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The Current Landscape of Psychedelic Therapist Training

If you’re interested in becoming a psychedelic therapist, deciding on how to train as one can be a bit of a minefield. There are now many training courses…



If you’re interested in becoming a psychedelic therapist, deciding on how to train as one can be a bit of a minefield. There are now many training courses available. Various factors have driven a surge in the number of courses: psychedelic legalization in the US, further reform on the horizon (after MDMA therapy and psilocybin therapy gain FDA approval), and the growth of the psychedelic industry. However, because of the number of courses and qualifications available, it can be difficult to know which ones are necessary for getting hired as a psychedelic therapist.

In this post, we will be taking a look at the current landscape of psychedelic therapist training, including the requirements for becoming a licensed therapist at a clinic, as well as the various types of training programs on offer.

The Requirements for Becoming a Psychedelic Therapist

Having ample experience with psychedelics, or sitting for people during their journeys, is not sufficient if you want to join a quality psychedelic therapy training program. To qualify for many of these programs, you will need to be able to demonstrate professional experience or knowledge. This may mean:

  • Holding an active license to practice psychotherapy
  • Having a relevant degree or certification, such as a degree in psychology or psychotherapy
  • Being in a post-doctorate, post-graduate internship, or residency program in the mental health field
  • Demonstrating a minimum number of hours of clinical practice (e.g. 1,000 hours practicing as a psychotherapist or counselor)

Personal experience with psychedelics can be helpful and valuable, but it is not an explicit requirement when joining a training course. According to several of the top education companies in this space, a large percentage of students have no prior experience with psychedelics. However, many believe psychedelic therapists should have their own experiences, to better empathize with and support their clients. At the same time, Dr. Alison McInnes – Vice President of Scientific Affairs at Osmind – states, “I believe that we do not require a supervised psychedelic experience to reassure patients about our empathy and competency.”

In any case, gaining first-hand experience can present a challenge for trainee therapists if they live in a country in which psychedelics are controlled substances. Joining legal retreats and ceremonies is one option, as is becoming acquainted with non-psychedelic techniques for entering altered states, such as holotropic breathwork.

Let’s now turn to some of the organizations that offer comprehensive psychedelic therapy programs. 

The California Institute of Integral Studies

In 2015, the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) created the Center for Psychedelic Therapies and Research (CPTR). This included the first-ever university-affiliated certificate program, which is considered to be a gold standard for safe, effective psychedelic therapist training.

During this 8-month program, trainees are taught a variety of necessary skills and knowledge bases, covering not only clinical work with MDMA, psilocybin, and therapy but also the pharmacology and history of psychedelics, as well as the cultural competencies needed to work with diverse clients.

For this particular program, you don’t have to be a licensed medical or mental health professional to enroll. Clergy and chaplains are also eligible if they actively serve in pastoral counseling and spiritual direction, and counseling attorneys can apply if they can demonstrate counseling work in several specific areas. At the time of writing, the tuition cost is $8,900.

The Integrative Psychiatry Institute

The Integrative Psychiatry Institute offers an online Psychedelic Therapy Certificate Training Program. This is a 250+-hour program taught by over 30 faculty, many of whom include leading researchers and clinicians in the field, such as Robin Carhart-Harris, Gabor Mate, Anne and Michael Mithoefer, and Michael Pollan.

The course educates trainees on ketamine, MDMA, and psilocybin therapeutic applications, and teaches using online modules, online lectures, virtual intensives, and small group sessions. There are also optional in-person ketamine and psilocybin retreats, which offer trainees the chance to both deliver and receive ketamine- and psilocybin-assisted therapy. The training costs $8,000-$10,000, and once completed, you will be a certified psychedelic therapist. However, it should be noted that no current certifications are guaranteed to be in compliance with government-regulated psychedelic therapies that may be available in the future. 

The Integrative Psychiatry Institute states that this program is suited to those who:

  • Are currently therapists and want to learn from experts in psychedelic therapy and research
  • Are concerned about how to safely and effectively provide psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy
  • Want to learn how to ethically provide counseling and integration to clients who use psychedelics outside of a medical setting
  • Are frustrated about their current psychotherapeutic techniques not adequately helping clients

MAPS Training

The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) created its MDMA Therapy Training Program, in anticipation of the FDA approval of this treatment for PTSD. MAPS PBC stated that at the end of 2021, they had trained nearly 2,000 clinicians worldwide. However, the program was temporarily shut down due to (FDA-perceived) conflicts with its New Drug Application.. MAPS is currently working with Fluence and Numinus to get training programs up and running for MDMA-assisted therapy as soon as it is approved by the FDA.

Nonetheless, would-be therapists can still refer to the detailed MAPS manual for MDMA therapy in the treatment of PTSD. This includes information on several aspects of treatment, Including:

  • Treatment approach
  • The essential traits of an MDMA therapist
  • How to enhance a patient’s experience
  • How to conduct preparatory, MDMA, and integration sessions
  • Other useful resources.

Psychedelic Companies That Offer or Support Psychedelic Therapy Training

A number of psychedelic companies and industry drug sponsors have devised their own training programs as a way to prepare therapists to work on clinical trials, and in clinics when the treatments are legalized.

One example is the psychedelic biotech company Compass Pathways, which offers a training program designed by leading experts from the fields of psychology, psychiatry, and psychedelic therapy research. It is used to train therapists taking part in Compass Pathway’s clinical studies of COMP360 psilocybin treatment.

The company’s therapists are mental health professionals with active licenses who are in good professional standing and provide psychotherapy and counseling in accordance with regional and local rules and regulations. They are typically clinical psychologists, clinical social workers, counselors, or psychiatrists. 

Usona Institute is one company that offers a scholarship program, which aims to advance knowledge within the field of psychedelic science and promote the accessibility of psychedelic therapy. This program supports:

  • Practitioners seeking training or certification in psychedelic-assisted therapy, with the aim of promoting the diversity, readiness, and availability of well-trained, skilled, and licensed practitioners who can deliver care once these therapies are FDA-approved.
  • Emerging scholars engaged in post-graduate degree programs that focus on the scientific, medical, or social scientific aspects of consciousness-expanding medicines and practices.

Other Types of Psychedelic Therapist Training

Beyond programs that help therapists and students become certified therapists, many other courses can support people in their journey toward becoming psychedelic therapists. These courses can cover a variety of specific areas, such as:

  • Drug-specific therapies: some courses can focus on specific classic and non-classic psychedelics, including ketamine, MDMA, and psilocybin. Because the effects of these drugs differ, as do the protocols involved in the therapeutic application of these drugs, courses relating to them differ.
  • Regulation-specific courses: new legal jurisdictions will have their own requirements for practitioner training courses – this is why some courses train students to be able to offer legal psilocybin therapy in Oregon.
  • Integration: some therapists want to focus their attention on psychedelic integration (the process of making sense of psychedelic experiences and/or applying the lessons and insights from these experiences to one’s everyday life). Some courses can assist therapists in their goal of becoming psychedelic integration therapists.
  • Specific academic courses that augment one’s psychedelic therapy practice: academic institutions are beginning to offer courses on psychedelics, such as the University of Exeter, which launched the world’s first postgraduate certificate in psychedelic studies. This fully online 8-month course costs £4,200, and it teaches students about psychological therapy, neuroscience, ethics, metaphysics, and research methods, which are key components of psychedelic therapist training.

Mentorship can be another useful stepping stone to becoming a psychedelic therapist. Working with an experienced and qualified supervisor or mentor can allow someone to learn effective techniques in psychedelic therapy or understand how to handle difficult situations that may arise during a psychedelic session. One option is to join professional organizations such as the Psychedelic Science Interest Group. This can help individuals connect with other professionals in the field and stay up to date with education and training opportunities.

If you want to become a qualified psychedelic therapist, it will require a great deal of time, effort, and dedication. However, as we have seen, there is no shortage of training opportunities that will allow you to succeed in this field. Keep in mind, though, that this field is always evolving, so it’s crucial to be aware of the latest research and developments. Moreover, even once you become a qualified therapist, you can augment your knowledge and skills through further courses and qualifications.

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