June 19-23, 2023, the largest psychedelic conference in history on Psychedelic Science, sponsored by Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), was attended by more than 12,000 people in Denver, CO. You can now attend virtually with 10 pre-recorded sessions that highlight some of the key themes of the conference and more videos that will be released throughout the fall as part of MAPS mission to provide education and knowledge exchange within the psychedelic community. This Virtual Trip will eventually contain nearly all recorded sessions from this conference. Click HERE for access. This is offered via a “pay what you can” model.
September 21 -23, Stowe, VT: I attended an extraordinary conference on Psychedelic Science and Spirituality called Soulquinox created by the Psychedelic Society of Vermont. Following are what stood out as highlights for me. But, each presentation over the two days, 9-5pm, was excellent.
A Sacred Sound Sanctuary Experience on Thursday evening with Melinda Kinzie was part shamanic journey and part multidimensional healing. The strong suggestion: relax deeply and let go of all suffering. Aaaaah! A Great Start!
Ros Watts, PhD, began Friday morning asserting that the collective culture we are in is not conducive to creating community that supports expanded states of consciousness. Therefore, we need to create community to serve those who are exploring through psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy (PAP) or on their own. Sustaining the breakthroughs happens overtime through community and supportive relationships. Without these supports, experiencers can lose the fullness of gains they experienced with plant medicines and psychedelics. Most presenters affirmed this later making it a central point of the conference.
Beano Bern, of Rootstock Retreat, who has been an underground guide for 420 people experiencing psilocybin-assisted therapy, shared details about how her facilitation creates and maintains community. She underscored the importance of “presence”—that the guide needs to be fully present for preparation, experience and integration…and integration may continue over months and years.
What The Science Tells Us
Gül Dölen, MD, PhD, illustrated how psychedelics create “critical periods” during and shortly after taking them. These periods offer enhanced neuroplasticity in the brain making it easier to heal both emotionally and physically. Research is now looking to use psychedelics for stroke victims to enhance their full functioning taking advantage of this special window of enhanced neuroplasticity.
Ben Sessa, MD, reviewed recent studies that illustrate how psychedelics have proven to effectively help heal depression, anxiety, PTSD and addiction. We no longer need proof that the responsible use of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy is far more effective than what is now typically used (conventional psychotherapy and psychiatric medication). With this proof, PAP is disrupting the world of psychotherapy and psychiatry as well as the ways we have categorized mental health issues, i.e. in the DSM.
The Future of Psychedelic Science
Janice Phelps, PhD, reviewed the need for extensive training of responsible guides, now that it is clear that PAP is so highly effective. She and others mentioned that we need at least 9-10,000 well-trained guides. Currently we have only 1,000 in the USA. Ethical guidelines are now being put in place and attention is on how to empower BIPOC individuals and young people out of high school who may not have the financial backing to afford training. We need guides who represent the diversity we currently have in the population.
This aspect of social justice was reinforced by Hannah McLane, MD, MPH, who has created the SoundMind Center in Philadelphia. She is training a diverse group of facilitators. The training includes experiential sessions for training purposes outside of USA where it is legal to use psychedelics, e.g. Jamaica.
Rick Doblin, PhD, President of MAPS, and associates determined that in late 2024 we could see the federal legalization of MDMA for use in psychotherapy. The legalization of psilocybin use could follow as early as 2025.
The conference was uplifting and community building. I felt particularly touched by the personal sharing of many of the presenters and their acknowledgement of the wisdom of indigenous traditions. I left feeling deeply inspired and meaningfully connected to others in this community!
Author: Emma Bragdon, PhD, is the Executive Director of Integrative Mental Health University. She was a practitioner of MDMA psychotherapy in the early 1980s, when it was legal. She has more recently partnered with Benjamin Asher, MD, to offer Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy in Vermont.
IMHU offers several courses that go into more depth with Psychedelic-Assisted Psychotherapy:
Check out all IMHU courses by clicking HERE.