The experts are pretty sure it’s going to take 100,000 psychedelic facilitators for the new industry to provide treatment to the masses. 

When we got the chance to ask The UC Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics (BCSP) about its efforts last week, one of the popular topics was its work to increase the number of Psychedelic Facilitators for the tidal wave of FDA approval for the medical use of MDMA and psilocybin. During the call, Michael Pollan, who leads the center’s public education effort and just dropped the GOAT psychedelic docu-series on Netflix, noted he’d heard the industry would need about 100,000 facilitators to guide people through their quests for healing. 

We reached out to the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies’ (MAPS) founder, Dr. Rick Doblin, to get his take on the numbers. Doblin is one of the main figures to help usher in the new era. Since its founding in 1986, MAPS has taken the lead in pushing for more psychedelic research and reform. 

Additionally, few organizations have the body of knowledge on facilitation MAPS does, given their years of research, or analysis of the work of others. Doblin told L.A. Weekly, 100,000 is a very large number of therapists, but considering 12 million people suffering from PTSD and the 17 million or more suffering from depression, it’s not unreasonable.

“MAPS’ goal is to train 25,000 therapists in MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD before 2030,” Doblin said. “There are so many other potential clinical indications for MDMA and psilocybin such as alcohol and substance abuse, social anxiety, phobias, etc., etc., that 100,000 therapists could be kept busy.” 

Doblin also noted what the final accepted models look like also will play a big number in figuring out how many facilitators will be needed. 

“The other key variable is group therapy, which if that works close to as well as individual therapy, it’s possible a lower number of therapists could meet the need,” Doblin said. 

Back in Berkeley, Tina Trujillo is leading the effort to get facilitators trained. In addition to serving on the BCSP’s leadership team, Trujillo is an associate professor at UC Berkeley’s School of Education. Her current work, where she explores tensions and commonalities among scientific, spiritual, and Indigenous ways of doing things, could not be more fitting. Equity in the psychedelic industry for indigenous practitioners has long been a part of the conversation; Trujillo will have a front-row seat to the attempt to put it into practice. She’s looking at the big picture.

“As a consequence of all of these developments, we’re finding that there’s an increasingly large need for professionally trained facilitators to provide safe, legal and effective psychedelic assisted therapy,” Trujillo said. “The field has recognized that these substances alone and not a magic pill, they’re part of a larger system of sophisticated and coordinated care.” 

Trujillo emphasized a key part of that system is a trained guide, or facilitator, who supports clients to prepare for, to undergo, and to integrate their psychedelic experiences into the rest of their lives. 

The BCSP will offer a 175-hour training program that lasts nine months and is designed for mid to late career advanced religious, spiritual-care, and health-care professionals. Participants will even get the chance to take part in an FDA-approved psilocybin study to better guide others in their own experiences.  

“We provide interdisciplinary training for advanced professionals, with an emphasis on both Western science and spiritual care traditions,” Trujillo said. “This coming September, we’ll launch our inaugural cohort for the certificate program in psychedelic facilitation. This first cohort is composed of 24 advanced licensed professionals that include chaplains, medical doctors, nurses, psychotherapists and social workers.”

Trujillo also noted the center has been able to diversify its enrollment to include members of historically underrepresented groups and lower-salary professionals, by offering financial assistance to qualified applicants. 

One major factor of the whole program is the fact it’s basically an unregulated field outside of the current policy shift in Oregon. 

“This means that universities have a major opportunity to rigorously bridge the worlds of research and practice, and in ways that emphasize accountability and systematic knowledge building,” Trujillo said. “So part of our mission in this program is to build this bridge between empirical knowledge bases in practice.”

Here in L.A., ketamine therapy has blown up in recent years with thousands now having undergone treatment through a variety of centers. We asked Trujillo how much the body of knowledge built locally might help in the work in Berkeley and other places. 

“Yes, I think that there are lessons that can be transferred to other settings with other substances and then there are some properties of working with that particular substance that are unique to its profile,” Trujillo replied. 

She said things like the preparation that goes into a psychedelic experience, the intentional work that precedes it, the care that’s provided when somebody actually is taking the medicine, and then the follow-up, all of that can apply to a variety of settings.

 

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