Getting Involved in the Psychedelic Ecosystem
Some updates, different paths to working in psychedelic medicine, plus a free webinar to learn more
When I started this newsletter back in January, I’d just quit my job and had no idea what would be next.
While I knew I wanted to be in the psychedelic space, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to work on the infrastructure of the emerging ecosystem (aka, work with organizations) or work with people directly in support of their individual journeys. So, I began doing both.
A few months ago, a persuading truth began to crystalize: while I could certainly leverage my own healing journey and get trained to help people, my capacity to make an impact would be much bigger by applying my background in strategy development to the psychedelic ecosystem. I’ve since (quite magically) landed a dream job that I couldn’t have even manifested because I wasn’t aware jobs like that existed. It will allow me to work towards access to high-quality psychedelic care at a great scale.
This means that this newsletter will be published twice monthly going forward, in order to maintain the quality of my writing as I transition into my new full-time job.
When I made a TikTok about my new job, the #1 question I got was the following:
How can I get involved?
If you’re asking yourself that question, this week’s edition is for you. We’ll talk about the different paths toward working in psychedelic medicine and how to get into them.
If you want to learn more, also make sure you sign up for a free webinar hosted by The Synthesis Institute on Tuesday, September 20th (more details below).
A Brief Overview of the Psychedelic Ecosystem
The space is emerging quickly, but on the highest level it can be segmented into the following areas:
Clinical research includes all the organizations spearheading psychedelic research, both with existing molecules and new ones. While some of it is conducted through universities such as Johns Hopkins, much of it is driven by non-profits such as MAPS and Usona Insitute as well as for-profits such as Compass, MindMed, and Cybin.
Care delivery refers to all organizations rolling out care infrastructures, mostly in the form of virtual and in-person Ketamine clinics in the US (which will eventually also offer MDMA and psilocybin therapy), psilocybin retreats in Oregon (coming in 2023), or psychedelic retreats abroad. Some examples are Synthesis, Field Trip Health, MindBloom, Numinous, Nue Life, Journey Clinical, Awakn Clinics, and many others.
Enabling infrastructure broadly encompasses all the tech-enabled start-ups that are popping up in support of care delivery. These include apps that help match people to psychedelic integration specialists such as MindLeap, journey and microdosing apps such as Trip and Houston, music technology for psychedelic therapy through Wavespaths, as well as software solutions such as Maya Health and Osmind Health.
Working in the Psychedelic Ecosystem
Now, if you’re curious to take psychedelics from a personal to a professional interest (or maybe, you already have), you have a ton of options.
The most important question you’ll have to ask yourself, just as I did, is whether you want to work with people or work with organizations.
Working with people
High-quality care delivery will rely on a handful of critical providers that vary in required qualifications.
Psychedelic therapists: Licensed therapists will be the backbone of psychedelic care delivery. Because FDA approval is close (MDMA in 2023, psilocybin likely in 2024), now is the perfect time to get trained. If you want to become a psychedelic therapist, you can train in Ketamine-assisted therapy (which is already legal) or MDMA-assisted therapy (which will be the first legal psychedelic therapy). Once you’re licensed and trained, you can be in private practice or join one of the emerging psychedelic clinics.
Psychedelic psychiatrists: If you want the ability to prescribe psychedelic medicine (as delivered through the medical model), there’s no way around the MD. This won’t be the bulk of providers but still a key role. I’m particularly excited about the emergence of psychedelic psychiatrists because they will have the ability to help patients taper of off psychiatric medication in preparation (or as the result of) psychedelic therapy and support the transition holistically.
Psychedelic guides: You do not need to be a doctor or a licensed therapist to provide psychedelic “therapy”. The medical model will be one path, the other path that’s increasingly gaining momentum is decriminalization/legalization. It would allow individuals to provide psychedelic guidance outside of clinical practice. This option is more uncertain than the other ones at this stage, nevertheless, thousands of people are already getting trained. Through programs such as The Synthesis Insitute (a leading psilocybin retreat), you can become a psychedelic practitioner in as little as 12 months (learn more here). It’s a great option for those already working in healing professions, such as embodiment guides, meditation and breathwork teachers, and so on.
Psychedelic integration coaches: While a guide is present for the actual psychedelic sessions, an integration coach is involved with the preparation and integration of those sessions afterward. This is the role that will be least regulated and easiest to break into. As a coach, you’ll be focused on helping people turn insights from psychedelic journeys into action that will transform their lives. You can do this independently, or join one of the many care delivery networks that are starting to actively look for psychedelic integration coaches.
Working with organizations
The biggest question here is whether you want to work on the non-profit or for-profit side of things. That, of course, depends on your background, but don’t feel too constrained. My background is as for-profit as it gets, yet I managed to join a non-profit. Whatever your functional background — Marketing, HR, Admin, Finance — you could take that to any of the emerging organizations in the space.
Personally, I’ve not been impressed with most of the for-profit actors, specifically those that are on a quest to patent molecules abundant in nature in order to monetize them through the traditional pharma model. If you’re not as bothered by that as me, you might find a role at one of the bigger public companies. An exception here is MAPS PBC (Public Benefit Corporation), which is a subsidiary of the non-profit MAPS tasked exclusively with the roll-out of MDMA-assisted therapy in a way that maximizes patient benefit (rather than profits) and returns all proceeds to its holding organization MAPS (the non-profit).
Side note, I cannot recommend MAPS and the work they’re doing enough. There are also many other non-profits if you’re more interested in that side of things, such as The Chacruna Institute which is leading reciprocity initiatives for plant medicines such as Ayahuasca. If you’re interested in something specific leave a comment or reach out via e-mail and perhaps I can provide more tailored guidance.
Finding a role through job boards
Just like any job, finding a job in the psychedelics space will work best if you network (that’s how I found mine). The best way to do that is by showing up to psychedelic events and talks or maybe even going to a conference like Horizons.
There are also job boards such as this one created by Psychedelic Alpha which is updated regularly and can be a great starting point (whether you want to work with people or organizations).
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Join The Synthesis Institute’s Free Webinar
I’ve been a huge fan of Synthesis for years. If their training had matched my timeline, I would have chosen them (I ended up with a different program that I had to leave due to competing priorities, aka my new job).
Anyways, I’m excited to share that they’re hosting a no-charge, live event called The Evolving Psychedelic Ecosystem: A Conversation About Impact, Innovation, and Insights as Access Expands.
It’s a live, 75-minute panel discussion designed to dive into the psychedelic re-emergence that is upon us and explore the unique moment we are in as research, ethics, wisdom-traditions, and commerce converge.
If you are interested in exploring the unique opportunities and challenges the psychedelic ecosystem is experiencing as access expands and institutional interest is rapidly growing, mark your calendar for this expert-led discussion happening live on Tuesday, September 20th at 10 a.m. PDT/1 p.m. EDT/ 7 p.m. CEST. Together with panelists Alex Belser, Sara Reed, Kylea Taylor, and Julian Vayne, who are among the world’s leading psychedelic experts, you’ll explore the unique challenges and opportunities arising as psychedelics become more mainstream.
Please note that this is an affiliate link, meaning it allows Synthesis to track where the traffic is coming from. I’ve been exploring aligned partnerships, and while I would never endorse something I’m not fully behind, I have no doubts that you’d benefit from their offerings.