Should you do psychedelic therapy?
First, let's explore the dark underbelly of the psychedelic renaissance.
I have a lot to say about my involvement in underground psychedelics. When I entered the world of psychedelic work, we rarely discussed safety. Because, well, it was underground and well known that every angle in any conversation was risky. It was essentially assuming that all leadership carried strong morals. I belonged to a well-intended small community, with lone practitioners working quietly. It was a who-knows-who world, and people seemed to be careful for the most part.
When I cast a giant net and started to talk more candidly on social media, I heard murmurs of dangerous practices. Being accused and confronted with tricky questions online - whispers of controversy and unsafe practices rustled in the periphery. The industry leaders I looked up to had lineages of students and methods that I believed were healing and safe, but even so, something wasn't right. It was time to check in with the people I had been closest to in this work. Respectfully put off, I was told, "you're on your own, kid." In other words, we don't talk about that.
Psychedelics are powerful drugs that require immense care. Guiding clients was an honour and an enormous responsibility. Roadblocked and rattled, I wrapped up my guiding work, knowing if something had happened in my care, it was on me to handle all of it.
I am here to honour you by being honest and telling you the truth. Stepping back from the underground work was only the beginning. It had been an intense run, so a respite was due. It's hard to know the most challenging part of a cultural reset or the realignment, reckoning, or whatever happened in the last five years. I chose to step away from the problem and look away. It was hard to convey to people when the slippery topic of safety with psychedelics arose. More and more questionable practices started showing up in integration spaces. I was unaware of the magnitude of the problem until a dear caring friend tapped me on the shoulder with the gentleness I needed to finally take in the truth of what was happening.
If you have not heard the Podcast series New York Magazine's Cover Story: Power Trip podcast shows, explore the dark underbelly of the psychedelic renaissance.
Reporting on Cover Story, Lily Kay Ross says, "I've come to understand that the scope and severity of abuse within the psychedelic movement are worse than I ever imagined," says Ross. "I believe that the safety of vulnerable people depends on having an honest conversation, and I hope this show can help kickstart a conversation that should have started a long time ago."
Sitting with discomfort I'm careful about suggesting people follow my lead. I am here to have a candid conversation.
How do you know whether or not someone is safe?
How does someone hold space without meddling in the journey?
Many people have excellent, caring guides and have tremendously benefitted from their experiences. Honestly, the media covers that part well.
Standing at the precipice of a new era, we should ask:
Are we neglecting a pattern of deception and misuse of power among some psychedelic movement leaders? Is this a familiar problem leftover from the previous generation? Are there promises left unfulfilled because there is no good solution? Is the backstory the background that fills in some blanks in potentially more defining than just blaming the War on Drugs?
I hope we can agree on the one thing: There's much to be done to make psychedelic therapy safer. And it's not just in the psychedelic underground. Safety standards have gone awry in the wellness gurus, yoga and New Age Spirituality. Please help familiarize yourself with both sides of this conversation. Once you know what to look for, you'll start seeing and knowing what is best for you.
Should you do psychedelic therapy?
Start researching or expanding on what you already know. Ask questions even if they are hard or think they may make you seem amateurish.
I can't know everything, which is a great relief. I can shed human tears about how painfully complex and beautiful it is to begin to know better.
If this info squeezed your heart even just a bit, please smash the "heart" button below or leave a comment.
Hugs and Drugs,
@firesideproject is a psychedelic peer support line and education platform—a critical resource to our community.
Lily Kay Ross, PhD has been taking a feminist approach to theorizing ethics in psychedelic spaces since 2009, especially with regard to sexual misconduct, abuses of power, charlatans, and the dominance of traditional gender norms in psychedelic spaces.
Psymposia is a 501(c)(3) non-profit media organization that offers leftist perspectives on drugs, politics, and culture. www.psymposia.com