Psychedelic-assisted therapy is slowly becoming a legal therapy option across the US and Canada, with psilocybin-assisted therapy leading the way. But what is psilocybin and how is it used in a therapy setting? 

See US Psychedelics Regulations & Canada Psychedelics Regulations to see the current regulations in your area.

What is Psilocybin?

4-Phosphoryloxy-N, N-Dimethyltryptamine

Found in over 200 species of mushrooms, Psilocybin is an indole alkaloid that greatly resembles serotonin in structure and is rapidly metabolized into psilocin upon human ingestion. Once converted, psilocin stimulates serotonin receptors which creates alterations within perceptive consciousness. When psilocin binds to the 5-HT2A receptor, it stimulates a heightened sensory experience that includes hallucinogenic effects, synaesthesia (merging senses), shifts in perception and reorientation of spatial and chronological relationship.

Psilocybin Effects & Experience

An experience with psilocybin lasts for approximately 3-6 hours with the range being affected directly by dosage and external factors such as set (mindset and preparation) and setting (location and surrounding influences). The duration of the experience coupled with the perception altering effects creates a journey like atmosphere for the user. 

Because there can be distortions of spatial and time-based awareness, the journeyer can explore the nature of their imagination and the recesses of their own nature. This can easily produce circumstances that connect the user to long forgotten memories and awaken a strong sense of spiritual activation. Foreign worlds, spirit beings and distant or lost relatives may all come forward along with an infinite range of potential experiences. 

Due to the wide range of possibilities, guidance from experienced and trained supporters can help to create a safe environment for inexperienced and experienced users alike where any and all of the negative components of the journey can be confidently and seamlessly navigated.

How Do Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy Sessions Work?

Contrary to popular belief, not all psychedelic-assisted therapy are the same in terms of engagement between therapist and client, for example psilocybin-assisted therapy is not in the form of taking psychedelics and chatting with your therapist while you have your experiential journey.

Pre & Post-Experience Therapy Sessions

Committing to several sessions ensures participants complete appropriate pre-experience preparation and post-experience integration, which are as important as the psilocybin session itself. A fully licensed and appropriately trained psychedelic therapist will provide preparation and integration psychotherapy sessions to help you be ready and open for your psilocybin experience. They will also help you unpack your experience and get meaningful insights out of it.

Your Psychedelic Guide

A psychedelic guide (sometimes referred to as a psychedelic facilitator) in the case of psilocybin, will differ in training and experience from a psychedelic therapist. Guides will not require therapist licensure as they will not have to engage in psychotherapy with the client during the psilocybin session. They will likely have varying backgrounds ranging from breathwork practitioners to pastoral workers, personal interest psychonauts, or alternative healing professionals. 

Similar to the distinction between a birth doula (guide) vs. a midwife (therapist), both roles will be supportive with the common goal of seeing clients through their experiences safely. Guides will support both the clinical staff (doctors and therapists) as well as the psychedelic therapy client. 

Read more: What’s the difference between a Psychedelic Therapist & Psychedelic Facilitator

What Disorders Could be Treated with Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy?

There are several indicated opportunities for support for psilocybin-assisted therapy, including:

  • Depression disorders including treatment-resistant depression 
  • Anxiety disorder and anxiety and depression in cancer patients 
  • Obsessive compulsive disorders 
  • Substance abuse disorders including nicotine and alcohol dependencies 
  • Eating disorders including Anorexia nervosa 
  • Depressive response to Type 2 Bipolar disorder 
  • Headache disorders including post-traumatic headache disorders 
  • Deterioration in AIDS/HIV survivors

Positive Effects of Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy

There are many recorded benefits for psilocybin-assisted therapy including:

  • Expansion of awareness
  • Enhanced sensitivity
  • Synaesthesia
  • Altered visualization
  • Cognitive openness
  • Extra-sensory perception
  • Connection to mystical and spiritual energies
  • Recalibration of beliefs
  • Acceptance of things as they are

Negative Effects of Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy

Psilocybin-assisted therapy isn’t for everyone and can come with some negative effects including:

  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Restlessness
  • Paranoia
  • Anxiety
  • Disorientation and/or dizziness
  • Muscle fatigue and/or weakness
  • Light sensitivity
  • Impaired focus
  • Irrational thinking and/or behaviour

Is Psilocybin Legal for Therapy Use?

Since the inception of the Controlled Substance Act in the 1970’s, psilocybin has been labeled as a Schedule I substance and has largely been excluded from any conversations relating to therapeutic use and mental wellness. This changed in the early 2000’s with new clinical trials demonstrating increasingly effective results in treating a wide range of disorders and diseases with different psychedelics, including psilocybin. As a result, many states and provinces across North America are beginning to legislate the clinical and therapeutic use of psilocybin. This, along with the advancements of legalized clinical use in countries such as Jamaica and the Netherlands paints a picture of a rapidly expanding protocol for the integration of psilocybin as a tool in the global wellness industry. Do you have questions about the changing regulations around psilocybin and psychedelics? Join an upcoming info session for up-to-date information and a live Q&A session. 

Interested in adding psilocybin-assisted therapy into your practice?

Download the Psychedelic Basic’s Guide now for more information on how you can integrate psychedelics into your practice.

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