Michael Mithoefer, MD, FAPA, Endorses Healthcare Practitioner Access to Psilocybin for Professional Training

“It is my opinion, based on my experience, that therapist wishing to support a patient to enter deep non-ordinary states of consciousness, should have extensive experience with the states themselves, ideally using the same medicine that their patients will be using in the therapeutic sessions…I would therefore support Therapsil‘s application for its therapists to receive permission to use psilocybin as part of their training.” 

Michael C. Mithoefer, MD, FAPA

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 Michael Mithoefer to Minister Patty Hajdu

Recently, Michael Mithoefer, M.D wrote a letter to Health Minister Patty Hajdu expressing that in his expert opinion “therapist wishing to support a patient to enter deep non-ordinary states of consciousness, should have extensive experience with the states themselves, ideally using the same medicine that their patients will be using in the therapeutic sessions.”

Michael Mithoefer has given TheraPsil his blessing that his letter to Minister Hajdu can be made public:

 

I am writing to you in support of Therapsil’s Application for an exemption for their therapists, to receive psilocybin, so that they may train their therapists in the use of psychedelic medicine.  

I have been the Principal Investigator and lead author on several successful published psychedelic studies using MDMA in conjunction with psychotherapy for the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder [PTSD].  

It is my opinion, based on my experience, that therapist wishing to support a patient to enter deep non-ordinary states of consciousness, should have extensive experience with the states themselves, ideally using the same medicine that their patients will be using in the therapeutic sessions. 

My experience in this area includes being the Principal Investigator in an FDA and DEA approved protocol in which we provided guided MDMA sessions for therapists we had trained to work on clinical trials administering MDMA to PTSD patients.  As we point out in the approved protocol, “Personal experience is considered beneficial by practitioners of psychotherapeutic methods such as hypnosis and psychoanalysis, and by teachers of meditation and yoga.  However, in the case of present-day MDMA research, personal experience with MDMA can only be obtained legally through participation in a government-approved protocol.”

This same argument would apply to therapists seeking to support patients using psilocybin.  

Last year MAPS conducted a survey of the  80 + therapists who have received MDMA in this protocol. All therapists reported some benefit, and the vast majority reported that it was very beneficial in preparing them to work with patients receiving MDMA.

I would therefore support Therapsil‘s application for its therapists to receive permission to use psilocybin as part of their training.  I think it is very likely to make them better prepared to effectively support patients receiving psilocybin, and thereby contribute to patient safety and therapeutic outcomes.

With best regards,

Michael C. Mithoefer, MD, FAPA

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