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Exposing Facilitator Abuse in Psychedelic Healing Ft. Dr. Randall and Jenny Hansen

This week’s episode takes a deep dive into a topic rarely discussed openly: Facilitator Abuse in the world of psychedelic healing. Joining us are two remarkable guests, Dr. Randall and Jenny Hansen, who have experienced firsthand the unsettling realities of sitting with an unqualified or problematic provider.

Jenny, a mental health advocate and military veteran supporter, and Dr. Randall, an esteemed thought leader and author in trauma healing, bring their stories to light. Their journey took an unexpected turn when they sought to explore the healing potential of Ayahuasca, under the guidance of a facilitator who came highly recommended.

What follows is a series of disturbing events that shatter their expectations and expose the dark side of psychedelic healing. As the Hansens unravel their story, you’ll be left in disbelief at the red flags that surface along the way. 

From the facilitator’s ego-driven behavior to the shocking suppression of emotional releases during the ceremony, this episode reveals the harsh reality of sitting with an unqualified and self-serving guide. You’ll learn about how power dynamics come into play, causing participants to question their own intuition and struggle to assert themselves.

But this episode isn’t just about shedding light on the darkness; it’s about understanding why it’s crucial to address this issue. Nicholas Levich and his guests courageously navigate this difficult terrain, sharing their insights and experiences to raise awareness about facilitator abuse.

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    Episode 62 – Exposing Facilitator Abuse in Psychedelic Healing Ft. Dr. Randall and Jenny Hansen

    Nicholas Levich:

    Welcome to the Psychedelic Passage podcast. I am your host Nick Levich. Thank you all for joining us this week and we have a very important topic this week. 

    Really we’re gonna be covering what facilitator abuse looks and feels like, what it’s like to sit with an unqualified or a poor provider, and with me I have two very special guests who are near and dear to my heart, Dr. Randall and Jenny Hansen.

    And I’m going to give a little background on each of them so you know who’s joining us today. Jenny is a mental health proponent, empath, military veteran advocate, and nature lover. 

    She holds an interdisciplinary master’s degree in mental health with a focus on veterans and works with the Heroic Hearts Project, a nonprofit that helps veterans with PTSD access psychedelic programs and retreats.

    And she also used to work for psychedelic passage, which we’re very grateful for. And Dr. Hansen is an advocate, educator, ethicist, and thought leader helping the world heal from past trauma. 

    He’s also the author of the well-received book, Triumph Over Trauma: Psychedelic medicines are helping people heal their trauma, change their lives, and grow their spirituality. 

    And the forthcoming book, HEAL!: Wholeistic Practices to Help Clear Your Trauma, Heal Yourself, and Live Your Best Life. More than 20 years ago, he began a healing journey that started with wellness.

    Today, his focus and advocacy centered around true healing, healing that results in being able to live an authentic life filled with peace, joy, and love. So thank you both for joining us today.

    Dr. Randall & Jenny Hansen:

    Thank you, Nick, for inviting us. We’re excited to be here. It’s an honor. Thank you.

    Nicholas Levich:

    Yeah, my pleasure. I wanted to have you both on the podcast because you’ve been in the, what I’ll say, unfortunate position of being on the receiving end of facilitator abuse. 

    And I think this is something people are either afraid to talk about publicly or perhaps don’t even know is an issue, especially those who are first time journeyers or those seeking this form of treatment for the very first time.

    One of the things we’ve talked about a lot on the show, if anyone’s listened to past episodes, is just how important it is to sit with a qualified, trusted provider that you actually feel safe with and connected to.

    But I think what’s often not talked about is the why. Like what are the consequences of sitting with a poor provider? What does facilitator abuse look and feel like?

    And before we jump into this discussion, I just want to acknowledge that this is not a particularly easy topic to speak about, so thank you both for your courage and vulnerability and sharing your story. It means a lot to me, and I know that it will be valuable to our listeners as well. 

    I also want to acknowledge that this may not be easy for folks to listen to, but pretending it’s not a problem isn’t the answer either. 

    And so if you do need to take a break as you listen to this episode, I encourage you to do so, or perhaps this episode triggers something and you realize you actually need some support yourself, in which case I encourage you to reach out to us. 

    Send us an email or visit our website, psychedelicpassage.com and one of our team members will get you either direct support or resources to find the support that you need.

    I also just want to say that if this topic interests you and you’re interested in learning a little bit more, you may find value out of episode 36, which we’ve already recorded, and that really covers the power dynamics in psychedelic assisted therapy. 

    And facilitator abuse ultimately stems from these imbalances of power. And so all of this stuff is quite interconnected. And so that’s really what we’re diving into today. 

    And what I’d love to start with is just how you both found yourself in the situation that you were on the receiving end of this kind of mistreatment.

    Where Their Story Begins

    [00:03:46] Jenny Hansen:

    I’ll take that one. So working for Heroic Hearts Project and witnessing so many veterans coming back from ayahuasca retreats in Central America and South America and seeing the healing that occurred, we thought it was time for us to have our own journey with Mother Ayahuasca.

    And I had my own intentions going into the retreat and so did RAN, the retreat center that we were referred to actually came from a very trusted individual and we felt confident and safe in contacting this individual–

    –And I guess you could call his retreat center, and this was about a year and a half ago, and we just wanted to experience the medicine with respect and humility. 

    And that way I could really speak directly to the experience and be a better advocate for the veterans going through the Herok Hearts Project program. 

    Dr. Randall Hansen: 

    And I think it’s scary in a sense to me because we have connections in the psychedelic industry. And as Jenny said, this was referred to by someone who we really respect in that industry. 

    Now, granted, he hadn’t reconnected with a facilitator in, you know, some period of time, but he had a personal experience with that. And so we trusted that and the facilitator also sent us a video of him sort of explaining his practices and that looked normal on the surface. 

    Jenny Hansen:

    Felt safe, felt good, all the protocols seemed to be followed or at least what he purported for the diet ahead of time for preparation and getting ready for the routine and whatnot.

    Nicholas Levich:

    Right.

    Dr. Randall Hansen:

    Yeah. And then we followed that up with a one-on-one Zoom with him or two-on-one Zoom. And again, the conversation seemed normal, he’s is a little quirky, but then all of us are quirky. So we didn’t really think that it wasn’t a red flag. 

    Jenny Hansen:

    It was just, okay, you know, it looked like, yes, proceed green light. Let’s go to the next step, which would be then to book a retreat. 

    And we were sent plenty of information via email as well, PDF of the diet that we should follow, how to get your mindset straight, all of the prep techniques that seem like, okay, this makes sense. And so we felt good going into it.

    Nicholas Levich

    Right. So at face value, what I’m hearing is everything was normal, felt legitimate, and especially given the referral, you’re like, okay, this feels comfortable. 

    Dr. Randall & Jenny Hansen:

    Correct.

    Nicholas Levich

    Yeah. And so was this your first time sitting with psychedelic medicine in a more structured or ceremonial setting?

    Jenny Hansen:

    Yes, for both of us. First time with ayahuasca in particular and in a ceremonial setting, yes.

    Nicholas Levich

    Yeah. And so really nothing to compare to at that point, which I think is the position that a lot of folks are in when they’re seeking this out for the first time is, you don’t know any better.

    Dr. Randall & Jenny Hansen

    Yeah. Indeed.

    When Did They Realize Something Was Wrong?

    [00:06:52] Nicholas Levich:

    So at what point did you realize that you were sitting with a poor provider?

    Jenny Hansen:

    When we arrived at the retreat center, which was the personal property of this facilitator, the facilitator didn’t come out to greet the group until we had been there for at least a few hours. 

    His assistant had interviewed each one of us one on one to get an idea of our intentions. And then when he came out to greet us, it was almost as if his ego walked into the room before he did.

    And I had a conversation with him, a one-on-one, and wow. I mean, he just couldn’t stop talking about himself and how amazing his retreat center is and how he’s healed so many people. So red flag number one started there and it kept going from there.

    Nicholas Levich:

    Hmm. And, and oftentimes when I hear people talk about this, they refer to a sensation in the body where they’re like, oh goodness, maybe it’s a little voice or a little discomfort, but I’m curious, like, did that start to raise some concern for you?

    Jenny Hansen:

    Absolutely, because this facilitator is actually speaking poorly about the very person that referred us to his center.

    Nicholas Levich:

    Oh goodness.

    Jenny Hansen:

    And speaking poorly about his organization and that did not sit well with me of course.

    Nicholas Levich:

    And so what happened from there?

    Dr. Randall Hansen:

    Well, for me, I mean, I overheard some of that conversation and I did sense a certain ego about it, but to me, it wasn’t over the top at that point. My biggest shock came at the first ceremony. So he made a big point about the yurt is a sacred space. 

    No negative things should be happening there. No ego, no talking, you know, it is to be the most reverent place possible. And then as we get into the sacred space, the first thing he says to us is, oh, by the way, you all are my guinea pigs tonight–

    –Because I developed a new brew of Aya that hasn’t been tested on anyone else, and you are gonna be the first to experience it. And you want to just get up and walk out of the room, out of that place at that moment or raise your hand. 

    But the dynamic he set up was, you know, I am the master, I am the, you know, I am the leader of this and you will just listen to me. But you looked around the room and everyone was kind of like, what? 

    Jenny Hansen: The trust was broken right there because nobody was made aware of this until we are sitting in the yurt about to consume the medicine.

    Nicholas Levich:

    Yeah, it’s too late.

    Jenny Hansen:

    It’s too late.

    Nicholas Levich:

    And how many other people were there?

    Jenny Hansen:

    We had a group of 12, I believe. 

    Dr. Randall Hansen: 

    Yes, a little smaller. He had a couple of cancellations. I think he said he usually has about 16 to 18, but there were about 12. 

    Jenny Hansen:

    Including ourselves. 

    Dr. Randall Hansen: 

    Yeah.

    Nicholas Levich:

    So this is already ironic because he’s saying don’t bring your ego in here and yet this whole thing so far has been centered around him. And from my perspective, the purpose of a facilitator is to be in selfless service of the participants.

    What Happens When Sacred Space Is Not Respected by a Facilitator

    [00:10:13] Dr. Randall Hansen:

    Yes. Yeah. And it just, you know, went way downhill from there, not necessarily during the ceremony, but then there are many bad things that happen in that first ceremony. 

    But in terms of his ego, the next day, and we can get to that later, but the next day he gave us one of his lectures about ayahuasca during the ceremony. I know Jen, you might want to just mention what happened almost immediately after we drank. 

    Jenny Hansen

    Yes. Where do you start? Let’s just say that there were no best practices followed by this facilitator whatsoever. 

    Nicholas Levich:

    Right.

    Jenny Hansen:

    I witnessed other participants being emotionally harmed. Participants who after consuming the medicine were starting to have a release in the form of loud noises, crying, shaking, you name it, it was happening. 

    And the assistant to the facilitator literally, I felt like, flew across the room and shut these people down. I overheard him say, you need to stop making all this noise, you need to get control of yourself, you’re disrupting the space.

    And then the facilitator himself actually came over and I heard him say to one of the participants, dude, you’re losing control, man. You’ve got to get a grip on yourself. 

    It was horrifying to witness because my understanding in these ceremonies is the release is encouraged and needs to be supported, not shut down. Then it occurred to the participant next to me, same thing. 

    She was crying, really having some kind of emotional experience. And I remember just my heart was going out to her and same thing, the assistant came over to her and said, get a hold of yourself, stop crying. I don’t wanna hear it. And I was absolutely horrified.

    Nicholas Levich:

    Wildly unacceptable.

    Jenny Hansen

    Unacceptable. It was horrifying.

    Dr. Randall:

    Yeah, the next day the facilitator made the very big point that the only release that he respected was vomiting which is very typical of ayahuasca, but that’s not the only way to release.

    Nicholas Levich

    Right. And anyone that’s listened to this show has heard Jimmy and I talk about how important it is to let your body do whatever it needs to do–

    –And how the whole reason we’re sitting with these medicines is because we’re unearthing whatever is beneath the surface, which is often pain, grief, sorrow. It’s the unsavory aspects of ourselves. 

    It’s the tough emotions that we haven’t been able to process in normal day-to-day life. And so here these people are getting a chance to finally express that. And then they’re being hushed and shut down by the supposed facilitators.

    Jenny Hansen:

    Yes, and I sensed a fear in the facilitator and his assistant at not being able to control the room. 

    Dr. Randall Hansen

    Yeah. In fact, the facilitator even made the point in the sacred space that he didn’t want any runners. And he explained that, you know, if you take this ayahuasca and you run out of the yurt, we’re not gonna chase you. 

    We’re not gonna run down and, you know, stop you from getting run over by a car or something like that. And I thought, this is a caring individual? 

    Where again, but as Jenny said, it was all about control. He needed to control that space, which is ridiculous, because the medicine should be what is controlling the space.

    Nicholas Levich:

    Right. I mean, that’s the irony of sitting with psychedelics is, you’re not in control as a journeyer, and so how can he expect to actually have control over you all in that environment? 

    Like that is precisely what we talked about in the episode of Power Dynamics, where things get so out of whack so quickly.

    Jenny Hansen:

    Indeed. And during the ceremony, we knew that it’s common practice for the facilitator and the assistant to have a working dose of the medicine in order to help channel and facilitate. 

    However, in the so-called integration circle the next morning, we learned that assistant had a full-blown journey himself–

    Nicholas Levich:

    Oh my god.

    Jenny Hansen:

    –And then proceeded to discuss how amazing his own journey was when he’s supposed to be there to support the group and the participants and what they experienced during their journey.

    Nicholas Levich:

    Yeah, so once again, all about them.

    Dr. Randall Hansen:

    Yes, completely. Yeah. And in our personal experience, you know, the first night is typically a little bit of a lighter night for some people as Mother Aya’s getting to know you. 

    And so for me, my release started with, I heard it might have been Jenny might have been someone else do a little giggle. And then it sounded so beautiful. And I was having, the image I was having was this just amazing, indescribable–

    –And the giggling was like, it just was like this inner child and it brought me back to my five-year-old self and I started to giggle a little bit. And then I heard one of the people that had been struggling earlier start to giggle a little bit. 

    It wasn’t, we weren’t laughing. It was just this beautiful little, hahah, hahah, and I pictured everyone seeing what I saw, which was so beautiful. And then I didn’t know what happened, but Jenny can tell you, because it happened to her, but then the whole yurt went dark. 

    That image I saw just disintegrated and the temperature dropped, what felt like 30 degrees. And I had no idea what happened. And it just went really downhill for me from there. But Jenny, you can say what precipitated this. 

    Jenny Hansen: This was the second night. The first night I didn’t feel much. I was too concerned about the participants next to me.

    Nicholas Levich:

    You can’t let your guard down when you’re in that environment.

    Jenny Hansen:

    Right. I felt very protective of my fellow participants. And so I was not focusing on my own journey at all, which was upsetting because I was there for myself as well. 

    So the second night, I finally, after consuming my first dose, felt the medicine coming into me, felt Mother Aya coming into me. 

    And it was so beautiful and so light. I thought, aha, there she is. And I giggled. It was a form of release. It felt so wonderful. And that’s what started the giggling on the entire side of the yurt. 

    And what seemed like maybe a minute later, the assistant who was dressed all in white in a hoodie and looked like a ghost was standing right at the edge of my mat. And he placed his hand out into my face like this and he said, stop right now.

    And I felt reduced to a five-year-old child being reprimanded by a father. I stopped laughing. Everybody else stopped laughing. That’s when the room went black and dark and cold. And it was just shocking to me. I’m giggling and I’m feeling the medicine. 

    And you just robbed me of my experience because I did not feel mother Aya at all for the rest of the retreat. It was like I picture a little octopus who had come out of the rocks and just, she disappeared, went back into hiding, which infuriated me.

    Nicholas Levich:

    And the irony to me to this whole thing is that you’re there to heal, and you’re just, this facilitator is actually creating more trauma for you.

    Jenny Hansen:

    Yes. 

    Dr. Randall Hansen:

    Yeah. And to me, one of the, I guess outcomes, which is not what I would have wanted, but was we actually, there were two participants, well, first of all, one left immediately the next day.

    He just said, this is useless. He tried to have a meeting with the healer and the healer was like, no, you will not see me until ceremony. 

    Jenny Hansen:

    So he didn’t receive the support he needed.

    Dr. Randall Hansen:

    So he just left. And then two others that were struggling, the one that they literally restrained out, so they took him out the yurt and had a discussion with him about, he needed to shape up or he had to leave. 

    And then the other woman, the healer kept telling her, you’re not doing the work, you’re not doing the work. And she was just reduced to tears. 

    So we spent the rest of that retreat counseling these two people and trying to help them integrate, you know, and, and not panic and process all this stuff. 

    Jenny Hansen

    Yeah. That was, that was so disturbing to see, to witness other participants being re-traumatized. So after the ceremony night, this was a three day ceremony or retreat where you consume medicine every night. One, two, three.

    In between, in the afternoons, prior to going into ceremony, the facilitator would have his little lecture or talk, which would go on for almost two hours. 

    And during this talk, he would encourage questions, but then when the questions were asked, he would just come down hard and reprimand the participants, both the gentleman that I explained earlier, who was releasing in a very strong way–

    –And the participant next to me who was crying. And he was just, like an angry father, you’re not doing the work. Don’t ask me these questions. And in front of all the other participants shaming them, it was horrifying to witness. 

    Dr. Randall Hansen:

    And this was in the sacred space that we’re supposed to respect. And he didn’t respect the sacred space.

    Nicholas Levich:

    There’s a major double standard that’s emerging here.

    Dr. Randall Hansen:

    Yeah. To me it was like whiplash because on the surface, both the, you know, his recorded video, the Zoom, he seemed like this conscientious person that respected the medicine. You know, he had been down to Peru. He had a mentor from the–

    Jenny Hansen:

    He trained with the Shipibo tribe.

    Dr. Randall Hansen:

    Right, which is the tribe that’s a protector of Aya. So all these things on surface, and then in the actual space where, and I spent a lot of time, why didn’t I just get up? Why didn’t I speak up? When these two people were being abused, why didn’t I say, shut the heck up? 

    But I think because, again, I don’t know, this idea that we’re supposed to respect the healer. So I just couldn’t and respect his space. So I just couldn’t speak up. 

    So to me, that’s my, one of my biggest regrets that I did not until the very end, tell this guy that you need to do your own work. You need to work on yourself before you are supposedly trying to help others. 

    Jenny Hansen:

    Absolutely.

    Nicholas Levich:

    I think that’s just, thank you for sharing that. I know it’s not easy. It’s such a powerful example of these power dynamics at play. You know you wanna vocalize something, but then there’s this part of you that’s like, well, I don’t know if that’s okay. 

    It’s not acceptable. It’s my first time here. They’re the healer. Maybe they do know what’s best. And those dynamics cause us to question our own sanity, our own intuitive knowing of what’s right and wrong. 

    And I think that’s a very vulnerable and challenging position for anybody to be in, but especially a first time journeyer. And that was, you know, your first time in one of those environments.

    Jenny Hansen:

    Yeah. Right. And adding on top of the emotional distress is lack of sleep. You’re not sleeping very well at all. The diet that you’ve been on, I mean, you have to fast prior to ceremony

    So those are added elements that are already kind of breaking down your body in a sense and affecting your brain. And you’re much more emotional just from that alone. And then adding that re-traumatization on top of it is just terrible.

    From Journeyers to Space Holders

    [00:22:52] Nicholas Levich:

    And so what happened as you moved into the final night?

    Jenny Hansen:

    We didn’t participate in the final night. After that second night and just witnessing everything going down, we said, no, we don’t need a third night of medicine. We’re going to stay in the common area. 

    The reason we didn’t leave at that time, leave the retreat completely, is because of our concern for those two participants that had, they wanted to see it out. They wanted, well, maybe this third night, maybe I’ll finally have the journey that I was looking for.

    Nicholas Levich:

    Oh, interesting.

    Jenny Hansen:

    And the participant next to me, the lady, she had such a terrifying experience. She actually left the yurt and Ran and I were sitting in the common area–

    –Which was a converted garage/kitchen. We were just hanging out there and we wanted to just be there in case something happened. 

    Dr. Randall Hansen:

    And we had told both participants, we will be there if you need us.

    Jenny Hansen:

    And she came running into the common area clearly distraught, tears running down her face. And she said, I can’t go back in that yurt. I can’t, there’s no support. She literally felt like the enemy was in there. 

    Dr. Randall Hansen:

    And she was ready to get in her car and go. Yes. And no one from the yurt came after her. And if we weren’t there, she would have gotten her car deep in the medicine and she had about a five hour drive home, she wasn’t close. 

    So at that point that even, I mean, I didn’t think my mind could be taken to even a deeper level of, not hatred, but of astonishment, I guess, was when they wouldn’t even go after her to see if she was gonna be okay and stop her from leaving. 

    Jenny Hansen:

    We counseled her for the rest of the night and convinced her to stay. 

    Nicholas Levich:

    So you ended up turning into the space holders.

    Jenny Hansen:

    We did turn into the space holders for both of these people, which was an honor to do so, but that’s not what’s supposed to happen at a retreat at all.

    Nicholas Levich:

    No. I just wanna be clear to anyone that’s listening that this is literally the opposite of how this is supposed to be done

    Dr. Randall & Jenny Hansen:

    Yes.

    Nicholas Levich:

    Everything you’re talking about is red flag after red flag after red flag and what I want to highlight is that the unfortunate part about these scenarios is oftentimes people don’t know until it’s too late. 

    Like, you know, you’ve got 12 people there and everyone kind of finds out simultaneously that this is not okay. And at that point, you’ve already drank medicine or are moments away from doing so. And that’s a very uncomfortable, vulnerable place to be.

    Safe Containers Have No Space for Ego 

    [00:25:42] Dr. Randall Hansen:

    Yeah, I agree completely. And the thing we didn’t know, even though we were in the psychedelic space and until after this retreat, and then some of the people in our community like, oh, you didn’t know this? 

    That, you know, we talk about, and I guess we have this belief that the medicine tells some people that yes, you should be a facilitator or you can be a healer, you can be a guide. But if that person isn’t doing the work on themselves, then all it’s doing is inflating their ego. 

    And so I think to me, one of the critical things that if I were counseling someone, the first question I would ask a potential facilitator is, what work are you doing on yourself? Because if they say, oh, I’m peeled now or whatever, that’ll immediately tell me, no, they are not the person for me. 

    Nicholas Levich:

    I think that is a wonderful point to bring forward. And it’s one of the standards that we have for all the facilitators in our network. Are you committed to your own healing practice? Do you have a therapist, a mentor, some sort of check on yourself? 

    And this goes back to the lack of accountability that is permeating through this story. It’s like, this guy’s not answering to anyone. He’s off in his own lane doing whatever he wants. And that’s what allows this to continue is, there’s no accountability.

    Dr. Randall & Jenny Hansen:

    Yep. Absolutely. 

    Jenny Hansen:

    And literally the facilitator was unavailable. As soon as the ceremony was concluded, he went into his home and you didn’t see him again until the next day’s lecture. So there was just no support.

    Nicholas Levich:

    Which sounds like it is more for him than it is for you, the lecture.

    Dr. Randall Hansen:

    Oh, most definitely. I mean, the second lecture, where he wasn’t as mean or derogatory to the participants, was all about how he is God’s gift to Aya.

    That he went to Hawaii and is telling all the growers here how to grow the shrub and the vine better and how to mix it and brew it better and how his–

    –Oh, and then the other crazy part was he actually trashed his mentors because he said, you know, and his brew looked sort of a little bit like this. It was sort of this sort of Pepto-Bismol color. 

    And he said, my brew was so much better because the Shipibo, they burned the crap out of the medicine and my medicine is pure. And again, by that time, you’re already there. 

    And if you don’t know better, you’re like, oh wow yeah, he’s improved the process. But it was so much ego just screaming from that lecture. 

    Jenny Hansen:

    Your facilitator should not be downtalking the very people he learned from. That should just be all respect. All of his mentors should be respected, not spoken about in such a negative manner.

    Nicholas Levich:

    I think especially with the fact that the Shipibo tribe originated this entire ceremony practice in medicine and then he just robs them of it after they empower him.

    Dr. Randall Hansen:

    Yep. Because the ego.

    Tips They Wish They Knew Beforehand

    [00:28:48] Nicholas Levich:

    Is there anything else around the actual events that you feel called to share for anyone that’s listening?

    Jenny Hansen:

    I just wish that we had conducted our own vetting more thoroughly. 

    Dr. Randall Hansen:

    Yeah. And one thing I learned just personally, which I think is important too, if you’re doing ceremonial work, the reason, in my mind, ceremonial work works so well in the indigenous people is because they are already a community. 

    And so when they go into ceremony, they know each other, they know what’s going on in the community here. Even if they had maybe done something like, hey, we’re gonna have a one hour trust session where we all the participants sit around and at least talk a little bit. 

    I mean, we went into that ceremony knowing nothing about anyone because there was nothing before that first ceremony except don’t eat and blah, blah and get ready for it. So I learned that the first night I kept getting interrupted by people releasing and I got angry. 

    Not angry, but I got upset. And then I realized, and then kind of Aya told me, hey you need to have a little more empathy for the people on here, but I didn’t know who they were. So how do you have empathy for strangers? 

    So I don’t know how you solve that with a ceremonial one, except that I think you need to try to force some kind of bonding before that first drinking of the syrup. 

    Jenny Hansen:

    Some kind of community building for sure.

    Nicholas Levich:

    Well, and what’s interesting is from my perspective, that is required in the circles I’ve sat in, where, where there’s a sharing of intentions, there’s a sharing of what you want to release, there’s a meeting of the participants beforehand.

    Dr. Randall Hansen:

    Good.

    Nicholas Levich:

    There is this like, warm entry before the medicine is even introduced. And it sounds like that, you know, your experience was completely void of that. 

    And I like what Ran said about how in indigenous communities, the community is like built-in accountability. And here you just have strangers showing up to a self-proclaimed shaman’s house, essentially.

    Dr. Randall Hansen:

    Yep. Yeah. And one other thing, you know, this one woman, this had been her, I think, sixth ceremony with him, and she was literally almost brainwashed. Like when she finally, when we finally kind of had integration with her, she’s like, oh, my God, why do I keep coming? Why? Why did I keep coming back?

    Nicholas Levich:

    Oh, yep.

    Dr. Randall Hansen:

    And it’s just because of the way he treated her. It was sort of like, you know, that manipulation. The manipulation, yeah. It’s sort of like, I’ll abuse you, but I’ll hope that maybe next time you won’t abuse me, so I’ll come back because I’m hoping that, you know, I’m learning something.

    And that’s been a big part of her integration is realizing that she has so much more inside herself that this guy had worsened rather than helped.

    Consequences of A Poor Facilitator

    [00:32:00] Nicholas Levich:

    Right. Which brings me to one of the questions that I wanted to make sure we addressed today, which is like, what are the consequences of sitting with a poor provider? 

    I mean, we talk about how important it is to find a qualified, trusted, reputable guide and I don’t think there’s a lot of understanding around like, well, what actually happens if you sit with someone that’s not a good fit?

    Jenny Hansen:

    I witnessed it with the two participants that we counseled. We are still counseling one of them today. It’s been a year and a half since that retreat. And this poor person has lived a life of trauma from all sorts of sources, familial and beyond. 

    And I mean, he was literally re-traumatized for three nights in a row all over again because he was unable or disallowed from tapping into that trauma that he wanted to address. 

    And for me, I was irate. I felt like I had been robbed of my experience. I did all the prep work. I took it extremely seriously, did the work. And to have someone stand in front of me with their hand in my face and telling me to shut up was abominable.

    I’m still angry. You can hear it in my voice today. And I have my counselor right next to me here, I’m able to share with him. But the consequences are just that lasting anger, hurt, frustration and concern for future participants going to this retreat center. 

    I don’t wanna see other people being harmed. I wanna save people and help people. So that’s one of the reasons why we’re doing this podcast is we can warn others. 

    Please do your diligent work in vetting your potential facilitator. Yeah, luckily, whether the medicine had sort of told us beforehand or not, but we had scheduled kind of a three-day little cabin in nature just for integration purposes after the Aya experience. 

    And literally it was for integration, but it was more for our mental sanity because we were able to retreat ourselves and nature and again we are each other’s counselors–

    –But we also jumped on a couple calls with trusted friends and community just to say wow we can’t believe this happened to us and are we wrong? Even though we’re in the field we still kind of doubted like, did we miss something? Did we do something wrong? 

    And so if we’re doubting ourselves again back to your point that for people that aren’t in psychedelics and are doing this for their own healing, to be subjected to that and to raise more self doubt and more trauma rather than to heal is just so shameful.

    Nicholas Levich:

    Yeah, it’s a real perpetuation of the underlying abuse and trauma that people are going there to heal. And it’s unfortunate for me personally to just hear that some of the fellow participants are still working through this. 

    They’re not even making progress from where they started. They’re actually trying to heal the extra layers of abuse that stemmed from the event that was supposed to be healing. 

    And if I could drive one point home, it’s like, this is the cost of sitting with someone that is unqualified, has no accountability, and frankly, doesn’t know what they’re doing and shouldn’t be allowed to do this and I’m fired up too. 

    And it’s a large part of the reason we started Psychedelic Passage is so that we can function as like a clearing house, a moderating body for a network of facilitators so that there is accountability built into it. 

    Otherwise, I don’t know how we’re going to make progress. And I don’t know how a first time journeyer is expected to navigate this because it’s confusing and essentially at this point in time, anyone can claim to be a facilitator.

    Dr. Randall Hansen:

    Yeah, let me just add one quick point too, because if we hadn’t been there, this one person, it’s amazing how he reinvented the next day, oh, I think the guy, the facilitator, he’s just really passionate about it. 

    And so he was trying to excuse it. And we had to keep saying, reminding him, what did he say to you yesterday? And how do you approach your expression of release? And he’d be like, oh, oh yeah, that was bad, wasn’t it? 

    So that’s the other fear I have is that, when we are already traumatized and already searching for healing, and then we have this experience, we might put the blame on ourselves by saying, oh, I messed up somehow. 

    I didn’t take the medicine the right way. I don’t have the right intention. And it’s like, no, I hope this podcast gives you the courage, the strength to say, no, it’s not me. It’s not me. 

    Or, you know, let’s look at the facility. Let’s look at what this person did and were they helping me or hurting me in this process?

    Nicholas Levich:

    One thing that I think may be helpful to listeners is like to address the opposite end of the spectrum, which is like, what does it feel like to be supported–

    –And to sit with someone who does actually have your best interests in mind, so that we have this juxtaposition of how it should look, how it should feel.

    Jenny Hansen:

    I would love to speak about that. So Ran has chosen not to have another Aya ceremony experience. I believe he is still processing the trauma from the first one. I had the opportunity, I was invited to attend another retreat, completely different, completely different setup. 

    And at first I turned it down, I rejected the offer because I thought, oh that first one was just a doozy and that’s putting it lightly. And do I really want to face that potential abuse again? 

    But I trusted wholeheartedly the people and the facilitators and the participants who I happened to know. And so I thought, okay, this is my chance to meet mother Aya again, and really give her a chance to work in the way she needed to. 

    It was a 180 degree difference, the complete opposite of my first retreat. The two facilitators were absolutely beautiful souls, are beautiful souls, compassionate, there for the participants, providing them what they needed throughout the experience. 

    The integration circle the next day, exactly what it needed to be. Everybody was encouraged to share freely. Everyone was supported. I mean, and back to during the ceremony, I mean, even electrolytes were offered, just care and concern. 

    And the chanting was just so beautiful and brought the medicine out even more deeply. And all the participants were caring for each other. And it was just the exact opposite. All the best practices were followed. 

    The facilitators were there for us, the participants, not for themselves. They were humble and kind and just full of empathy. And I’m so grateful for that experience because it showed me what it’s supposed to be. 

    And I felt Mother Aya come into me and I was able to grieve the loss of my mother finally, which I hadn’t even realized that I hadn’t done since she died a few years ago. So when it’s done correctly, oh man, is it good.

    Nicholas Levich:

    Yeah, thank you for that. And that’s what I want to make clear to anyone that’s choosing to listen to this episode or even explore a potential ceremony or treatment session of their own is–

    –Just because somebody is offering some form of psychedelic assisted therapy does not mean it’s the same thing. And so please, please look into it, ask the questions, do your due diligence. 

    If you don’t know what you’re doing, that’s why we exist. Like there are resources out there to help you navigate this because it is a confusing and emerging landscape. And ultimately like that’s gonna make or break your experience. 

    I think anyone that’s listening to this episode can objectively say like, oh yeah, that’s a wildly different experience and what we spent the first half of this covering is not what I want. Like I don’t think anyone wants that.

    Jenny Hansen:

    Right.

    Dr. Randall Hansen:

    Yeah. And Nick, I love what you’re doing and I so appreciate your focus on harm reduction and the protection of the client. And we talked about this, but I’m trying to raise it by, I published this idea of these 10 subject areas that all facilitators should know.

    I posted on LinkedIn and got weird backlash from at least one facilitator. And so I guess my thing would be for clients, I would say another question to ask is, can I see or can you discuss your protocols for harm reduction?

    Doesn’t mean they’re gonna follow them necessarily, but if they kind of like pause or have a little pushback, that would be my thing to be, okay, nope, no matter how desperate I am, I’ll take the time to stop and find a different facilitator–

    –Because if they’re saying, if they’re giving any pushback on the setting, all the protocols we need for harm reduction, because this medicine is strong and there is this power dynamic can occur. 

    We’ve seen horrible stories of abuse that happen in some of these settings and even sometimes in clinical trials. So ask those questions. 

    To me, that’s the most critical thing, and I know you are pushing, putting out these questions for people to ask. And I know you do that with your facilitators and I think that’s an extremely important thing.

    Final Advice in Seeking a Facilitator

    [00:42:29] Nicholas Levich:

    Is there any other advice that you’d want to offer to anyone that’s in this process of seeking a provider?

    Jenny Hansen:

    Get to know your facilitator. Be real with your facilitator. Let them be forthright and honest and, excuse me, your intentions. What are you seeking out of the experience? Ask them how they are going to support you through it. 

    Dr. Randall Hansen:

    And the other interesting thing we didn’t have, and just speaking about that, because I know what Psychedelic Passage does, is make sure you have some coaching sessions before the ceremony. Like for us, we didn’t have that.

    We had a one-on-one kind of an intro with the healer, but then it was right into the, well, see you at the ceremony. 

    So there was no prep, there was no preparation, there was no discussion of what the ceremony is gonna look like. And so yes, if you’re not getting any prep sessions, then to me, that’s another red flag. 

    Jenny Hansen:

    Nor integration sessions. Or, yeah. Following post-retreat, post-ceremony, absolutely no support whatsoever. You go to the retreat, you drink, you leave. That’s it. Yes, the prep and the integration are vital to the experience.

    Nicholas Levich

    Yeah, major issue. I’m curious, did they even do screening, like a medical screening with you all? 

    Jenny Hansen

    No.

    Nicholas Levich

    Oh my God. Which is very concerning because for those that don’t know, Ayahuasca has very serious medical contraindications with certain medications and that kind of thing, so that’s deeply concerning as well. 

    And like, basically what we’ve spent the majority of the time covering today is like the antithesis to harm reduction. It’s like the complete opposite of all generally accepted harm reduction principles.

    Dr. Randall Hansen:

    Yup.

    Nicholas Levich:

    Which is why harm was done, it was perpetuated.

    Dr. Randall & Jenny Hansen:

    Yep. Exactly.

    Nicholas Levich:

    One thing I’m curious about is how you all integrated this. I mean, it’s been, you know, a year and a half, I think you said. I mean, it sounds like some of it’s actually still unfolding, but how did you integrate after this whole thing?

    Jenny Hansen: 

    Well, Psychedelic Passage number one has an amazing integration guide, which I read through at least four times. So thank you for that, that support. I have supported my partner here.

    Friends, I’m also part of a psychedelic community where others have gone through similar experiences and being able to share their sharing in integration circles also conducted by the same community.

    Just putting it out there and knowing that others can relate because there’s so many others who also have a very negative experience like we did. So journaling has helped immensely. We meditate, just process, process, process.

    For me, getting out in nature, well, for Ran too, spending time out there with the birds and the trees and just breathing in those healing chemicals that all the plants emit, exercise. I mean, there’s so many ways to integrate the experience.

    But the number one thing not to do is to pretend it didn’t happen and squelch it, sweep it under the rug. Please, please acknowledge your experience. Face it. Allow yourself to grieve, to be angry, to cry. Sharing it with other people really makes a huge difference, especially for me. 

    Dr. Randall Hansen:

    Yeah. You know that first weekend afterwards, when we were in this retreat, Jenny and I were both, we wanted to call the FBI or whatever, we wanted the DEA, we were gonna report this guy. 

    But interestingly, even during one of his lectures, he talked about, while he wasn’t a lawyer, he was smarter than the DEA. And even if the DEA rated his compound, he has such meticulous notes about dosages and blah, blah, blah.

    And I turned to Jenny and I’m like, it’s still an illegal substance. So I don’t care if you have the most beautiful notes, they’re still gonna say, ah, this is an illegal substance. 

    But even him doing that was brilliant in the evil way because it stopped us from like, whoa man, what if we did report him? Is he gonna sue us for libel or whatever? 

    So we said, no, we’re just gonna try to get our story out there because that’s the most important thing, just awareness, we’re not gonna name his name, but in certain circles we have.

    In certain psychedelic communities, we’ve definitely said, if you hear this retreat center recommended, please do not use it. But yeah, I think just what you said, just, what did you say? Oh the integration.

    Nicholas Levich:

    Hahaha

    Jenny Hansen:

    Sharing with others. Find a psychedelic community, they’re out there. Others who have possibly experienced that or other facilitators within that community who can provide you the support that you need. 

    Meditating is very helpful. Journaling is incredibly helpful. Getting out in nature is incredibly helpful. Participate in activities that bring you joy and peace so you can just bring that positivity back into your soul.

    Because literally you had just trusted your soul with someone and in our case that person crushed us, crushed our souls, crushed the souls of the other participants. That’s not to be taken lightly. So please be graceful to yourself.

    Nicholas Levich:

    That’s one of the things Jimmy actually said, I think in our very first podcast episode is, what is it worth for you to have someone hold down your soul?

    Jenny Hansen:

    Absolutely.

    Nicholas Levich

    And I think that’s why you’re finding a reputable guide, a reputable facilitator, a reputable provider. And I just wanna once again, give an option for anyone that may be on the receiving end of this form of facilitator abuse. There are resources out there. 

    If you don’t know where to turn or who to go to, you’re welcome to reach out to us and we’ll do our best to get you connected to the right people. 

    If you’re in the vetting process and you’re just overwhelmed and don’t know what to do, that’s precisely why we exist and I encourage you to reach out. No obligation, no commitment, but just know that there are folks that will help you navigate that from a true advocacy perspective. 

    And I think that’s one of the main things that’s missing in the space is journey or advocacy and accountability and recourse for folks who are acting out of integrity. 

    And those are two of the central pillars that we’ve built into the way that we function specifically to try to lower the risk of these types of adverse experiences happening. Because this is way bigger than a bad trip. This is truly an adverse experience that is by definition, facilitator abuse.

    Jenny Hansen:

    Absolutely.

    Nicholas Levich:

    For folks who are listening, I wonder if you want to give an option for them to find you, connect with you, and potentially purchase your books.

    Dr. Randall Hansen:

    Yeah, I would love to have people connect with me. The platform I use the most is LinkedIn, and it’s just LinkedIn and Randall S. Hansen. You can find me pretty easily. 

    And I would, thank you, I would love to speak to anyone. I think the three of us not to be in a little group hug here, but I think we are true believers in integrity and healing and truly want to help people heal. If we can build this groundswell, awesome. 

    Jenny Hansen:

    I am also on LinkedIn, Jenny Hansen, M.A. My background is in mental health as most people know. That’s the best way to find me on LinkedIn. HeroicHeartsProject.org if you’re a veteran struggling with PTSD, please reach out. I’d be happy to inform you more about what we provide in support of veterans. 

    Dr. Randall Hansen:

    And I guess I’ll throw in one little more promo, but if you are what I call psychedelically curious and learning about psychedelics and certainly triumphovertraumabook.com is the website for the book where you can learn more.

    Nicholas Levich:

    Well, thank you so much for joining for your candor, your vulnerability. Once again, just knowing this is not a particularly easy topic–

    –But I’m very grateful that you were able to bring your story and your perspective forward to hopefully help others avoid finding themselves in a similar situation.

    Jenny Hansen:

    Absolutely. Would love to support anyone who needs to reach out who has experienced something similar to what we did. I’m here for you. So please reach out

    Nicholas Levich:

    Yeah, I think that’s the one thing to just, so important is just like, you’re not alone, there’s other people who’ve been through something similar and, and if you need help finding them, please get in touch with any of us. And so that brings us to the end of our episode for today. 

    Thank you so much for tuning in, for joining, for listening. If you think that this episode was valuable, we appreciate you rating it and potentially sharing with a friend, family member, or loved one, if you think it’d be helpful for them as well. And we’ll see you all next week.

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