Charles S. Grob, M.D, endorses Healthcare Practitioner Access to Psilocybin for Professional Training

“Subjects (and patients) under the influence of a psychedelic for the first time may find themselves in a psychologically challenging altered state of consciousness. For the therapist to effectively guide their subject through this terrain, it is of great value for the facilitator to have had first-hand experience of the altered terrain itself. Having such knowledge and familiarity allows the psychotherapist to more effectively guide their patient and thus optimize safety and the likelihood of a therapeutic outcome. It is therefore my very strong recommendation that psychotherapists approved to conduct such treatment with psychedelics be allowed to undergo psychedelic experiences themselves.”

– Charles Grob, M.D

Background

On August 4th, Minister Patty Hajdu granted access to psilocybin for 4 Canadians with end-of-life distress whose applications for exemptions were supported by TheraPsil. Since that day at least 9 more applications have been approved and TheraPsil has been inundated with an influx of patient requests for support.

However, there is an urgent problem: there is an insufficient number of qualified healthcare professionals who are trained in psilocybin therapy and can provide high-quality patient care in this unique modality.

To solve this, starting on June 18th, 2020, doctors, therapists, clinical counselors, nurses, social workers, and other healthcare professionals on the TheraPsil team began submitting their own section 56 exemptions to access psilocybin for professional training.  

TheraPsil has been diligently working on a training program to train healthcare professionals in psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy. Psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy is a unique modality which requires a highly specific skill set.  

Part of TheraPsil’s training program, in conjunction with lectures, case studies, readings, and discussions,  involves ‘experiential learning’, whereby trainees take psilocybin mushrooms themselves.

It is our belief that by experiencing this ‘non-ordinary state of consciousness’ first hand, therapists who will administer and facilitate psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy for their own patients are better able hold space, know when to intervene (and more importantly when not to intervene), and help their patients integrate the psilocybin experience learnings for lasting healing during post-integration sessions. 

Unfortunately, to date, we have not heard a response back from Minister Hajdu regarding these applications. In the meantime, patients who are dying and could otherwise benefit from psilocybin therapy to treat their end-of-life distress, are left to suffer without access to a trained therapist.

 

Letter of Support from Charles Grob, M.D, to Minister Patty Hajdu

 

Recently, Charles Grob, MD, wrote a letter to Health Minister Patty Hajdu expressing “It is, therefore, my very strong recommendation that psychotherapists approved to conduct such treatment with psychedelics be allowed to undergo psychedelic experiences themselves.” 

Chalres Grob, M.D, has given TheraPsil his blessing that his letter can be made public:

 

I have been asked to provide an opinion regarding the importance of psychedelic psychotherapists having had first-hand, personal experience with psychedelic drugs, in order to optimally deliver psychedelic treatment to patients.

I have had considerable experience as a researcher and academic on the topic of psychedelics.  Over the past 30 years I have conducted human research with a variety of psychedelic drugs, including MDMA, ayahuasca and psilocybin.  In the early 1990s I was the Principal Investigator of the first FDA approved human trial with MDMA.  More recently I conducted an MDMA treatment study with young adults on the autism spectrum with incapacitating social anxiety.  Throughout the 1990s and into the early 2000s I was the Principal Investigator of a series of naturalistic studies in Brazil, first in the Amazon and later in urban centers, examining the range of effects of ayahuasca when used as a psychoactive sacrament in religious ceremonies.  From 2004 – 2008 I was the Principal Investigator of an FDA approved trial of psilocybin treatment in patients with advanced-stage cancer and reactive severe existential anxiety and depression.  Currently, I am collaborating with colleagues from the University of California San Francisco and New York University on developing a new multi-site research investigation of a psilocybin treatment model with patients with advanced and potentially fatal medical disease who are experiencing grave existential crisis and psychological demoralization.  I am the Principal Investigator for this study as well.  In addition, over the last thirty plus years I have written numerous academic articles and chapters on the topic of psychedelics, edited two books on the topic and am the senior editor of a new textbook on psychedelics that is scheduled to be published in February, 2021.  This will be the first dedicated textbook on the topic of hallucinogens.  In summary, I have devoted a good part of my professional career to understanding the range of effects of psychedelics in humans, and particularly in patients suffering from severe psychological conditions that have proved refractory or unresponsive to conventional treatments.

Regarding the matter of psychedelic psychotherapists having their own personal experience with psychedelics, I consider this an essential feature of a facilitator’s background and credentials to work effectively and safely with psychedelics.  Subjects (and patients) under the influence of a psychedelic for the first time may find themselves in a psychologically challenging altered state of consciousness.  For the therapist to effectively guide their subject through this terrain, it is of great value for the facilitator to have had first-hand experience of the altered terrain itself.  Having such knowledge and familiarity allows the psychotherapist to more effectively guide their patient and thus optimize safety and the likelihood of a therapeutic outcome.  It is therefore my very strong recommendation that psychotherapists approved to conduct such treatment with psychedelics be allowed to undergo psychedelic experiences themselves.  

I hope my stated views are of assistance to the current decision making process.

Sincerely, 

Charles S. Grob, M.D.

Director, Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Harbor-UCLA Medical Center

Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics

UCLA School of Medicine

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