Introducing the Healer-Explorers Guild™
The Center for Medicinal Mindfulness® traces its origins to April 20th, 2012, when it was officially established as a Psychedelic Harm Reduction program through the small private practice that my wife and I founded, called Aspenroots Counseling. We were just about to graduate from Naropa University after co-founding the Naropa Alliance for Psychedelic Studies (NAPS) with a group of friends and hosting the first Psychedelic Symposium that Spring.
As we celebrate our 10 year anniversary, we have since become an international program and founders of a new field of Psychedelic Therapy using the plant medicine, Cannabis sativa L.. When cannabis fist became legal for adult use in 2014, it appeared as an unexpected yet very potent psychedelic plant medicine. I was lucky to live in Colorado, just one of two states that first legalized. Since then it has been legalized across the United States and Canada, making it the only legal psychedelic available for hundreds of millions of people. We now have students across the United States, Canada, and the rest of the world. The fact that cannabis as a psychedelic is still being minimized and is still very poorly understood, even by members of the psychedelic community, is quite frankly very hard for me to comprehend. Even with all of the excitement of legalizing psilocybin and other medicines, from our perspective: “Psychedelic Therapy is Already LegalTM.”
Since we initiated our study of this medicine and our training program using Cannabis as a psychedelic, now known as Psychedelic Sitters SchoolTM, a new field of practitioners have emerged, some through our program, some independently, and now there is a burgeoning community of “Cannabis-Assisted Psychotherapists” across the country and the world. We have personally trained people from all over the United States, Canada, Europe, Israel, South America, and Australia.
While I personally don’t ascribe to the limits of just the mental health paradigm, I am honored that I unintentionally pioneered a new international movement and professional orientation around cannabis-assisted psychotherapy. In our program, we use the term Cannabis-Assisted Psychedelic TherapyTM
to describe the specific protocols we use which go beyond the psychotherapy model, and to be inclusive of non-psychotherapy practitioners.
Since the Center for Medicinal Mindfulness is no longer the only organization working with cannabis, it’s become apparent that it is time to “brand” the program to differentiate us from those that have been inspired by our work and copy us. Hence the annoying use of trademarksTM, registered trademarks®, and copyright symbols©.
I first became aware of the term “Guild of Guides” when I attended the very first MAPS conference in 2009. James Fadiman gave a presentation and a call to action to a packed room of very excited psychedelic activists. I tried to get involved at that time, but I was swept up by an intention to help MAPS work with Naropa University to make the second MDMA research site an internship site at Naropa. While successful, it wasn’t until after I graduated that the study got started, and it turns out I was about 11 years ahead of my time. Since then the Naropa Alliance has recently become the largest student group on campus and Naropa has recently initiated their own psychedelic studies program, supported by MAPS and other institutions.
Professionally speaking, I prefer the term “Psychedelic Guide” to describe myself, but that term means a lot of things to a lot of people. Our program has worked diligently to distinguish levels of expertise, and contexts of medicine practice that help clarify professional practice. A guide to me is someone who is an explorer of the unknown to satiate their own curiosity, while also being committed to helping other people explore their personal unknowns, and the unknown nature of greater reality. To be a skilled guide, it is important to be a healer as well; capable of healing yourself, but also helping others heal. If you’re exploring an unknown wilderness, first aid definitely comes in handy at times, this just happens to be first aid for the psyche. It is in these inspirations that I have chosen to use the obvious metaphor of the “guild” to describe our community of professional healers and explorers. Hence the name, Healer-Explorers Guild™.
Since its inception, our little program has emerged from my basement classroom space and out of private yoga studios into a well established healing center and professional training program. While we have more work to do, I am proud of our accomplishments. The Student Handbook that you are reading now is an informed consent document that outlines the necessary requirements and benefits of joining our community of professionals. We are not just a weekend workshop program, but a professional training program that supports our clients “From Vision to VocationTM.” This means that to support you, we are required to enter into a number of legal agreements and informed consent agreements so we can practice ethically, professionally, and within the context of aboveboard, legal practices.
The core training and credentialing program of Psychedelic Sitters SchoolTM is now a 400+ Hour Experiential Training Program. The purpose of the program is to help our students become professional psychedelic guides in legal settings. While we specially train with Cannabis as a psychedelic medicine, it was always the intention to ally with this medicine to learn the ropes of teaching and running a psychedelic therapy center, with the greater intention that we’d be ready when other psychedelic medicines become legal. As I write this, the Natural Medicine Health Act could soon be passed in Colorado, legalizing the medicines Psilocybin, Psilocyn, DMT, Ibogaine, and non-peyote Mescaline, both for personal use and for therapeutic healing applications. It is possible to work with cannabis and ketamine now where these medicines are legal, in preparation for the legalization of other psychedelic medicines through both ballot initiatives as well as FDA approval processes. Our program repeatedly validates this process through our professional protocols and center model.
With the future legalization of psychedelic medicines in mind, I diligently prepared the groundwork for a holistic training protocol where we teach the skillsets required to facilitate journeys with all types of psychedelic medicine. This practice is called Mindfulness-Based Psychedelic TherapyTM.
The Student Handbook represents over 10 years of diligent work, and a significant and ongoing financial investment in legal support. Even if the Natural Medicine Health Act doesn’t pass, other state initiatives are passing, and full legalization is around the corner. I have worked with teams of allies and lawyers over the last 10 years to create the necessary foundations for your professional psychedelic practice.
This foundation includes the difficult and complex work of managing the day to day operations of a psychedelic therapy center, creating a protocol that has allowed us to be the first in the nation to obtain professional liability insurance for psychedelic therapy using a plant medicine (with both licensed mental health providers, and non-licensed practitioners), the ethical requirements for proper professional conduct, and the compassionate enforcement of these requirements through a professional association, our Medicinal Mindfulness Foundation non-profit. The more I worked the image of it, the more the image metaphorically became a “Guild.”
Our work does not exist within a vacuum, and not all players in this field have good intent. I am coming from the perspective that working with psychedelics is a sacred act of service, others are looking to maximize profits. While I firmly believe that the corporatist paradigm is set to fail due to the transformational nature of these medicines, this does not mean we can sit back and let it all happen. It might be time for local professional communities to organize and become empowered voices in response to this global paradigm shift so we can effectively respond to the needs of our communities, and the healing required of society, while protecting our vision from those who seek to challenge or suppress it.
Our program represents one of the few programs that are not limited solely by the mental health and medical paradigm of licensed psychotherapy and medical only practices; however, our work does include these paradigms equally within a multi-paradigm approach that also includes the spiritual, creative, scientific, and celebratory. We firmly believe at our foundation that no one professional identity is the sole arbiter of ethical and skillful practice. In that regard, our students come from all professional identities. We have also developed a facilitator’s protocol that supports the legal, ethical, and fully insured practice of not only licensed mental health professionals, but also traditional and spiritual practitioners, and even practitioners that come from other paths called to this work.
What ever your interest or experience, there is a place her for you to grow professionally. We look forward to working with you.