Foundations of Psychedelic Psychotherapy
Foundations of Psychedelic Psychotherapy:
at a glance
Credential(s) Earned: Certificate of Completion
Program Length: 15 weeks; Approximately 100 hours
Start Date: September 6, 2023
Application Deadline: June 2, 2023
Program Code: FPP110
Psychedelic psychotherapy is poised to be an important breakthrough in the treatment of mental illness in this generation. Phase III trials for MDMA-assisted psychotherapy are close to completion and government regulation of MDMA and psilocybin are expected within the coming years. Just around the corner, physicians will be able to prescribe these medication-assisted therapies for a variety of indications, and Canada needs trained therapists who can deliver this treatment.
This Foundations Course will provide a broad introduction to the knowledge, skills and attitudes required to provide effective and ethical psychedelic psychotherapy. Candidates for this course will be registered health professionals whose scope of practice includes psychotherapy, who possess a passion for the field of psychedelic therapy, and have an interest in developing a pathway to practice in this area.
Hosted in conjunction with the UHN Psychedelic Psychotherapy Research Group and guided by values of humanity, collaboration, diversity/equity/inclusion and interconnectedness, we seek to cultivate and support a community of learners who will work together to shape the future of psychedelic psychotherapy in Canada.
The program features evidence-based knowledge, experiential learning, and teachings from multiple perspectives with a strong emphasis on safe and ethical practice. The Foundations Course is our first offering and will open up access to more advanced trainings that are in development and will be offered in the future.
Foundation of Psychedelic psychotherapy – FPP110
By the end of the Foundations Course, trainees will be able to:
- Discuss the history of psychedelics including Indigenous and Canadian histories.
- Understand the pharmacology, neuroscience, mechanism of action and research evidence of the major psychedelic compounds, with a focus on psilocybin, MDMA and ketamine.
- Understand how psychedelic therapy is being applied to a wide range of indications, including posttraumatic stress disorder, major depressive disorder, end-of-life distress, and others.
- Understand the legal and regulatory context of psychedelics in Canada, discuss the risks and potentials of commercialization, and describe future post-prohibition models.
- Recognize and understand non-ordinary states of consciousness (NOSCs) and identify the wide range of material that can arise in a psychedelic session using Dr. Stanislav Grof’s cartography of the mind, along with other theories.
- Bridge scientific and spiritual knowledge and develop an understanding of transpersonal states and mystical experiences.
- Appreciate the somatic components of psychedelic healing and how to work with the body in NOSCs.
- Demonstrate how to screen and assess patients for psychedelic therapy, including knowledge of indications, contraindications and other safety considerations.
- Describe how to prepare patients for psychedelic work in a skilled and sensitive manner.
- Show the ability to safely and effectively guide patients in dosing sessions including:
- How to use an inner-directed approach.
- How to create a safe container for medicine sessions including the use of music and the safe and ethical use of touch.
- Understand how to support integration of the psychedelic experience for the patient, including how to recognize and work with integration challenges and spiritual emergencies.
- Engage in a harm reduction approach to support patients who choose to use psychedelics outside of the clinical settings.
- Exhibit trust in the medicines, in the inner healing intelligence of the patient and in themselves.
- Understand the unique ethical challenges of working in NOSC and maintain a commitment to practicing with the highest ethical standards.
- Understand the principles and tools of the InnerEthics™ Model (Kylea Taylor, 2020) including the importance of self-reflection, how to maintain right relationship with clients, and how to repair ruptures when missteps occur.
- Explore how to build diversity, equity and inclusion in psychedelic communities.
- Engage in their own experience in NOSCs through breathwork and demonstrate a commitment to their own process of healing, self-actualization, and consciousness expansion.
The program is designed for healthcare professionals whose scope of practice includes psychotherapy. Candidates for the Foundations Course will be individuals who possess a passion for the field of psychedelic psychotherapy and demonstrate a strong interest in developing a pathway to an enduring practice.
The program is geared specifically for the those trained and practicing in one of the following disciplines:
- Clinical Psychology
- Social Work
- Psychotherapy (including clergy/spiritual care providers and music therapists who are registered psychotherapists)
- Family Medicine
- Medicine (with ability to provide psychotherapy)
- Nursing (including Registered Practical Nursing, Registered Nurses and Nurse Practitioners)
- Occupational Therapy
*This year we will accept a limited number of applications from healthcare professionals who are not formally trained or practicing psychotherapy on a case-by-case basis. These spots are reserved for applicants who have strong potential to take a leadership role in the psychedelic medicine ecosystem as it continues to evolve.
The Foundations of Psychedelic Psychotherapy Course will be delivered in a hybrid/blended learning structure including both in-person and virtual learning.
The course includes:
- Weekly pre-recorded lectures that learners can watch at their own pace (1-3 hours per week), taught by experts in the field.
- Weekly live virtual sessions every Wednesday from 6-8 pm EST facilitated by expert teachers and course directors, allowing for deeper exploration of the material through Q and A, breakout groups, experiential exercises and other interactive methods of learning.
- Two in-person weekends retreats, centered around a breathwork experience led by certified Holotropic BreathworkTM facilitators.
- One live, virtual weekend with the opportunity to dive deeper into the material.
Participants will have access to online content, including various tools and resources. There is the opportunity to participate in online discussion forums.
Content areas include:
- Science and Law (pharmacotherapy, neuroscience, research evidence base, regulatory practices in Canada).
- Culture and Spirituality (justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion; mystical experiences; traditions for expansion of consciousness; history of psychedelics, including Indigenous plant medicine perspectives).
- Therapeutic Skills (assessment including contraindications; principles of de-prescribing; preparation; dosing sessions; use of sound and music; use of touch; integration).
- Ethics and Self Care (integrity; boundaries; communication; peer supervision; harm reduction).
- Experiential Learning (somatic awareness; mindfulness; group sharing; breathwork).
Live lectures and discussion from 6:00 – 8:00 pm EST each week from September 6th, 2023 to December 13th, 2023
Friday, September 29th, 2023 to Sunday, October 1st, 2023
- Holotropic Breathwork Weekend 1
- In person at Lotus Heart Retreat Centre near Brighton, Ontario (approximately 2 hours east of Toronto)
Friday, November 3rd, 2023 to Sunday, November 5th, 2023
- Holotropic Breathwork Weekend 2
- In person at Lotus Heart Retreat Centre
Friday, December 1st 2023 to Sunday, December 3rd, 2023
- Virtual weekend
Educators for the Foundations Course will be a cross-section of academic experts, experienced clinicians, and community builders who, using a variety of methods and media, will engage students to learn about the work of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy and develop professional and ethical excellence with a commitment to lifelong learning.
Emma Hapke, MD, FRCPC
Daniel Rosembaum, MD, FRCPC
Yarissa Herman, DPsych, CPsych
Tuition for the program is $4000. This includes all program components, including online programming and two in-person weekends.
Thanks to generous private donors to the UHN Psychedelic Psychotherapy Research Group, a limited number of bursaries ($1000 total) are available on the basis of financial need. Please see the supplemental application form for more details.
Breathwork is a method of intentionally altering the pattern of one’s breathing under supportive conditions. This practice can induce a non-ordinary state of consciousness (NOSC) which resembles the psychedelic-occasioned NOSC – including altered sensory perceptions, intense and varied emotions, emergence of unconscious material and even transpersonal or mystical-type experiences. Breathwork involves a combination of voluntary hyperventilation (i.e., a period of sustained, deep, and rapid breathing), music (which is carefully curated by the facilitators and plays throughout the experience), and contextual factors (i.e., “set and setting”). Breathwork does not involve the ingestion of a psychedelic substance.
During the Foundations Course, breathwork will be offered over two separate, in-person weekend retreats. These will be conducted in a group setting and led by facilitators certified in Holotropic BreathworkTM and highly experienced with this modality. The course directors will also be present during the breathwork sessions to provide additional support to the facilitators and participants as needed. On these breathwork weekends, participants will take on the role of both “breather” (i.e., engaging in the focused, sustained breathing that can bring about alterations in consciousness) and “sitter” (i.e., directly supervising an individual “breather” during their experience). In this way, workshop participants will have the opportunity to inhabit the “patient role” and have their own experience of a NOSC. They will also get to practice the principles and techniques of attentive, non-directive support that will apply to future practice with patients in psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. Each session lasts up to 3 hours, with breathers laying on floor mats throughout. Emotionally-evocative music is curated by the facilitators and plays over speakers at a high volume during the session; music is considered a core component of breathwork as it complements the sustained changes in breathing which can bring about a NOSC.
Another component of breathwork involves the option of receiving therapeutic touch. There are two types of touch that may be offered during a breathwork session if the participant consents in advance. The first is reassuring touch such as hand-holding, and this may be offered by the sitter as appropriate or by the facilitators. The second type of therapeutic touch is a form of bodywork called focused energy release which includes putting pressure on certain areas of the body where energy may be stuck to aid in somatic processing. In this training, only the facilitators will be offering focused energy release to participants who have consented in advance with sitters providing assistance as needed. Finally, there are occasions when participants may need containment for safety which may involve the use of pillows for gentle restraint to keep the breather and fellow participants safe. Detailed discussion of consent, safe boundaries and the procedures for therapeutic touch will be conducted in advance of and at the breathwork sessions.
In addition to the breathing sessions, participants will engage in integration sharing groups on both weekends and in two Wednesday evening sessions. It is important for applicants to understand that this form of experiential training involves sharing your personal process and holding space for the processes of your peers in group settings. It is always your choice how much depth you choose to share in these groups. All participants commit to a vow of confidentiality to protect each other and the group.
Breathwork facilitators attend to all elements and stages of breathwork, including:
- Comprehensive screening assessments with participants (see further information below)
- Careful preparation of all participants, including detailed instructions for both “breathers” and “sitters” and an orientation to the variety of potential experiences that might come up during breathwork sessions
- Discussion about the use of therapeutic touch, including informed consent, clear communication about the “STOP” word, and the fact that there is never any sexual touch
- Monitoring and providing support to sitters and breathers alike as needed during breathwork sessions
- Therapeutic touch as needed, if consented to, for breathers during the breathwork sessions
- Integration work, which includes discussion of the experience in a group setting as well as exploration and encouragement of ongoing activities to continue reflecting on the experience and integrating it into daily life
- Ensuring safety of participants throughout each stage of the process
The Foundations of Psychedelic Psychotherapy Course does not intend to train therapists to be breathwork practitioners. While there are obvious differences between the practices and experiences of breathwork and those of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, there are also common elements which we anticipate will provide a valuable learning opportunity for trainees in our certificate program. For example:
- Both practices involve inner-directed experiences intended to bring about a NOSC
- A curated playlist of music runs throughout the experiential session
- Emphasis is placed on contextual factors (i.e., “set and setting”) as key determinants of participant experience
- The stance of therapists during both practices is one of mindful presence, safety, and allowing the participant’s process to unfold with the least interference possible while providing direct support as needed
- Therapeutic touch may be provided with consent
- Preparatory and integration sessions are considered key for both safety and therapeutic value of the experience
Risks to participants:
Breathwork such as this has been practiced for at least several decades, with thousands of participants having attended workshops throughout the world. However, there are no high-quality scientific studies evaluating the safety, potential benefits, or potential harms of this practice among people with or without pre-existing mental or physical health conditions.
Breathwork can bring about intense experiences including powerful emotions, vivid memories (including past traumas, of which participants may or may not be previously aware), and/or unusual states of consciousness which may be bizarre or frightening. There is thus a risk that participants may be “destabilized” to some degree as a result of their experiences with breathwork. While participants will be supported throughout their breathwork experiences by the workshop facilitators, including during the integration phase at weekend workshops and afterwards, additional support may be helpful or indeed required. We therefore advise participants to be mindful of their own care needs and supports outside the certificate program. We strongly suggest that all participants have a therapist in place prior to the start of the program to provide additional integration support if needed. Many participants benefit from taking the Monday off work after the breathwork weekend.
Screening Safety Assessment for Breathwork
To maximize participant safety prior to engaging in breathwork, applicants who are accepted to the Foundations Course will be required to undergo a screening assessment (up to 90 minutes) with the breathwork facilitators (one of whom is a medical doctor). This assessment will involve questions about your personal history including your childhood, previous trauma, psychiatric history and medical history. The content of this screening assessment will remain confidential between participants and breathwork facilitators and will not be shared with course directors. The outcome of the screening assessment (suitable to breathe or not) will be shared with course directors and the next steps will be determined on a case-by-base basis. Applicants may be offered a refund on any payments processed to that point aside from the non-refundable application fee. If it is deemed safe, an applicant found unsuitable to breathe may be invited to participate in the breathwork as a sitter only.
Note: Breathwork facilitators are not UHN Psychedelic Psychotherapy Research Group faculty members and will not play a role in the evaluation of trainees.
The following conditions are generally considered by breathwork facilitators to be contraindications to this practice:
- Unstable cardiovascular disease, including a history of myocardial infarction (MI) within the past 3-months
- Aortic or cerebral artery aneurysm
- Epilepsy and history of seizures
- Poorly controlled hypertension
- Recent stroke or transient ischemic attack in the past 3 months
- Retinal detachment
- Severe asthma (requiring regular use of rescue inhaler, systemic steroids, lifetime ICU admission or intubation)
- Severe unstable mental illness including:
- Primary psychotic disorder
- Bipolar disorder
- Complex PTSD
- Personality disorders
- Dissociative identity disorder
- Psychiatric hospitalization within the past year
If the above listed conditions are present it does not automatically preclude participation in this program. Your unique situation will be evaluated by the breathwork facilitators and you may be asked to provide additional medical documentation. As described above, if it is determined you are not suitable to breathe a full refund minus the application fee will be provided or if it is deemed safe, you may be able to participate in the breathwork as a sitter only and not breathe. If you have questions about whether or not breathwork is something you should participate in, please email firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will direct your inquiry to the Course Director(s).
The Foundations Course is an experiential training program and participants will be invited to share their own experiences, emotions, memories, triggers and more in the virtual sessions as they feel comfortable. During the two in-person weekend breathwork retreats, participants will also be invited to share their own experiences in group preparation and integration sessions led by the breathwork facilitators where course directors and teaching assistants will also be present. Participants should be aware that the powerful experiences which can arise during breathwork may involve uncontrolled or unconscious expression of emotional or other sensitive material. All participants, facilitators, teachers, teaching assistants and the course directors will be asked to agree to honour the confidentiality of every person present and of any material that is shared, volitionally or otherwise, during the duration of the program. Honouring this confidentiality agreement is essential to creating a safe container for all participants taking part.
For the September 6th, 2023 cohort:
- Applications Open On: April 3rd, 2023
- Application Deadline: June 2nd, 2023.
Late applications will not be accepted.
Is there a difference between the application deadline and registration deadline?
Yes. The application deadline is the date and time by which applications for admission to the Foundations of Psychedelic Psychotherapy course must be received by Michener’s Registrar’s Office.
The registration deadline is the date and time by which successful applicants must officially enroll in the program and pay the relevant course fees. You will be advised of the registration deadline in your offer of admission.
When will I gain access to the program?
Log-in information for Blackboard (the learning platform used for this course) will be emailed within three (3) business days of registration. Access to the course will be made available one week prior to start date.
- Degree or diploma in one of the following regulated health professions:
- Clinical Psychology
- Social Work
- Psychotherapy or Clinical Counselling (can include clergy/spiritual care providers and music therapists who are regulated psychotherapists)
- Medicine (who provide psychotherapy as part of their practice)
- Nursing (including Registered Nurses and Nurse Practitioners); AND
- Canadian citizen, permanent resident of Canada or refugee
- Registered for autonomous practice in good standing and licensed with a regulatory body in Canada as one of the above regulated health professions; AND
- A minimum of two years of psychotherapy experience; AND
- Computer access and literacy
- Students must have access to a computer that meets the minimum system requirements, access to the Internet, and an e-mail account
- Access to and basic proficiency with a PDF reader, Microsoft Word, and Microsoft PowerPoint are also required as they are used to access course material and submit evaluation items
Applications for September offering:
- Complete the online application form using Michener’s self-service portal. The application opens officially April 3rd, 2023. The application deadline is June 2nd, 2023. You will receive an automated acknowledgement of receipt.
- Shortlisted candidates will be selected for a 30 minute interview to take place in June 2023.
- Offers of admission will be sent out late June or early July 2023.
Required Documents for Application
- Proof of diploma or degree of graduation/official transcript
- Proof of certification/licensure in one of the disciplines named above.
- Resume or CV
- Supplemental Application Form
The application deadline has been extended to : Friday June 2,2023.