Dr. Emma Hapke, MD, FRCPC, Endorses Healthcare Practitioner Access to Psilocybin for Professional Training

“To provide high-quality psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, therapists must be well trained and an essential part of this training is having their own experience receiving psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy. Experience navigating non-ordinary states of consciousness is essential to be able to effectively support and guide others who are entering these states.

TheraPsil is committed to training therapists who can conduct high-quality psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy for end of life distress. In order to do this, we require Section 56 exemption licenses for our therapists to undergo their own psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy in addition to the other elements of the training program. Without these exemption licenses, it will be difficult to train the therapists we need to deliver this treatment to dying Canadians.

– Dr. Emma Hapke, MD, FRCPC & TheraPsil Board Member 

 

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 Dr. Emma Hapke to Minister Patty Hajdu

Recently, Dr. Emma Hapke wrote a letter to Health Minister Patty Hajdu expressing her expert opinion that “we require Section 56 exemption licenses for our therapists to undergo their own psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy in addition to the other elements of the training program. Without these exemption licenses, it will be difficult to train the therapists we need to deliver this treatment to dying Canadians.”

Emma Hapke has given TheraPsil her blessing that her letter to Minister Hajdu can be made public: 

 

October 26, 2020 

To Whom It May Concern: 

My name is Emma Hapke and I am a psychiatrist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. I am also on faculty at the University of Toronto where I teach medical students and residents. Clinically, my expertise is focused on the treatment of trauma, mood disorders, addiction, women’s mental health and end of life distress. I am also a clinician-scientist conducting research on new paradigms in mental health treatment with a focus on psychedelics. 

I am the principal investigator of the Montreal site of a multi-site Phase 3 trial investigating MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for the treatment of severe PTSD. This study is funded and sponsored by the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Science (MAPS). The science emerging from the Phase 2 trials of this treatment show remarkable results – 83% of participants with severe PTSD no longer met criteria after the protocol and these results are maintained at long term follow-up 1-5 years after the treatment. As you may be aware, there is equally compelling data showing the impact of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy for the treatment of end of life distress in people facing terminal cancer. 

As a board member of Therapsil, I support the organization’s mission to help patients who are dying access this profoundly transformational treatment. We are grateful to the Canadian government, who has granted 11 patients a Section 56 exemption license to access this treatment. 

What is important to emphasize is that the science shows us that psychedelic medicines work best when combined with high quality psychotherapy. What patients need access to in addition to psilocybin-containing mushrooms is high quality psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. 

To provide high quality psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, therapists must be well trained and an essential part of this training is having their own experience receiving psilocybin-assisted 250 College Street Toronto ON M5T1R8 psychotherapy. Experience navigating non-ordinary states of consciousness is essential to be able to effectively support and guide others who are entering these states. 

In the Phase 3 trial of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy through MAPS all therapists were offered their own personal sessions of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy as part of their training. Therapists report this is one of the most valuable aspects of the training program. They report it increases their confidence to provide this treatment to others and improves their ability to help patients integrate these experiences to solidify the gains and bring about lasting change. 

Therapsil is committed to training therapists who can conduct high quality psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy for end of life distress. In order to do this we require Section 56 exemption licenses for our therapists to undergo their own psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy in addition to the other elements of the training program. Without these exemption licenses, it will be difficult to train the therapists we need to deliver this treatment to dying Canadians. 

Thank you for your consideration of our request. 

Sincerely,

Dr. Emma Hapke, MD, FRCPC 

Staff Psychiatrist, Women’s Program Centre for Addiction and Mental Health 

Lecturer, University of Toronto 

 

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