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A Facilitator’s Guide to Ethical Psychedelic Practices Ft. Ashley Carmen

This article is inspired by our insightful podcast episode hosted by Psychedelic Passage co-founder, Jimmy Nguyen, which you can listen to on all streaming platforms. 

Ashley Carmen, a licensed psychotherapist and passionate advocate for ethical psychedelic practices, shares her mission to promote ethical facilitation and preserve the diverse approaches to psychedelic healing. 

Discover how the Psychedelic Guide Network aims to foster a culture of peer collaboration, respect for sacred traditions, and freedom of practice within the ever-evolving landscape of psychedelic medicine. 

Whether you’re a curious explorer or a seasoned practitioner, this article offers valuable insights into the delicate balance between serving the client, the medicine, and one’s own ego. Discover how peer-to-peer intervision and ethical reflections are reshaping the landscape of psychedelic facilitation.

Key Takeaways

     

      • Diverse Practices and Collaboration: Psychedelic Guide Network acts as a collaborative space for practitioners from various backgrounds, emphasizing a non-hierarchical model.

      • Ethical Facilitation and Informed Consent: The network’s open dialogue encourages ethical considerations, particularly regarding informed consent, offering a responsible approach to psychedelic therapy.

      • Client-Centric Flexibility: The paradigm shift towards flexibility and intuition in guiding journeys underscores a client-centric approach, prioritizing individual needs over rigid protocols.

    • Psychedelic Passage: Your Psychedelic Concierge — The easy, legal way to find trustworthy psilocybin guides, facilitators and psychedelic-assisted therapy near you in the United States.

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    The Complex Landscape of Psychedelic Practices

    The conversation between Ashley Carmen and Jimmy opens with the intricate and evolving landscape of psychedelic practices. As the psychedelic boom unfolds, there is a reluctance to categorize it as a conventional industry or a unified movement. 

    Jimmy expresses skepticism about the standardization and protocols within the field, highlighting the diverse factions with varying agendas.

    Jimmy’s observation at the MAPS conference emphasizes the confusion within the community regarding established protocols and standards. 

    This uncertainty becomes a central theme in understanding the challenges faced by practitioners entering the psychedelic space.

    The Psychedelic Guide Network’s Non-Hierarchical Model

    At the core of Ashley’s mission is the Psychedelic Guide Network, introduced as a non-hierarchical, peer-to-peer platform. The network functions as a collaborative space, bringing together practitioners from diverse backgrounds and modalities. 

    “It’s a non-hierarchical space, regardless of how many rites of passage or how many letters you have behind your name. There’s licensed psychotherapists, there’s MDs, psychiatrists. You also have more shamanic indigenous native healers, energy healers.

    We had a few yoga practitioners that were including psilocybin in their guiding breathwork facilitators. So It varies greatly and that is the point, to get this breadth of practice that’s in this space.”

    Jimmy draws parallels between the Psychedelic Guide Network and Psychedelic Passage, emphasizing the diversity present in their network. The dialogue touches upon the benefits of practitioners from different backgrounds finding common ground and ethical standards. 

    Preserving Diversity and Sacredness in Psychedelic Medicine

    Ashley notes her biggest intention in creating the Psychedelic Guide Network was the preservation of two things: diversity amongst psychedelic medicine, and the sacredness and reverence of the plant medicine and their indigenous roots. 

    This section explores how the network serves as a melting pot for individuals with varied training, lineages, and orientations. 

    Ashley finds herself acting as a mediator, broadening the understanding of each professional so that psychiatrists and indigenous healers alike acquire a comprehensive understanding of the entire landscape. 

    Her perspective on the attempts to define and box in the psychedelic experience resonates with Jimmy’s observations at conferences. They both find rigid definitions and protocols prevalent in the space, in which their organizations actively work against. 

    Their experiences emphasize the need to honor the sacred dimension often overlooked in clinical or medical models.

    In preserving diversity and bringing different backgrounds together, it actually uncovers standards and ethical commonalities that professionals from all therapeutic spaces can agree on. 

    The Wisdom Circle and Peer Consultation

    Ashley introduces the concept of a “Wisdom Circle” within the Psychedelic Guide Network, serving as a space for active psychedelic guides to engage in peer consultation. 

    This section explores the diverse backgrounds represented in the circle, fostering a rich exchange of ideas, knowledge, and support among licensed psychotherapists, medical professionals, indigenous healers, and breathwork facilitators.

    “Through Psychedelic Guide Network, I’m supporting freedom of practice, I’m really supporting and asking people, encouraging people voting for a paradigm shift. 

    Can we take responsibility for our health? Can we take responsibility for our consciousness tools? Can we be allowed access and information to make informed decisions?”

    Jimmy inquires about the standard requirements for joining the Psychedelic Guide Network, specifically questioning what distinguishes an ethical guide from an unethical one. 

    One of the most important qualifiers is to be actively practicing psychedelic facilitation and serving medicine, regardless of background training and orientation. 

    Ashley highlights the importance of informed consent as a fundamental ethical consideration, offering insight into the network’s code of ethics.

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    Ethical Facilitation and Education in Psychedelic Therapy

    Ethical facilitation within the psychedelic community is central to the conversation, as this was Ashley’s first goal in creating the Psychedelic Guide Network. 

    The network is built to be a forum where ethical considerations are naturally integrated into discussions where professionals from multiple modalities can contribute. This inherently forms a more responsible and informed approach to psychedelic therapy.

    Jimmy and Ashley delve into the topic of informed consent, emphasizing the significance of practitioners providing comprehensive information to clients about the nature of the psychedelic experience. 

    “Do you know what you’re fully consenting to? Are you fully informed on what this experience is going to entail? No, we can’t provide expectations, but there should be a consent that informs you of their bodywork practices or what the arc of the day will look like. 

    When I think about informed consent, the first part is informed, is the practitioner giving you enough clean and honest and transparent information for you to make a choice? The consent part means that you have a choice to either consent to it or not consent.”

    The dialogue explores the challenges faced by both journeyers and facilitators in navigating the concept of informed consent. 

    Jimmy draws attention to the difficulties journeyers encounter in verifying a facilitator’s approach, especially concerning the influence of indigenous traditions or clinical models. 

    The need for practitioners to be transparent about their methods and influences emerges as a crucial aspect of fostering a trusting and ethical therapeutic relationship.

    While acknowledging the need for ethics and guidelines to protect the public, Ashley critiques the licensing boards’ approach of instilling fear in practitioners.

    She mentions the scare tactics used by therapist associations, how magazines she received in the mail would tell horror stories of professional failures and the overall constant threat of losing one’s license.

    Ashley notes that she appreciates the intention to protect the public, however the methodology can be harmful or limiting to practitioners and facilitators.

    This brings the discussion to ethical considerations in community models where dual relationships can lead to ethical concerns. 

    Clear boundaries can easily get blurred in a community-driven model if a facilitator is undertrained, and they acknowledge the unanswered questions this leads to as the psychedelic landscape evolves. 

    Navigating Gatekeeping and Systemic Challenges

    Jimmy initiates the conversation by addressing a critical concern: the potential for psychedelics to exacerbate existing systems of privilege and exclusion.

    The term “gatekeepers” is introduced, reflecting on those who may control access to psychedelic experiences and the narratives surrounding different modalities.

    He questions who gets to engage in psychedelic work, probing whether one must have a mental health diagnosis to explore consciousness through psychedelics. Ashley aptly responds, bringing attention to the broader systemic issues at play.

    The discussion challenges the notion of whether such ethical violations are specific to psychedelics or part of a larger, universal challenge when individuals hold positions of authority or power.

    It’s noted that the systemic challenges and ethical violations that come with positions of power transcend the psychedelic realm. Ashley draws parallels between issues faced by licensed mental health professionals and those encountered by psychedelic facilitators. 

    She then emphasizes the honor and privilege of being entrusted with someone’s personal and emotional experiences during psychedelic sessions. 

    “It is such a privilege to be trusted with somebody’s psyche, with somebody’s soul. And I would hope that these individuals have enough integrity to do their own work.

    And to be clear about their intentions in their interactions with their client and to be aware of their own ego desires, spiritual desires and always check on it to see if it’s manifesting in the relationship with the client.”

    Flexibility and Intuition in Guiding Psychedelic Journeys

    Jimmy brings to attention the journeyer’s ability to use their intuition to vet possible facilitators to ensure their focus lies on the clients needs and not their own modalities. 

    Ashley expands upon this idea by acknowledging that often rigid guiding goes hand in hand with egocentric facilitators. The dialogue challenges the notion of exclusive healers and emphasizes the need for humility, recognizing the role of psychedelic medicine itself in the healing process.

    “If a guide owns that they’re the healing agent and there’s no respect or credit or reverence or honor given to the medicine, they kind of put themselves above the medicine in some ways. They’re the healing agent, not the medicine. 

    If that comes through in any way, I think that that’s absolutely a red flag and some information that there’s a little bit of ego there.”

    The conversation extends to the Psychedelic Guide Network’s emphasis on flexibility and intuition in guiding psychedelic journeys, delving into the concept of intuitive guiding as a paradigm shift in the psychedelic community. 

    Ashley shares a powerful example of a guide adapting the container to meet the unique needs of a client. During a recent wisdom circle, a guide within the network brought forth an example of how intuitive guiding benefitted the client. 

    This approach involves being attuned to the typical arc of a psychedelic journey, including elements like eye masks, music, and client interaction. However, the guide felt a profound intuitive calling to create a different container for her client.

    In this instance, all the conventional elements of a psychedelic journey were still available, yet the guide recognized that the client was grappling with issues of control and rigidity. 

    In response, she decided to craft a more flexible and intuitive container that prioritized the client’s needs over adherence to a standardized approach.

    This anecdote serves as a remarkable example of a guide maintaining a healthy relationship with their ego. Instead of fixating on the established protocols, the guide prioritized the client’s journey by introducing flexibility and intuition into the guiding process. 

    This shift underscores a client-centric focus, reinforcing that effective guiding is not about the guide’s actions but, rather, about meeting the client’s unique needs.

    The Danger of Siloed Practices and Lack of Feedback

    Ashley Carmen discusses the New York Cover Story podcast and its revelations about unethical treatment within the psychedelic community. 

    The episode points out a decade-long era when certain practices were considered the gold standard, but they went unchecked due to exclusivity and closed-door operations. 

    This led to rampant facilitator abuse and a lack of accountability, causing significant harm to individuals involved.

    Siloed practices not only allowed unethical behavior to flourish but also stifled individuals from speaking out against abuse. The power dynamics at play in such closed circles often lead to unchecked actions, and the absence of external feedback exacerbates the risk of harm.

    The breakdown of the School of Consciousness Medicine serves as a cautionary tale of a self-validating system, emphasizing the need for checks and balances to prevent a recurrence of such ethical lapses.

    “The leaders of School of Consciousness had a lot of community. They had a lot of people that were mentees. They were surrounded by a lot of licensed individuals. But the community that they were surrounded with were people that were learning from them, right?”

    The conversation underscores the significance of having peers, colleagues, and a network of trusted individuals to provide feedback and reflection. Operating in isolation, as seen in the School of Consciousness Medicine case, creates a breeding ground for ethical missteps. 

    Without a supportive network, guides may remain oblivious to their blind spots, perpetuating harm to clients. Another critical aspect highlighted in the discussion is the prevalence of dual relationships within certain psychedelic communities. 

    This overlap, whether in recreational settings or personal relationships, raises ethical concerns. Ashley emphasizes the importance of maintaining clean and clear relationships with clients, avoiding confusion and potential harm caused by blurred boundaries.

    The episode concludes with a focus on journeyer sovereignty—the belief that individuals should have the freedom to choose their facilitators, regardless of modality or regulatory environments. 

    This principle underscores the need for transparency, questioning beliefs, and continuously challenging practices to ensure the highest standards of care in psychedelic facilitation.

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        Frequently Asked Questions

        1. What is the Psychedelic Guide Network, and what sets it apart?

        The Psychedelic Guide Network is a non-hierarchical, peer-to-peer platform fostering collaboration among practitioners from diverse backgrounds, including licensed psychotherapists, MDs, indigenous healers, and more. Its uniqueness lies in promoting a breadth of practices within a collaborative space.

        2. How does the Psychedelic Guide Network address ethical considerations?

        The network naturally integrates ethical discussions, serving as a forum where practitioners contribute to responsible and informed approaches to psychedelic therapy. Key ethical considerations, such as informed consent, are actively discussed.

        3. What role does diversity play in the Psychedelic Guide Network?

        Preserving diversity is a primary goal, aiming to bring together individuals with varied training, lineages, and orientations. The network serves as a melting pot, fostering an understanding of each professional’s perspective to create a comprehensive landscape.

        4. How does the network navigate the challenge of gatekeeping in psychedelic practices?

        The conversation addresses gatekeeping concerns in the psychedelic community, emphasizing the importance of examining systemic issues. The network advocates for a paradigm shift, encouraging responsibility, and informed decision-making in engaging with consciousness tools.

        5. What dangers are associated with siloed practices in the psychedelic community?

        Siloed practices, as discussed in the context of the School of Consciousness Medicine, can lead to unchecked unethical behavior and facilitator abuse. 

        The episode highlights the need for checks and balances, emphasizing the significance of external feedback and supportive networks to prevent ethical lapses.

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