Psychedelic Harm Reduction
Getting the Most out of Every Journey
Creative approaches to supporting the body, psyche, and spirit.
There are times in life where the straight-and-narrow approach is just what the doctor ordered. But at other times we find ourselves seeking opportunities to heal that go beyond the pale of what conventional medicine has to offer.
It’s no secret that psychedelic science is making a comeback. The recent years have seen an explosion of new research demonstrating the effects of substances like MDMA (the active ingredient in the street drug “ecstasy”) in helping individuals with treatment-resistant post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Psilocybin (the active constituent of “magic mushrooms”) has been shown in trials at NYU and Johns Hopkins to help relieve anxiety and depression, with long-lasting benefits. And yet other psychedelic substances like the Amazonian brew Ayahuasca, the Bwiti shrub Iboga, and even the American hippie generation’s LSD may help individuals overcome addictions (including drug addictions) more successfully than the other programs and therapies currently available within the scope of Western medicine. (Fun fact: Bill W, the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous credited a psychedelic journey with his successful sobriety and in fact advocated for the use of psychedelics in the treatment of alcoholism.)
While the research is promising and will very likely result in many of these substances becoming legal in the United States within the very near future, the jury is still out. Theses substances are not without their risks, and they are certainly not foolproof.
That’s where chatting with a professional about psychedelic harm reduction may be a wise step in helping you make the smartest choices possible.
Here’s what I can offer you:
- Help you better understand the risks and benefits of psychedelic healing
- Summarize my understanding of the latest research on entheogenic substances, doses, and outcomes
- Help you create a customized “birthing plan,” considering such elements as set, setting, timing, company, etc.
- Help you set intentions and goals for what you want to get out of your journey
- Help you prepare for a more meaningful and safe journey
- Explore options other than psychedelics to help you accomplish your healing goals
- Talk about what kinds of conditions and issues psychedelics can aggravate or make worse
- Have supportive sessions before and after your journey (also known as pre- and post-ceremony counseling) to help you understand and make the most of the lessons learned
Here’s what I CANNOT (and will not) do – with NO EXCEPTIONS:
- Tell you it’s safe to use these substances, or recommend that you purchase, sell, or take illicit substances
- Provide you with information on where or how to purchase these substances illegally
- Refer you to underground therapists offering psychedelic-assisted sessions in places where it is not legal
What’s the difference between recommending psychedelic work and offering psychedelic harm reduction support?
My relationship with psychedelic harm reduction in adults is much like my approach to harm reduction with teenagers. For example: I do not encourage teenagers to have sex, but I feel an ethical obligation to meet my clients where they are. Much like I spare my adolescent clients scare tactics to try and shame them or terrify them out of having sex, I instead understand that they’re likely going to have it regardless of what I say. So instead of sounding like an after school special, I instead ask my teenage clients: What questions do you have about sex? Who do you plan to have sex with? Do you know how to properly put on a condom? How can we make this as safe and meaningful of an experience for you as possible, while still understanding that you’re taking a big risk here? What’s your family’s/religion’s attitude around sex? How do you feel about deviating from that? Are you ready to deal with the consequences?
This is much the spirit with which I approach psychedelic healing. If you’re going to take the leap into the unknown, you might as well have somebody guide you on how to pack your parachute properly – understanding that a parachute is still not a 100% guarantee of safety, but that it’s a much better idea to jump with one than without one.
Dr. Z’s Psychedelic CV:
- Traveled in Central and South America learning about plant medicine
- Ongoing volunteer with the Zendo Project, an organization that offers psychedelic harm reduction and “trip sitting” services at festivals and special events like Burning Man
- Co-facilitated several day-long trainings with and for the Zendo Project
- Currently in training with the Multi Disciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) to become one of the first MDMA-assisted psychotherapists in the United States. (This therapy is not yet available in States, however, but hopefully will be legal in the near future.)
- Regularly present Grand Rounds at medical schools and hospitals on the topic of the Clinical Applications of Psychedelic Medicine
- Teach day-long continuing education seminars approved by the American Psychological Association (APA) to psychologists, psychiatrists, and other clinicians on Psychedelic-Assisted Psychotherapy (sample brochure here)
- Presented at various psychedelic conferences on the Mechanisms of Action of Psychedelic Therapies (sample video here)
- Attended Psychedelic Science 2017 Conference, various other trainings and workshops
- Shadowed at various ketamine clinics to better understand the use of the drug in the treatment of depression
- Authored a feature-length, cover story article on psychedelic medicine for a medical journal
- Wrote the front-page feature piece for a medical journal on the use of ketamine in the treatment of depression and mood disorders
- Authorized a piece on psychedelic harm reduction for the MAPS bulletin
- Interviewed by Playboy Magazine, books on psychedelic healing, and various other publications on the subject of psychedelics
- Interviewed on KBOO radio station on the subject of psychedelic healing
- Regular contributor to psychedelic.support resource site
Are you interested in having Dr. Zelfand present on psychedelic science at your upcoming conference, event, or festival?
Or would you like to interview her for your book, podcast, or summit?
Please send media inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.