What You Should Know About Psychedelic Therapy

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Are you curious about psychedelic therapy? Claire lays out the basics about this increasingly popular therapy technique and gives you some tips for learning more about using substances like ketamine, mushrooms, MDMA, and ayahuasca in a therapeutic setting. Her first and most important tip: consult your medical team before considering this kind of treatment. Plus, she answers a question from a listener who wants their teenage son to take more responsibility for his actions.

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Claire Bidwell-Smith

Claire Bidwell-Smith  00:00

So, you probably thought I was going out on a limb talking about psychic mediums and grief in a recent episode. Well, today I’m going to take it even further and dive into psychedelic therapy. I’m Claire Bidwell Smith. And that’s what we’re talking about today on new day. Psychedelic therapy is a thing, and it’s becoming increasingly more popular. I’ll tell you upfront that other than some shitty acid I took in high school a couple of times, I really haven’t tried psychedelics myself. So I’m not here to necessarily advocate for it. But rather, I want to provide some information. Since this is a topic that’s been coming up pretty much everywhere. I’ve had more and more grieving clients tell me about experiences they’ve had with ketamine, mushrooms, DMT, and MDMA. And recently, I’ve participated in several panel discussions as a grief expert in conversation with both grieving individuals and also facilitators of psychedelic treatment. So I’ve been learning a lot. It seems like there are three camps of people around this issue. Those who are hard now, those who are curious but apprehensive, and those who are all in to try it, I definitely fall into the curious category. And the more I talk to people who’ve tried it, the less apprehensive I’m becoming, but I’m still not all in. But since more and more of my clients have been coming into my office wanting to process experiences they’ve had with these drugs; I feel like it’s my duty to understand as much as I can about them. So to start, what is psychedelic therapy and who is it for? As a disclaimer, let me again, remind you that I’m not telling you to go out and try this and if you do, you should definitely consult your medical team before considering this kind of treatment. Psychedelic therapy is a practice that involves ingesting a psychedelic substance as part of the therapeutic process. It’s typically combined with talk therapy and done under the supervision of a therapist or trained facilitator. There’s a pretty wide range of consciousness altering drugs currently being used or researched for therapeutic purposes. Some are derived from plants like psilocybin or mushrooms, DMT, peyote or Ayahuasca. Others like ketamine, MDMA and LSD are lab made chemical compounds. While indigenous communities have used psychedelics in therapeutic and religious settings for centuries, psychedelic therapy is relatively new in western clinical settings. It’s becoming more popular with increased legalization of certain psychedelic substances along with the dire need for as much mental health support as we can get in this country. As for who it’s for, recent studies have shown that psychedelics can relieve depression, anxiety and PTSD, and even read addicts have cravings. Studies also show there can be long lasting positive behavioral changes, such as helping people deepen their sense of spirituality, and even helping terminally ill patients relinquish their fear of death. The main thing to know about this kind of therapy is that it’s done with a trained guide, a therapist or a facilitator. So this is not you and your parents basement, taking some shrooms with your buddies and tripping balls without an agenda. This is more like us sitting down with a therapist for several sessions in which you discuss what you’re needing help with like depression, grief, trauma, etc. All as a build up to the actual treatment. And then after a certain number of sessions, you have a guided experience with the therapist present at all times. Often you’re in their office, on a couch with music, blankets, eye masks, etc. The therapist stays with you to make sure you’re safe and to guide you through the necessary breakthroughs that the drug can provide. And then you do a certain number of sessions with that therapist to process the experience afterwards. For some people, they may opt for multiple experiences with the drug. But in this kind of therapeutic setting, the guide is always present. And there’s always processing before and after. And just a note for any of you who’ve seen the TV show starring Nicole Kidman called Nine perfect strangers. That’s not how this experience is supposed to go down. Anyway, I have to tell you that the reports I’m hearing from clients who’ve tried various kinds of these treatments ranging from single ketamine sessions two days long psychedelic retreats in places like Costa Rica, have been ranging from not that interesting to the profound. Some of my clients have told me that the experience really wasn’t as mind blowing or life changing as they hoped. Some have told me that the treatment made them feel sick or was unpleasant. And yet others have told me that they came out of it with a new lease on life and feeling forever altered for the better. Obviously, I think all of this depends a ton on your personality, on the particular issues you’re grappling with, and on the therapeutic setting and the drug itself. I will also say that for some of these experiences, you’re going to have to leave the country and go to places like Mexico, Costa Rica or Amsterdam where you can find therapeutic psychedelic retreats. Here in the States only ketamine is really legal and everything else is done in a fairly underground way. But I will say that the reports I’ve heard about profound and life changing experiences have been compelling. One woman I spoke to her lost her son told me that it wasn’t that the psychedelics made her grief go away, but rather the experience helped her be with her grief in a way that made it possible for her to live her life again.

Claire Bidwell-Smith  04:59

So bottom line. If you’re thinking of trying this route, I suggest you do a fuck ton of research. Talk to anyone you know who’s tried it. Read Michael Pollan’s article in The New Yorker, the trip treatment, or read his book or watch the Netflix documentary based on it, how to change your mind. goop has also produced a lot of articles and podcasts around this stuff. And obviously, your old friend Google has plenty of info to provide. The thing is psychedelic therapy is here, and it’s growing. So if you’re curious, stay informed. While I’m not saying you should go out and try this, I’m always glad to see new research and studies around anything that can help make life suck less.

Claire Bidwell-Smith  05:40

Today’s question is going to resonate with a lot of parents. I love talking about families and kids and spouses. So if you have a question about any of those relationships, email me at newday@lemonadamedia.com. Or fill out my online forum at bit.li/new. Day ask, you’ll find the link in the show notes. Today, our anonymous listener writes, my 15 year old son struggles with accepting responsibility for his actions and behavior and will often manipulate the situation so he isn’t the one at fault. How do I teach my son to own up to his behavior and accept responsibility instead of pointing the finger at everyone else? Hi, anonymous. Thanks for this question. I’ve got several teenagers in my life. So this sounds familiar. And it’s a tough one. I mean, they’re actually adults in my life who behave this way, too. How do we make anyone accept responsibility for their actions? I think some of this begins with the route of just helping our kids feel more comfortable with failure, with making mistakes, and with feeling embarrassed and ashamed. Those are hard things to feel even for those of us who are really self-aware, it’s understandable that teenagers who don’t have the same maturity and experience as adults don’t know how to accept responsibility. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to still help them learn how to do it. I think we have to role model these healthy ways of accepting responsibility for our actions. So that’s one place to start, take a look at what your son is seeing at home, and evaluate if there’s anything you could be doing differently. This goes for how you accept responsibility, but also for how well you demonstrate feelings of vulnerability. Brené Brown has so much great stuff around vulnerability. If you haven’t read her book Daring Greatly, I highly recommend it. I just really think that when we’re uncomfortable with who we are, as most teenagers are, it’s really hard to let ourselves feel vulnerable. And it’s much easier to place the blame on everyone else around us. So I would suggest digging into more of what your son’s feeling underneath the surface. What is he afraid of? In what ways might he be hurting? Is he getting enough attention in the right places? Does he have healthy outlets for frustration and anger? Where and when does he feel most able to be himself? If none of those needs are getting met, then it’s likely that he doesn’t feel safe feeling more vulnerable emotions. But look, I know how hard this can be as a parent, especially when we often feel that our kids are like extensions of us and that their actions the world are reflections of our parenting and role modeling. Parenting is such a mindfuck isn’t it, anonymous? There are also so many other factors probably going on here, your son’s social scene, the other parents in your community, teachers, schools, coaches, what’s being modeled for him, what’s being encouraged, who’s pressuring him in various ways. Therapy, therapy therapy, I know I always recommend it. But seriously therapy for your son, therapy for you. It is not easy to be human in the world. It’s okay to get help with this stuff. It’s really hard to be a teenager in today’s world. And it’s really hard to be a parent to you don’t have to figure it all out on your own. Find someone you can talk it through with and someone your son can talk to you. Maybe there’s a camp or a program for teen boys that also might be helpful for him like Outward Bound or wilderness therapy. And for you get support in your parenting, make friends and talk with other parents in your community. Check out the book conscious parenting by Dr. Shefali. And lastly, self-compassion. You’re clearly frustrated and I’m sure your son is not entirely happy either or he wouldn’t be acting this way. Be kind to yourself, to each other. None of us are perfect. We are all works in progress. I think by even just asking this question, you’re on the right track. Thank you for writing.

Claire Bidwell-Smith  09:18

Before I go, our world needs more grief support than ever. If you’ve ever considered working in the field of grief and loss, I’d love for you to consider joining me for my grief certification training course. This program is designed to help deepen your understanding of grief and end of life work. And it’s open to students, counselors, therapists, nurses, even yoga and art teachers. Anyone working in a professional setting, use code NewDay15 for 15% off registration and visit my website ClaireBidwellSmith.com to learn more. Be sure to come back on Friday for my conversation with Connor Franta. He’s a YouTube star author, queer rights activists and he hosts the Lemonada Podcast Burnout. If you haven’t listened to that show yet, do that right now and subscribe to new day. That way the episode with Connor will be in your feed when you wake up on Friday.

Claire Bidwell-Smith  10:17

NEW DAY is a Lemonada Media Original. The show was produced by Kryssy Pease and Erianna Jiles. Kat Yore is our engineer. Music is by Hannis Brown. New Day is produced in partnership with the well-being trust the Jed foundation and Education Development Center. Thanks for listening.

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