In this episode of the Psychedelic Spotlight podcast, host David Flores, CEO of Global Trac Solutions, sits down with Nicholas Levich, the co-founder of Psychedelic Passage. Together, they explore the growing interest in psychedelics and the crucial need for safe and responsible tools and resources in this transformative field.
As David and Nicholas delve into the motivations behind Psychedelic Passage, you’ll discover the inspiration that drove its creation. The conversation takes an insightful turn as Nick explains the crucial role of a trip sitter or guide. Nick shares his background in ceremonial use and his experience apprenticing under an ayahuascaro.
David and Nicholas dive deeper into the qualities to look for in a trip sitter or facilitator, emphasizing the significance of firsthand experience with psychedelics. They discuss the spectrum of facilitators, from licensed therapists to traditional medicine practitioners, and highlight the importance of finding a harmonious relationship and someone committed to their own healing practice.
The episode also touches on the differences between the cannabis and psychedelic industries, emphasizing the increased focus on safety, responsibility, and genuine connection within the psychedelic space. Nicholas and David express their shared passion for accessibility, particularly for marginalized communities and those without the financial means to access psychedelic treatments.
Looking to the future, Nicholas shares Psychedelic Passage’s plans to build a network of guides, allowing clients to access psychedelic support services. Join David and Nick in this thought-provoking episode as they shed light on the emerging field of psychedelics and the importance of safe, responsible, and inclusive practices.
Psychedelic Spotlight – “Nick Levich, Psychedelic Passage”
David: Welcome to the Psychedelic Spotlight podcast. I am your host, David Flores, CEO of Global Trac Solutions. Now as most of us know, interest and curiosity surrounding psychedelics has really seemed to increase over the last couple of years.
And with that, the need to develop and provide safe, and responsible tools, and resources for individuals participating in psychedelic experiences is perhaps more important today than it’s ever been before.
And so, with that, I am very pleased to be joined here today by Nick Levich. He is the cofounder of Psychedelic Passage. Nick, it is a pleasure to have you joining me here today. How are you doing?
Nick: Thanks, Dave. Appreciate the kind intro. I’m doing really well, thanks. How are you?
David: Doing great. Doing great. Staying busy, but doing great. Psychedelic Passage is a platform designed to help individuals have meaningful, and safe, and potentially life changing experiences with psychedelics.
Came across this recently, so excited to learn about the work that you are doing there with your partner, Jimmy Nguyen. So happy to have you on the show here. I’d love to maybe kick things off by giving you an opportunity to give us an overview of Psychedelic Passage. Maybe talk a little bit about your background, and experience, and what really motivated you to develop Psychedelic Passage.
Introduction to Psychedelic Passage: Creating Safe and Meaningful Experience
Nick: Yeah. So, honestly, this was all born out of a realization that people were having psychedelic experiences in unsupported ways.
Meaning, people would read Michael Pollan’s book, and they’d realize the benefit or the value of exploring one of these experiences, but then they didn’t know what to do next, how to find a guide, how to find a sitter, who to even talk to about it.
And so, what we started with Psychedelic Passage was really an opportunity for the average person who’s not plugged into an underground community, the ability to find a trip sitter or a guide. In other words, to provide hands on support during the psychedelic experience.
One of the challenges that we ran into that we saw people running into was that therapists could help with preparation on the front end or integration on the back end, but they couldn’t help with the experience itself because they jeopardized their license.
And so, they were basically telling clients like, “I can help you before and after, but you’re on your own for the experience itself.” And so, from my perspective, that’s where the greatest potential for harm is.
David: Yeah, most definitely.
Nick: Yeah. So, we really wanted to provide an option that solved that and was available to everyone. Not everyone has friends or people that they trust that are up on the latest harm reduction techniques and how to actually facilitate a ceremonial space.
And so, we really wanted to provide that opportunity to anyone that was seeking it. My background, I essentially spent the past four years apprenticing under an ayahuascaro. And so, that’s where I got a lot of my framework for how to facilitate from and really what ceremonial use looks like.
David: Yeah, very impressive. I know that the term and the concept trip sitter is still to people maybe who haven’t been following the psychedelic space aren’t really that familiar with. Do you want to maybe elaborate a little bit more on what specifically the role of a trip sitter plays for an individual experiencing a psychedelic experience?
The Role of a Trip Sitter: Providing Support and Guidance
Nick: Yeah. So, you’ll hear trip sitters referred to as guides, facilitators, trip sitters, sober sitters, like, there’s a number of different terms for it. The primary function is holding nonjudgmental space for another person.
If I could sum it up in one word, it would be presence. Their job isn’t necessarily to do anything. In a lot of respects, it’s to get out of the way, but to provide this unbiased support system to a person that’s opening themselves up to an incredibly vulnerable state through the use of psychedelics.
And so, in our perspective, the plant or the psychedelic substance is the teacher. There is nothing that I can teach someone better than they can learn experientially through their process with that substance.
However, it does help to know that you have someone by your side, because one of the big things that we talk about with psychedelics is this concept of surrender, and most people have a very tough time surrendering without support. And so, really what it is, it’s support through presence.
David: Yeah, very, very fascinating indeed, and I think so important. I think it’s going to continue. The role of a trips that are to me is only going to continue to become even more important here as more people start to gain more interest and curiosity with psychedelics.
I know you take the role of a trip sitter very important. And of course, it comes with a lot of responsibility. But I know that a lot of the experience that you have with it comes from your own personal experience with psychedelics.
Maybe share a little bit about what those experiences have been like that have helped really put you in a place where you are here today, where you are able to help create a safe and responsible container or environment for individuals going through psychedelic experiences?
Nick: Yeah. So, I think take a note of people– Honestly, my youth started as purely recreational mainly, because I didn’t know any better. Due to years and decades of misinformation, and dare campaigns, and everything of the sort, these made their way into party environments, and concert environments, and all sorts of different arenas that honestly, in hindsight now, they’re not that well suited for.
I used to always wonder why I would eat mushrooms, and everyone else is partying, and I’m like on an introspective journey and can’t form words. So, I always knew deep down intrinsically that there was more going on than what met the eye with the substances.
And so, eventually over time, my use really switched to intentional after digesting material by Terence McKenna and some of these forward-thinking psychedelic advocates.
Then, eventually after meeting this ayahuascaro who became my mentor, my intentional use shifted into what I would call ceremonial use. And for me, the distinction is just the framework or the structure that comes from ceremony.
And so, really, I was on this transition from recreational to intentional to eventually ceremonial. What’s interesting is through that process, it became very clear that the intention makes all of the difference, because taking the same substance produced wildly different outcomes for me depending on the nature with which it was consumed.
And so, it really helped me realize from an experience firsthand standpoint that every input impacts the experience. Nothing in this psychedelic experience exists in a vacuum, it’s all interconnected.
So, the more that we can do as facilitators to get out of the way to facilitate a safe, comfortable environment that actually gets you closer to your desired outcome or intention, that’s really what the role of someone that’s helping facilitate is from my perspective.
David: Yeah, I absolutely agree. As a facilitator, I think it’s something that maybe not everyone can just do. But do you want to maybe talk a little bit about, what should someone look to–? If they are looking for a facilitator, what are certain things that they should ask about and look for in a person? Because it’s something that I think is so important. You want to have somebody there that is experienced and prepared to handle a situation. So, what are some factors that individuals should look for in that?
Choosing the Right Facilitator: Factors to Consider
Nick: So, I think it’s easiest to answer this question by painting a little bit of a picture. Like, you have a pretty extreme spectrum. On one end, you’ve got clinicians and mental health professionals that are licensed and have traditional western training, but they may have never taken the substances themselves, and may or may not be doing any sort of inner work on themselves.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have what people typically refer to as like shamans or medicine men, people who have dedicated their whole lives to these plants and to doing their own inner work, but they have no credentialing.
And so, you’ve got this huge spectrum, and then everything in between. And so, I think, honestly, both models are going to be viable. Meaning, kind of the medical model and the ceremonial model. I think a lot of it’s going to come down to personal preference.
I believe the two can coexist. I know having talked with clients that some people are really turned off by therapist approach, because they’ve had a poor history with them. And some people are really turned off by the spiritual approach, because it’s too woo-woo for them, and that’s totally fine too.
And so, I think we’re going to see these two different models emerge side by side. In terms of what to look for, please, please, please, please, please find someone who has experience using the substance themselves. Otherwise, it’s like teaching someone how to fly a plane, but they’ve never actually flown it themselves.
You just miss all the nuances, the little mile markers, the frameworks to move through the medicine space with. It’s vitally important from my perspective that the facilitator has hands on direct experience, consuming, and facilitating.
One of the questions that I like to ask is, when you’re talking to a potential facilitator, they’re interviewing you for a good fit just as much as you should be interviewing them. And so, the goal is to find a symbiotic or a harmonious relationship.
If you feel icky in your gut when you’re talking to this person, the last thing you want to do is sit with them in a super vulnerable state, in an extraordinary state of consciousness that doesn’t serve you any good.
And so, one of the questions I like to ask is, what does your own healing practice look like as a facilitator? Because if they’re not committed to doing their own work, it’s almost inevitable that they’re going to project something into your container, into your space.
And so, these extraordinary states of consciousness that psychedelics produce create this enmeshing effect, where everyone’s stuff gets all swirled together.
So, the more I can be a mirror instead of a projection, the better off the client is going to be. The only other thing I’ll say is ask for referrals if you’re curious. If they’re not comfortable giving you referrals, that’s a red flag in my book.
David: Yeah. The one thing that I really find so encouraging about all of this and you and I touched on it in our first conversation a couple of weeks ago is, having come from the cannabis industry and being a part of that industry from the very beginning to being a part here of this psychedelic space, you really see the difference.
Where the focus here is a lot more on treatment, and a lot more on safety and responsibility versus what we saw, I think, in the cannabis space, where so much of that was just more focused on the recreational side of things being so tied into this space here of psychedelics. Would you agree with the fact that I think that there is more focus on safety and responsibility?
Inclusivity and Accessibility in Psychedelic Healing
Nick: Yeah, undoubtedly so. I think we’re just seeing a higher level of genuine interaction, genuine connection, truly like humans looking out for humans as opposed to the full-blown commoditization we saw with cannabis. It really was product focused with cannabis.
I think we’re seeing much more service focus with psychedelics and rightfully so. To me, what lacked in cannabis was a healthy framework for use. Like, what does healthy cannabis use look like? No one ever talked about that. It was only focused on access.
The nature of these substances is you can’t ignore the fact that they require a framework or guidance or some support with. Even indigenously, when we look back, that’s how they were used was with the support of community. Even if that the journey was undertaken alone, you still had the support of the community to return to.
David: Yeah, and that element of community really ties into this next thing that I want to talk about here, and it’s something that’s very important to me, and that’s accessibility. You talked about developing framework here for this space in the industry and the community of psychedelics.
One thing that really caught my attention is the passion that both you and Jimmy Nguyen, who is your partner there at the Psychedelic Passage, that both of you have, is ensuring that people from lower income communities as well as those from black, indigenous, and people of color communities are able to gain access to Psychedelic Passage, your services.
I think this is so important from an inclusivity perspective. Even though we’re seeing ketamine clinics pop up all over North America, problem is they’re expensive and insurance companies don’t cover it.
And so, that leaves a very sizable portion of our society out in the cold and unable to access the potential benefits that psychedelics have to offer. But it seems that you are very focused on that. So, I’d love to give you an opportunity to elaborate a little bit more on how important that is in terms of what you are doing here with psychedelic passage.
Nick: Yeah, no thanks. I’m glad that you recognize that and we were able to kind of gain that insight from looking at our site. The bottom line is that these communities have been marginalized for so long.
And ironically, the indigenous cultures are the ones that brought us these medicines, and yet, we’ve totally shut them out. Even if it’s not like a law prohibiting them, you’ve got this de facto alienation that exists to these communities, either because of increased likelihood of being persecuted or financial hurdles.
And so, our whole goal is like your socioeconomic or financial status should not prohibit you from seeking or getting the healing that you deserve. Bottom line, end of story. There is no if, ands, or buts about it.
You should be able to access healing. Like you said, a lot of the clinics that we’ve seen, it’s cost prohibitive for people that don’t make decent money.
The irony to me is just these are the people that could use it the most is someone who’s dealt with years of generational trauma, they need that more than the white male who’s just looking to increase their performance at work.
I’m sorry, but they’re just wildly different cases. And so, we started a BIPOC and low-income fund that people can donate to, and that money goes specifically to providing services for these people that qualify. I think anyone that’s in this business purely for profit has missed the point.
You clearly didn’t do the medicine yourself, because we all see it so clearly when we sit with plant medicines that we are all so interconnected. And to think that you’re God’s gift without considering everyone else as God’s gift is the problem. The separation is an illusion. We are all truly, truly connected.
David: Yeah, you hit some wonderful points there. I really appreciate that. I think with what you guys are establishing here with psychedelic Passage, I know that you’re really just getting your feet wet with everything, and really getting the ball rolling with it.
Again, I can’t express how important of a resource I believe this is and is going to be going forward as more and more people start to explore psychedelic healing and psychedelic treatments. Where do you see the future going here for Psychedelic Passage in the months to come?
Psychedelic Passage’s Vision for the Future: Building a Network of Guides
Nick: Yeah. Our big initiative right now is building out a network of therapists that we’re partnering with really with the goal of allowing clients to access what we’re considering to be the current solution to psychedelic assisted therapy.
Oregon passed a psilocybin assisted therapy initiative, but it’s going to be at least two years before it gets rolled out, and then you have the whole cost hurdle that no one really knows how accessible that’s going to be.
And so, what do we do between years zero and two? It’s like, well we got to find something. And so, the solution that we have essentially proposed is look for those that are looking for the more traditional psychedelic assisted therapy.
We can either work with your therapist or you can choose a therapist in our network. They’ll help with the preparation on the front end and integration on the back end, and then we as the trip sitters will work in tandem with them to facilitate the experience itself.
Unfortunately, as much as most therapists would love to be able to facilitate, they jeopardize their licensure. And so, we’ve essentially found a workaround that still provides this continuity of care to the client, and therapist and myself or Jimmy are all communicating on the same page to really provide what’s best for the client in that scenario.
And so, you don’t have any weird functional silos, and the client doesn’t get told, “Oh, sorry, we can’t help with the experience itself.” That’s typically what happens unfortunately.
So, we’re really building out that network. Eventually, as time goes on, we’ll consider adding additional sitters in different geographic areas just so we can continue to serve more people in more diverse parts of the US. That’s really what the plan looks like for now.
David: Well, it’s very encouraging, and I got to say I really appreciate the work that you and Jimmy have put into this. I know you’ve really put a lot into it and getting it to where it is here today, and I am so excited to just continue to follow the story and the progression that I believe you guys are going to achieve here over the next several months.
Again, anything we can do on our end to contribute and to help, we’re here for that. But Nick, I just want to thank you so much for your time and getting this opportunity to get the word out there about Psychedelic Passage.
We will make sure we get the website information for you guys up and included here in this podcast, but thank you so much again for taking the time to do this.
Nick: Yeah. Thanks, David. I really appreciate it. Likewise. And really appreciate what you guys are doing as far as pushing the information, knowledge, and news out there and making that accessible for everyone. So, thank you so much.
David: Yeah, thank you and I look forward to having you on again very soon.
Nick: Likewise. Thanks, David.
David: Global Trac Solutions Inc., and Psychedelic Spotlight does not in any way encourage or condone the use, purchase, sale, or transfer of any illegal substances, nor do we encourage or condone partaking in any unlawful activities.
We support a harm reduction approach for the purpose of education, and promoting individual and public safety. If you are choosing to use psychedelic substances, please do so responsibly.
The views and opinions expressed by the guests on the Psychedelic Spotlight podcast are those of their own, and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Psychedelic Spotlight and Global Trac Solutions Inc.
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