Bronya lay blindfolded on a bed at Bellevue Hospital and saw the dragon.
As her body metabolized psilocybin, a hallucinogenic mushroom extract, the 55-year-old home nurse then somehow found herself inside the animal, resting in its belly like a baby in the womb as it flew over the mountains.
They came down to what Bronya can only remember as a huge “fleshy thing, it was like pink shreds of tissue”. He pushed himself. It surrounded him and he found himself in a dark cave. There he saw a pile of glowing eggs. She was swaddled in the womb for the second time during the trip. It was a reverse birth. One of the eggs gave her a message: The egg was her, from another time and dimension, and she wanted to be born.
This vision contradicted decades of belief. “I often thought it would have been better if I had never been born,” said Bronya (pseudonym). She grew up in Eastern Europe with cold and distant parents. She moved to New York City for a job as a translator. The work is finished. The city was a lonely place. Her depression caused brain fog, distracted her from desire or ambition, and fueled self-loathing. She used to drink alcohol while sipping half a bottle of wine throughout the day.
Bronya was privileged to receive a research study that found the only legal way to access psilocybin therapy programs in the US. New scientific research has another option: a growing network of “psychedelic support” therapists working in a legal gray area.
They will not help you procure illegal drugs. Or most don’t. What they can do is talk about research-backed reasons for trying different substances. Psilocybin can reduce symptoms of depression, while MDMA has shown results in post-traumatic stress disorder. They will help you prepare for your experience and decipher it later. They usually do not take out insurance.
They are accredited, board-certified clinical social workers. Some have cut their teeth while working in the “travel tents” at concerts or through self-experiments. Some have taken psychedelic therapy courses at organizations like the California Institute of Integral Studies or Naropa University—both small four-year colleges with a foundation in Eastern philosophy—or at the mother of all mind expansion research organizations, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (Cards)
“I add to your hope and desire as it can be a facilitator for change, growth, healing and consciousness expansion…”
As psychedelics go mainstream, they’re taking on a role once occupied by underground trip sitters and ayahuasca-ministering shamans. Researchers increasingly believe that psychedelics (a category expanded in this context to include empathogens such as MDMA) cause rewiring of neural circuits that allow a person to overcome the state of immobility they find themselves in.
Bronya felt emotionally lighter after her first visit three years ago. “I was stuck in such a stupid place,” she said. “I just blamed myself for failing. I just have more compassion for myself [now],
But she also felt off balance. “I couldn’t decide,” she said. “I had all these thoughts about politics, music and art that I couldn’t sort out.”
He started having anxiety attacks. “It was like someone gave me a software update and I didn’t know how to use the software.”
She had a few follow-up sessions with New York University doctors who led the study, but it wasn’t enough. So she found two sources who could help her: a supplier of psilocybin for microdosing, and a psychedelics-savvy therapist who charges $300 for Zoom sessions.
The legacy of psychedelic support therapists is growing. According to the site’s founder, the Psychedelic Support Network, an online directory, reached 1,200 listed healthcare providers this month. A year ago it was 492.
In its five years of existence, the California Institute of Integral Studies has graduated 549 therapists from its Psychedelic Therapy Training Certificate Program. Naropa University launched a similar program with 108 participants last year. A MAPS spokesman said 1,800 doctors had completed their training program.
Chris Hancock, a psychedelic support therapist in suburban Nashville, did his share of mind-altering substances in the 1980s in the form of second-wave Deadhead. The graduate psychologist now advises on travel medication for therapy. Most clients see him through teletherapy. He has a white stubble beard and intense green-eyed eyes. In the background is a portrait of an old man hobbling on a Picasso guitar.
“I add to your hope and desire to be a facilitator for transformation, growth, healing, and expansion of consciousness into that particular substance that you may be drawn to,” he explained.
Agenda items include “setting intentions, talking about the contradiction between intention and intention to surrender, and remembering to surrender during the process.”
People usually see her for PTSD or depression. Drugs of choice include psilocybin and ketamine, the latter being legal; A prescription nasal spray is FDA-approved for “treatment-resistant” depression.
Where customers get their drugs from “doesn’t really interest me that much,” Hancock said. “Everyone can make their own decisions about how to use them.” Some of his customers grow mushrooms at home.
His psychedelics session costs $160 an hour, the same as any out-of-pocket session.
“I can’t get a job in Corporate America. It pitted me against the system.”
Part of a psychedelics therapist’s role is simply to offer advice on practical ideas to people who don’t travel for leisure.
Portland’s Brian Pilecki has a checklist: Design a safe space. Recruit a trusted friend or friends to stay with. Look at the schedule for the next day. Maybe take a break from work. “There are a lot of details like this that people who are completely new to it don’t think about,” Pilecki said. “They don’t think about how to plan meals. All of these things can affect the experience.”
Established psychedelic support therapists may find themselves in an emergency when therapy receives full government support.
Consistent with the conviction of clinical research over the past 15 years, many medical professionals, including some under the Biden administration, believe that within two years the Food and Drug Administration will replace MDMA for PTSD and psilocybin for depression. will authorize. Oregon lifted a ban on the powerful medicinal psilocybin in 2023. Some biotech companies are already luring investors with patents on psychedelics-derived drugs.
Until now, psychedelic support therapists have faced the dilemma of not being able to provide the full package, with the exception of a select few who work with ketamine clinics. Customers must rate their own medication.
Fearing losing their license, many of the above doctors make it clear to patients that they will do nothing to help them find medication. That’s Pilecki’s policy. “I don’t like doing anything illegal,” he said. “Basically, I provide therapeutic services to clients who are themselves psychedelics users.”
If you ask almost any psychedelic support therapist, they will admit that they know – even respect – some people who work “underground” (although they fear a lack of accountability).
“An underground man is someone who facilitates the psychedelic experience,” Pilecki said, “and some of them are therapists or have therapist training. Some of them are more religious, or I identify as magicians or something. But basically, they make those experiences available to people. It’s illegal.”
In Portland, however, the psychedelics are being so exonerated that underground leaders are handing them business cards. Pilecki does not pass them on to the client. But some of his peers will.
“There are some therapists who consult with subterranean guides or refer their clients to subterranean guides and work with them,” he said. “So there is a limit and a significantly higher risk.”
Chris Lamanna, a fast-paced, fiery bearded yoga teacher and psychedelic guide living near Detroit, is the underground counterpart of trip therapy. He runs a one-man alternative health business called AHA Wellness.
Lamanna graduated from Central Michigan University in 2013 with a BA in business administration and two felonies for selling psilocybin. “It freed me to take a different path in life,” he said. “I can’t get a job in American companies. It pitted me against the system. It inspired me to travel, teach yoga. It was a blessing in disguise.”
He spent time in Peru learning to work with ayahuasca, then trained in Ecuador with huachuma, a hallucinogen from the San Pedro cactus, at retreat centers run by indigenous peoples. When he and his wife returned to Michigan, Ann Arbor and Detroit decriminalized psychedelic plants.
LaManna speaks like a therapist. ,[I’m] Putting together programs like this that people can use to make lasting changes so that psychedelics can give you a fresh start, to give you some room for change,” he said. includes yoga and exercise. He tries to train with humans for six months. He charges $3,000 for this type of psychedelic overhaul.
What sets LaManna apart from a licensed clinical social worker in the psychedelic field is that if you ask her to connect you with a drug supplier, she will happily give you one.
“Yes, I can point you in the right direction,” he said. “For example, I know people who grow mushrooms and live in Detroit and Ann Arbor. So yeah, at least it’s not too hard to get your hands on herbal medicines.” He’s dealing with legal issues. Don’t worry. “I think the police have big fish to fry.”
Lamanna is less enthusiastic about legalizing the field, not just because it could put him out of a job, he says. For him, psychedelics are spiritual. He doesn’t want to see her “transformed into another object.”
“I’m very surprised at psychiatrists and psychologists where it’s just a job for them,” Laman said, “and they don’t continue their work.” By that he means tripping himself.
“You know, you can’t take anyone in front of you.”