CALGARY, May 6, 2021 – ATMA Journey Centers Inc. (“ATMA”), an Alberta-based company focused on delivering innovative psychedelic-assisted therapies internationally, announced today the successful completion of the first Therapist Psychedelic Training Program in conjunction with Wayfound Mental Health Group Inc. (“Wayfound”) and the Psychologists Association of Alberta (“PAA”). When it was first announced in February, the inaugural course sold out and developed a substantial waiting list, indicating the significant interest that exists in the therapist community for psychedelic-oriented training.
The training program, designed in partnership by ATMA and Wayfound, was curated specifically to equip mental health professionals with the knowledge and insight to work with psychedelic medicines as they become accessible and legalized in Canada. Drawing on a world-class faculty of some of the world’s top authorities on psychedelic medicine, the training program helps solve one of the biggest challenges ahead in the psychedelic medicine industry – having sufficient competent and appropriately trained health care professionals who can both understand the work of psychedelic medicine, as well as deliver and facilitate approved psychedelic-assisted therapy. It is an essential requirement that ethical and safe practices are developed for the dissemination of psychedelic-assisted therapies, particularly as the government increases access and legalizes psychedelic substances for use as medicine.
David Harder, Co-CEO of ATMA, said: “One of the major obstacles in increasing access to psychedelic therapy is an acute shortage of therapists who have the education, knowledge and resources both from a psychological and psychedelic perspective to provide the necessary support and guidance to patients. This training program provides an accredited base of understanding for therapists who are seeking information and therapy involving psychedelics.”
The demand for mental health therapists has been skyrocketing as COVID-19 continues to ravage the country, and according to Harder, “we’re seeing substantial interest from therapists who are looking for more effective tools to help their clients. Significant evidence-based research around psychedelic medicine continues to emerge which is highlighting how promising psychedelic medicine is. There appears to be a shift in the industry where therapists have heard about the potential of psychedelic medicine and are now stepping forward to learn about it.”
Megan McElheran, CEO of Wayfound, commented: “As a mental health company providing services for 20 years, and continuously striving to improve client outcomes, we felt a client obligation to explore the research and clinical protocols related to psychedelic medicine. Research has shown that psychologists are uniquely skilled to support the psychedelic process, and the psychotherapeutic process is proven to be an essential component to the success of psychedelic treatment. For this reason, I support psychologists and other health care providers to build their capacity and skills through training, that prioritizes professional, clinically-sound, ethical practice and due diligence in the delivery of care. Psychedelic treatment that includes psychotherapy has the potential to be a new frontier for psychology as we see that a potential paradigm shift is underway in mental health. Psychology has an essential role to play in this developing field and I am excited to participate in the training and capacity-building of our profession.”
In addition to the actual training and education that ATMA and Wayfound are delivering, ATMA is actively building a national infrastructure that will alleviate the bottleneck of therapists trained in psychedelics who are available to assist patients. Vu Tran, Co-CEO of ATMA said: “The training program is just the first step of our plan to create solutions for the industry to scale and support therapists who wish to participate in psychedelic-assisted therapy”.
He emphasized the importance of getting more therapists engaged in integrating psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy into their current practice by offering education and framework to support the transition. With psychedelics becoming mainstream and governments around the world moving toward decriminalization and legalization, “we’re preparing therapists today for the exponential demand we’re going to see as these medicines become medically available and accessible.”
He added: “We want to see more therapists educated on the benefits of psychedelic therapy in hopes that more awareness will help the legislative and policy frameworks move forward in a timely manner. Mental health professionals will face great challenges with capacity in the coming years, so we’re working towards a support structure for therapists to progressively look at psychedelic therapy as a growing part of their business without a steep learning curve. Psychedelics have the proven ability to reduce lifelong ongoing patient therapy, and this can assist in reducing the burden on the health care system.”
One of the graduating therapists from the inaugural training, Dr. Angela Grace stated: “The training program provides an excellent overview of psychedelic therapy with experienced practitioners and researchers in the field. The learning, discussions, experiences and connections made are invaluable as an introduction to the field.”
ATMA and Wayfound have emerged as pioneers in the industry to help provide clinically rigorous training for those who desire to enter this challenging work in a post-pandemic world with new tools to address the growing mental health crisis. The training programs will be expanding to include an introductory course that will be aimed at non-licensed health industry professionals, counsellors and social workers beginning June 2021. It is the goal of the training program to develop relationships with academic institutions across Canada and to work to develop national training and accreditation standards for psychedelic-assisted psychotherapies.
Harder concluded: “We encourage any mental health professional to contact us to discuss the training programs. This emerging field is a significant opportunity for licensed therapists who want to add another effective tool to their practice and learn how psychedelics can integrate into an existing practice.”