Mdma therapy near me

California Center for Psychedelic Therapy


The California Center for Psychedelic Therapy

Our center is the premier clinical center in Southern California specializing in psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy and complementary clinical services. Through providing the highest quality treatment interventions, professional development, and cutting-edge research in the world, we are committed to assisting people who are seeking healing and growth. Our multidisciplinary team of clinicians and researchers is at the forefront of the budding field of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy.

Our mission is to share our unique clinical expertise and ongoing research as we refine new, safe, and effective treatment methods that help our clients and communities find relief and thrive.

Meet Our Team >

Psychedelic-Assisted Psychotherapy offers new hope for healing and personal transformation to those experiencing significant mental health challenges. Our expert team of psychiatric and mental health professionals are leaders in the research, development and provision of psychedelic medicine and therapy.


What We Treat

We offer safe and confidential psychological and psychiatric services for the treatment of most mental health challenges.  Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy has been proven effective for reducing symptoms of Treatment-Resistant Depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Anxiety, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and Bipolar Depression.  Transpersonal psychotherapy and psychedelic integration services are more widely available to all of those in need, regardless of diagnosis. We treat people who are suffering with legal, evidence-informed and client-centered services.

Get in touch with us to find out how we can help you achieve your goals.


Even in cases where other treatments have not helped, Ketamine-Assisted Therapy can provide long-term relief from both unipolar and bipolar depression.

Anxiety & OCD

Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy is an effective treatment for anxiety and OCD. If you’re looking for relief, we can help.

Traumatic Stress

Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy is a short-term, intensive treatment that can provide lasting relief from PTSD. All of our therapists are trauma-informed and available to provide trauma treatment with or without ketamine.

Our Services

Our areas of specialization include: Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy; Transpersonal Psychotherapy; Psychedelic Integration Therapy; and Psychedelic Therapy Consultation, Education and Research.


Ketamine-assisted Psychotherapy (KAP)

Ketamine therapy is shown to be very effective for patients with Treatment-Resistant Depression—it provides immediate relief in depression symptoms for over 40% of people who have not had success with other antidepressants. It’s also an effective treatment for Anxiety, PTSD, OCD, and Bipolar Depression.

At our center, every KAP session includes dedicated time for integration therapy with a psychotherapist experienced in both the ketamine experience and traditional psychological approaches to therapy. Our treatment teams consist of registered medical and mental health professionals, experienced in treating mental health disorders with and without ketamine. Both are authorized by their respective licensure boards to provide the gold standard of professional psychiatric and psychotherapeutic services.

Find Out More About KAP

Psychedelic Integration Therapy

Integration therapy is designed to support the synthesis of mind and body before and after a psychedelic experience. While we do not provide, condone, or support the use of illegal substances, our integration services offer a safe, confidential space to prepare for and process non-ordinary states and their potential for personal and societal transformation.

About Integration and Harm Reduction

Transpersonal PsychoTherapy

Experiencing traumatic stress, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, spiritual, and relationship challenges can make even the most mundane daily activities seem impossible. Many of our clients have struggled to feel change despite prior attempts at therapy.

Others are interested in increasing their understanding of their inner self, their purpose, and how this process can impact their behavior.

Learn About Transpersonal Psychotherapy

we’re here to support youR Health

“There is an innate ability to heal, and the therapist’s job is to remove obstacles and create favorable conditions for healing.”
— Dr. Michael Mithoefer, MAPS Public Benefit Corporation 

Ready to take the next step?


How to Find Psychedelic Assisted Therapy Near Me: A Guide

It’s no wonder that the words “psychedelic assisted therapy near me” have become an increasingly popular Google search. People are learning more and more about how psychedelics can help address mental health issues, and they’re curious about accessing these benefits. 

The benefits of psychedelics for use in therapy are innumerable. Research is accumulating and new studies are constantly being published highlighting the effectiveness of psychedelic drugs in treating mood disorders, addiction, and other diseases. 

A quick Google search yields tens if not hundreds of results for ketamine clinics and therapists—how do you choose which one is legitimate? Are there clinics available for other substances like psilocybin and DMT? In this article, we’ll tell you a little about why people are using psychedelics, as well as how you can access an assisted therapy session, and how to choose the best clinic for your needs. 

What is Psychedelic Assisted Therapy? 

Psychedelic assisted therapy utilizes a specific psychedelic substance (like ketamine or cannabis), typically administered by medical practitioners and/or therapists who are present throughout the entire experience. Medical practitioners, universities, and research hospitals are using psychedelics to learn about the brain and assess the long-lasting benefits of psychedelic assisted therapy. 

Plants and substances derived from plants have been used for thousands of years—both for pleasure and healing purposes. Non-plant derived psychedelics, such as LSD and ketamine, were discovered in more recent history and were first synthesized in 1938 and 1962, respectively. 

Research into the healing properties of psychedelics tapered off in the 1950s jump-started again in the late 1990s, and is currently picking up momentum again. There is now a lot of research indicating that therapy utilizing the consumption of psychedelic substances is effective at treating several types of mental illnesses including PTSD, anxiety, addiction, and depression. 

Psychedelic assisted therapy makes use of a moderate to high dose of a psychedelic to create an “overwhelming and transcendent experience,” which can often help improve mental health, especially for conventional treatment resistant conditions. Though there are potential side effects, patients are under medical supervision throughout the session. And some find that these sessions are a better alternative than prescribed antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication that has a wide range of potential side effects including fatigue, insomnia, weight gain, sexual dysfunction, constipation, and suicide. 

Assisted therapy may be a single session, or several sessions over the course of a few months, depending on the needs of the participant. It is often combined with integration sessions both before and after the psychedelic experience. 

Most psychedelic assisted therapy clinics are run by medical practitioners (MDs, DOs, or Psy-Ds as examples) and sometimes complete additional training with psychedelic focused organizations such as the California Institute of Integral Studies, Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), or the Usona Institute. 

These practitioners have varying levels of experience administering and experiencing psychedelic substances themselves, so due diligence is recommended to find the best option for you. We advise you to only work with practitioners who have consumed these substances themselves so they understand what you will be going through. 

Are you one of the many people who might benefit from utilizing psychedelics to access your subconscious thought processes and patterns or better manage a mental health issue? Let’s take a look at how you can find psychedelic assisted therapy—wherever you are in the US. 

The Current State of Psychedelic Assisted Therapy: An Overview

Currently, the only legal psychedelic-assisted therapy in the US, meaning consuming a psychedelic substance in the presence of a licensed mental health professional, is ketamine-assisted therapy. This is because ketamine is a Schedule III drug (approved for off-label use) on the Federally Controlled Substances List, while most other psychedelic substances are Schedule I. 

However, many local and state municipalities have decriminalized certain psychedelics, which reduces the risk of possession and use. Psilocybin-assisted therapy will be legal in the State of Oregon, but the program won’t come online until 2022 at the earliest. This is why many people seeking intentional psychedelic use will be hard pressed to find a licensed mental health professional (i.e. therapist, counselor, or psychiatrist) who can also serve as an in-person guide or trip sitter during the experience itself. 

That limits your options to the following:

  1. Ketamine or cannabis assisted therapy within the US
  2. An international retreat where psychedelics are legal
  3. Underground therapists (we can’t help here as this is not legal)
  4. US-based psychedelic guides and trip sitters (this is what we do)

We believe that it is a fundamental human right to commune with plant medicine and psychedelic substances for healing, regardless of whether you prefer to work with a licensed mental health professional or not.

This is why we created Psychedelic Passage; to provide guidance before, during, and after an intentional psychedelic experience. Please note that we are not licensed mental health professionals nor do we provide controlled substances. For more information on our services, we invite you to request a consult with one of our facilitators.

Legal Psychedelic Assisted Therapy Options

So, psychedelics have caught your attention and you’ve been wondering, “how can I find psychedelic assisted therapy near me?” If you would have asked this question a decade ago, you would have ran into many dead ends. 

However, thanks to the tireless efforts of researchers and the growing psychedelic community, accessing psychedelic assisted therapy is easier than ever before. Because many of these psychedelics are still considered illegal substances, some types of psychedelic therapy (with use of the drugs themselves) are illegal in the US outside of clinical studies. That said, there are still some viable legal alternatives with more coming online in the future. 

U.S. Based Psychedelic Assisted Therapy

Until psilocybin and MDMA are approved for therapeutic use in the next couple of years, there are just two legal options for psychedelic assisted therapy in the United States: ketamine assisted therapy and cannabis assisted therapy.  

Ketamine assisted therapy

Ketamine has been approved by the FDA as an anesthetic for nearly half a decade. Recent clinical trials demonstrating benefits in treating mood disorders has meant that ketamine can also be administered for “off-label uses.” Even without appropriate FDA classification for ketamine as a medicine, health providers have been using ketamine for years to treat Bipolar Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, and PTSD.

For many in the psychiatric community, ketamine is nothing short of a ground-breaking treatment. Ketamine-assisted therapy is a rapidly growing field and the combination of ketamine with psychotherapy has produced lasting changes when it comes to PTSD, anxiety, and depression. 

Ketamine has a response rate of 60-75% when it comes to antidepressant effects. In particular, therapists are excited about ketamine’s potential in treating the 1% of Americans who have treatment-resistant depression. There are now hundreds of ketamine clinics around the US, and just last year, the FDA approved esketamine, a nasal spray to be used with conventional antidepressants.  

Ketamine assisted therapy will provide a much more intense psychedelic experience than cannabis therapy, which we address in the following section. It is best for people who have a stubborn chronic condition that is resistant to other forms of treatment. 

Cannabis assisted therapy

The medical use of cannabis dates back to 1838—when it successfully treated rheumatic pains, tetanus, and epilepsy. Since then, cannabis (both THC and CBD) has been studied for treatment potential with multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, chronic pain, schizophrenia, sleep disturbance, Tourette syndrome, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, PTSD, and social anxiety. With the uptick in states legalizing both medical and recreational marijuana, the US has welcomed several cannabis clinics and therapists. 

An estimated 3-5% of the global population has experimented with cannabis and its entheogenic or spiritual use dates back to more than 3,000 years ago. Cannabis plays a role in psychotherapy for some of the same reasons it was historically used.  

When properly used in a therapeutic setting, heightened awareness and reduced inhibitions may work as a “truth serum,” bringing difficult thoughts and feelings to the forefront for healthy reflection and processing. Dose, strain, set, and setting are all important for making the most out of an experience with cannabis, and a cannabis assisted therapist can help you optimize all of these. 

Cannabis assisted therapy is a great option for people who are looking to introduce plants into their therapy sessions without having a full psychedelic trip. Cannabis is considered to be an “ally plant” rather than a “teacher plant,” making it gentler than other psychedelic substances. 

Traveling Outside of the U.S. for a Trip

If you’re seeking psychedelic assisted therapy with a substance other than ketamine or cannabis, your only legal option (currently) is to go overseas. While the US has yet to recognize that the ban on some of these psychedelics should be lifted, fortunately that doesn’t apply everywhere.  

Some countries recognize the sacramental value of psychedelics, so while they’re technically illegal, they are allowed in traditional use. Other countries have never made psychedelics illegal, and even if they have (in the case of Portugal), they typically don’t enforce it. 

Psilocybin retreats are common in Mexico, Jamaica, and the Netherlands. San Pedro and ayahuasca retreats can easily be found in countries like Colombia, Costa Rica, Brazil, Ecuador, and Peru. While not as popular, practitioners offering 5-MeO-DMT can be found in Spain and Mexico. Iboga treatment centers have opened recently in Mexico, Canada, Costa Rica, and Portugal. 

In reality, these psychedelic retreats are more ceremonial in nature as opposed to 1-on-1 style Western psychedelic assisted therapy. That means international retreats are a better option for those seeking a more indigenous, ceremonial, and spiritual experience. 

Though these international trips are a legal option, a number of considerations must be taken into account before embarking on this type of journey. In addition to travel logistics and taking time off work, vetting and reviewing psychedelic retreat and spiritual centers can be difficult from afar. 

Psychedelics can put the user in a vulnerable condition, both mentally and physically, so utmost care should be taken to find a safe and reputable place. We’ll explain more on how to do this in the next section.

How to Actually Choose Which Option is Right for You

Now that you know which psychedelic assisted therapy options exist, it’s time to choose the path that’s best for you. We know it can be daunting to choose which of the hundreds of clinics is a good fit for you personally. That’s why we at Psychedelic Professionals have put together this guide to help you find a trusted, legal, psychedelic assisted therapy clinic that fits your unique needs.

  1. Initial Search

In addition to performing a search on Google, there are sites like MAPS and Retreat Guru that will help you identify legitimate psychedelic assisted therapy practitioners. We suggest using whatever resources at your disposal to search for options that meet your parameters. Using this as a starting point, you can then apply the filters below to narrow down your results.

  1. Determine Your Desired Outcome

What is your desired outcome? It’s important to choose a substance and a therapist that can help you achieve your desired outcome. Psychedelics like ketamine are better at treating depression, whereas substances like MDMA may be better served for treating PTSD. If you’re looking for more, we’ve put together a full guide on how to choose the right psychedelic substance based on your desired outcome. 

It is also worth noting that therapists have different specialties. Some therapists specialize in addiction, while others specialize in trauma, anxiety, or stress reduction. We suggest choosing a therapist that specializes in treating your condition using psychedelics. 

  1. What is Your Budget

Like every professional service, psychedelic assisted therapy is provided at a variety of different price points. Ketamine assisted therapy is generally the most expensive form of psychedelic assisted therapy in the U.S, costing hundreds of dollars for a single session. Plus, it may require multiple treatments to get your desired result. Cannabis provides a far cheaper alternative. 

International retreats vary in price, but with airfare, the price can exceed ketamine assisted therapy locally. The upside to international retreats is that your money goes further—the retreat price often includes accommodations, food, and activities. Plus you get to choose your psychedelic of choice. This makes retreats the most immersive option that certainly provides immense value, but the cost for these international trips usually start at around $1500. 

  1. Which Therapy Modality is Best For You?

There are hundreds of different therapeutic modalities: somatic therapy, transpersonal therapy, shamanic healing, gestalt therapy, EMDR, brainspotting, hypnosis…the list goes on. It’s important to choose a therapist that’s using a modality that resonates with you. 

A quick Google search will provide insight into the nuances of each modality. There is no right or wrong choice, it’s simply choosing a modality that you would like to employ on your quest for healing. 

  1. Reviews & References

We absolutely suggest reading reviews or asking for previous client references prior to moving forward with a therapist. If the therapist is unable to provide reviews or references, that is a red flag. 

Transparency is of the utmost importance when doing psychedelic assisted therapy. After all, you’re essentially putting your psyche in the hands of another person. It is critical that you feel comfortable and safe with this person.

  1. Availability

Given the popularity of psychedelic assisted therapy, many therapists have long waitlists. This means you could wait months before engaging with the therapist of your choice. If time is of the essence, it’s important that you find a therapist who can help you quickly. That may mean sacrificing your first pick for someone else who is also qualified and immediately available, but may be located further away. 

  1. Location

For those of you located in major metropolitan areas, you’ll have plenty of psychedelic assisted therapy options at your disposal. If you live in a more rural area, your options will likely be slim. However, assuming you have a vehicle, you’ll likely be able to drive to the nearest metro area to find the services you seek. 

As we mentioned above, if you’re willing to travel by plane, your options increase significantly. There are international retreats of all types in many different countries. You may find that a country you’ve always wanted to visit actually hosts psychedelic retreats.   

  1. Questions to Ask

There are some crucial due diligence questions we suggest asking during your discovery process. Our recommendation is to schedule an initial consult with the clinics or therapists that are still on your list and ask them the following:

  • What is your personal experience with psychedelics? (We only suggest doing psychedelic assisted therapy with therapists who have ingested the substance themselves)
  • Why do you do this work?
  • Have you successfully helped someone with [YOUR DESIRED OUTCOME]?
  • What modalities do you specialize in?
  • How many sessions do you think it will take to achieve my desired result?
  • Do you do preparation and integration services as well? (In our opinion, preparation and integration is non-negotiable, but it can be done with a different practitioner if needed)
  • Who on your staff would I be directly working with and what relevant experience do they have? (If possible, request to meet with these individuals before making your decision) 
  • Do you have both male and female therapists available? (Some therapists will practice as a male/female duo)
  • Is your staff available outside of assisted therapy sessions in the case of emergency  situations? 
  • What safety and harm reduction practices do you have in place? 
  • What are your payment terms and do you accept insurance? 
  1. Use Your Intuition

The final step is to use your intuition. Pay attention to what you feel in your gut as your having discovery calls with potential clinics and therapists. If you don’t feel good after the conversation, do you really want to work with them? You are seeking this person out for healing—they’re behavior and presence should reflect that. Also remember that it is your right to choose the best practitioner for you, and this includes the right to information and to ask questions.

By addressing the major points above, you’ll increase the likelihood of finding the best practitioner, therapist or clinic in your local area. 

Underground Psychedelic Assisted Therapy

It is worth noting that there are some therapists providing underground psychedelic assisted therapy—meaning they are performing therapy with illegal psychedelic compounds like psilocybin and DMT. These therapists are risking their license to provide a service that many patients truly need. 

Unfortunately, we cannot provide referrals or recommendations to underground psychedelic assisted therapy at this time. Should you choose to explore this option, please ensure that you are vetting the practitioner to the best of your ability. 

Legal Alternatives to Psychedelics

Other legal options involve altered states of consciousness—without consuming any substances. Since it was developed by Stanislav and Christina Grof in 1975, Holotropic Breathwork has taken the world by storm. Holotropic Breathwork was designed to provide the effects of MDMA, ayahuasca, psilocybin, and LSD through hyperventilation and music. 

It’s as effective as psychedelics in causing a therapeutic and transpersonal experience, and has been demonstrated to assist patients with various psychological problems. Those interested in holotropic breathwork should seek medical advice to ensure there are no preexisting conditions that may increase risk, such as respiratory or circulation issues. There are also other ways to enter the psychedelic realm without actually taking a drug.

Integrating the Psychedelic Experience

Although it’s not quite the same as psychedelic assisted therapy, psychedelic integration utilizes the help of a trained professional to help you make sense of your journey after the trip itself. That is one of the services we offer at Psychedelic Passage—the other is trip sitting with an emphasis on harm reduction. We are a collective of trained guides that can provide you actionable knowledge on how to reduce harm, increase effectiveness, and help you integrate your psychedelic experience into everyday life. 

While 84% of participants in a psilocybin study ranked the experience as one of the top five most meaningful of their lives, the long-term benefits achieved might not have been possible without the support of a coach or therapist. Psychedelic experiences can provoke an array of feelings and emotions—some joyous, some confusing, some downright terrifying. But they’re all worth analyzing, and an integration specialist can help you do just that, even remotely. 

We get it, the psychedelic experience is huge; and you may be left with more questions than answers after your trip. If you want to put your mind to ease after discovering new thoughts and emotions during your experience with psychedelics, we can put you in touch with someone trained to help. Reap the full benefits of psychedelics and schedule a call with a knowledgeable trip sitter today. 

The Future of Psychedelic Assisted Therapy

While it’s easy to get excited about where psychedelics stand now, that excitement will only continue to grow. We’re at a very special moment in human history—one where we’re finally beginning to discover the secrets that indigenous populations have known for millennia. 

We’re starting to see psychedelics as an important tool in promoting mental health and wellbeing. Cannabis and ketamine are already being used in therapy. Legalization for treatment is just around the corner for MDMA and psilocybin, too. We’re sure to see a therapeutic future that is more effective and embracing of these powerful psychedelic medicines. 

If you’re still confused and looking for personalized guidance on your journey to heal with psychedelics, we can help. As psychedelic trip sitters, we exist to support you in your journey with an emphasis on safety. Click here to schedule a call with one of our psychedelic trip sitters today. 

The effect of MDMA therapy for PTSD persisted for a year

The positive effect of MDMA therapy against post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) persisted one year after the end of treatment. This conclusion was reached by American researchers who analyzed the results of all six phase II therapy trials: by the end of treatment, 56 percent of participants did not meet the criteria necessary for diagnosing PTSD, and a year later they were already 67 percent. Article published in journal Psychopharmacology .

Full-scale clinical trials of MDMA as a treatment for PTSD were approved in the United States in 2016, and a year later it was given "breakthrough therapy" designation, a label usually given to drugs and treatments that are planned to be introduced into medical practice on an accelerated basis. Since then, research on the effectiveness of therapy has continued: clinical trials have not yet been completed, so the treatment is not yet used in psychotherapeutic practice: however, in January it became known that 50 people with severe PTSD had already been prescribed MDMA therapy - they are in the final phase of trials, however , will not be included. nine0005

In particular, it is not yet completely clear whether the effect of such therapy is maintained in the long term: this is only confirmed by the results of the very first clinical trial, in which participants did not report the return of symptoms of the disorder within a year and a half after successful therapy. Lisa Jerome of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Research (MAPS), which conducts and sponsors research on MDMA therapy in the US, and her colleagues decided to pool the long-term results of all six Phase II clinical trials, which were conducted from 2004 to 2017 in the US, Canada, Switzerland and Israel and included 107 participants. nine0005

MDMA therapy is not limited to taking the substance, but includes several long (up to eight hours) psychotherapy sessions in which ecstasy itself acts as an intermediary and helps patients communicate with a specialist. In the clinical trials conducted, participants took MDMA first before an hour and a half psychotherapy session, and then before two eight-hour sessions (a month passed between them). Progress in the treatment of PTSD was assessed using a standardized symptom identification questionnaire: participants filled it out before starting therapy, after it ended, and one year later. 9 people took part in the last survey1 person.

According to diagnostic surveys, the therapy was actually effective, with participants in all studies experiencing fewer PTSD symptoms than at baseline (p < 0.001). A year later, the effect persisted, and the number of symptoms also turned out to be lower compared to the survey at the end of the trials themselves (p < 0.05). By the end of the clinical trial itself, 56 percent of participants no longer met the criteria for a diagnosis of PTSD; a year later they were already 67 percent. nine0005

Scientists have concluded that the effect of MDMA therapy persists for at least a year and, apparently, in the long term, already without therapy as such, positive dynamics can also be observed. Now, however, it is necessary to wait until the end of phase III trials, which include more patients, and see if such a positive trend is observed in them.

Clinical trials of MDMA therapy are not limited to the US: three years ago, the UK approved MDMA therapy for the treatment of alcohol dependence. nine0005

Elizaveta Ivtushok

Found a typo? Select the fragment and press Ctrl+Enter.

How underground LSD guides live - Bird In Flight

Perhaps, following the legalization of marijuana in the United States, LSD and MDMA will soon be allowed for medical purposes: according to recent studies, both substances have great potential in psychotherapy. But the market for "psychedelic therapy" is already being formed, without waiting for decriminalization. Together with him, a new profession appeared - a psychedelic guide: a person who organizes a "trip" for the client and provides psychological support before, during and after the session. nine0005

The article is published in abbreviated form. Read the original at The Guardian.


Steve has cops in his family, so the fact that he works as an underground psychedelic guide is usually not covered. Meanwhile, work takes up a significant part of his time: about once a week he meets with a client, feeds him MDMA or hallucinogenic mushrooms and sits next to him while he “travels” (sometimes up to 10 hours). Neither the family, nor the flatmates, nor the friends from graduate school where Steve studies psychology, have no idea about this. nine0005

They would never have guessed it themselves: psychedelic culture is usually associated with the eccentric characters of the 1960s. And Steve, the quiet-voiced, bespectacled former business school student who plays in a brass band, works as a counseling psychologist on a helpline, and says “I seem to be a little drunk” after one glass of wine, is completely different from them. (But if you get to know Steve better, maybe he will tell you how one day, after taking psilocybin, a “serpent god” entered his body. )

In early October, Steve attended the Manhattan conference Horizons: Perspectives on Psychedelics, which organizers call it "the largest and longest-running annual convention of the psychedelic community." I went there with my 51-year-old cousin Temple, a psychotherapist who wanted to learn more about the psychedelic psychotherapy that Steve and the other guides do underground. She hopes to include this type of therapy in her practice when (or if) psilocybin, MDMA, LSD and ayahuasca are legalized. nine0005

Like many other conference attendees, Temple recently read How to Change Your Mind: What the New Psychedelic Science Tells Us About Consciousness, Dying, Depression, and Transcendence, a new bestseller by Michael Pollan. The book convinced her that psychotherapy using psychedelics "may indeed be the technique of the future."

Native Americans are believed to have been using herbal psychedelics for thousands of years; but today a significant part of the Western medical community is also showing interest in them. True, most psychedelics are still listed as Schedule I controlled substances along with heroin and cocaine; their possession and sale are criminally punishable. The only way psychedelics can be used legally in the US is by participating in one of several clinical trials conducted, for example, at New York University or Johns Hopkins University. nine0005

These studies show startling results: they suggest that psychedelics, when administered to carefully assessed patients by trained health professionals, can be a safe and powerful tool for dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, addictions, cluster headaches, anxiety disorders, and depression .

Amid woes in the health care system and rising rates of opioid addiction and suicide, Americans are looking for alternative ways to heal - and underground guides are ready to help them. Of course, there are charlatans in this area, but many guides adhere to ethical standards and protocols comparable to clinical conditions in their work. nine0005

However, unlike psychotherapists, underground guides do not have accredited educational institutions, licenses, and the opportunity to openly offer their services. How then do they manage to turn it into a profession?

Like many guides I've spoken to, Steve admits he feels "called" to this job. Like the doctors who performed abortions before they were legal, he violates laws he considers illegal. He views such violations as a risky but necessary part of his mission to alleviate human pain. The cost of his services varies from $15 to $50 per hour. Like most guides, he learned from his own psychedelic experience that the work was worth the risk. nine0005

Like the doctors who performed abortions before they were legal, he violates laws he considers illegal.

“During one of my first guided psilocybin sessions, I realized that I hadn't gotten over the pain of my parents' divorce,” Steve recalls. - I still had an 11-year-old boy who dreamed of living in a complete family. During this experience, I had a vision. I understand that no matter how you describe it, it will sound idiotic - but I saw the image of a mother who was half a Vedic goddess, with a million hands and a million eyes, and half a space alien with gray skin. She was a cosmic mother surrounded by a cosmic family, and she gave me an incredible feeling that I had finally found a home - found the divine family to which I had always belonged. nine0005

Steve communicates with clients via a secure messenger. One has to be very careful to avoid legal troubles that other illegal guides have already faced. Take Eric Osborne, a former high school teacher from Kentucky, for example.

Photo: Paul Goeltz / Flickr

…In July 2015, the police came to Eric's mushroom farm with a search warrant. They searched the house and the greenhouses, looking through the rows of shiitake mushrooms and other delicacy mushrooms he sold to local restaurants. Eric was sure that the police would not find anything illegal: he grew psilocybin mushrooms away from those that were intended for restaurants. But when he saw that the police were heading towards the forest, he panicked. nine0005

A couple of days ago Eric, his fiancée and their new girlfriend were sitting around a fire in the woods near his farm getting ready for the "journey". Eric, who became Indiana's first certified wild mushroom specialist in 2009, has been conducting psilocybin psychotherapy sessions for those who wish to do so for several years. (He never studied to be a psychologist, claiming that his true teachers were mushrooms, which he had consumed at least 500 times in large doses.)

The visitor hoped that the session would help deal with an old psychological trauma. When the mushrooms worked, she went to her tent, and a few minutes later Eric saw the headlights behind the trees. Before the session, he hid the keys to her car in the house just in case, and yet now the car was rapidly moving away. “My heart sank. I was sure that she would die, ”recalls Eric. nine0005

“My heart sank. I was sure she would die. "

For the next 14 hours, he and his fiancée looked everywhere for a girl. Finally she sent a message that she was fine. It turns out that she found a spare key, got behind the wheel and almost immediately crashed into a road barrier. No one was hurt, but when the police found her, the girl told the police about Eric and his psilocybin sessions to avoid charges of drug possession.

So he was ready for the arrival of the police and had hidden a pound of dried psilocybin mushrooms (a unique variety he had grown, named after himself and did not want to lose) in a hollow in the woods behind his house. But the cops somehow found them. nine0005

Eric spent the next week in jail. “The terrible irony was that there were drug addicts with me in the cell, whom psilocybin would have helped to cure,” he says. Then he was put under house arrest for eight weeks, put on an electronic bracelet on his leg and forbidden to contact his fiancée (who was pulled out of prison by her parents the day after her arrest). Eric faced at least 10 years in prison on each of the three charges: making, distributing, and possessing Schedule I substances. He was desperate: “My uncles spent years in prison for growing cannabis. I was sure that the same would happen to me.” nine0005

Fortunately, the judge turned out to be quite liberal. Particularly serious charges were dropped, Eric received two and a half years of probation. But instead of leaving the world of mushrooms forever, he founded MycoMeditations in October 2015, a psilocybin therapy retreat center in Jamaica, one of the few countries where the substance is legal.

“I felt like I had no choice,” he explains. - The landlord kicked me out, I could not teach with a criminal record, I had to work in a Louisville restaurant. In addition, I felt that people needed my services. nine0005

Over the next three years, more than 400 people from all over the world took part in MycoMeditations group retreats. Programs take place on the south coast of Jamaica and last from 7 to 10 days. Guests consume psilocybin daily in a fenced field surrounded by mango trees and coconut palms. “All that is required of me is just to sit next to them, silently support, sometimes hold the hand,” says Eric.

Although each guide has their own approaches and methods, the process is built according to the general scheme. First, a preparatory meeting takes place, where the psychological problems of the client and the tasks of therapy are discussed. (Some guides refuse to work with people who take psychotropic drugs: they warn that combining prescription antidepressants with certain psychedelics, especially ayahuasca, can be dangerous.) what researchers call "coping experiences". nine0005

"In talking to patients, we realized that these 'difficulties' are not a failure of therapy, but an important part of it," says Dr. Alex Belser, one of the founders of the New York University Psychedelic Research Group in 2006. - Taking these drugs, patients go on a very difficult path. They face the grief, trauma, suffering they once experienced and experience these feelings very intensely. Without a feeling of absolute security and trust in the therapist, all this can lead to the so-called bad trip. But with the support of a therapist, this experience will be the beginning of recovery, and the effect can be amazing.” nine0005

“Patients are confronted with past grief, trauma, suffering and experience these feelings very intensely.”

After the trip, the guide conducts an integration session, helping the client to adapt everything experienced and understood to everyday life. At MycoMeditations, after integration sessions, they go for a massage, and then swim among sea turtles and coral reefs.

One of the participants, a patient with stage 4 cancer, felt so much better after the retreat that she donated a year's salary to Eric. This allowed him to finally quit his job at the restaurant (before that, he still lived in two houses between Jamaica and Kentucky) and focus entirely on the center. "Now she's in remission and she's touring the country in her Mercedes Winnebago RV," says Eric. “Miracles really happen here: not every day, but quite often.” nine0005

Photo: Paul Goeltz / Flickr

...I meet Hummingbird at an Alice in Wonderland cafe in Manhattan. The hummingbird, with its lavender-colored shawl and golden tortoise-shaped brooch, fits in perfectly with the décor. One of six children in a Cuban immigrant family, she calls herself a "healer". Her approach to guide work is more ceremonial than clinical.

As a teenager in the 1980s, she was a cheerleader and active in drug education. Ever since she was ten, she dreamed of becoming a social worker. After graduating from graduate school, she "experienced literally all kinds of social work," including a position as a family therapist in the Bronx and a methadone clinic. “I was an idealist and dreamed of changing the system,” she recalls. nine0005

“But years passed and apathy grew. I was very disappointed in the system, burned out, began to get sick all the time: either bronchial infections, or colds and flu. During another illness, she, at that time the head of a program to reduce relapses in a psychiatric clinic, instead of going to the doctor, tried to overcome a cold with medicinal plants - elderberry root and slippery elm bark. “I fell into a state similar to feverish delirium: I was shivering, I was covered with cold sweat, and most importantly, I felt on my chest the weight of some creature that made purring sounds in an incomprehensible language. It called to me. I woke up and said: “Well, that’s it, I’m quitting.” nine0005

After graduating from graduate school, she "experienced literally all kinds of social work," including a position as a family therapist in the Bronx and a methadone clinic.

Soon after, a friend invited her to a ceremony where she discovered ayahuasca, a drink containing the natural hallucinogen dimethyltryptamine. “By that time I had tried everything: mushrooms, LSD, ecstasy, cocaine. But this experience was very different. The sky opened up before me. I felt like I finally found a home. Tears of gratitude flowed from her eyes. I suddenly started speaking in that incomprehensible language - chirping, talking to birds in the forest. nine0005

She traveled to Guatemala where she participated in eight more ayahuasca ceremonies led by local curanderos. “When I returned to my luxurious home, the American way of life literally shocked me. I couldn’t believe that I would allow myself to be part of this system again.”

Instead of returning to social work, she began to study Native American healing traditions under the guidance of a New York shaman. In 2015, she adopted the “healer” name - Hummingbird - and began to conduct ayahuasca ceremonies herself. nine0005

At these $230 per night ceremonies, she distributes ayahuasca to guests and sings icaros, healing songs, to guests while people are "cleansed." Those who wish can also try sananga, psychoactive eye drops, and kambo, a substance that is obtained from the venom of Amazonian frogs.

Hummingbird worries that the centuries-old spiritual traditions associated with psychedelics will be discarded by the medicalization of these substances. While psychedelic researchers try to quantify results with tools like the Mystical Experience Questionnaire, psychedelic travel experiences tend to be far beyond current scientific understanding, she says. “Ayahuasca is a constant development. There are no end results that science loves so much.” nine0005

Photo: Paul Goeltz / Flickr

...Ever since Pollan released his book, readers have been bombarding him with requests for contact information for illegal guides. He invariably refuses, protecting his sources.

"The demand for psychedelic therapy is many times greater than the supply and capacity we have, whether it's in clinical trials or illegal sessions," Pollan told Horizons. “I was shocked to learn how many people need help. I wish people could just call a hotline guide.” nine0005

Steve's schedule is full. He is forced to turn down three-quarters of the requests, some of them from professional psychotherapists who risk losing their licenses for such an interest in illegal drugs.

However, many are optimistic and believe that psychedelics will be legalized for medical use. In 2017, the Food and Drug Administration approved large-scale clinical trials of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, acknowledging that the substance "could be substantially more effective than current therapies." And in October, Johns Hopkins University researchers recommended moving psilocybin to Schedule IV with permission for medical use. nine0005

The legalization movement has recently received support from Rebecca Mercer, the billionaire co-owner of Breitbart, who donated $1 million to the Interdisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Research, the non-profit organization that conducts much of today's psychedelic research. And the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco is already offering a training and certification program for medical and mental health professionals who would like to provide legal psychedelic therapy in the future. nine0005

Photo: Paul Goeltz / Flickr

…Most of the illegal guides ardently support decriminalization. But some, like Jackie, say they will continue to work underground even if psychedelics are allowed to be used for medical purposes. “I wouldn't want to work on a medical model,” explains Jackie. "It's too regimented for me."

Prior to becoming a tour guide, Jackie worked as a doula and midwife. “I was often close to people when they gave life to other people. Now I help people who give life to themselves.” nine0005

Leaving her family at the age of 17, she first tried LSD with the man she later married. In the 1980s, she was raising children and suffered from “constant emotional pain,” which she tried to heal in any way: psychotherapy, yoga, meditation, neurofeedback, self-help seminars. Nothing helped.

She suffered from “constant emotional pain,” which she tried to heal by any means: psychotherapy, yoga, meditation, neurofeedback, self-help seminars.

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