Psychedelic Assisted Therapy Series: The politics, access, and best practices of psychedelic therapy in the US and Europe with Justin Townsend | POP 995

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A photo of Justin Townsend is captured. He is CEO of MycoMeditations. Justin is featured on the Practice of the Practice, a therapist podcast.

What are the current laws in the US when it comes to psilocybin and MDMA? How many hours of training is recommended? What are some of the non-negotiable best practice tips for setting up a positive and safe therapeutic psychedelic environment?

In this podcast episode in the psychedelic-assisted therapy series, Joe Sanok speaks about the politics, access, and best practices of psychedelic therapy in the US and Europe with Justin Townsend.

Podcast Sponsor: Psychiatry Institute

An image of the podcast sponsor, The Integrative Psychiatry Institute is captured. IPI's comprehensive training and in-person experiential practicums will elevate you both personally and professionally.  This in-depth curriculum is the gold-standard certification in the field. IPI sponsors the Practice of the Practice podcast.

Imagine the impact you could have on your clients when you are able to practice the most cutting-edge modality available today. Psychedelic therapy is the future of mental healthcare, and the Integrative Psychiatry Institute will empower you with the tools and knowledge you need to master this exciting modality.

IPI’s comprehensive training and in-person experiential practicums will elevate you both personally and professionally.  This in-depth curriculum is the gold-standard certification in the field.

When you join you will step into a global community of thousands of innovative colleagues who are integrating psychedelic therapy into their practices.

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And when you visit  you will also receive IPI’s free e-report on The Current State of Psychedelic Therapy so you can get the most up-to-date information immediately.

Meet Justin Townsend

A photo of Justin Townsend is captured. He is CEO of MycoMeditations. Justin is featured on the Practice of the Practice, a therapist podcast.
Throughout his career Justin has worked as a business leader across a range of industries, helping innovative companies identify opportunities, communicate their vision, and deliver profitable products. But he has also been on a personal quest to explore alternative healing therapies to combat his own anxiety and depression.
Over the past 20 years, Justin has delved into both transpersonal and Jungian depth psychology, explored psychedelic modes of healing, and developed meditation and breathwork techniques, which he taught in Germany.
After attending a private retreat with MycoMeditations in 2017, he saw the opportunity to combine his unique business skills with his interest in alternative healing methods. Justin joined the MycoMeditations team soon afterward, becoming partner and CEO in 2019.
As a retreat facilitator, Justin draws inspiration from the profound healing he is privileged to witness and believes that psychedelics offer an exciting path forward for mental health.
Visit MycoMeditations and connect on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

In this Podcast

  • Psychedelics and Law in the US
  • Avoid underestimating the task at hand 
  • Justin’s best practice tips 
  • An overview of Justin’s retreats 
  • Justin’s advice to private practitioners

Psychedelics and Law in the US

On a federal level, MDMA is looking like it is going to be rescheduled at some point in 2024 and become legal for medical use.

Initially that would be a limited use type [of] role out, just for chronic treatment and PTSD, but undoubtedly as more research is done, it will expand beyond that limited use model. The same thing apparently is going to happen with psilocybin in the next two to three years. – Justin Townsend

Some high-ranking researchers like Roland Griffiths have said that psilocybin has a trans-diagnostic advocacy, and can be used in myriad ways to treat seemingly intractable and acute mental health conditions.

Avoid underestimating the task at hand 

Since psychedelic medicine is becoming a hot topic in the mental health field, many people are understandably excited and curious about this re-discovered modality, but they may underestimate the amount of intention and training it takes to do it correctly. 

Since the training is expensive because it is still relatively new, there is an accessibility issue. 

However, this may create a niche space where people cut down on the hours of training to reduce the price, but this would end up costing the client a session that isn’t well handled if the clinician hasn’t received enough hours of training.

This is because some psychedelic sessions can go relatively quietly and calmly, but there can be moments of extreme nuance and action if a client discovers and begins to process a traumatic experience under the influence of the medicine. 

About 25-30% [of clients] are going to have a challenging experience, and by challenging I don’t mean a bad trip, I mean that maybe there was a trauma that happened … years ago, maybe they are aware … or unaware that the trauma happened – because of dissociative amnesia – they’re going to recall fragments of memory of these traumas and at the same time their body is going to start to process the physiological and emotional responses to that trauma. (Justin Townsend) 

These physiological and emotional processes can sometimes become “active” or even violent – in the sense that the client is not simply sitting or lying down but wanting to move around to various degrees. 

Practitioners should be trained in how to safely constrain and restrain clients if it were to be necessary. 

Justin’s best practice tips

  • Conducting background checks on individuals through a licensing body or a police check 
  • Undergoing a long, extensive supervised training period before becoming certified to handle clients in a psychedelic environment on your own 
  • Undergo experiential training 

The classroom pieces are fine, they give you the training of what you need to know, but being around clients consistently that will go through a powerful catharsis, learning to regulate around that, learning when to speak, when not to speak, and how to work well with other practitioners who are also working with that person in a nonverbal fashion is also key as well. – Justin Townsend

An overview of Justin’s retreats 

1 – Clients need to fill out a very detailed application form regarding their mental and physical health 

2 – A casual face-to-face Zoom interview with one of the therapists before the retreat to make sure they are mature enough and stable enough to work with these medicines 

Between these two stages, they decline about 30% of applications due to there being signs or diagnoses of bipolar or borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia, or other high-risk diagnoses which may not work well in this setting with these medicines 

3 – Clients are sent a lot of material to read over before coming to the retreat and are asked to self-assess their mental health states 

4 – Clients receive three therapeutic doses throughout the week 

The reason for the three-dose protocol is that most of our guests are psychedelically naive. That first low dose gives them their first experience where they go into the shallow end of the pool, and that allows us to assess their sensitivity and tolerance … The second and third doses we increase substantially but we cater those to the needs of the clients and how they are responding. – Justin Townsend 

5 – After the retreat, the clients receive the same self-assessing mental health rating scale 

6 – Typically throughout the full experience, clients receive 30 to 40 hours of group therapy work as well as opportunities for one-on-one work 

Justin’s advice to private practitioners

There is a lot that you may need to unlearn that you have been traditionally educated on when it comes to psychedelic therapy. 

The typical doctor-patient relationship has a power dynamic, and with psychedelic therapy, those dynamics don’t work the same. There’s a more human-to-human authenticity and presence. 

Lastly, integration is crucial, and bringing in the knowledge and understanding from the session into the rest of the client’s life beyond the retreat. 

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Check out these additional resources:

Psychedelic Assisted Therapy Series: Ayahuasca with Anon | POP 994

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Meet Joe Sanok

A photo of Joe Sanok is displayed. Joe, private practice consultant, offers helpful advice for group practice owners to grow their private practice. His therapist podcast, Practice of the Practice, offers this advice.

Joe Sanok helps counselors to create thriving practices that are the envy of other counselors. He has helped counselors to grow their businesses by 50-500% and is proud of all the private practice owners who are growing their income, influence, and impact on the world. Click here to explore consulting with Joe.

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