“Seeking Psychedelic Therapy For Loved Ones Without Overstepping” introduces a conversation dedicated to those who are seeking psychedelic support services on behalf of a friend, family member, partner, or spouse. How can you support a loved one’s healing journey while respecting and encouraging their personal autonomy?
Our hosts delve into the complexities of navigating conversations around psychedelics with family and friends, including how to approach the subject, the importance of consent and transparency, and the role of the supporter in the process.
Through personal anecdotes and insightful commentary, Nicholas and Jimmy explore the various biases, fears, and judgments that can cloud your ability to provide effective support, and offer practical advice for creating an environment where the individual feels empowered to make their own decisions.
They also touch on the importance of timing and risk tolerance in deciding whether or not to embark on a psychedelic journey. How can you, as a supporter, identify and establish healthy boundaries that ensure your loved one is making a self-driven internal commitment to the psychedelic therapy process?
Episode 34 – Seeking Psychedelic Therapy For Loved Ones Without Overstepping
Jimmy: Welcome to the Psychedelic Passage podcast. My name is Jimmy Nguyen. I’m joined here by my co-host and dear friend Nick Levich. Thanks for joining us. A few weeks ago, we did an episode around support for journeyers before, during, and after a psychedelic experience.
And we got some feedback from our community about a topic that’s somewhat related to this. We’ll break it down, as always, for you in our episode this week, and that is around seeking information, services, ceremony, microdosing, or any type of psychedelic-related services on behalf of a friend, family member, partner, spouse, who may be struggling or who may be looking to psychedelics as an alternative or an accompaniment to their existing support.
We hope to frame this up for you today in two ways. One is to talk about themes to think about in your capacity for that role, that information seeker, or maybe you find yourself in a situation where you are driving that process or spearheading that process.
And then the other side is, as always, try to give you some practical knowledge, insights, questions to ask yourself before you even get to the action part, the implementation part, and whatnot. And so, we see this very commonly.
It’s a mom calling on behalf of the son, or a parent calling on behalf of their children, or a friend calling on behalf of a friend, or a colleague, or a coworker, a spouse or a partner, calling on behalf of the other person.
We get some themes here of the level of involvement or participation from that potential journeyer, that psychedelic-interested person. We’re going to break this all down for you today, and give you some of our thoughts on it from fielding these inquiries. And just some of the best practices, not only to help that individual find the right psychedelic service.
If they should even move forward in psychedelic service. But more so than that, how to do this in a way that’s healthy for your relationship? How to do this in a way that’s not destructive to that dynamic or situation that you have going on with that loved one? Where do you want to start with this, Nick? I think that there’s a lot of different directions that this conversation could go.
Understanding Your Role & Navigating Consent
Nick: Okay, so I think we need to acknowledge that it’s hard to watch someone struggle, especially someone you care about. And it’s very natural for us to want to help alleviate other people’s suffering.
Whether, like you talked about, it’s mother and son or a spousal situation or friend, whatever it is, but it’s hard to watch people struggle. It’s thoughtful of you as a friend and supporter to come up with alternatives for them to help present different ways of healing and different paths forward, but you can’t do the healing for them.
Oftentimes what we see is that people kind of need to hit rock bottom themselves before they decide that they’re actually going to do something about this because a lot of times what we see is folks that reach out on behalf of a loved one.
And then when we talk to the loved one, they’re like, “Mm, I don’t even know if I want to change or I’m not even really sure what this process entails or I don’t really know why they reached out to try to get me to do this.”
You can see very quickly how often there’s a disconnect between the person that’s reaching out and the actual subject who would be the proposed recipient of the psychedelic ceremony or journey or microdosing, whatever it is.
Jimmy: Yeah. I’ll add a precursor to what you’re saying. I think it’s really poignant of what you’re highlighting that it’s hard to watch somebody suffer. I’ll flip that and take it a couple of steps backward where it’s often hard for the person who’s suffering to reach out for help.
Even before you get to the “How can I help? What can I do?” It’s important for you to get clear on the nature of the support and the help that the person is actually seeking. There are many situations where somebody just might need somebody to share this with.
There are many situations where somebody just wants to be heard, seen, and validated in their suffering. Even before you get to the step on how do I find help for this person, you should probably have a conversation on what it is that they’re wanting from you in that support situation.
I see this a lot where the fixer or the savior complex falls in or the, “Oh, this person reached out to me for help, so I should do my best to resolve this for them.” Maybe that person is reaching out for help, but they’re not ready for additional services.
Maybe they need to handle it within their community with friends and family. Maybe they’re not even open to peer support or counseling or therapy or psychedelic assistant services. There’s a lot of steps I think, before taking action and calling in a service like ours or somewhere else.
The first thing that I pose for folks who are listening to this, where this might be relevant to them is get really clear on what your role is in this situation because if there’s a disconnect between what the person is needing and asking for versus what you think your role is in, doesn’t matter whether it’s psychedelic-related or not, there’s going to be a disconnect there.
Nick: Well, it’s funny that you bring that up because I’ll spell out how this usually goes in practice. We get an email, something along the lines of, “Hey, my son is really struggling with OCD and eating disorders, I want to see if this can help him.”
Our first thing is like, “Okay, cool, we can chat about that, but we’re going to need to talk to your son firsthand.” The response is often, “Well, he doesn’t even know that I’m reaching out on his behalf to do this.” You can see how they’ve already missed that first step that you’re highlighting.
Jimmy: Yeah, of consent, of autonomy, of sovereignty, of empowering people to make their own choices. Think about that, about the trust in your relationship. If you’re reaching out without their knowledge to try to provide them this service, that can also come off as undermining and somewhat disrespectful to their process. I’ll add another layer, especially with the parents.
Jimmy: Usually, there’s a lot of judgment and bias baked into it, whether you are aware of it or not, because– I’m going to put a percentage out here. 70% of the time when it’s a parent reaching out on behalf of the kid, it’s also like, “Yeah, and they’ve been living with me and they can’t get a job and so on and so forth and they’re wasting their life and I want to X-Y-Z.”
I’m like, “Well, whose problems are you trying to solve, yours or theirs?” Also, can you even solve their problems if it’s like this deep process that they’re going through? Another part of this is, you really got to check your own biases, fears, concerns, hopes, expectations in this process.
Then, look, I also acknowledge very heartbreakingly, we’ve heard of parents who have spent their entire life savings to support, let’s say, a kid through alcohol recovery or addiction recovery.
And so I’m not discrediting that. What I’m saying is that there’s probably some collective pain and trauma in the situation and it’s really important for you to separate out what’s yours and what’s in the best support of the individual.
Nick: Which was a core theme, “how do you support a loved one going through this experience” in the prior episode. This is just a slightly different twist because it’s basically inquiring on behalf of a loved one, but that same principle still holds true.
The Importance of Assessing Your Own Goals & Expectations
Jimmy: Yeah. Going along with that, I’ll add distinctly that it’s also important for you to just check in on your own goals, intentions, and desired outcomes because those can fall into the expectation category.
When you are expecting or imagining a different process than what the individual is willing to do, what their timing is, what their own expectations and outcomes are, it can cause a lot of dissidents.
This adds in from a timing perspective, to a commitment perspective, to even understanding what the work looks like. Maybe you’re both expecting this to be some magic bullet or pill. Maybe you know what work is required as a part of this process, and they don’t.
Or maybe you feel they’re ready for the deep dive into this internal work and they’re not. Or maybe they have a different perspective on their own severity of the situation that’s different from yours.
The best way to handle all this is to have real open and honest communication with that person before you start researching and looking for services and engaging. If you all can get on the same page about a lot of this stuff, it will certainly, certainly create a healthier environment on how to potentially move forward.
Nick: Yeah. One of the things that brings up for me is just that, I don’t know what the percentage here would be, but I would venture to guess that 70% of the time that somebody reaches out on behalf of a loved one, it never goes anywhere.
Jimmy: Yeah, I agree. More times than not, folks are not moving forward than they are. Even if you have a pathway in front of you.
Nick: Yeah. For all the reasons aforementioned, and I think we should drill into some of these. Where I’d like to start is just that the journeyers got to be the one to choose if they want to do this. You, as the supporter, can have the best intentions in the world, but you cannot do the healing for them.
This you can see especially in the more codependent parent-child relationships or in the– I’m taking care of my elderly, mother or father, and they’re having this dementia, Alzheimer’s, will this help for them? All of that, although it’s coming from, in theory, a good place, you can’t fix them yourself.
Like, they have to choose that, there’s this thing that I’m working through and I’m going to choose something like an intentional psychedelic experience to help move through this. But if they haven’t made that choice or maybe they don’t even know what an intentional psychedelic experience is, they’re in no place to be able to explore something like that.
Jimmy: Yeah, I’ll encapsulate that in saying that you can’t take ownership or you should be aware of what you are consciously, subconsciously, unconsciously taking ownership of in their process.
I say this in my facilitation work, but I think it applies here that I can’t work harder than the journeyer. You as a supporter can’t work harder than the journeyer either. At best, you can meet folks where they’re at.
Nick: Match them.
Jimmy: Match where they’re at and that looks different like when folks– I know this in my own personal life, but when folks are going through mental health things, especially with depression-related things, sometimes their best is like getting out of bed and taking a shower.
If they’re not ready to hop on a call, or if they’re not ready to have a process where they’re exploring all of their sh*t internally, and then moving into a psychedelic experience that may amplify all of their sh*t so that they can properly and helpfully address and process them, you’re not going to be able to do it for them.
It does not matter if you’re sitting in ceremony with them or every step of the process or in preparation with them and integration, it does not matter, because at the end of the day, we share that psychedelics and psychedelic work are a catalyst, not a replacement.
The same applies for the role of the facilitator, the same applies for your role as a supporter. And likely you’ll probably do more damage if you do try to pull them along with you or do the bulk of the work or however it looks, there’s a lot of different ways that this looks in practicality and so that’s hard.
That’s hard when you’re seeing somebody suffer or you’re seeing somebody with this potential and they choose either not to take it or they don’t have the capacity to take it. I know that that’s really, really, difficult. What I’m saying is that you have to check yourself, [chuckles] I think if you’re going to have any chance of being in the most support of that person’s process.
Nick: Well, I think part of the dynamic that’s at play here is that you as the supporter think, “Oh my goodness, look at all these amazing outcomes.” Maybe you even had one yourself or maybe you just read some studies but you’re like, “Look at these amazing outcomes. My child, my partner, my mother, my whatever would benefit from this.”
You reach out, to explore on their behalf. But then what ends up happening is when we then connect with the journeyer, the person who would actually be going through the experience and explain to them the work that’s required.
We’ve recorded an episode on this if you want to know what that is, when they learn what’s required, the willingness to look under the hood, the willingness to make changes, the willingness to take full ownership of your situation.
Jimmy: To sit in uncomfortability, to look at your shadow and your demons, like that’s serious sh*t.
Nick: All of a sudden the journeyer goes, “Yeah, no, I’m not ready for that.” The parent goes, “Well, I didn’t even know that was a requirement.” You can see that the forces that are at play here, you basically got this, like, modern marketing machine that’s going, “Oh, my God, psychedelics are the cure-all for everything.”
And you’ve got a whole bunch of people in our population who are struggling, and so the natural thing to do is say, “Oh, well, maybe this can cure my son,” father, mother, brother, whoever it is that’s struggling.
Jimmy: I wonder what a father is, is that your father brother?
Nick: You can see that once again the intentions are good, but there’s almost like a lack of understanding from both parties of what is required to actually make this thing work in the efficacy levels that are described in some of these studies. I mean they’re committing to the process, and until you’ve made that internal commitment as a journeyer, it doesn’t matter what your loved ones want for you.
Mutual Discovery: An Alternative Approach to Psychedelic Support
Jimmy: I mean we’ve even seen this in people who move forward in ceremony and then they bail on integration. Even if you are moving forward in a psychedelic-related service and with great hope, you find a really well-equipped and capable and wonderful human as a facilitator.
There are folks who even go through the process themselves and are like, “Eh, I’m still not ready to open up pandora’s box of what’s going on with me internally. The other thing that comes up for me as a part of this conversation is for people who are more vulnerable who are more desperate.
This can create a lot of damage for them because you’ve now presented this glimmer of hope, this light at the end of the tunnel, this potential option, and you don’t even know if the person is fit for a psychedelic experience, whether mentally, emotionally, from medication, from physiology, from the set and setting conversations that have to happen.
I think a part of this too is not just about internally checking yourself, but then how do you communicate that to the individual? What comes up for me is that it’s really important that people feel like they have a choice, that they feel empowered, and that they feel they are capable of deciding.
At best, what you can do is you can provide some info, you can share some options, but that person has to be brought into the discovery process as well, so that they don’t feel they’re some quiet observer or some non-participant in this process. Their involvement in it is really important.
I mean, I’ve had conversations where somebody’s been introduced and they’re both on the call and the person’s describing whatever it is that they’re describing. They’re like, “Yeah, I’m at rock bottom and I’m at this place.”
Which generally will require further screening and further vetting and a really careful process, not only to see if that journeyer is the right fit for this but if I’m the right fit as a facilitator for them. Do I have the skill set? Do I have the modalities? Do I have all of that? I find that a lot of folks just drop out of that process.
They stop showing up the calls or they make an excuse or they reschedule or something comes up in their life. And, hey, all good like I’m not upset about that process, but then what are they left with?
Because in their narrative, in their mind, they’re like, “Oh, I explored psychedelic services and it’s not for me. So now I’m just stuck here.” There can be some of these repercussions as a part of not exploring psychedelic services in a really meaningful and thoughtful way because there is potential, there is massive, massive, potential.
It’s not for everybody either. If you are really hoping for this to be a potentially viable option for your loved one, do it thoughtfully and thoroughly in a place where you get yourself out of the way. That will give somebody the best opportunity to figure out if it’s right for them or not.
Nick: What you’re describing for me is often encapsulated by this understanding that we as humans don’t like to be told what to do. We like to be inspired to take action. Jamming things down people’s throats is rarely the way to get them to take action.
I was having this conversation with a former client of mine who reached back out on behalf of her daughter, which is exactly the dynamic that we’re addressing in this episode. She’s like, “I’ve been through this, I know how helpful this is, I think it can help her.” And that was my first thing.
I was like, “Well, where is she at with it?” She was like, “Well, she’s maybe open to it.” I was like, “Does she understand what’s required? What does the process entail?” And she’s like, “No, not really.” I’m like, “Okay, well, she can’t make a decision for herself if she doesn’t know what’s required.”
She was like, “What do you suggest I do as a next step?” I was like, “Well, have you guys spent any time learning together? Like, maybe you watch Fantastic Fungi as a family so that she knows what you went through and then she can then assess for herself.”
“Oh, interesting. Is this something that I think would help? Is it something that I’m even open to?” It’s often the dynamic of, like, people want to discover for themselves their next path. They don’t want it to be their only option that’s forced on them by a parent or a spouse or whatever.
There’s ways to go about this that aren’t rooted in manipulation, but rather in mutual discovery. Can you approach this in a way that has no expectations but is actually rooted in just discovering more? What does this look like? What does this entail? What would it look like if I were to explore this?
Jimmy: Yeah. Does that person know that you’re going to love them no matter what? Have you even checked with yourself if you’re going to love this person no matter what? If they go through this process, or don’t or reject help or go a different route or go a different pathway.
If you haven’t had those conversations and you can’t come into this place from a supportive, nonjudgmental, caring and compassionate space, it doesn’t matter how much information you get or don’t get about psychedelic-related services. I’ll give another example that’s semi related to this.
This speaks more about sovereignty and empowerment where this individual reached out, we are chatting over a period of a couple of weeks, or a couple of months, because they have more acute things going on with them.
After many conversations about their mental health, diagnoses, about what type of support they have around them, where they’re at in their life, all of those things. They were like, “Yeah, my parents are super supportive. I’m really open, I have a lot of care, I have a lot of all of that.” We’re chatting for probably about a month and a half, two months at this point and then we stop in for a check-up, just call, just to touch base.
What they decided was they were like, “Given the information and what you’ve shared about what’s required in this work, actually realize that I’m not ready for this, because I am now approaching a place in my life where, though I do want to do this work, what’s actually more important to me right now is my stability.
In that regard it’s important for me to stay on the meds that I’m on, which was their choice anyways. I’m just starting a new job and so on and so forth.” They decided to not move forward. And sometimes that’s actually the best outcome and that wouldn’t have happened if I was trying to sell them on a ceremony. It wouldn’t have happened if I put my own needs or biases or perspective on this.
The line that I tried to take was, “Hey, here’s the info here’s the options, here’s what’s available to you, and here are the things that you need to think about before you even decide to commit to any type of psychedelic work.” Maybe you should check on your own desperation or if this is your last resort or all those things.
And having an open conversation, then giving that person some time to breathe and some time to think about that, that’s what in my belief allowed that individual to come back and be like, “You know what? I’m actually going to not move forward with this.” And that actually seems to be the decision that was the highest and best for me.
Nick: Well, that’s the same lens that a parent or brother, or a spouse could take. It’s like, “Here’s the information. Here’s how the process works. Here’s all this stuff. But ultimately, it’s your life, and you choose what you want to do and I’m going to support you either way.”
But oftentimes that’s not the lens that the supporter takes, because of what we started the episode with, which is that it’s hard to watch people struggle, and we’re often better at trying to fix their suffering or alleviate their suffering than we are holding compassion and just massive acceptance for where they’re at in their process.
Respecting Personal Timelines in Psychedelic Healing
Jimmy: It’s hard enough talking about feelings and emotions among family, [laughs] let alone this deeply vulnerable stuff.
Nick: I think that the takeaway for me is like, no matter how well-intentioned you are in terms of reaching out on behalf of a loved one for some sort of work with psychedelics, it’s really not your place.
It’s their decision to do so and you can reach out and fact-find and get info so that you can relay things but they have to internally decide that this is what they want to do. You, me, none of us can force someone to embark on this kind of journey. It just does not work that way.
Jimmy: Yeah, I’ll summarize a few things. So, consent and transparency is really important. I think that consent and transparency, the precursor of that is creating a supportive relationship and environment where the individual feels empowered, feels like they do have a choice, feels like they do have a say.
I think even before that is for you to check internally about your role in this. And your role is also defined not only by the dynamic of the relationship, but also your own internal landscape, your own biases, judgments, your own fears, or maybe losing this person because that can cloud the way that you support folks.
Ultimately the best that you can do is match somebody’s energy and be a supporter, but you can’t do the work for them, you can’t lead them or be in front of them. It’s really about being alongside. I think this person as they navigate this, and that role may shift and adjust over time.
It’s not like if you’re the primary person, you may not be the primary supporter or caretaker or whatever word you want to use all the time. Like, maybe you have boundaries and limitations where you need to take a step back a little bit or hopefully, there’s a task of supporters and friends and family and supporters.
Ultimately, you can be a bridge to the psychedelic world that has the potential for this type of work. You could be a very sturdy bridge, but you can’t make the person walk across it, you can’t make the person take a couple of steps and then double back, you can’t influence or control– [crosstalk]
Nick: It’s a good analogy. I like that one.
Jimmy: Yeah, just came [crosstalk] out with it.
Nick: Yeah, you can service the bridge, but that’s about it.
Jimmy: If you don’t have your internal landscape figured out and know where your limitations are, that bridge is going to be a little rocky. Cementing your own foundation, to allow that person to figure out if they want to walk across that bridge themselves or not. What did I miss? Did I miss anything in that little summary for folks?
Nick: I think the only other thing is just recognizing that timing is also a component here. Sometimes people aren’t ready now but will be ready in 6, 12, months, whatever the case is. Just know that every person is on their own unique timeline.
The most important thing is that they know that there’s options available. But ultimately, the healing does not happen on your timeline, it happens on their timeline, and you’re reaching out in support of them. Just know that it’s not yours to dictate the trajectory and the timing of how this whole thing unfolds.
Jimmy: Yeah, in addition to the timeline, I’ll also add in risk tolerance and so your risk tolerance in this specific current stage of this work may be different than theirs. Maybe they’re a government employee, maybe they do rely on federal assistance or whatnot and you don’t.
Maybe your perspective on the stuff, especially if you’re a parent and you did psychedelics back in the 60s and 70s, may be different from theirs if they’ve never tried a substance or whatnot.
We mostly focused on the internal emotional mental state here, but there’s just some really tangible parts of that too, that are really important. So, thanks for listening. That brings us to the end of our episode here.
We truly hope that this will open up some potential and space for some meaningful heart-to-hearts with your loved ones and folks in your lives. If you have any comments or questions or follow-up, you’re always welcome to reach out to us and our team and we’ll try to get a dialogue going with you.
You can download episodes of the Psychedelic Passage podcast anywhere that you get your podcast, Apple Podcast, Amazon, Spotify, IHeartRadio. Nick and I have started to post some of our episodes on YouTube.
Nick: If you want the video.
Jimmy: If you want the video or to look at our faces, either way. And if you like the show, please rate, review, that helps other folks find our content.
We’ve been getting a lot of amazing feedback from folks, and I got to tell you, it really brightens my day whenever I get feedback from folks because it’s just a signal to Nick and I that our ramblings like matter, [laughs] that they’re actually helping folks. So that means a lot for us too. Thank you for listening and we’ll see you next week.
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