How To Become A Psychedelic-Assisted Therapist

The Psychedelic revival is upon us. Recent research has found that psychedelics can have beneficial therapeutic effects for people battling depression, anxiety, addiction, PTSD, and other life-threatening illnesses. Yet even as psychedelic-assisted therapy is gaining traction as viable treatment for mental health conditions, the substances remain federally illegal. Even so, the FDA’s approval of clinical trials for psychedelics such as MDMA and psilocybin are a telltale sign that prescribed psychedelics might soon be on the horizon. There are steps you can take to become an early-adopter of psychedelic-assisted therapy. At this time, in order to facilitate psychedelic experiences with MDMA or psilocybin you must be a clinician participating in a clinical trial. Otherwise you can pursue relevant fields of study in trauma, transpersonal psychology, and integration therapy to prepare for the future of the mental health industry.

MAPS – MDMA Therapy Training Program

Amid the psychedelic revival, the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is a key player. MAPS expects to complete the final phase of their FDA-approved MDMA clinical trials. With that comes the possibility of practicing MDMA-assisted therapy for compassionate use under MAPS’ protocol as early as 2022. For now, MAPS treats patients with PTSD under the clause of compassionate use. As a prerequisite to facilitate such sessions you must graduate through MAPS’ Therapy Training Program. MAPS offers a 5-part training program for mental health practitioners. The program includes an online course, training retreat, experiential learning, practice, and supervision and evaluation. Currently MAPS is developing a means to allow students to shadow senior MDMA therapists during an MDMA therapy session. MAPS is also working on a protocol to allow eligible students to voluntarily receive MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for experiential learning. Currently the program is accepting applications from mental health practitioners.

Compassion Pathways Therapist Training Program

Compassion Pathways specializes in psilocybin therapy and offers therapist training in Europe and North America. The course includes 20 hours of self-paced online learning, five days of interactive learning with role-play and feedback, clinical training in at least four psilocybin research sessions, and ongoing webinars and mentorship support. The program only accepts registered mental health professionals with at minimum a Masters degree.

California Institute of Integral Studies: Certificate in Psychedelic-Assisted Therapies and Research

Certificate in Psychedelic-Assisted Therapies and Research

CIIS aims to teach therapist guides or facilitators in FDA-approved medical treatment and psychedelic research. The 180 hour certificate conducts learning through lectures, experiential learning such as role-play and journaling, and applied work in clinical and therapeutic settings. Students are not required to consume psychedelics. Instead the program offers alternatives such as Holotropic Breathwork and Hakomi or other somatic-based intensives to simulate what a patient might experience. The program prides itself on offering a hybrid residential and online curriculum to enable students who do not reside in California to participate. Candidates must be professionals working in related therapeutic areas such as occupational therapists, registered nurses, clinical and counseling psychologists, etc,. While the program is completely accredited and developed in collaboration with research institutes like MAPS, it does not guarantee graduates an opportunity to work in clinical trials. The research institutes hosting the clinical trial will still require graduates to pay and complete their own training programs.

Psychedelic Integration Therapy Training

Psychedelic Integration does not involve guiding patients through psychedelic experiences, but it is an essential part of treatment. During psychedelic integration the therapist helps the patient mentally prepare for the experience. Afterwards the therapist helps the patient process what happened to effectively “integrate” their experience into their everyday lives. Fluence offers a number of online training courses for psychedelic-assisted therapy, including a focus on integration. Meanwhile MAPS has offered webinars and in-person training sessions.

Why we need Psychedelic Therapists

Psychedelic-assisted therapy presents an entirely new perspective on how to treat mental illness. Current methods in our pharmacological toolbox treat symptoms of depression or anxiety. SSRI antidepressants we use today for depression were actually developed during studies that explored LSD’s effect on schizophrenia in the 1980s. Since then, SSRI antidepressants haven’t proven to be effective means of treatment. Meanwhile psychedelics have shown to treat a vast array of conditions, helping patients reframe destructive patterns of thinking. Rather than a temporary relief of symptoms, psychedelics have the ability to treat mental health conditions at the root cause. To pursue the path of psychedelic-assisted therapy is to be on the forefront of solutions to mental health. 

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