Upon the release of his book How to Change Your Mind, Michael Pollan sparked a major shift in the mindset of numerous therapists and medical professionals, as well as the general public.
At the time of its publication in the spring of 2019, discussions surrounding psychedelics were happening, but in small, hushed groups of underground therapists, and in one-on-one conversations between medical professionals who understood its potential but could not openly have such discussions for fear of stigma or discreditation. During this time, ATMA’s co-founder David Harder was involved in leading discussion groups that resulted in increased underground support; however, when the book was released, interest in psychedelic-assisted therapy models exponentially multiplied.
The movement continued to pick up steam in 2020 as investors, corporate interest, and many Cannabis company executives realized the financial potential of this up-and-coming industry.
So, the question we ask ourselves now is whether this book (and the Netflix series of the same title) positively impacted this movement, or did it bring about unsustainable momentum? Has the hype of this multi-million dollar frenzy of investors and business-people looking for the ‘next big thing’ actually resulted in the loss of deep healing that comes from effective and respectful therapeutic protocols.
We personally believe there have been both positive and negative outcomes as a result of this movement. How to Change Your Mind has increased public awareness of this psychedelic-assisted therapy, thus introducing people to medicines that they would not have had the opportunity to engage with otherwise. To negate that is to ignore thousands of personal stories of mental health, personal development, and spiritual growth. It is like a giant spotlight has brought the truth of these medicines to the masses. People who were doubtful or even distrustful of these medicines are now willing to discuss how this movement could be a benefit to society, including those in more religious circles.
However, the compromise is that this new “industry” could lead to a repeat of the War on Drugs that occurred in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
We have begun to see the revival of anti-psychedelic initiatives targeting this movement. Podcasts and various voices are taking extremist and uninformed views that these medicines have no place in medicinal or psychological treatment.
Moving forward, we believe this movement requires growth and it must embrace the traditional uses of these medicines. The psychedelic models of financial monopolies, massive stock gains, trademarks on medicines that have been around for millennia, and companies seeking excessive profits need to be re-evaluated and their place in this movement reconsidered; otherwise, the progress that has been made thus far is futile. If the corporate elements of this movement are not re-examined, there is the potential it could return to an underground fringe movement.
A new treatment paradigm is warranted for psychedelics in which a more holistic approach is embraced. While How to Change Your Mind offers a brilliant overview of the events of the last several decades, and while Michael Pollan has given us a gift by introducing people to these medicines, those in the medical and psychological fields are not yet ready for the massive change that is coming. Psychedelics should not be treated like other pharmaceuticals, and it is imperative that psychologists and other medical professionals understand the unique nature of psychedelics; if treated like a conventional drug, there is the potential for grave outcomes to occur. Without the support of therapists, counsellors, and community, psychedelics should not be used. The in-and-out clinics where patients are administered ketamine or psilocybin as a one-off treatment does not reflect the message Michael Pollan has laid out.
Psychedelics can change your mind; as a result, they carry the potential to change your life.
But the Psychedelic “Renaissance” also has the potential to do a lot of damage.
Therapists looking to conduct psychedelic-assisted therapy must learn the best practices for these medicines in order for this therapy to be efficacious. This is why ATMA has become acutely focused on training therapists via heart-centered instructors and experts who understand the depth of these medicines.
How to Change Your Mind is worth watching, and if you have a passion for helping others navigate their way through mental health struggles, and experience personal development and spiritual awakening, this Netflix series is informative.
Lastly, before you engage in any psychedelic medicine work, please take the time to become fully trained and to understand how powerful these medicines can be when they are used in a proper manner.
The ATMA Team