrender, associated with an increase in mystical experiences. Beyond this, neurofeedback therapies also offer a method to support the integration of psychedelic sessions, as the afterglow state can sometimes become dimmed and lost if not rehearsed and therefore maintained via state therapy support.
Past and recent research suggests that psychedelic drugs can be effective for many mental health conditions when utilized in conjunction with psychotherapy. For example, MDMA-assisted psychotherapy has been studied as a means of helping people overcome posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), believed to work by reducing fear of traumatic memories and increasing feelings of trust and compassion towards others, without inhibiting access to difficult emotions. However, it is not known if psychedelics can helpful for people of color who are suffering as a result of racial trauma – PTSD caused by acts of discrimination. Dr. Williams will share new research, based on a North American study of people of color who have used psychedelics to help manage racial trauma. She will also share a case study of a woman who recovered from racial trauma after receiving psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy using ketamine. Dr. Williams will discuss the importance of understanding the ethnic minority trauma experience, including racial trauma, to effectively help people of color.
This presentation aims to illuminate and spark discussion on the ways in which these breaches occur. Using new anonymous survey data and interviews, Kate Browning (RN, educator and psychotherapist) and Pamela Kryskow (MD, researcher, educator) will explore issues of type and prevalence of breaches in therapy, therapist vulnerabilities, high-risk client scenarios, risk-mitigation strategies, and possible creative and restorative approaches to remediation. This interactive talk will serve to generate discussion among conference participants and beyond of conscious, integral approaches to therapeutic dynamics in the potentially heightened sphere of psychedelic psychotherapy and to the maintenance of the wholeness and integrity of all parties involved, including the broader psychedelic therapy community. 101 Red Flags hopes to live on as a dynamic, interactive, and participant driven forum for ongoing exploration and support around these important issues.
So many of us are passionate about psychedelics because we believe they can help us create a better world. And yet so often we face the same systemic problems in our psychedelic communities that we fled from in the over culture: boundary violations, abuses of power, and predatory behavior – with systems of patriarchy and white supremacy unwittingly replicated as well. How can we create psychedelic spaces that mirror the changes many of us want to see in the world? A world where our communities are strong and accountable? Where we walk with a deep awareness of power dynamics and systems of oppression? Where we cultivate embodied consent, clear communication and boundaries? How can we find restorative approaches to harm and break down traditional hierarchies? This discussion will include reflections on gender and sexuality, patriarchy and power dynamics, and integrate learnings such as the Wheel of Consent and restorative and transformative justice/circle-keeping practices. There will also be an (optional) experiential portion to practice embodied consent and begin to unpack unconscious relating patterns of submission and entitlement.
This presentation examines two mass market paperback books by women that appeared in the early 1960s: Exploring Inner Space: Personal Experiences Under LSD-25 (1961) by Jane Dunlap, published by Harcourt, Brace & World (now Harcourt); and Myself and I: The Explosive Experiences of Constance A Newland Who Took Twenty-Three Doses of the Dangerous New Mind Drug (1963), published by Signet (now Penguin). Despite significant contemporary interest in both texts—Myself and I was a bestseller in 1962—neither book has ever been reprinted. Given that both books became bestsellers, this talk begins with an examination of why these accounts have virtually disappeared from the history of psychedelic science. Institutional gatekeepers played a larger role in restricting women’s access to psychedelics, which in turn influenced the “set and setting”—and hence the content—of women’s psychedelic experiences. Although patriarchy might have crimped their style, the very ephemerality of their androcentric assumptions reveals the extent to which personal experiences can be shaped by the “collective set and setting” of sociohistorical context, and we still have much to learn by reengaging with these historical trip reports. More so than their male contemporaries, these female authors explicitly track how their experiences in psychedelic research helped them to integrate unconscious “shadow” material that had been playing out unconsciously in their lives, and they theorize how this approach might be instrumentalized to address the planetary and ecological crises that were already apparent in their day.
This presentation outlines a protocol for entactogens developed over 18 months of practice based research; centering relational consciousness and creative expression as a foundation for clients embarking on journeys within, without and beyond their internal realms. The practices described were developed in response (and resistance) to discourses of heroism (heroic doses, and hero’s journey), which dominate preferred approaches to this work, and to the constraints of language in capturing the ineffable. This progress report is being offered in the hope of making diverse approaches outside of institutional contexts visible, as valuable adjuncts to manualized treatment models. This presentation covers the subject of relational consciousness, as well as expressive arts, and anti-oppressive, non-pathologizing modalities such as Narrative therapy which encourage expansive, generative organic possibilities for meaning making. Carmen will share about her work with individuals and small groups where using 3MMC takes place in a curated environment, where heightened sensory engagement promotes a comfortable embodied experience of novel states of consciousness.
Integration is a term that has been mainly limited to the aftercare of clients emerging from psychedelic experiences. However, what would it look like to define integration in broader terms, as community, business, and social integration? How do we “integrate” psychedelic values into the very models of medicine and therapy delivery practices across the private pay and public health systems? What are the promises and pitfalls of merging the medical, therapeutic, psychospiritual, and indigenous models for healing and what are the institutional barriers in the way of delivering effective, interdisciplinary, team-based care? Drawing on their experiences after 6 years of leading a multidisciplinary and community healthcare enterprise dedicated to team-based transformational healing practices, Helen Loshny and Rae St. Arnault provide a refreshing, practical and informed view that will leave you inspired and ready for action.
With the boom in the provision of unregulated psychedelic therapy comes significant risks for both patients, who may have complex presentations and naive expectations, and practitioners, who may have varying degrees of therapeutic training, clinical competence and moral scruples underpinning their work. This presentation applies a harm reduction lens to the phenomenon of underground psychedelic therapy and provides considerations for minimizing risks and maximizing benefits, on both the supply and demand sides of the couch. The concept of harm reduction is well articulated and instantiated as public health response to various types of unregulated or illegal drug use, but its application to psychedelics has largely been limited to advice and resources for non-therapeutic settings such as large-scale electronic dance music festivals. Applied to underground psychedelic therapy, a harm reduction approach can offer considerations for patients to screen themselves and potential therapists, ensuring their rights, health and safety are protected. For therapists, harm reduction points towards formalization of standards of practice and codes of conduct in areas such as patient screening and preparation, set and setting, and duty of care. For policy-makers, a harm reduction perspective illuminates the importance of learning about the new science of psychedelics and bringing these practices into alignment with regulatory norms and professional oversights in other areas of health care.
Correlative research, and increasingly, prospective research is finding that psychedelic usage (but not usage of other substances) is associated with enduring, long-term increases in nature connection, or relatedness, post experience. Nature relatedness can be considered a measure of one’s self identification with nature. Nature relatedness is correlated with a broad range of measures associated with psychological well-being, including positive affect, life meaning and vitality, lower anxiety, and enhanced psychological functioning at the trait and state level. It also acts as a mediator of some of the benefits obtained from spending time in nature, and it is a strong predictor of pro-environmental awareness and behaviour. Given that disconnection appears to be playing a role in depression and mental illness, and given that ongoing ecological destruction appears tied to a growing human disconnection from the natural world, could psychedelics play a valuable role as agents of reconnection? Presenting findings resulting from collaborative work with Imperial’s Centre for Psychedelic Research, including the first scientific evidence of a prospective role of psychedelics increasing nature relatedness in the long-term in a healthy population.
There’s vibrant dialogue within the psychedelic community at conferences around the globe. It’s widely accepted now that psychedelics—psilocybin and MDMA, in particular—hold potential to disrupt our mental health crisis. But how do these nuanced conversations make their way into the mainstream? Who do we want to be the voice of this community—and how can we ensure that major outlets cover this growing movement with the depth and thoughtfulness it deserves? As journalists who are deeply familiar with the psychedelic space, we have been thinking about how we can leverage our knowledge of how mainstream newsrooms operate to ensure psychedelic medicine is accessible when it’s legalized—and the public knows how to use these medicines safely. We want to share that knowledge with the attendees of the Psychedelic Psychotherapy Forum, whether that be publicists, aspiring writers, or researchers and other experts who are reluctant to talk to the media for fear of their message being misinterpreted.
Matthew Baggott notes that realizing the full promise of psychedelics will all require integrating knowledge from basic science and underground use. Approximately 300 people have received MDMA in MAPS-sponsored clinical trials, while another 1300 people have received MDMA in basic science studies and tens of millions of people have taken MDMA in unsanctioned experiences. The goal of this presentation will be to facilitate integrating knowledge and experiences from these three populations in order to make helpful psychedelic experiences safer and more accessible. Also on this panel are Terence Ching, a PhD student in clinical psychology, who will share research findings regarding the efficacy and safety of MDMA-asssisted psychotherapy for PTSD across ethnoracial groups, and Devon Christie who will discuss the potential of MDMA for the treatment for chronic pain.
Jordan Sloshower and Jeffrey Guss will present their research where they designed a manualized therapy protocol for a small clinical trial of psilocybin-assisted therapy for major depressive disorder. Having identified considerable concordance in proposed mechanisms of change between Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and psilocybin therapy, they employed ACT as an overarching psychotherapeutic framework. In this presentation, they describe the rationale for selecting ACT, areas of potential synergism between ACT and psilocybin-therapy, the basic structure of our treatment model, and limitations to this approach. Relevant preliminary findings will also be shared. Also sitting on this panel is Richard Zeifman, who will share research findings indicating that high-dose psilocybin may lead to decreases in experiential avoidance and increases in well-being and that these changes are correlated. These results provide support for experiential avoidance as a psychological mechanism underlying psilocybin therapy. He notes that integrating psilocybin and psychotherapeutic interventions that target experiential avoidance (e.g. ACT) may optimize the outcome.
Visionaries participating in this panel will share their vision for the future of this challenging and promising field. What can we strive for? What are the steps we need to take — individually and collectively?
The phenomena of micro-dosing psychedelic compounds for the treatment of depression, anxiety, addictions and to promote well being is a topic that has attracted a great deal of interest in the past decade by both the medical and psychiatric professions as well as individuals hoping to find relief and solace from the aforementioned conditions. This panel will present current research on micro/mini dosing as well as illustrate the importance of dosage, set, setting and other factors that may influence the success of these novel and often misunderstood treatments.
Ketamine remains front and center as powerful treatment for a host of mental health challenges. Despite an impressive track record with scores of research, it remains a political hotbed, and as a controversial step sister to classic psychedelics. With the approval of MDMA and Psilocybin right around the corner, how will the political and therapy landscape of Ketamine assisted therapy change?
The field of psychedelic psychotherapy is a virtual minefield when it comes to regulating and monitoring ethical behavior and administering restorative justice following incidents of alleged boundary transgressions and acts of emotional and sexual abuse in clinical settings where psychedelics are used. This panel will examine how unworked shadow material and attachment issues in both the client and therapist alike can have unseen and often disastrous consequences. Most importantly, we will explore how we can heal and grow as a community, while taking sacred responsibility and fostering reciprocity.
From successful efforts to decriminalize plant medicines in Oakland and Denver to a ballot measure in Oregon seeking to legalize Psilocybin mushrooms, the landscape around legitimizing psychedelics and embracing their healing potential is changing as rapidly the spread of information/disinformation around the topic. This panel will explore recent successes as well as the hurdles and considerations, both legal and ethical around the topic.
Françoise Bourzat, counselor and experienced guide with sanctioned training in the Mazatec and other indigenous tradition, will introduce a holistic model focusing on the threefold process of preparation, journey, and integration. Joining this panel is Nir Tadmor who delves into the “Psychedelic Meta-Integration Process,” how the integration of multiple psychedelic experiences is a continuous non-linear process that often involves experiences with different substances, dosages, contexts and settings. He presents data that emerged from interviews with 8 Western mental health professionals about their own psychedelic integration processes.
In an era of climate and ecological emergency, how can psychedelics and plant medicines help us navigate the inner and outer landscape of a dramatically shifting world? This panel will explore how building a relationship with psychedelic allies can help us to foster community healing and resilience, cultivate creative problem solving, and help us to envision a world beyond collapse, where we live in right relationship with each other, and our Earth home.
Andrea Langlois, MA; Jazmin Pirozek, MSc; Claudia Ford, PhD; Duncan Grady, DMin, MS
The fast pace of legitimization of psychedelics is presenting us with a great opportunity to delve into many important ethical discussions and debates. The question of reciprocity and who benefits from the expansion of plant medicines and psychedelics is one of critical importance. In this lunch hour roundtable, Andrea Langlois will facilitate a conversation about sacred reciprocity with presenters Duncan Grady, Jazmin Pirozek, and Claudia Ford. Through dialogue, they will weave together diverse perspectives on how giving and receiving, respect and relationship can be woven together into a tapestry of sacred reciprocity.
Helen Loshny, MA, RTC; Anja Loizaga-Velder, PhD; Françoise Bourzat, MA
This roundtable opens up a dialogue regarding the importance of an integrated supervised psychedelic practice. What can this look like? We invite participants to take a fresh look at what “integrated” and “supervised” may look like. Topics can include how to best support clients and ourselves as therapists; peer supervision; supervision from experienced mentors; peer/community feedback; and the therapist’s personal work. What are approaches to support learning from case studies and others’ experiences, and what can we do to provide safe spaces for therapists to bring up issues and challenges without feeling shamed and/or judged?
Trevor Millar; Bruce Tobin, PhD; Rae St. Arnault, ND; Heather Hargraves, MA
This roundtable opens up a dialogue regarding the opportunities and pitfalls of big money which comes with the legalization/decriminalization/medicalization of psychedelics. What are the concerns in our communities in the present moment with regards to corporatization (i.e. affordability; environmental impacts; cultural appropriation; etc.)? What are important ethical frameworks to consider?