These therapists want to help you stumble upon psilocybin ‘magic mushrooms’ and ecstasy

Lying in a bed at Bellevue Hospital with a blindfold over his eyes, Bronya saw the dragon.

As her body metabolized the psilocybin, a hallucinogenic mushroom extract, the 55-year-old home nurse was then somehow inside the animal, resting in its belly like a baby in the womb as it flies over mountains.

They achieved what Bronya can only remember as a huge “fleshy thing, it was like reddish shreds of tissue”. She has prevailed. It enveloped her and she found herself in a dark cave. There she saw a lot of glittering eggs. She was trapped in a womb for the second time during the trip. It was a reverse birth. One of the eggs conveyed a message to her: The egg was her, from another time and dimension, and she wanted to be born.

The vision contrasted with an image she carried for decades. “I often thought it would be better if I had never been born,” said Bronya (a pseudonym). She grew up in Eastern Europe with cold and distant parents. She immigrated to New York City for a job as a translator. The work ended. The city was a lonely place. Her depression caused brain fog, robbed her of desire or ambition, and fueled self-loathing. She used alcohol to make ends meet and drank half a bottle of wine throughout the day.

Bronya was fortunate to find a research study, the only legal way to access psilocybin therapy programs in the U.S. New scientific research – there is another option: a growing network of “psychedelic support” therapists working in a legal work gray area.

They will not help you procure illegal drugs. Or most don’t. What they can do is address the research-backed reasons for trying different substances. Psilocybin can relieve symptoms of depression, while MDMA has shown results in post-traumatic stress disorder. They help you prepare for your experience and then decipher it. They usually do not take out insurance.

They are accredited, licensed clinical social workers with degrees. Some have also struggled in the “trip tents” of music festivals or through self-experiments. Some have taken psychedelic therapy courses with organizations like the California Institute of Integral Studies or Naropa University—both small four-year colleges with a foundation in Eastern philosophy—or with the mother of all mind-expanding research organizations, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). ).

“I would connect your hope and desire as it can be an agent for change, growth, healing and expansion of consciousness…”

As psychedelics go mainstream, they’re taking on a role once occupied by underground trip sitters and ayahuasca-ministering shamans. Researchers increasingly believe that psychedelics (a category expanded in this context to include empathogens such as MDMA) cause rewiring of neural circuits that allow a person to overcome a state of immobility of their condition.

Bronya felt emotionally lighter after her first trip three years ago. “I was stuck in such a stupid place,” she said. “I just blamed myself for being a failure. I just have more compassion for myself [now].”

But she also felt off balance. “I couldn’t make any decisions,” she said. “I just had all these thoughts about politics, music and art that I couldn’t sort out.”

She started having anxiety attacks. “It was like someone gave me a software update and I didn’t know how to use the software.”

She had some follow-up sessions with the New York University therapists who led the study, but it wasn’t enough. So she found two sources of help: a psilocybin vendor for microdosing, and a psychedelics-savvy therapist who charges $300 out of pocket for Zoom sessions.

The legion of psychedelics support therapists is growing. An online directory, the Psychedelic Support Network, reached 1,200 listed healthcare providers this month, according to the site’s founder. A year ago it was 492.

In its five years of existence, the California Institute of Integral Studies has graduated 549 therapists from its certificate program in psychedelic therapy training. Naropa University launched a similar program last year with 108 participants. A spokesman for MAPS said 1,800 therapists have completed their training program.

Chris Hancock, a psychedelic support therapist in suburban Nashville, took his share of mind-altering substances as a second-wave deadhead in the 1980s. Armed with a degree in psychology, he now advises on trip drugs for therapy. Most clients see him via teletherapy. He has a stubbly white beard and intense green eyes. In the background is Picasso’s portrait of an old man bending over a guitar.

“I would connect your hope and desire for how it can be a facilitator for change, growth, healing, and consciousness expansion with the specific substance that you might be attracted to,” he explained.

Agenda items include “setting intentions, talking about the paradox, having an intention and intending to surrender, and remembering to surrender during the process.”

People often see him for PTSD or depression. Drugs of choice include psilocybin and ketamine, the latter being legal; A prescription nasal spray is FDA-approved for “treatment-resistant” depression.

“I’m not that interested in that,” Hancock said. “Everyone can make their own decisions about how to use them.” Some of his customers grow mushrooms at home.

His psychedelics Sessions are $160 per hour, same as each out-of-pocket session.

“I can’t get jobs in American corporations. It pitted me against the system.”

Part of a psychedelics support therapist’s role is simply to offer advice on practical considerations to people who don’t trip recreationally.

Portland’s Brian Pilecki has a checklist: Prepare a safe room. Recruit one or more trusted friends to stay. Look at the schedule for the next day. Maybe free from work. “A lot of these kinds of details that people who are brand new to this don’t think about,” Pilecki said. “They don’t think about how to plan their meals. All of these things can affect the experience.”

Established psychedelic support therapists might be in a fortunate position if the therapy received full government support.

Given the compelling power of the past 15 years of clinical research, many medical professionals, including some under the Biden administration, believe that within two years the Food and Drug Administration will approve MDMA for PTSD and psilocybin for depression. Oregon has lifted bans on medicinal psilocybin that go into effect in 2023. Some biotech companies are already courting investors with patents on psychedelics-derived drugs.

As of now, psychedelics support therapists, with the exception of some who work with ketamine clinics, face the dilemma of not being able to provide the full package. The customer must evaluate their own medication.

Fearing losing their license, many reputable therapists make it clear to patients that they will do nothing to help them find medication. That’s Pilecki’s policy. “I don’t like doing anything illegal,” he said. “Basically, I offer therapeutic services to clients who use psychedelics alone.”

If you ask almost any psychedelic support therapist, they will admit that they know – even respect – some people who work “underground” (although they fear the lack of accountability).

“An underground guy is someone who charges a fee for facilitating a psychedelic experience,” Pilecki said, “and some of them are therapists or have therapist training. Some of them are more religious, or they identify as shamans or something. But basically, they make those experiences available to people. It’s illegal.”

In Portland, however, psychedelics are so decriminalized that underground leaders have given him business cards. Pilecki does not pass them on to a customer. But some of his peers will.

“There are some therapists who consult with underground guides or refer their clients to underground guides and sort of work with them,” he said. “So there’s some range and obviously a higher risk.”

Chris LaManna, a slender, fiery beard yoga teacher and psychedelic guide living near Detroit, is trip therapy’s underground counterpart. He runs a one-man alternative health business called AHA Wellness.

LaManna graduated from Central Michigan University with a BA in business administration in 2013 — and two criminal convictions for selling psilocybin. “It freed me to take an alternative path in life,” he said. “I don’t get any jobs in the American corporations. It pitted me against the system. This made me travel, teach yoga. It was a blessing in disguise.”

He spent time in Peru learning to work with ayahuasca, then trained in Ecuador with huachuma, a hallucinogen found in the San Pedro cactus, at retreat centers run by indigenous peoples. When he and his wife returned to Michigan, Ann Arbor and Detroit decriminalized psychedelic plants.

LaManna speaks like a therapist. “[I’m] Putting programs like this together for people so they can make lasting changes, so the psychedelics can give you a fresh start, to give you some room for change,” he said. He integrates coaching, yoga and exercise into the regiments for clients. For six months he tries to work with people. He charges $3,000 for this type of psychedelic overhaul.

What sets LaManna apart from a licensed clinical social worker in the psychedelic field is that if you ask him to connect you to a drug supplier, he will happily put you through to a drug supplier.

“Yes, I can point you in the right direction,” he said. “For example, I know people who grow mushrooms who live in Detroit and Ann Arbor. So yeah, it’s not too difficult to get your hands on at least the herbal drugs.” He doesn’t bother with any legal troubles. “I think the police have bigger fish to cook.”

LaManna is less than enthusiastic about the field’s legitimacy, not just because it could put him out of a job, he says. For him, psychedelics are spiritual. He doesn’t want them to be “turned into another commodity.”

“I’m so surprised at the psychiatrists and psychologists where it’s just a job for them,” LaMann said, “and they don’t keep doing their own work.” By that he means tripping himself.

“You know, you can’t take anyone further than you’ve gone.” These therapists want to help you stumble upon psilocybin ‘magic mushrooms’ and ecstasy


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