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Navigating Power Dynamics in Psychedelic Therapy

Navigating power dynamics in psychedelic therapy is a topic seldom covered, but wholly embedded into the journeyer-facilitator relationship. Our hosts dive into the vulnerable nature of psychedelic experiences and the importance of having a facilitator who is knowledgeable, trustworthy, and professional. 

Jimmy and Nicholas discuss the spectrum of power dynamic violations, the subtle and imperceptible forms of facilitator abuse, ranging from being too directive in the healing process to tangible abuses such as sexual, financial, or physical abuse. 

After highlighting key questions that journeyers should ask when finding the right facilitator, our hosts analyze whether or not facilitator training programs are a safeguard against power dynamics. What are the best ways to vet a facilitator based on training, background, and experience?

Later, Jimmy and Nicholas discuss how Psychedelic Passage addresses and mitigates power dynamics in their network of facilitators. How can journeyers ensure that clear ground rules and boundaries are set in place to remove as many power-imbalancing variables as possible?

Episode 36 – Navigating Power Dynamics in Psychedelic Therapy

Jimmy: Welcome to the Psychedelic Passage podcast. My name is Jimmy Nguyen, I’m joined here by my co-host. I keep wanting to call you my partner in crime, but we’re hoping that all this stuff gets legalized someday.

Nick: Hopefully there’s no crime committed–[crosstalk] .

Jimmy: [laughs] There are no crimes committed here. But I’m joined here by my co-host, Nick Levich. So, thank you all for joining us. We do have an important episode here for you and know that we say that every episode, but we really mean it. 

I do hope the conversations that we have are meaningful and impactful and valuable to each one of you. Whether you are a potential journeyer or whether you journey many times. 

Whether you are a facilitator, whether you are part of a regulatory agency, whether you’re part of an advisory board. No matter how you come across psychedelics, we do hope that these conversations are meaningful and engaging.

We’re going to talk about something that doesn’t get a lot of attention in the psychedelic support landscape. And that is the inherent power dynamics that exist in journeyer-facilitator relationships. 

Or I might even take that further to say, the inherent power dynamics that exist anytime somebody is seeking the knowledge, expertise or professional support from somebody else. That could be going to the bakery and asking the baker what ingredients they use, and they could tell you a whole bunch of stuff. And you’re like, “Is this gluten-free?” 

They’re like, “Yeah, it’s gluten-free.” You go home and you eat that and surprise, surprise, there’s gluten in there. I’m speaking about that a little lightly. But this is really important because psychedelics inherently have a vulnerable nature to them. 

For many folks, especially around the intentional psychedelic work, you’re likely talking about topics and content that are really close to your heart or close to your being that at some point need to be addressed. And you’re hoping to do that through the sacred use of psychedelics, plant medicines, fungi medicines. 

But as a part of harm reduction and a part of doing that in an optimal way, it is important, and we share this all the time, to have a facilitator, somebody that you trust, somebody that’s knowledgeable, somebody that’s a professional, that’s a prerequisite. 

But there’s quite a gradient on the quality of those facilitators, how they approach this work, their knowledge and understanding of the nuances and intangibles of the psychedelic work of which inherent power dynamics is such, such, such a crucial part in creating safe containers, and containers that are conducive to somebody’s healing and not damaging to it.

The Consequences of Power Imbalances in Psychedelic Therapy

Nick: I want to be super clear to our listeners really quickly here that the effects of a power dynamic gone south. The outcome of that is abuse. Facilitator abuse, ethical and moral violations, and these are significantly amplified, when we’re working in altered states, which is part of what you’re getting at. 

We’re not talking about power dynamics for no reason, we’re talking about this because this abuse and these ethical violations are a real thing that plague psychedelic services.

Jimmy: Yeah, and there’s scales of severity to this. I like that, “scales of severity.” There’s a range of escalations to this from very subtle things such as, let’s say a facilitator being too directive in your healing process, all the way up to tangible facilitator abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse– [crosstalk]

Nick: Physical.

Jimmy: Physical abuse. People trying to convince you of new beliefs, new principles, new things like that. It can be a real slippery slope. Just know that within facilitator abuse, there is always a power dynamic imbalance. And facilitator abuse sometimes can be clearly defined and sometimes it can be a little imperceptible.

Nick: Like a synergetic undertone.

Jimmy: For sure. By talking about the power dynamics, just know that we’re speaking about this from a protective place of the journeyer. Like if we can inform journeyers that aid this exists and that you have the opportunity to ask questions and clarify and all of that–[crosstalk]

Nick: And to look out for it– [crosstalk]

Jimmy: And then look out for it, that should also push facilitators to question their own practice and their own power dynamics. Let me also say that I’m going to be really straightforward here. 

If you are a facilitator and you’re listening to this episode, you’re like, “Power dynamics, what’s that?” Stop facilitating. Stop taking on clients until you have a clear understanding of what this is and how you address and how you mitigate that.

And then later on in the episode, Nick and I will talk about how  in our own practice and in our work with our network of facilitators in PP or Psychedelic Passage, how we actually address this and create a process around this too. So, that’s my very long-winded intro to start off this. 

[laughter]

Nick: Here we go, let’s kick it off.

Jimmy: So, where do you want to start with this whole power dynamic? I’m releasing my power to you and allowing you when to start [crosstalk] wherever.

How Unregulated Facilitation Can Lead to Power Imbalances

Nick: All right. Well, I think I’d like to start with just the mere fact that anyone can claim to be a facilitator. That’s part of the root of why these power dynamics get so blown out of proportion is because facilitation is a new career if we can even call it that. 

I mean, we will be able to soon at least. It’s certainly part of our career. There’s no regulating body. In the cases where there are regulating bodies, like the programs coming online in Oregon and Colorado, which we previously recorded an episode on–

You’ve heard us speak about how those training programs are woefully inadequate and often don’t address a lot of these dynamics. Or if they do, it’s in a classroom setting and there’s not this tangible, experiential- 

Jimmy: Theoretical.

Nick: -practical piece of it. Exactly. When you have an environment where anyone can claim to be a facilitator, and you have journeyers that don’t know any better because most journeyers in our experience, don’t know what they’re looking for, don’t know what they need, don’t know which questions to ask, and don’t know what makes a good facilitator. 

You can see how quickly we have a dynamic here where I say, “Hey, Jimmy, I’m the best facilitator in the country.” And you’re like, “Cool, I’m looking for a journey.” And you just move into working together? You have no idea who I am.

Jimmy: Yeah.

Nick: And once you’re in an altered state, I can “do whatever I want.” It’s a very delicate relationship, and you can see how an uneducated, unaware journeyer can easily be taken advantage of in this arrangement.

Why Personal Psychedelic Use is Not Enough to Qualify a Facilitator

Jimmy: Yeah. I need to vent about something really quickly that I promise is pertinent to our conversation. It’s something that’s been really bothering me over the past couple of months that has become super apparent and is really relevant to our conversation. 

What I’m about to say is probably going to upset a lot of people. The narrative, if you are in the psychedelic facilitation space is– I was going through my own process, my own traumas, my own things, my own healing journey. 

And then I discovered psychedelics and then through my psychedelic work I had some calling or some awakening or some pinpoint to say, “Hey, this is my life’s work, this is what I’m here to do.” And then I became a facilitator. 

That is universally true for likely everybody in the psychedelic facilitation work. It’s true for you, it’s true for me. What I’m trying to share is that everyone’s going to have that narrative and there’s gradients of truth to each of those narratives. 

And those gradients of truth are going to be related to how you have developed your practice and expanded your practice and created your service offering, because assuming that everybody has that story, and for some very, very, valid.

And for some fuc*ing bullsh*t, and so then how do you discern as a journeyer if that person is right for you? If they have the right expertise? If they have the right skill set? 

What their practices are? What their standard operating procedures are? How they address transparent work and power dynamics? That’s me saying that that is no longer enough. I’m not invalidating people’s stories behind that.

Nick: Right, that’s the spark.

Jimmy: Right. Now what do you do with that? How do you cultivate the fire that then turns into your level of service and space of service and how you go about doing your work because it’s not enough to just have that. It is not enough to just have that.

Nick: Hearing and calling is not enough.

Jimmy: Right. It’s the same. As when people go through a peak psychedelic experience, they’re like, “Oh, I see life so differently now,” and all this and that, and then they don’t cultivate it, they don’t do the work, they don’t expand their process, and then guess what happens? 

Nick: Back into old patterns.

Jimmy: Exactly. It’s just really important for me to say because it’s going to become more and more difficult for people to sniff out bad actors and it’s going to become more and more difficult for people to– I’ll further this to find the right facilitator for you, because it’s easy to just define it as good and bad, right and wrong. That’s too binary. 

What it is is you might hopefully have a list of amazing facilitators in front of you and then you’re like, “Okay, this person, because of the way that they handle power dynamics, because of the way that they handle XYZ, because of their practice, because of their specialties, because of their all, that this person now feels the right person for me.” 

Then maybe you go into preparation and that continues to feel right. Maybe you go through that process and you’re like, “Ah, now something doesn’t feel right.” And so just know, inherently in what I’m saying is that I’m empowering you. I’m not even empowering you.

I’m highlighting that empowerment of the journeyer is the main way to navigate against these power dynamics. So, thank you for letting me go on that tangent a little bit. It just felt like it was super important for me to [crosstalk] that out.

Nick: I’m going to give a very real example of what you’re talking about so that our listeners can fully understand your position here. We field a number of email inquiries a day, and probably three or four of those are folks who are like, “How can I become a facilitator? 

How can I join your network of facilitators?” What’s the first thing we ask? Well, tell us about yourself and your experience and how you do this work professionally.

I don’t know the exact ratio, but call it one out of four is someone who’s like, “Well, I’ve been microdosing for a month, and it’s been so profound that I know I need to do this work.” While I appreciate the enthusiasm, one month of microdosing does not qualify you to facilitate ceremonies and large doses for another human. 

That is the dynamic that I hear you very clearly highlighting. And so, we appreciate the enthusiasm, we appreciate the passion, we appreciate the want to help other humans. It needs to be substantiated by a proven process to actually engage in this work in a professional capacity that results in safe outcomes and avoids moral ethical violations and abuse.

Jimmy: Yeah. That’s the far end of the spectrum. To add a twist to this is I’ve met people who have held hundreds of ceremonies, and don’t even know what a power dynamic is. So, it runs along the entire gradient. Like, when we look at what happened in the conscious medicine community. 

Nick: Consciousness medicine.

Jimmy: Consciousness medicine community, those are people who’ve been doing this stuff for decades. They were seen as pioneers of this space and of this work. 

When all that stuff started to unravel, we started to hear that they were having sex with clients and making them do their chores and making them do all this stuff and having these inappropriate relationships. Only then were people realizing, “Oh, this is actually really hurting a lot of people.” 

Nick: Mind you, they wrote the book on how to do facilitation safely.

Jimmy: Literally wrote the book, yeah.

Nick: Sometimes the people that are screaming the loudest are often the most offensive perpetrators of this type of abuse or violation.

Jimmy: Yeah. So, all of this to say we’re not here to try to instill fear into any listeners or viewers– [crosstalk]

Nick: Well, a healthy amount of.

Jimmy: Well, what I’m trying to share is that it’s not fear-based. This is exposing that this exists and this is trying to bring awareness to this, so that you can find your solutions, and who’s right for you because there are a lot of amazing facilitators out there.

Nick: Definitely.

Spectrum of Violation: Deliberate vs. Unintentional Power Dynamics

Jimmy: There are a lot of folks who care about your sovereignty and power dynamics and how they conduct themselves. I would like to think that there are more of those facilitators who are doing right and doing good than there are bad actors. 

We’re just highlighting that those bad actors do exist. There’s gradients of that bad acting and it’s really hard to figure out what’s what. That’s kind of where I’m at.

Nick: And our goal for this episode is to help arm you with ways to determine what’s what, things to consider, questions to ask. I also just want to note that sometimes this level of exploiting power dynamics is intentional and sometimes it’s not. 

Sometimes it’s the result of an aspect of yourself that you’re just not aware of. You’re acting from either unconscious programming or what’s often called a shadow part of yourself that’s kind of lingering in the darkness and not fully in your awareness yet. 

So, once again, there’s a spectrum of how gross of a violation we’re speaking of here and it’s not always deliberate. Sometimes, in fact, often I would argue it’s unintentional, but it happens.

Jimmy: Yeah. I want to further this conversation by highlighting one thing and then let’s go back to being tangible and maybe laying this out for folks. So, I’ll use an example. 

There’s this really common narrative which I actually think has a lot of truth to it, but also has a very harmful potential downside to it. There’s this element of folks talking about being the medicine, especially in the facilitation landscape.

We’re talking about, okay, we’re going to use psychedelics as a sacrament, plant medicine, fungi medicine, as this catalyst, as this potential healing piece. And then there’s this philosophy around, okay, well, it’s not just this external medicine that’s doing the work for me. 

I also have to be the medicine. I also have to do the work and do my practice. All the things that we talk about in various podcast episodes. Where the shadow side or where the potential negative detriment of that is when facilitators also toe that line. What I’m saying is the concept of being medicine is not inherently false, but it can come from different places. 

So, being the medicine, if you are removing yourself from the process, if you are in the best service to your client, if you are doing what’s right and best for your client at any given time, if you’re service-oriented, if it doesn’t come from an egoic place, being the medicine can be really, really beautiful for a lot of people’s modalities. 

I also see other facilitators who have had hundred successful ceremonies in a row who have helped so many people, who can have this halo effect of, “I can do no wrong, I’m the medicine.” 

Nick: “I healed them”.

Jimmy: “I healed them”.

Nick: “I did that”.

Jimmy: So, if I tell this person that they should go read this book or if they should start adopting this practice, or they should never talk to their spouse again or whatever, well, I’m being the medicine. And you see how nuanced and how challenging this can be, especially for new journeyers. 

We’re humans, we’re flawed, like we have these dead ends and obstacles and these pitfalls. That’s what we mean by how much is a facilitator doing their own work. How much awareness do they have of their own shadow and their own neuroses and their own things? 

Because if you don’t then that’s where a lot of this power dynamic stuff and facilitator abuse can really creep in. The one example that arises for me is when we heard about a facilitator who decided that the experience was over and they left. 

They told the folks who were maybe three hours into the experience and they’re like “Okay, well, we’re done here and I’m going to wrap up and I’m going to go.” And the facilitator knows best, so they left. Meanwhile, there’s people who are sitting there still tripping.

Nick: Actively journeying.

A Contextual Overview of Power Dynamics and Facilitator Abuse

Jimmy: Actively journeying. I hope that that helps because this can be a muddy topic and a muddy conversation. I hope that the little maybe rants that you and I just went on, or maybe me primarily just went on can help to give more context. Now, to give a little bit more of a backdrop, a context in leading up to where we are today around power dynamics and facilitator abuse and things like that. 

A lot of this stuff went unchecked for a very long time because this happened in underground environments where there wasn’t paperwork, there was a lot of anonymity, likely facilitators weren’t co-learning from each other in best practices and things like that.

Nick: There wasn’t official training for many years. The other piece is, there’s no Yelp, there’s no Google reviews. You can’t just write a review and expose someone. A lot of times even the whistleblowers would get chastised because there’s such a bought-in community that they’re like, “Oh, that could never happen.”

Jimmy: “How dare you put the risk of healing for thousands and thousands of people in harm’s way by whistleblowing?” and all this stuff. We can see how there was just no recourse for bad actors for a very, very long time. In indigenous cultures, it was so embedded into community.

Nick: Yeah, you turn over the watchful eye of the whole community.

Jimmy: For sure. Hopefully, maybe that’s a romanticized version. And I’m sure there’s power dynamics and facilitator abuse and all that stuff across many, many different lineages, but it was just more baked into community and so that was helpful. 

The other part of it is that a lot of these experiences in group settings, but more so in one-on-one settings happened with a lot of discretion. One of the– I guess, hurdles to navigate, especially in one-on-one experiences, especially if one person is altered. 

There’s a world where in underground work, both the facilitator and the journeyer were altered. It’s really hard to discern what happened. It becomes they said, they said, type situation.

Nick: That’s a multiple-truth kind of situation.

Jimmy: What happens now is that we are emerging in a society where this is more prevalent, this is more mainstream, there’s more eyes on this type of work. There’s a lot of folks in the psychedelic practitioner landscape trying to define standards, trying to define scope of practice, trying to define protocol around this stuff. 

And likely folks will be bringing their experience from the underground, from the gray market, from the illicit market into this work. And so, you can see how, again, that muddies this whole thing because how do I tell somebody or how do you check somebody who’s been doing this work underground for 20 years against power dynamics because it sounds super good. 

“Oh, you’ve been doing this for 20 years? You’ve led how many ceremonies? You’ve so on and so forth. Great, sign me up. You are my facilitator.” And then you’re like, “Oh sh*t, there’s something weird happening here.”

Nick: We’ve said this in other episodes, but I just want to say it again point-blank right now. If you get the willies around someone or you get that weird, like there’s something off here, just stop. Please don’t move forward with them. 

Your intuition is perhaps whispering or screaming at you to back up, slow down, choose a different path, because a lot of times we can’t put our finger on it rationally what the issue is like from logical thinking, mind place. We can’t always–

Jimmy: Define it.

Nick: What’s turning us off? But if you feel that way, please listen to it.

Jimmy: It might not be because of the facilitator. It might be timing, it might be something going on in your life. It might be a relationship or somebody in your life. It could be a lot of things but it’s a non-zero chance that it’s potentially the facilitator also. So, I think that’s really well said. 

I try to kind of set us up to hear to like, “Here’s where we’re at in the modern era of psychedelic facilitation.” What are some things that you think are important for the journeyer to know about? Maybe vetting their own facilitator or asking questions? Let’s get a little tangible here for folks.

The Human-Level Issues in Psychedelic Facilitation

Nick: I want to highlight that one of the questions we get all the time on consult calls is like, “What’s your training? What’s your background? Why are you qualified to do the work?” It’s a very natural question And I think training is an essential part of the process. 

What I want to highlight for purposes of this episode is that facilitator training is not a safeguard against power dynamics, because power dynamics stem from human-level issues, which means they’re not always going to be addressed in an online course or even a classroom setting. 

Like what we’re talking about here is a lack of self-awareness or perhaps a facilitator who actually has mental health issues that have gone unchecked, or a lack of experience, or a lack of having ever delved into their own healing practice. None of these things can be solved through education.

It’s a misconception that just because someone is licensed or just because they’ve graduated from this program that they are all up to date on all their power dynamic potential pitfalls. That’s a wildly flawed assumption. 

What I want to stress is that when you as a journeyer are looking at something like power dynamics, and seeing how well-versed your facilitator may be in that, you’re really talking about a human-level issue here.

Jimmy: Yeah.

Nick: It can’t be solved with training in a classroom per se.

Jimmy: You can’t assess it on a test all the time.

Nick: Right.

The Role of Facilitators in Addressing Power Dynamics

Jimmy: I hear you. What comes up for me is maybe to try to define to listeners what this might look like. Power dynamics, again, anytime that you are seeking professional service or knowledge or expertise to somebody else, there is already an inherent power dynamic in there. 

Now if a power dynamic is properly addressed and mitigated and contained within a safe, supportive, and healthy environment, then there can be times where looking for the guidance of somebody can be really healthy.

Things such as recommendations on dosage parameters. Information and insight around diet and nutrition leading up to certain psychedelic experiences, information, and knowledge around medical conditions, mental health diagnoses. 

All of these things that you would seek an expert on, even though there are inherent power dynamics in there, just know that there can be a lot of healthy outcomes. What we’re talking about are power dynamics that are usually imperceptible and are actually to the detriment of you. 

So, what are some examples of this? Let’s help the listeners define this. One that I’ll share, when the facilitator gets too directive on what you should do, how you should do it, like how to go about it, especially in prep.

Nick: Or they’re interpreting your experience for you, or they’re jamming down your throat what worked for them, but it’s maybe not your path. Or they’re assuming they know what’s best for you. 

There’s so many different ways that this can look. Or they’re like, “Oh, I know what you need. You need an ego death, that’s exactly what you need. So, we’re just going to get you there.”

Jimmy: Mm-hmm. Or even tangible things like you’re saying maybe you are a journeyer who finds comfort in your home and you have a lot of challenges getting out of your space and getting out of your environment and getting out of just into the world. There’s a lot of folks like that.

A person who is navigating power dynamics healthily might give you some options and give you the pros and cons of whether to do this in your home or not. A person who is abusing power dynamics might decide for you–

“Hey, you need to shake up your environment, and you’re too much in your comfort zone and so you need to go and have this experience in a place that you’re not familiar with.” A 100 miles away from your loved ones or whatever. 

You can see how there’s these little nuances, these little indicators of power dynamics. Other more extreme cases are like, “You follow my protocol, you follow my rules. I have this proprietary method that will heal you in six weeks. You got to basically submit all of your power over to me.” You can see how– [crosstalk] That’s basically how cults start essentially.

Nick: Yeah. Or what will heal you from your traumatic sexual abuse is if you have sex with me and we’ll rewrite the script. Yeah, okay, sure.

Jimmy: Yeah, sure. [crosstalk] 

Nick: This sh*t happens. We’re just painting a picture for the different ways that this can show up. Perhaps in the spirit of time and tangibleness, we dive into what you and I do in our personal practice, and then we should move into the more systemic part of it.

Jimmy: Sure, yeah. I’ll share one other piece to this because I’m feeling really actually super fired up about this conversation, if you couldn’t tell. But it might even be like, “Oh, in your experience, something might come up with your childhood.” 

And then the facilitator might be like, “Oh, it’s related to your relationship with your father, explore that.” That’s where you need to go here. You can just see how there’s a lot of gradients to this. 

Ultimately, your facilitator should be very aware and respond very thoroughly and very knowledgeably about power dynamics, about how it shows up in psychedelic containers–[crosstalk]

Nick: Before you’re in altered state.

How The Psychedelic Passage Network Addresses Power Dynamics 

Jimmy: For sure, 100%. This predicates you being able to ask but they should be able to thoroughly answer your inquiry in a way that you feel that is sufficient. And so, how do we do that? 

You and I have our own facilitation practice. We work with a lot of facilitators within our network. Let me just run through a little bit of how we address power dynamics and then let’s see if there’s anything else to fill in.

One is, we’re very transparent and acknowledge that they exist. The other is that we work in very transparent ways. If you want to have your mental health professional involved? Great. Obviously with conversation and consent and all of that. 

You want us to hop on the phone with a partner, a spouse, a friend? You want a friend to join you in the intro call or the screening calls? Great. We’ll always share about, “Okay, this is our practice, this is our modality.” 

Some folks even have questions on, “Hey, what does the day of ceremony look like?” We’re like, totally, we’ll walk you through all of that and work in that transparent manner.

I think as a part of that, I think a couple really important things. I think you do a super good job of this in clarifying our role as a facilitator in the psychedelic container. So, we’re very clear. We’re not guides, we’re not teachers– [crosstalk]

Nick: Therapists.

Jimmy: We’re not therapists, we’re not mental health professionals, we’re not medical professionals. Here’s what we do. We hold this sacred, safe, non-judgmental, supportive space and we will act as psychedelic professionals. 

But we’re very clear on our boundaries and what’s within our scope and what’s not in our scope. You have another one as well that you wrote down prior to our episode, so I’ll let you share a couple of these as well.

Nick: Yeah, so that dovetails into part of defining our role is setting clear ground rules and boundaries. “What’s off limits? What’s on limits?” I have a whole discussion around informed consent and physical touch as a part of prep before we even get into ceremonies together because something like physical touch can be incredibly healing and it can also be incredibly harmful.

The question is, how do you navigate these things that can cut both ways? Part of a container is a clearly defined space with clearly defined rules and boundaries so that we are both clear what’s okay and what’s not. We’re not having to make these on-the-fly decisions while one person’s in an altered state.

Jimmy: Mm-hmm. And I’ll add that when things come up around consent and let’s say like physical therapeutic touch, a hand on your shoulder, a hug if it’s asked for, you know things like that. That consent is ongoing and changes constantly.

Nick: Revocable at any time.

Jimmy: Revocable at any time and so if you chat with a facilitator and you talk about, “Okay, like that type of touch is okay.” And in the process you find that’s not right for you in your process, then you should be empowered to say that, and communicate that, and address that. 

And then if a facilitator– well, hopefully, you have addressed this way before. Hopefully, this doesn’t happen in ceremony. But then if a facilitator is like, “Well, you consented to this, so I’m going to do it anyways.” Then that’s like, oh, like big, big, big, big, big, red flag there. 

I think the other thing that I want to touch upon is that, I and I know you do too, Nick, and I really try to create an environment where the journeyer is empowered to make their own choices–

To realize that they have a choice and a say and input at every step of the process, and fully, fully leans into their sovereignty because the whole philosophy for me is unlocking that inner healer or that inner healing intelligence. 

In order to do that, you have to be in your full power. You have to be in your full sovereignty. I talk a lot about copiloting with clients and journeyers. I talk a lot about like, “Hey, we’re going to make decisions together. You have a lot of say.” 

That changes on a dime at any given moment and so just establishing those things in advance can be super, super, helpful to create a conducive container for folks in ceremony. What are some other ways? I think that covers most of our list as far as yours and I zone on practice.

Nick: Yeah. One of the other things I will do is ask the client how they want to be engaged with. And give them permission to engage with me however they want because different people are seeking different levels of support and so blindly assuming what they need for support never works. 

I think it’s really important that we highlight what you’re talking about, which is this underlying healing philosophy that you as the journeyer are the healer. And the method of action here is that the mushroom or the plant medicine or whatever you’re working with is actually awakening your own inner healer and unlocking your own innate capacity to heal. 

That philosophy is operating on the assumption that only you as the journeyer know what’s best for you. Not me as your supporter, not Jimmy as your supporter, not any other facilitator, because we’re not you. We don’t have your direct experience of life.

Jimmy: Yeah.

Nick: And so, I find that the facilitators that are able to honor that underlying philosophy tend to handle things like power dynamics much better because there’s an underlying assumption and truly heartfelt belief that that medicine is going to give you exactly what you need as a journeyer. And I don’t actually have to do anything. I have to be there for you.

Jimmy: And so, obviously, you all can hear that Nick and I care about this stuff a lot, and that’s what we try to put into our practices at Psychedelic Passage. 

The way that I think about it is, can we remove as many of the variables and do as much due diligence on behalf of the journeyer, embedding facilitators within our network, so that there’s room to have conversations about a lot of these intangible things like power dynamics.

We care that the facilitators in our network are background checked and have reference checks, and we verify their education, that we go through a series of getting to know them as humans over, like, a longer dialogue. 

Looking at their SOPs and processes and all of these things. And ultimately doing everything that we can in the due diligence side to decrease the likelihood of facilitators abusing power.

Nick: Right.

Jimmy: Then from there, the other side of it is, “Okay, how do we inform journeyers and how do we put this information out there, and how do we help folks who ask the right questions as well?” Ultimately, we want to be able to send our loved ones and the people that we care the most about to any facilitator within our network. 

Nick: Yeah, and the other piece to that is just because you made the cut, so to speak, and passed our vetting criteria to make it into our network of pre-vetted facilitators, great. You’ve got to maintain your spot by continuing to perform. 

That’s that recourse piece that we started with is like, “If you’re not performing, we’re dropping you from our network because we can’t afford to be sending journeyers to folks who are acting any way less than full integrity.”

Jimmy: Yeah, not when people’s souls are on the table. That’s the depth of this work. I hope that this episode has been meaningful for folks. I know that it’s a pretty deep and muddy topic and so we try to approach it with a little bit of levity, a little bit of clarification, but then always trying to bring it back to that tangible actionable, take away a couple of things from this episode. 

Thank you for going along with us on this episode. That wraps up this episode for the week. You can download episodes of the Psychedelic Passage podcast anywhere where you get your podcast, whether that’s Apple Podcast, Amazon, Spotify, IHeartRadio

We are getting so much feedback and support on these episodes and we will try to continue to be of service to you all with relevant, tangible information. And sometimes very impassioned like I am today, conversations around psychedelics. So, thank you, and we will see you all next week.

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Public education is the number one way to engage social support for this psychedelic mental health movement. Thus, we invite you to head on over to our resources page for more informative articles like this one. As always, safe and mindful journeying, friends!




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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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