Olivia

by Luis Tamani

Resources for Tripsitters & Psychedelic Therapists

practice supporting others on their journeys

Spiritually mature, heart-centered psychedelic guides are gems for humanity.

Here are some resources for those seeking to grow in the work and serve as witnesses, mentors, and allies for other people's spiritual / psychedelic journeys.

Introduction

An increasing number of people are interested in becoming and, in some cases, have started working as a psychedelic therapist, guide, facilitator, or practitioner. This document provides basic advice and a list of resources to help these individuals realize their full potential. Please note: the writer has his own biases, and you should question, examine, and come to your own conclusions about any and all perspectives provided below. 

Staying close to the medicine is the most direct path to growing as a facilitator. This means communing with the medicine, supporting those who work as guides/therapists/tripsitters, volunteering at or contributing to retreat centers that offer the medicine with integrity, and connecting with individuals that do any of the above. The more you practice preparing, experiencing, and integrating your own psychedelic journeys, and support others to do the same, the more confident you will feel. To initiate others, you must take the steps to go through your own initiation. Each step you take will give you a more nuanced perspective. You must lead by example.

The less we interact with the medicine, the slower our progress will be. Each interaction with the medicine is a revolutionary act that aids us in dissolving the harmful effects of society's conditioning on our psyche. If we are unwilling to face our shadows and fears, how can we help others to do so? Medicine work will make us realize our shortcomings. Are we willing to face them with honesty and courage? If not, are we at least willing to acknowledge the fact or will we pretend otherwise?

There are three things you can do to help someone. The first is to listen. The second is to listen. The third is to listen some more.

When we have faith, commit to sharing the medicine, serve others, and practice relinquishing attachments, life grants us opportunities to be involved in the work. The medicine illuminates the path, purifies intentions, opens our hearts, dispels doubts, activates gratitude, and shifts our focus into the present moment. 

It’s important to develop and strengthen our spiritual practice, which helps us cultivate generosity, compassion, loving-kindness, and experiential wisdom. We practice being aware of and content with whatever arises rather than following the endless desire to become something other than what we are or to get something from the world. We learn how to care for ourselves and set strong boundaries.

Then, when we feel abundant and relaxed, and when we are happy with who we are, we are able to open, listen, and forget about ourselves while holding space for others. The more we seek for name, fame, attention, insights, or respect, the less effective we are as facilitators. The less we seek, the more we can be a clear open witness for ourselves and others. We are never done with the work, and must remain vigilant about mental impurities that can harm ourselves and others.

As Shantideva says, “All the suffering in this world arises from wanting only our self to be happy. All the happiness in this world arises from wanting others to be happy.” The path to being happy and inspiring others is to give generously and find ways to benefit others -- to put aside our own desires and ideas and be a loving presence and witness.

The medicine path is not an easy one. Especially at the beginning, working with our own and others’ traumas can often be unpleasant, confusing, and painful. We may feel like escaping or hiding at times from the seemingly never-ending suffering. However, a willingness to explore all the intricacies and subtleties in our own psyche is necessary to be a successful practitioner. If we are not willing to face ourselves, we cannot support others to do so.

It’s best to get in the habit of being comfortable with cleaning up physical messes as a preliminary practice.

We must practice getting to the root of our suffering, understanding it, and transmuting it into love and light. Indeed, the more inner work we’ve done on ourselves, the more that people will be willing and able to surrender, heal, and grow in our presence. When we practice being fully honest with ourselves, we allow others to be fully honest with themselves.

There are countless distractions and temptations along the way, and these will increase as one successfully moves along the healing journey. Those who stay heart-centered, humble, and soft will be able to sustain themselves, even if they make mistakes. Repenting and asking for forgiveness cleanses the spirit. Those who fall into various traps (misuse of or obsession with money, sex, power, name/fame, etc.) may achieve worldly success, but will ultimately be unhappy. It has been said, “Many are called, but few are chosen.“

Those who practice the teachings of The Tao de Ching tend to be the most effective guides. Service-orientation, groundedness, humility, and patience are some of the qualities of the most sought-after practitioners. Not knowing is more powerful than knowing. The more we think we know, the less qualified we are to sit for others. The work requires us to drop our intellectual understanding and feel into things.

Reading written guides from other practitioners can be a starting point for recognizing the most important aspects of working with the medicine. Please keep in mind that no amount of reading will prepare us fully for what we may experience on our journeys as facilitators.

Written Guides and Manuals

Codes of Ethics

It’s important to have a solid understanding of how a psychedelic therapist or guide is expected to think and act, and some of the pitfalls to avoid.

A true teacher will always point you back to yourself.

Training Programs

Some of the following programs mostly center a Western medicinal and therapeutic paradigm, which, like any other framework, has limitations. Western society has for many centuries rejected psychedelic substances, and programs designed within this system will usually make compromises in various ways.

Some of these compromises may include disallowing practitioners to practice with the medicine; only accepting people with certain academic qualifications [which do not necessarily translate the ability to sit with others, and which reinforces systemic inequalities against black, indigenous and people of color] into the program; or using and promoting language, imagery, ideas that focuses mostly on the individual as separate from the whole.

Still, many of these Western-based training programs can offer great insight into creating the conditions necessary to succeed as a medicine practitioner in our modern society. Being trauma-informed and learning about the nervous system are important aspects of being prepared for some of the cases we may encounter.

Meanwhile, some indigenous cultures have been using plant and other psychedelic medicines for hundreds and even thousands of years, but offer very little formalized training, and essentially none recognized by Western institutions and society. However, many practitioners around the world have found and continue to find it helpful to spend time and study with indigenous healers. Actively seeking out environments that challenge one’s core beliefs can be a fruitful endeavor. You may find it useful to receive training from various cultural perspectives, and to apply a combination of the teachings you receive in your own practice.

Furthermore, any training that allows you to practice sitting, listening, volunteering and helping others work through trauma can be helpful. In your journey as a medicine worker, training in meditation, yoga, and breathwork can be just as powerful or even essential as formalized medical or clinical training. The medicine path is a spiritual path, and ultimately has nothing to do with institutionalized structures and hierarchies.

In fact, cooking for others, sweeping the floor, and cleaning toilets without monetary reward may be the best practice one can receive on the way to holding space for others. Psychedelic guides will often encounter unpleasant emotions in themselves and others; it’s best to get in the habit of being comfortable with cleaning up physical messes as a preliminary practice. As a revealing aside, in some monasteries, cleaning toilets is a task reserved for the highest master.  

Remember: you are enough already. A true teacher will always point you back to yourself. These various courses, workshops, and retreats are ways to get in touch with your innate ability to be a healing presence, and to connect you to a wider community of trainees.

“Holding space” means being physically, mentally, and emotionally present for someone.

As the third poem in the Tao says,

“If you overesteem great men,
people become powerless.
If you overvalue possessions,
people begin to steal.
The Master leads
by emptying people's minds
and filling their cores,
by weakening their ambition
and toughening their resolve.
He helps people lose everything
they know, everything they desire,
and creates confusion
in those who think that they know.
Practice not-doing,
and everything will fall into place.”

  • Aya Healing Retreats -- Trauma-Informed Plant Medicine Facilitation Online Training, 3 modules with experienced guide.
  • Being True to You -- comprehensive Online Transformational Coach Training focused on addiction recovery and psychedelic integration.
  • California Institute of Integral Studies -- Hybrid Residential and Online Curriculum, based in California, 180 hours total, probably the most prestigious (and expensive) program. Must have a license and RN, MA, JD, PhD/PsyD, or MD degrees in behavioral health, medicine, or mental health studies.  
  • Center for Optimal Living -- Live Online integrative harm reduction psychotherapy training. Counts as "continuing education credits" and recognized by New York State Education Department and State of Board for Social Work. 
  • Compass Pathways -- Comprehensive online and clinical training for psilocybin therapy. 
  • Consciousness Medicine -- Francoise Bourzat -- Pre-recorded online courses by a reputable guide and author. 
  • Embodied Philosophy -- 6-part pre-recorded lecture series, along with an option to join “the Wisdom School,” which gives access to more educational material. 
  • Fluence -- various educational courses, workshops, retreats, including 120-hour Postgraduate Certificate in Psychedelic Integration Therapy.
  • Forest Medicine Coaching -- various courses, workshops, and retreats, based in Colorado.
  • Gabor Mate -- several options for intensive training courses.
  • The Guiding Presence -- designed for therapists, clergy, medical and healing professionals, hospice workers, and individuals who are interested in a comprehensive overview of the fundamental considerations of holding space for others while they traverse expanded state of awareness.
  • MAPS Compilation of Institutions Offering Programs
  • MAPS Europe -- The MDMA Therapy Training Program is a five-part program designed to prepare researchers to work on Phase 3 clinical trials of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD.
  • Maps MDMA Therapy Training -- MDMA Therapy Training Program enrolls compassionate and experienced clinicians who are committed to health and well-being. The program is currently accepting applications for mental health practitioners interested in learning the modality of MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy.
  • Mind Foundation -- various offerings including in-person training in Germany and recorded webinars and courses online.
  • Mind Medicine Australia -- developing a Certificate In Psychedelic-assisted Therapies (CPAT).
  • Mindspace Wellbeing -- Psychedelics 101 & 102 for Clinicians is 2-day training offered by psychologists Ingmar Gorman and Elizabeth Nielson is designed for clinicians and healthcare providers who want to learn more about current psychedelic research and clinical practice, including how to work with patients who have a history of psychedelic use or have expressed an interest in using psychedelics. This is the first time this program has been offered in Canada.
  • Nine Gates -- consists of two, 9-day residential sessions, 5-1/2 months apart. Between Part I and Part II, students are mentored individually as the class deepens and integrates School experiences with shared weekly teachings and group practices.
  • PRATI (Psychedelic Research and Training Institute) -- Weekend course for physicians and licensed professionals.
  • Psychedelic Courses -- Directory of upcoming live and learn-at-own-pace courses.
  • Psychedelics Sitter School -- several levels of online and in-person courses focused on therapeutic cannabis use, but with broader applications to other psychedelics.
  • Psychedelic Support -- Accredited courses to advance professional development and knowledge of psychedelic safety, therapeutic applications, and research findings.
  • Psychedelics Today -- Navigating Psychedelics for Clinicians and Therapists, 8-week Online Live Course.
  • Sage Institute -- two-year internship training program at Oakland-based Sage provides interns with a rigorous education in long-term depth psychotherapy and psychedelic-assisted therapy.
  • SCPTR (Salt City Psychedelic Therapy & Research) -- 8-week online course.
  • Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute -- training in the somatic experiencing modality.
  • SSDP Psychedelic Pipeline -- global network to connect SSDP members and alumni who are interested in working in the field of psychedelics to quality mentorship, training, scholarship funds, and career development opportunities, with a deliberate focus on providing access to people of color.
  • Synthesis Institute -- courses and trainings, including 9-month practitioner training in partnership with Usona Institute, and 10-day practitioner retreat.
  • Zendo Project -- variety of harm reduction resources.

Books:

Here are some books that may be helpful on your path.

Videos:

Here are some videos that may provide insights into holding space for others.

Articles:

Here are a few helpful articles about some of what we've discussed above.

If you think something should be added, changed, or taken off this guide, please email hello@tripsitters.org.

Next Steps

Explore written guides for journeyers.

Explore the mycelial network through the Tripsitters Directory.

To dive deeper, join the Psilocybin 101 Course or request a Consultation.