This episode transcript of the Psychedelic Passage Podcast covers a candid discussion on the impact of Oregon’s incautious Psilocybin Services Program Initiative, specifically for those seeking psychedelic therapy inside of a regulatory framework.
After offering a brief overview and timeline of the initiative, our co-founders analyze the lack of standardization in the training and credentialing of facilitators. How do the implications of the facilitator training program negate the intentions set in place for indigenous and ceremonial practice?
They highlight the differences in training providers, the cost of training programs, and the inadequate levels of stringency surrounding psychological assessments for those wishing to become a licensed facilitator.
Later, our hosts evaluate public perceptions on the availability and practicality of psychedelic experiences in Oregon. They detail the risks associated with improper training and credentialing of facilitators, while bringing forward suggestions for those seeking psychedelic support services in the state.
Ep 33 – Psychedelic Therapy in Oregon: The Flaws & Limitations of Measure 109
Nick: Welcome to the Psychedelic Passage podcast. My name is Nick Levich. I am here with my co-host, Jimmy Nguyen. Thank you so much for joining us today. This week we have what I believe to be a very important and timely topic, which is essentially an overview of what’s going on here in Oregon with Measure 109, which is the Psilocybin Services Program Initiative.
Really what this covers is state-sanctioned access to psilocybin assisted therapy here in the state of Oregon. That happens to be where I am located currently. So, I’ve got a bit of boots on the ground for what’s going on here. Jimmy is based in Denver, Colorado, which we addressed Colorado’s equivalent measure 122 on a prior episode with one of the drafters of that measure.
There’s a couple of things that I want to address in this week’s episode. One is an overview and timeline of what’s going on here currently. But more importantly, I want to address how this impacts you all as psychedelic curious folks and or potential journeyers and facilitators-
Because this is the first of these types of programs that’s going to be coming online, and there’s a lot of implications to anyone that’s curious about exploring how it works in the state of Oregon. There’s a lot of implications of this program and I think it’s our job to make you aware of some of those potential pitfalls, drawbacks and just things to look out for.
A Timeline and Overview of Measure 109
Jimmy: Yeah. The focus on our episode this week will not be aimed towards the regulatory or legislative environment. We really want to narrow in on what this looks like for you when these services start to come online, things to consider and think about. For a little bit of context, I’ll talk through the timeline.
Starting January 1st, 2021, Oregon has been in a two-year rulemaking period, which is to establish the advisory board, which has been running for some time and just starting to think about how this actually gets implemented. That’s what’s been going on the past two years.
Now, January 1st, 2023, and beyond, the state has opened up training for facilitators and then the application portal for service centers as well. The main thing is that these services are not available yet. There are some training requirements and even things within the service center like zoning processes and leasing processes and building out these service centers.
That’s all going to take a little bit of time. The state gives basically a year-ish for when these services will start to be rolled out. I realistically think it’ll take longer than that, but that’s just my opinion.
Nick: There are talks that the first patient will be treated this year, 2023, but that kind of remains to be seen how accurate that timeline will be or not.
Jimmy: There’s just a lot of variables, I think, that are within the implementation process of this. We hope to talk today in our conversation on how those variables affect you.
If you live in Oregon or you are planning on going to Oregon for these services in the future, what it means, the language that’s used, and some things that may help you as you try to make an informed and knowledgeable decision on whether this is right for you or not.
Nick: I want to preface this conversation with the fact that we have a vested interest, Jimmy and I, and as a company with Psychedelic Passage, we have a vested interest in ensuring that the facilitation landscape evolves in a way that’s meaningful and safe and effective and helpful for you as journeyers, that’s our ultimate goal.
We know that there are going to be different paths to seeking treatment with psilocybin or any other psychedelic. And that’s okay, multiple paths are good. But if journeyers aren’t aware of the potential pitfalls with each of these specific paths, then you actually as a journeyer can’t make an informed decision.
That’s how I’m approaching this conversation: what do you as a journeyer need to be aware of, if you’re going to consider seeking treatment through a state-sanctioned program like what’s going to be rolled out here in Oregon?
Jimmy: I’m going to encapsulate what you said in my own words, which is not all psychedelic-related services, especially facilitation services are the same, they’re not all equal. Just because it is a regulated state-sanctioned program, doesn’t mean that there’s an extra sign-off or that they’re all of a sudden consistent or that you don’t need to, let’s say that your facilitator.
That’s the main thing that we’ll try to get across today. So, let’s jump into it. What are the main things, Nick, that are on your mind about Measure 109, and the rollout?
Nick: I think the major thing that I want to stress here, and this might come as a total shock to a lot of you as listeners, but you’re going to need more experience to become a barber in the state of Oregon than you are to become a psilocybin facilitator.
I’m going to say that again.” You’re going to need more experience to become a barber than to become a psychedelic assistant therapy facilitator.” Now to me, this is appalling. I understand why this was put into the legislation the way it was, but I don’t think the implications of this were thought through very well.
Jimmy: And, look, for some folks being in the seat of a barber hairdresser feels like a therapy session. But these are [chuckles] very different. These are very, very different.
I think the intention around creating such a low bar was to include space for ceremonial practitioners, indigenous practitioners, not requiring a prerequisite of licensure. But what it also does is it creates some implications for you as a psychedelic curious person in the next couple of years.
The Redefining of “Therapy” Services
Nick: Right. Part of the problem is this program is specifically, they’re calling the service Psychedelic Assisted Therapy. I mean, that is essentially what they’re calling it but it’s not being performed by a therapist or at least it’s not required.
I think that part of what’s happening here is incorrect word choice to describe what it is that’s actually happening because in the western US and America specifically, when we think about the word “therapy”, we generally tend to assume that that’s going to be performed by a licensed therapist which they’ve got 2500 hours of supervised experience and all the appropriate training beforehand.
Jimmy: Yeah. “Therapy” is shorthand for psychotherapy and is just a modern lexicon. I also acknowledge that there are different therapeutic practices and modalities that are not psychotherapy.
But when we generally regard the word “therapy” in this conversation, which includes mental health, which includes personal growth, all of that, it’s assumed that when you’re seeking psychedelic-assisted therapy that that’s what you’re signing up for.
Part of this is broadening the word of “therapy” or redefining it in a way that doesn’t confuse you, as a psychedelic curious person. We’re also not saying that this work should be conducted solely by mental health professionals either.
What we’re attempting to do is get clear on what this means for you, especially with psychedelics being connected to folks of more vulnerable situations or more, let’s say, acute situations. It’s even more important that we’re having this conversation now. So, you’re clear on what you are signing up for.
Inadequate Eligibility Requirements for Facilitator Training Programs
Nick: The other reason I want to highlight this is because one of the questions we get time and time again, probably every consultation call that we take is something along the lines of, “Well, how do you know who’s qualified to do this work?” or, “What makes your facilitators qualified?”
In the western world, we like to hang our hat on certification or licensure. Part of the problem here is you can be state-certified, state-licensed to be a facilitator, but the training requirements are shockingly low. What does this actually mean in practice?
Well, to be a licensed facilitator with the state of Oregon, you need a high school diploma, you need 160 hours of training, much of which is typically done online, like PowerPoint style, module style. And then only 40 hours of in-person practicum.
Now I want to touch on this practicum component here for a second because it would be one thing if they were actually sitting in on psilocybin sessions and getting hands-on training. But what’s really happening here is that because there’s no service centers open currently, there’s no one to shadow under, and so their experience in most of these programs is breathwork.
Now don’t get me wrong, breathwork can provide altered states of consciousness but it’s apples and oranges from walking someone through a psilocybin session. A high school diploma and 200 hours are the only requirements from the state of Oregon to become a licensed facilitator.
Now imagine you have bipolar disorder or schizophrenia or some more severe mental or emotional health diagnosis, and that’s who you’re getting into a container with to help you work through this.
Jimmy: Yeah, you’re waiting for years for a psilocybin-assisted therapy route to open up and then when it finally opens up, the facilitator and maybe the service center doesn’t have any mental health professionals in their staff or faculty.
Nick: Right. But you are under the context because of the wording, that you’re going to do psilocybin-assisted therapy without maybe realizing that the person you’re going to go sit with has maybe never journeyed themselves, and has never actually facilitated a journey before because those aren’t requirements.
You can see how this has the potential to result in some extremely adverse experiences because frankly, the facilitators– and let me back up, it could be that you have a facilitator that’s been doing this work for 10 years underground, but how would you know?
I think that’s part of the problem here is that the licensure requirements don’t separate out or segment out tiers of facilitators. There’s no way to understand from the state’s perspective, what caliber of facilitator you’re going to be dealing with.
That’s a challenging situation because one of the things that we’ve learned over the last three years of being in business is that most journeyers don’t know what they’re looking for. They don’t know how to vet a facilitator. They don’t know what makes someone qualified or not, and it’s especially hard to do if you’re in a state of emotional distress or despair.
Jimmy: And it’s about who’s qualified for you. We talk a lot about facilitator journey or fit. There may be a world where you’re an individual who doesn’t need a person with a mental health background or maybe you are seeking somebody who’s more, let’s say, spiritually oriented or more holistically oriented.
There can be a world where that will work for you. But what I see having more potential of harm is to your point, Nick, if you don’t know how to ask those questions, then you assume, “Well, this person has been through a state-regulated program, so that should mean something.”
What we found is that certifications and training and all of that only take you so far. Without the experiential, without the history of doing this type of work, I just don’t know how it’s possible to hold space for somebody going through [crosstalk] experience.
Nick: I would argue you can’t, at least not to the same extent that someone else can. I guess it’s probably helpful if we juxtapose that against our own roots into this work. You and I have been personally experimenting with psychedelics for like 14, 15 years each now.
Jimmy: For a very long time before we started to hold space for others, for sure.
Nick: Yeah, and like I know, for me, personally– I mean, I spent five years in a fairly structured apprenticeship before essentially getting the blessing from my mentor to go out and do it on my own.
Lord knows I would not have felt comfortable enough to hold this kind of space for others had I not been through such an intensive process. Interestingly enough, that actually mirrors how this was done more indigenously, if you will. It was a lineage that you carried.
It wasn’t just like you applied and did some training and all of a sudden, you’re good to go. Once again, we know that that was done to try to increase accessibility of folks wanting to do the work.
But there’s a tradeoff here. The easier it is to get those credentials, the less differentiation and expertise there is for these facilitators to obtain or require in order for them to show up and do this work.
Jimmy: Yeah. Even after a lengthy apprenticeship that you had, there was still a lot of learning and a lot of development and a lot of that going on as well. The other somewhat juxtaposition that I want to present to folks is that psychedelics are a hot topic now.
It’s very attractive to want to become a facilitator or supporter or a trip sitter. I hold a world where there are many people doing that from a place of deep integrity and deep service. Going along with that, there are people who just straight up aren’t.
That’s just the fact of the world where– I was joking with you in a call earlier today, that everyone and their grandma is about to become a trip sitter and a facilitator. It’s even more important now that we’re having this conversation to give you the tools on how to sort that out for yourself.
The High-Cost of Facilitator Training Programs
Jimmy: The training thing really blows my mind with what you’re sharing. The other thing that I’ll add is that there are different training providers, and there is a common core of the things that need to be touched upon.
But if I’m correct, less stringency on how they teach that, how much emphasis goes into those different sections and programs. You’re also just going to find variability. These training programs cost quite differently as well. I’ve seen numbers on a couple of grand to get the hours in the certification up to 8, 10, 12 grand.
Nick: 20, they go all the way up.
Jimmy: So, I’m not saying that higher dollar is higher quality, but what I’m alluding to is that it’s not standardized. When you are in Oregon at some point next year, maybe– [crosstalk]
Jimmy: Because think about it, they don’t even have the supply chain figured out.
Nick: Oh, I know there’s a lot of unanswered questions.
Jimmy: You go through a service center application and then you get approved, and then you got to go through the local approvals and then you got to figure out your supply chain and then that’s going to take some time.
There’s a lot of steps folks, is what I’m sharing. I think the public perception is, “Oh, this is starting now and this is available,” and the truth of the matter is that it’s not.
The Lack of Interview Screenings & Psychological Evaluations
Nick: I think there’s a public perception of, “Oh because the state is running it, everything’s going to be figured out.” Well, major PSA here. Nobody really knows what’s going on, everyone’s trying to figure it out. And it’s the first time anything like this has been rolled out at a state level.
Lots of moving parts and a lot of unknowns. But I want to touch on something that you were highlighting, which is you can get licensed to be a facilitator by the state and have never journeyed yourself, meaning you have no experience with plant medicine or psilocybin yourself.
Furthermore, the state has no requirement of interviews or psychological evaluations or any assessment of who you are as a human. Which to me is frankly kind of scary because you can get licensed by the state and be an absolute narcissist or borderline or any of these other diagnoses and no one’s going to check you on that.
Jimmy: Wow, okay. [laughs]
Nick: Think about it.
Jimmy: I’m processing what you’re saying right now because that sounds kind of wild.
Nick: Think about it, to go to college, you have to do an admissions interview. You have to show up and take an interview with one of the admissions counselors to ensure that you’re going to be a good fit in their student culture.
Well, as of now, there’s no requirement with the state to have any assessment done at a human level of who are you? How do you show up in the world? What kind of space can you hold? Nothing.
That to me is really scary because to your point, there’s all this interest in folks wanting to be facilitators, and maybe it’s helpful if we share like, we probably get two to three emails a day into our inbox of, “How can I join the psychedelic passage network of facilitators?
I’m interested in being a trip sitter?” And what’s the first thing we do? “Oh, okay great. I appreciate you reaching out. Can you share more about you and your background?”
For most of these folks it’s, “Oh, I’ve been micro-dosing for a month but I’ve seen such great results, this is what I want to do.” Or, “I’ve sat with my friends a couple of times and it was life-changing.” I appreciate the enthusiasm, it’s so cool that’s now what you’re excited about.
And also, you don’t have nearly enough experience to actually determine whether this is something you want to do or to help people in a professional capacity. There’s this massive disconnect and interest in the work and then an understanding of what’s actually entailed to do this in integrity.
Jimmy: Well, there’s the experiential component that you’re touching on. I think what you’re also talking about, which I want to highlight, is that human component. In our world of connecting psychedelic curious people and journeyers to potential facilitators, we’ve seen this a lot where it can all look right on paper.
You can have all of the experiential and all the right modalities and all the right things that attune to the needs of the journeyer. And yet still there’s this intangible thing either from the journey or facilitator where that’s not a good fit.
There’s this intangible part that’s a little bit hard to describe in addition to having solid questions and vetting and all of those things. Then there’s that gut check essentially, which how do you define that if you’re just looking at a person on paper, for example?
And then in addition to that, what’s their customer service like? What’s their responsiveness like? What are the core parts of the program like preparation, ceremony, integration? How does that look? Because that’s going to be different for each facilitator as well.
The Relationship Between Facilitators & Service Centers
Jimmy: The other thing that you pointed out that I thought was interesting is that in a previous conversation before we started this episode is that there’s an interesting relationship between facilitators and service centers where the service centers have to be the place where the substance or the medicine is administered.
But facilitators may or may not be fully employed by the service centers. You may actually have a rotating cast of facilitators who are working at one particular service center. What review do you pay attention to? Do you pay attention to the testimonials and reviews of the service center or do you do it facilitator specific? There are just some gaps there.
Nick: Well, I think once again there was a reason that it was structured this way, but the implications to you as a potential journeyer are not made clear. Chances are most of you listening to this have no idea any of these factors were at play.
But once you’re aware of them, it gives you a better ability to navigate. Essentially, you’re right, that’s what’s going to happen here. It’s funny that we keep going back to like the barbershop thing because it’s almost like a booth rental setup.
Where the facilitator will pay the service center to have access to a room for a day and run a ceremony out of there. To your point, we live in a world of Yelp reviews and Google reviews and all that and it’s really not the service center that matters, it’s the facilitator.
I mean, the service center matters for the decor and the kind of ambiance and actually the physical setting. Beyond that, the professional, the major variable here is who your facilitator is. That may vary because you may have Tom with really good reviews and John with really bad reviews.
But Tom only works out of that center once a week. So, you got to track him down. You can see it’s far less about the center and far more about the individual that you would be sitting with.
Jimmy: I’ll remind folks, it should be very clear in the barbershop haircut salon needle type thing where, “Okay, you sit at a barbershop or a salon and you get a bad haircut, you may not like the way that you look for a month or two or three, but you get to go back and try a different place or whatever with fairly low stakes.”
We are talking about psychedelic experiences that have the potential significance to either change your whole life or cause a lot of repercussions if it’s not handled in a sacred and thorough and thoughtful way.
Nick: You’re putting your psyche in someone else’s hands temporarily.
Nick: And that the amount of harm that can be done in that kind of extreme relationship is pretty high. The reason that we want to bring this up is so that you guys are aware that this is happening and also aware that just because it’s state-sanctioned, doesn’t mean it’s always the best route to seek treatment.
Jimmy: There’s flaws all up in this thing is what my takeaway is. [laughs]
How Will Journeyers Accurately Qualify Facilitators?
Nick: Yeah. Look, in some ways, this is progress, and guaranteed there will be some absolute rock star facilitators plugged into this system. But here’s my question. How are you as a journeyer going to know which is which?
How are you going to be able to discern which facilitator has 10 years of experience and just went through the licensure as formality? And then how are you going to differentiate them from the person that’s never journeyed, only has a high school diploma and did 200 hours of education and is now licensed from the states?
Jimmy: The narrative is going to be the same.
Jimmy: What I realize with folks is that the narrative is the same regardless of your level of experience or not, you’re going to talk about your personal relationship with psychedelics, how that has changed your life, and then how that has motivated you to do this work in a more professional capacity.
I think that for some folks it’s very valid and for some folks, there’s a lot of illusion in there. You as a potential journeyer, how do you sort that out? Because everybody’s going to want to tell you that they’ve been trained and they’ve had this level of experience. People lie all the time by the way on how much experiential–
Nick: We’ve been lied to too.
Jimmy: Yeah, 100%. I’ve heard people saying, “I’ve done 12 journeys,” and then all of a sudden that turns into, “Well, I supported hundreds of folks through this.” And then how do you verify that because this is a very private thing. I don’t know if you could reach out to all several hundred of your past clients to see if they’re open to chatting with folks and whatnot.
What we’re getting at here is that this is already a pretty in-depth process of finding somebody who can– I’ll say it for a lack of a better term, hold your soul down in a healthy and respectful and sacred way during a psychedelic experience. I am not of the opinion that a state-run program fully solves that or makes that better somehow.
Nick: Well, I just think we live in an environment where when it’s allowed, when it’s got this aura of legality and structure to it, we feel better about it, but it’s a false sense of security in this specific application. That’s what I want to make very clear in this episode.
I think it’s important that we once again juxtapose this against our facilitator standards for instance. To join our network as a facilitator, you have to do an immense amount of basically applying or proving competency that stems far beyond just what courses have you taken.
Meanwhile, we don’t operate in the state-sanctioned model. You can see here that just because it’s run by the state and just because they can provide you the medicine, does not mean they know what they’re doing.
If you think about it, these are laws written by legislators, many of whom have no direct experience with psychedelics. So, they’re doing the best they can with the information they have, but that info is pretty limited.
The Inconvenience Factor: Required Visits to Service Centers
Jimmy: Yeah. I just also see some weird things in Oregon, like the micro-dosing thing that we’re chatting about where you have to have psilocybin administered at a service center. There’s a requirement that if you engage in services at a service center that there’s a minimum of a 1-hour session.
What that means for folks who are micro-dosing as a part of their morning routine or nighttime routine, there are some folks who microdose two, three doses a day, you have to go to a service center to do that.
I just don’t know how that’s going to work in practicality when I– let’s assume, I got kids, I’m getting the kids ready for school, I got to go to work at a certain time and normally I would just have an intention. I don’t have kids, by the way, I’m just talking theoretically.
But normally, you just take your microdose, set an intention, create some space for yourself, and go on with your day. Now you got to stop off at a service center where likely many people are trying to hold sessions. There’s like a capacity issue here, just for you to micro-dose.
Nick: Well, and then you don’t even consider the cost thing because now you’ve got an hour of someone else’s time when in reality a microdose would cost you a penny, so to speak, because it’s a fraction of a gram.
For the record, for anyone that’s listening– it’s not like you’re just going to be able to go buy mushrooms, just because this program exists. I mean, that’s what Jimmy is getting at, is that the only way to obtain mushrooms is by getting a service of some kind, whether that is facilitation coaching, whatever.
But the medicine is always going to be tied to a service, which is silly, if you’re micro-dosing and need to take it, call it five doses a week, you can’t go into a service center five separate times. It makes no sense.
Jimmy: Yeah, so I think to encapsulate all of this is to highlight to folks that– look, I think that the intention around a lot of what’s going on in Oregon, especially with Measure 109, I don’t think there’s anything malicious going on.
What I am sharing in my opinion is that it’s not all buttoned up and tightened up as you would think from an outside perspective, that there are a lot of glaring flaws in practicality on how this rolls out. Guess who is going to be the one to deal with the repercussions of those glaring flaws?
You– as the psychedelic curious person. Facilitator abuse will still happen, adverse experiences will still happen. That’s the nature of this work. What we try to express is that the person that you’re working with matters so much as far as trying to get ahead of some of those potential things.
But it’s not a perfect system just because it’s state-regulated now that everything is going to be great. There will still be all of those issues to come up. My hunch, and you were saying this outside of our episode as well, that the laws and the regulations will adjust when these things come up and we don’t want you to be those test subjects if you will. [laughs]
Nick: The state of Oregon has basically gone out and said, “Now that the rules are established, we’re staying out of it. These are the rules. Until the real world, adverse experiences happen or there’s litigation involved or whatever the case is, they’re not going to adjust.”
And so, what does that mean? It’s basically hands-off until shit hits the fan. For me, it’s not really if, it’s just when? You can’t have these hands off of a model and expect everything to run smoothly. This work is far too convoluted, far too nuanced, far too complicated to have a totally hands-off approach like that with such little required training on the front end.
The major thing here is just don’t be bamboozled by these state programs because they sound great on paper, and the intention is great, the intention is solid, but the implications to you as a journeyer are really severe here.
We wanted to put these things on your radar so that you’re aware of it if you do choose to participate and at the same time know that there are other ways to get involved. If you prefer a more holistic at home ceremonial approach, that’s what the folks in our network offer.
And so, you have alternatives here. This isn’t the only way to get treatment or have an intentional psychedelic experience, so just keep in mind that there are options here. Anything else that you feel called to add today, Jim?
Jimmy: No, I feel good. Thank you to our listeners for just going through such a nuanced topic and you can hear, what word will I use today, how impassioned Nick and I are-
Jimmy: -about this topic. But it comes from a place of care, it comes from a place of protection. It’s not about competition or anything like that. It’s really about if there are going to be routes and pathways to this, it’s our duty as folks who are on the ground floor of this to express what we’re seeing and express our thoughts.
We hope that that allows you to ask your own questions and make your own decisions and empower you and your sovereignty and autonomy to really ask, is this right for me? Or am I doing this because this is the only option available?
Nick: Perceived only option.
Jimmy: Correct. I know that there are folks out there with more acute timing, but it is so, so, so important that it hits all of the parameters and feels very right for you. And so, I do hope that our conversation elevates that opportunity.
Nick: Yeah, I mean, ultimately this whole thing stems from concern. Concern for you as journeyers, concerned for the way that the industry evolves as a whole, concern for the entire facilitation landscape.
We want people to have safe experiences, like safety goes ahead of efficacy, in my opinion. Hopefully, this helps people navigate the state program with a bit more ease, a bit more grace. We’ll continue to follow up on this topic.
If there’s any material breakthroughs or any massive changes on our end, we’ll happily keep you guys updated. But just know that for the next year or so, this is kind of the nature of what’s happening here in Oregon. So, please just use your discretion, use caution, and be your own biggest advocate out there.
So, that brings us to the end of our episode for today. We thank you all for listening. You can download all of our episodes on all major streaming platforms Apple Podcast, Amazon, Spotify, IHeartRadio, or wherever else you get your podcast.
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