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Clinical vs. Shamanic Approaches in Psychedelic Therapy

“Clinical vs. Shamanic Approaches in Psychedelic Therapy” navigates the fascinating spectrum of therapeutic psychedelic care with hosts Nicholas and Jimmy. They delve deep into the extremes of hyper-clinical approaches and shamanic practices, analyzing the nuanced differences, risks, and potential benefits of each.

In this thought-provoking discussion, Nicholas and Jimmy emphasize the importance of informed consent, the power dynamics within therapeutic relationships, and the need for discernment when selecting a provider.

Listeners gain a clearer understanding of the complexities surrounding the term “shaman” and the cultural variations associated with shamanic practices. They also learn about the standardized practices, dosage considerations, and symptom relief focus of the clinical approach. 

The hosts explore the delicate balance between providing standardized care while leaving room for the profound, ineffable experiences that psychedelics can bring. Finding the middle ground, they emphasize the importance of tailoring experiences to the individual, honoring both scientific understanding and spiritual aspects. 

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Episode 52 – Clinical vs. Shamanic Approaches in Psychedelic Therapy

Nick: Welcome to the Psychedelic Passage podcast. My name is Nick Levich, I am here with my cohost, Jimmy Nguyen. As always, thank you so much for joining us this week. 

In today’s episode, we are going to be talking about the spectrum of the approach or type of care that you can get when engaging with intentional therapeutic psychedelic use.

Specifically what we’re talking about here is this range of not only where you can choose to seek care, but who you choose to work with and how they provide that care. 

And so, what we’re really looking at here is the spectrum from essentially like hyper clinical on one end, and then very shamanic on the other, and then the gradient of everything that exists between those two extremes. 

So the main thing that I want to start by expressing here is that you as a journeyer do get to choose how you want to be engaged with. 

I think if I can put one intention out for this episode is to arm you with enough information so that you can actually choose and specify what it is that you want. 

Jimmy: Yeah, because there is a really wide spectrum. I think that there is a service out there and will continue to be so. I want to remind folks that public facing psychedelic services will continue to grow. And so, we’re very early in this landscape. Early, I say relatively.

Obviously, we have a many thousand year relationship with psychedelics. I think you were touching upon that a little bit. 

I know that we’re going to talk about this a little bit later, but I feel called to say that the word shamanic or shamanism, it’s a little bit of a tricky word in our current landscape, because it just denotes and implies a lot of different things.

I think that shamanic can sometimes be confused with indigenous, and let’s say like lineage practice, psychedelic practice, from tradition that’s passed down from mentor to student. It has, I think, a different connotation in our language as compared to other cultures and countries. 

Understanding Shamanism

[00:02:39] Nick: Yeah. Let’s just start on the shamanic end of the spectrum. I think that’s a good place to start. I want to be clear that traditionally that’s how these medicines were done in community, with the community healer, which was often referred to as a shaman.

Typically, it’s a familial lineage or truly someone selected by the village. And so, there’s this accountability and community built into shamanic practitioners traditionally. 

Now, in the western world, we don’t really have that, which is why I think the shamanic approach gets so sticky in the western world, because it doesn’t jive well with things like informed consent or sharing of power–

Because really there is a significant power dynamic in that shamanic relationship where traditionally, they do the diagnosing or they do the healing. It’s a much more involved and active thing. 

You can see how without the right guardrails, namely, community and accountability built in, it can really go off the tracks pretty quickly here in the western world. 

Jimmy: Yeah, thanks for that. I want to add a couple of layers to this as well. I think the best example of what you’re sharing– I haven’t personally done this, but anybody who’s gone to South America, Peru, Brazil, other countries–

And have engaged in primarily ayahuasca plant medicine work knows that informed consent is not really a thing. If the healer or the spiritual leader or let’s– I use this term very loosely, but also very specifically–

The shaman decides that you need some type of spiritual intervention or some type of ritual or some type of process or some type of ceremony, they’re not really going to talk to you about informed consent, and if touch is okay and things like that. 

So, I just want to add that informed consent is very important to us, and it’s also navigated differently depending on the cultural paradigms that are present. 

I’ll back up a little bit even further to say that the word shaman is somewhat of a– For this episode, I’ll say a very broad term. The word comes from the, I’m going to pronounce this super wrong, the Manchu-Tungus word saman. 

A lot of I think what the language around shamanism, how it came about, was through a lot of north and Northeast Asian cultures and traditions. 

Now, shaman is also somewhat of a western word. It’s a word in our western lexicon, meaning the word before that was witch doctor. [Nick laughs] 

That was the way that Western psychologists, psychiatrists, spiritual leaders, all of that for probably many hundreds of years for a long time, anything that wasn’t a part of the western cultural tradition was a witch doctor. 

So, it does already create this norm versus other type of dynamic. And then now that word shaman has evolved in a lot of different ways over that past time where you have self-appointed shamans–

You have people who feel like they were designated as a shaman through religious or psychedelic experiences, you have folks who have gone through a specific, let’s call it, training, teaching, tradition, that puts them in that category. 

There’s also this– two really wonderful terms, Neoshamanism, which is how the history of shamanism plays out in our modern society and there’s also something called plastic shamanism which you can look up as well–

Which is more about people who use the epithets and the context of shamanism to sell whatever, whether it’s their own beliefs, some proprietary method, some type of–

So, if it wasn’t bad enough that there’s a spectrum between clinical, medical, and the far end, which, for the purposes of simplicity, we’re identifying shamanism here. Even within the term shamanism, there’s a really wide spectrum too. 

Nick: For sure. [crosstalk] 

Jimmy: It depends, as we like to say. [laughs] 

Nick: The two things that I feel called to share here are that, regardless of type of shamanism or anything like that, the shamanic approach is more active, that person is doing stuff. 

The reason I bring that up is because it means there’s more risk for power imbalances as well as moral, ethical issues, violations, all of that kind of stuff. 

And so, the point that I want to drive home is, if you’re seeking a more shamanic experience or that’s how you want to be engaged around psychedelics, please be careful and cognizant, and use discernment around who you’re going to sit with.

Because that’s essentially what that whole approach boils down to is: who are you sitting with? Do you trust them to actually take care of you, and not abuse the power that they hold or claim to hold? 

Jimmy: I’m also hearing a little bit in between your words that a psychedelic interested person might actually be confusing a shamanic approach with a spiritual approach. 

Nick: Correct.

Jimmy: Maybe confusing that with a ceremonial approach. Maybe confusing that with guideship versus facilitation versus trip sitting. And so, that’s the whole point that I’m trying to make is that, the word shaman or shamanic is preloaded with a lot of assumptions. 

Nick: Totally. 

Jimmy: I think that one of the clear messages that we want to send here to all the listeners is that there is a way for you to drive the distinction between the two. It’s also important for the service provider to be really clear. 

Maybe they might be selling you on a shamanic practice, because that’s what you want. But maybe they’re not rooted in that history at all. 

There’s some layers to this, but I know that it’s easy for us to say, “Hey, clinical, medical feels like this, and shamanic feels like this one end.” But there’s really gradients across the whole thing. 

Nick: That’s where most services actually sit is in the middle. But I don’t think we can even address the middle until we’ve highlighted the extreme ends of the spectrum. 

Jimmy: Yeah. So, let’s get into that. I think we talk amongst the spectrum, and then maybe we then circle back for our listeners on the questions to ask, what might influence their decisions, things like that. 

Exploring The Clinical Approach

[00:09:48] Nick: All right. So, let’s move to the other extreme. I acknowledge that both of these are truly the extremes. The other is what we’ll call the more clinical/medical approach. 

I just want to put the caveat out to start that this is harder to find given that most doctors and medical professionals at this current juncture at the time of recording this risk losing their licensure by working with psychedelics firsthand–

With the one exception to that being ketamine, but we’re really talking about traditional psychedelics, psilocybin, LSD, DMT, ayahuasca, peyote, mescaline, etc. 

Jimmy: Yeah, just a quick insert of the legal status of these certain things. The reason why ketamine is permissible with therapeutic use is because it’s a Schedule III, which means that it can be prescribed for off label use. 

Now, all of the other compounds and substances that you mentioned are Schedule I. What that says is that, [chuckles] per the FDA, there is a high risk of addiction and there is no recognized medical use. 

And so, you see how that’s a funny contradiction, because a lot of these compounds, namely psilocybin, LSD, and MDMA, are in clinical trials and clinical studies. 

Now, it’s interesting, because when you look at the MDMA trials, most famously by MAPS, they’re in a Phase 3 trial. It’s one of the first clinical trials where it’s the substance in conjunction with something else. 

Most other clinical trials of compounds are just about the substance itself. This is MDMA with psychotherapy, and so it creates this really interesting thing. 

The point that I’m trying to make here is that we can broadly generalize what this might be like for you as a psychedelic interested person. 

However, there are no standards that are established or created. The way that psychedelic assisted psychotherapy will play out over the next couple of years remains to be seen. 

So, I think that the clinical/medical model is helpful for some people, folks who want an individual to prescribe to them a specific dosage or specific regimen. Maybe you have some one day the ability to get insurance coverage for some of these things. 

Now, with the clinical/medical side, a lot of it is standardizing variables. How do we create an approach that is consistent across all individuals? Maybe some different use cases like, maybe a track for PTSD might be different than a track for childhood trauma. 

It might be different for a track of other mental health conditions, but we also see this in the clinical trials. So, one funny question that we get all the time is like, I’m supposed to have my eye mask on all the time, and some really good over ear headphones, right? 

That’s what the clinical trials do. I share with the client that, although that is a best practice derived from clinical trials– We talked about this, I think, in a last episode where we were saying, we prefer speakers in the room as opposed to-

Nick: For sure.

Jimmy: -earbuds. But the reason why they do that is because they have to have the same variables in all of their clinical trials because if one set was over your headphones and then another set was speakers–

Or one set had a certain playlist and another set had a different playlist, then it would skew the results. And so, you can actually see that these best practices are the best practices as per clinical trials. 

And then when this comes online, hopefully, federal regulation will create some parameters around this, state regulators will create some parameters around this. Even then you’re going to get some variability in how your service is with clinical/medical. 

Nick: Yeah. 

Jimmy: I think ketamine clinics are a great example of this. We see this today where some are just administering sessions, some have prep and integration, some have people you can talk to during–

Some just have a nurse aide that comes in and checks on you and then they end up inadvertently being your integration specialist because that’s the only person [laughs] who’s in the room.  

Nick: Yeah. 

Jimmy: We’ve heard horror stories of folks who have had ketamine sessions, and they just get dropped off somewhere or they have to take an Uber home. 

So, my point here is that, for those who adhere more to western mental health medical processes and your trust in that, I think this is a great route for you. However, there will still be a lot of variability across these different implementation practices. 

Nick: One of the things that I hear you speaking to very clearly is in the desire to eliminate variables in the clinical approach, it actually makes it more rigid. 

There’s a level of rigidity like, “Well, this is how we did it for the last patient. This is our approach, so we got to keep doing it this way.” When in reality, headphones on or off may not make any difference in terms of outcome. 

But because they’re trying to eliminate variables, they’ll say, “Okay, keep them on. Keep your eye mask on.” I’m not here to say whether that’s good, bad, or otherwise, but I think that there is this element of rigidity with the more clinical approach. 

Jimmy: Yeah, I’ll give you another great example of this, because we are already talking about implementation, but this would be the same for screening and onboarding as well. 

So, anybody who is in therapy now, who gets it covered by your insurance, depending on the state, typically, you’re going to have to receive some type of mental health diagnosis according to the DSM-5, in order for your insurance coverage to kick in–

“Hey, this person, per the DSM-5, has generalized anxiety, and therefore, insurance will cover it.” Well, it actually might be the same with psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, if you’re going through a clinical medical model. 

Where in order to qualify, you may have to go through a mental health diagnosis. If they deem that you have borderline personality disorder–

That may not only preclude you from a psychedelic service, but also may determine the track, and the program, and the parameters around that per that rigidity that you’re saying there. 

Nick: Yeah. And so, a couple of other things that I want to highlight around the more clinical approach is, oftentimes, it’s very rooted in dosage standardization, which also can often include isolating compounds. This is how the pharmaceutical industry has always worked. 

The treatment is based on isolating the compound and standardizing the dose, which I understand the reasoning behind, but I think with psychedelics, it just doesn’t quite work that way. We’ve talked about this in our dosage episode, which you can go back and listen to. 

I also think that the lens that they approach the work through is more rooted in science and traditional medicine, which I think inherently makes it a bit less holistic, has the potential to feel a bit more what I call cold. 

Jimmy: Well, it’s rooted in symptom relief. 

Nick: Right.

Jimmy: That’s really what it is where, can we resolve your symptoms for a prolonged period of time? I want to back up to say that Nick and I are not necessarily saying that clinical/medical is inferior to shamanic or one is better than the other. 

What we’re trying to do is highlight these distinctions, so that you could start to have these conversations with yourself, and then also your service provider. 

Nick: Right.

Jimmy: Because if you’re alleviating symptoms, but you need to stay on a microdose regimen or you need to go back every six months for a “re-up” on your psychedelic experience, does that actually help you get to the root of the problem? 

Maybe for some, maybe for not. Maybe some people just want to alleviate their symptoms, all good. But I think that the clinical/medical model will have a real interesting challenge of trying to create enough standardization–

So that it can run within these protocols and then also leave enough room for the unexplained, unable to label, hard to define aspects of psychedelic– [crosstalk] 

Nick: The ineffable that Michael Pollan’s speaks of. 

Jimmy: I really applaud the medical professionals and the mental health professionals who find that balance, and I think that it’s going to be different for every practitioner. 

Nick: Inherently, we are talking about the extremes. As I mentioned before, these extremes, I don’t think are where the vast majority of options and providers are going to lie. 

I think they’re going to be in the middle. But we had to paint a little bit of a picture there of the various extreme ends of the spectrum. 

Jimmy: Yeah. So, we talked about clinical medical, we brushed upon the history and context of the word shaman, shamanic. But I guess, what else do you have to add as far as the other end of the extreme on the shamanic side? 

Nick: I feel pretty complete there. That was a good background. And so, I think what this brings up for me is like, what does the middle look like? And for me, personally, and I’m curious where you sit with this, but I think about ceremony as being in the middle.

Nick: And the way that I think about it is there’s still this honoring of both the science on one end and the spiritual on the other but there’s this adjustment for implementation in the western world that still allows for things like, informed consent, sacredness–

Empowerment of the journeyer, and an ability to choose how to be in relationship with your provider, so that it feels a bit more balanced, a bit more natural, a bit more dynamic, and honestly, tailored to you as a client or a journeyer. 

Ceremony: Our Happy Medium

[00:20:39] Jimmy: Yeah. I do think that thinking about intentional psychedelic use in the framework of ceremony does fall more into middle ground. And even then, it’s important for me to say that there’s a big umbrella term of ceremony, and then that looks very different for individuals.

Ceremony does not mean that it always comes from a particular tradition and lineage. There are folks who have been working with psychedelics for 20 years–

And over their experience, over their involvement with other circles, practitioners, mentors, guides, facilitators they may have crafted their own set of traditions. I probably fall in that category though I definitely don’t have 20 years of experience. 

Then also, there are ceremony that is rooted in tradition and specific cultures. I would also like to invite in some other terms, there may just be, well, we are talking about this in the framework of legal psychedelic related services. 

There can also be trip sitting, which is, there’s just a person there to make sure that I don’t slip and fall to make sure that I can get up and go to the bathroom, and they are really, really hands off. 

I think that there are certain different lenses and spectrums of facilitation. I do like this term, ceremony, which we use and create space for different modalities of facilitators within our network–

Because it does denote a couple of things to which you said, there’s an intentional component to it, there’s a process to it, there is this ability to implement more scientific best practices. 

Also, a ceremonialist may choose not to. There are some ceremonies that are deeply rooted in religious structure, there are some that are not. And so, you can see how– [crosstalk] 

Nick: I like the word ceremony, because I think about a marriage ceremony, for instance. There’s not a right or wrong way to do it. There’s a whole bunch of different flavors. But we can all agree that a ceremony denotes a marker in time, where there’s you before and there’s you after, and the ceremony changes our relationship with each other, our community, the world around us. And to me, that’s what’s cool about that word and why I hang on to it. But I acknowledge what you’re saying, which is, the state’s going to call it psilocybin service center with a facilitator. They’re probably not going to call it a ceremony. But they are likely going to be more in the middle of that spectrum that we’re talking about. 

Jimmy: Yeah, and it’s not just these state regulated programs. I think that facilitators and service providers, I’m calling you out, there is a real big responsibility to be honest, clear, and transparent about the nature and the context of your service–

Because I know that there are people out there who claim to be ceremonialists, and they’re literally just showing up and dosing you and just f*cking sitting there. 

Nick: Yeah. 

Jimmy: I also know that there are people who say, “Yup, I take all the best practices of the scientific, clinical, medical, and all this stuff, and I’ve done all the research.” 

But for lack of a better term, they’re amateurs, because they don’t have a specific science background or a medical or mental health background. 

And then that also has some ethical implementations, if an individual says that they implement something here, but actually the experience that you’re getting is different. And so, this happens across the entire spectrum. 

It’s something that is worth me naming for psychedelic interested folks, and it’s worth me putting pressure on facilitators and psychedelic practitioners right now to be really honest and clear with the services that you’re providing.

Nick: For sure. So, a couple of things that we’ve highlighted in this discussion is that most service providers are going to lie somewhere in the middle at this current state and time, and also we can’t really agree what the terminology is for that middle ground. 

I think that’s the linchpin on why we even want to have this discussion is because we can’t agree upon what to call it. People don’t know what they’re looking for, [Jimmy laughs] and so you can see how messy this becomes for a potential journeyer or client that’s seeking services. 

The Nuances of Finding the Right Therapeutic Experience

[00:25:26] Nick: So, what this boils down to for me is how do we communicate what we want as a client knowing that there’s options, and then setting the expectation with both the facilitator, setting the expectation with the client–

But also vice versa on how they want to be engaged with, because a facilitator could do ceremony. Right? They call it ceremony. 

But one client comes to them with a Mormon religious background, and the other person comes to them atheist or agnostic, for instance. From my perspective, as a facilitator, that requires a different level of engagement with each journeyer. 

Jimmy: Well, it requires a tailored approach. 

Nick: Exactly. 

Jimmy: If the facilitator’s intent, I use facilitator as a broad term to adhere their program and ceremonial components to what’s in the best interest or the worldview of the client, that’s a distinction and a choice that the facilitator may make. 

There are also other people out there who say, “Hey, regardless of your religious background, worldview upbringing, all of that, this is the set standard of the ceremony,” and look, it will be seen what rises to the surface over the next 5 years to 10 years. 

I was laughing when you were talking about this dynamic. In my mind, I was like, “Welcome to the wacky world of the psychedelic landscape in 2023,” where everybody pretends to know what the best practice is, but really nobody knows at all. 

So, it’ll remain to be seen what the practices are that have the highest level of efficacy for specific segments and populations. 

Nick: Efficacy aside, for me, it’s still really important to communicate with your client in the way that they want to be communicated with. That’s the other point that I believe is really important to me, at least around this topic. 

If your whole worldview is scientific, I have to engage with you using different terminology to refer to the same concepts than I would dealing with somebody who’s deeply spiritual and I can speak to the exact same topics, but I have to do it in a different way. 

Jimmy: Yeah. We see this the same in therapy with licensed mental health professionals, where I had a friend who was like, “Well, I had bad experience with therapist in the past, and I just turned me off to therapy.” 

“Now, I’m circling back around and trying to find a therapist, but I don’t know where to start.” And I’m like, “Okay, well, are you looking for a counselor? Are you looking for a marriage and family therapist? Are you looking for a therapist of a specific modality?” 

And then we opened up into a whole conversation that there’s probably 20 or 30 different, probably more, approaches of therapy. “Are you looking for Gestalt therapy? Are you looking for DBT? Are you looking for CBT?”

Nick: IFS. 

Jimmy: “IFS? Is there EMDR?” And then you realize, “Oh, even within therapy, there’s a lot of different approaches, and attunements, and things that are different.” 

And so, this is something that’s like a hurdle that we just have in our society, because our society tries to standardize things essentially. “Oh, you got a blood pressure issue? Here, take a statin. You got something for in your GI tract? Here, take this IBS medication.”

Nick: This is actually a wonderful analogy, if I can step in for a second. 

Jimmy: Yeah, please, please.

Nick: Something like high blood pressure, which we can all agree is a thing. The hyper clinical approach would be take a statin and don’t change any lifestyle factors. 

The more holistic, potentially spiritual approach would be like, work with your naturopath to actually address the root cause and start to make lifestyle changes. That’s maybe more in the middle. 

It’s a little bit of science and clinical, but also holistic and looking at your whole life in its entirety. And then the shamanic approach may be like, put my hand on your heart and do a blessing of some sort and call it in the spirits to help alleviate it. 

And so, you can see how that same issue could be “solved” or “addressed” in very different ways, and the same exact dynamic exists in the psychedelic healing space. 

Jimmy: Yeah. That’s really well said. I’ll add that some people don’t believe in naturopaths. So, maybe a spot in the middle is, they’re getting medication, or they choose to not be on medication, and they’re seeing a nutritionist. 

They’re seeing a dietitian. They’re seeing a personal trainer also. So, you can see how it depends on the individual to determine what the right thing is for them. These providers can only create options. 

The first thing that I learned when I went through an EMT program, I’m not a licensed EMT, but people have the sovereignty and the right to refuse medical advice to make their own decisions on their medical care. 

You walk into a home, and you see somebody having a heart issue or heart condition, and you might tell them, “Hey, you need to go to the hospital, because there’s a high likelihood of you getting a heart attack.” 

They could tell you to leave, and they can sign a right of refusal, and you could leave, and they could have a heart attack later. And so, I’m speaking about this as far as the context of our society in your own choice. 

Now, in the mainstream, it may feel like you only have certain options. “Oh, if the doctor prescribed me this, this is what I have to do.” I think that’s likely good advice for a broad percentage of medical and mental health conditions. 

But we see this also in cancer patients and terminally ill patients, the right to try laws, if they want to try a somewhat unstudied and experimental procedure or not, or if they choose to go through traditional routes and methods. 

And so, the same things that are present in our mental health and medical landscape in this country, will be present in psychedelics. 

Maybe we can spend the last little bit of time here to talk about some tangible things for psychedelic curious folks, and what they should be thinking about, questions they should be asking themselves, questions they should be asking service providers on how to clarify this. 

How Clients & Providers Can Navigate the Psychedelic Services Landscape

[00:32:33] Nick: Yeah. So, for me, if you’re a service provider, two things that come up. One, be very honest with potential clients about your approach and ask clients, if they have something they’re looking for or how they want to be engaged with–

To see if you can meet them there because not every provider is going to be a good fit for every client. And then the flip side of that is, as a potential journeyer, as a client, as someone seeking service, be clear on how you want to be engaged with. 

Based on your worldview or your religious beliefs or your past history, you may want to be engaged with and communicated to in a very specific way. 

And the more you can hone in on what that is, the better relationship and overall experience you’re going to have with your care provider. 

Jimmy: Yeah. What I hear you saying is that, it’s both up to the psychedelic interested person and the service provider to clearly communicate and ask the right questions. Some things that I’m hearing are just some examples. 

How do you want to be cared for? How do you view the psychedelic experience? Do you consider yourself a spiritual person? Are you only viewing psychedelics through a cognitive and neurological, neuroscience lens? 

Just asking some of these basic questions on both sides, I think will be really helpful. I actually want to zero in on the psychedelic interested individual, because I actually think that the first part of this process is an internal asking for yourself. 

The reason why is because if you’re not clear, then you don’t know what to look for. I’m going to add another layer to this as well, but things that might influence your decision, your past history, medical history, personal history, mental health history, your own religious beliefs–

Your own worldviews, what creates a perceived sense of safety for you, even gender preferences and things of that nature of who your service provider is. 

We also did an episode on social conditioning, and what your family unit looks like, and things like that. And so, the more that you can be clear on where you sit internally before you even go and look for what’s available out there, the more helpful it’ll be. 

Now, I know that a lot of these things are moving targets. I want to highlight that even in this individual discovery, there can arise a lot of ethical dilemmas about this personally. 

So, let’s assume that you are an individual who has gotten the most benefit from western medicine, who’s gotten the most benefit from doctors and mental health professionals prescribing you things. 

The most benefit from that, you want to find a practitioner who adheres as closely to the clinical trials and studies as you can. So, that’s your own personal compass, that’s what you’re looking for. You go out and look for that person now in 2023. 

You don’t find them, because they don’t exist. Then you’re in an ethical dilemma to be like, “Okay, what of my personal preferences and needs do I have to bend if I am looking for service now?” 

If you’re saying, “Hey, I do adhere to all of the clinical western medicine model, but I also have a sense of urgency because I’m really suffering.” 

So, that creates these internal ethical dilemmas, which if you are– There may be some things that are non-negotiables and there may be some things that you are willing to bend or explore or you say, “Hey, I really trust this person. They have a more spiritual approach.”

“I’m open to spirituality, but I’m really looking at this from a mental health lens.” You can see how that can create a whole– I want to curse here, but I’m not going to, a whole mess of decision-making criteria. 

And then you then run into potential power imbalances with your facilitator or service provider, especially if they’re just telling you the stuff that you need to hear for you to engage in services with them. But it may not actually meet your needs. 

And so, it’s really tricky. It’s really, really tricky, but I think the first place is to look internally and get clear on your needs across these different parameters that we’re talking about. 

Nick: I just want to say, I totally appreciate your example. I think it brings a lot of clarity and tangibility to what you’re talking about. And at the same time, just let folks know that there are really amazing providers out there who can speak to both ends of the spectrum. 

Jimmy: For sure. 

Nick: They can work with a neuroscientist, just as well as they can work with a spiritual seeker. And so, there are wonderful facilitators that can truly adjust the hat that they wear based on the client. 

I think what we’re highlighting is that it requires an ability for that facilitator, that service provider to meet you where they’re at. If they can’t do it, that’s where things can go south super quickly. 

Jimmy: Yeah. It’s very promising to me to see very highly talented people emerge in this space, whether they have been psychedelic, directly focused, or come in from a different lens, or modality, or something that they’ve learned over the past couple of years, maybe even. 

It’s also worth me saying that, at the same rate that very highly skilled psychedelic people are emerging, likely the same rate that the bunk, not professional people who don’t have this stuff– 

They’re not even thinking about this stuff when they take your money and decide that they’re going to be your trip sitter. And so– [crosstalk] 

Nick: Which is precisely why we started Psychedelic Passage. I want to be abundantly clear, this is the actual reason that Psychedelic Passage exists–

And has morphed into what it is today because the question for everyone is, how do I know who I can trust if everyone claims to be this?

Jimmy: Yeah, the whole impetus on why we started was like, if our moms were going to go out today and they’re decided on having a psychedelic experience, assuming you and I didn’t know anything about psychedelics–

And they were just out there to find them, how good would we feel about whoever they found on the internet? When we started this back in 2019, it wouldn’t feel that good. [laughs] Honestly, it would not feel that good, even today with more service [crosstalk] available.

Nick: I think today, it’s actually more confusing. There was so much less choice before that you only had a handful of options. Now you’ve got literally hundreds of options, and the question is how do you discern? What’s what?

Jimmy: How do you discern when they’re saying the same thing, sharing the same story, talking about the same approaches, talking about how they’re going to meet you, where you’re at? You’re like, “Well, how do I figure that out?” 

Nick: I think that’s where it gets really hard and that’s where we’ve done our best to take the guesswork out of it. We say, “Look, here’s the vetting that we’ve taken these folks through and this is why we’re essentially vouching for them”

Because there’s a level of comfort that we would send our loved ones, friends, family members, whatever to see these folks. I think there’s a certain peace of mind that comes with that. 

Jimmy: Yeah. And if there’s a final thought that I have on this episode or a message that I want to convey to people is that it really is about that psychedelic curious person being honest with their needs, being honest with what they want and their preferences–

And then asking the right questions to a facilitator who will be completely open and transparent and honest in answering those questions. 

All of those things are required in order [laughs] for you to get to a place of finding the care and the service, that’s exactly right for you. 

Nick: Mic drop. [laughs] 

Jimmy: Yeah, another mic drop from me. Another rant and the mic drop in the books. [laughs] 

Nick: Oh, well, thank you for that. I think that’s a perfect place to close down for the day, so thanks for that. Thank you to all of us who tuned in and listened today.

You can download episodes of the Psychedelic Passage podcast on all major streaming platforms, whether that’s Apple Podcast, Amazon, Spotify, or wherever else you choose to stream. 

If you like the show, please rate and review us, and we encourage you to share with friends, if there’s anyone that you think could benefit. And we’ll see you all next week.

Talk to a Psychedelic Professional

As psychedelic-assisted therapy gains popularity, it becomes exposed to the harsh elements of our diverse humanity. Fear not, there are ways to navigate this space to ensure your needs are met, as we hopefully displayed for you in this episode.

Are you ready to take the next step? We empower you to book a consultation with one of our concierges to get connected with our network of experienced psychedelic facilitators. This allows you to focus on your healing, because we’ve done the vetting for you.

Our resources page offers actionable advice for those who want to learn more on their own. Our Q&As, how-to articles and interviews are just a few of the educational materials being added all the time. As always, stay safe, be mindful, and radiate love!

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Take the first step and book a consultation call with us today. We'll walk you through every step of the process after getting to know you and your unique situation.

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At Psychedelic Passage, we offer professional 1-on-1 guidance and companionship on your journey of healing. We simply can't sit back and let Americans continue to sit in silent suffering trying to battle mental health issues within a broken health care system, all while knowing that effective alternatives exist. We stand for the sacred, at-home, ceremonial use of psychedelics for consciousness exploration, which we believe to be a fundamental human right.


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