Addressing Abuse and Repair: An Open Letter to the Psychedelic Community

This letter was originally published by Chacruna Institute as a gesture of support. We (the authors) have made the decision to relocate it to Medium. We thank the team at Chacruna Institute for their efforts and acknowledge the importance of having a neutral space in which to engage with topics of accountability and repair. We affirm that this is a community effort, and is not owned by or associated with any single platform or organization. Thank you for your grace and understanding.

Dear Community,

In recent weeks, a series of accounts have come to light alleging abuse of power by therapists and other practitioners who are leaders in the emerging field of psychedelic assisted therapies. In this field, there are potential abuses of power that involve, but are not limited to: crossing boundaries emotionally and sexually, emotional betrayal, and bartering arrangements that seem inequitable and could be exploitative. These events are especially disturbing because they occur in a field that purports to be built upon the pillars of healing and cultural transformation, and within facilitator-client relationships in which the imbalance of power is heightened.

We feel compelled to speak out. We cannot stay silent, but rather wish to invite dialogue about how we can prevent harm and abuse in our communities, with an eye toward the formation of an independent ethics council to assist us in these efforts as the field grows.

Public interest in the healing potential of psychedelics has blossomed in recent years. The field is a rich ecosystem of passionate practitioners from diverse backgrounds, therapists, researchers, and policy reform advocates who have direct experience of the life-changing effects of these substances. In our view, working with psychedelics can lead to deep and transformative experiences.

Psychedelic-assisted therapy entails supporting people through their most vulnerable states and darkest moments, and as such, the ethical responsibility of this work cannot be overstated.

Psychedelic-assisted therapy entails supporting people through their most vulnerable states and darkest moments, and as such, the ethical responsibility of this work cannot be overstated. Because of the vulnerability of altered states of consciousness, trust that is placed in the hands of a guide or facilitator opens the significant risk of abuse of power. Abuse can take many forms, including therapy abuse, sexual abuse, mental abuse, psychological manipulation, and subtler forms of harm. Vulnerability is increased when imbalances of power based upon social identities of gender, race, ability, and other systems of marginalization are present.

One artifact of deepening into altered states of consciousness is an increased detachment from the social mores and constructions of consensus reality. This is a double-edged sword; on one hand, it can liberate us and the people we serve from limiting structures that confine us mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. On the other hand, this detachment can open facilitators up to the belief that they can or should operate outside of standards for best practices that are in place to keep clients safe.

It is incumbent on all of us to pay attention to such dynamics. In these moments of rupture, it may be tempting to dismiss allegations in an attempt to do damage control, to avoid bad press or to deflect attention that could “damage the movement.” However, to prioritize the advancement of psychedelics in the mainstream over acknowledging survivors of abuse– and engaging in actions of repair– would be an act of violence incongruent with the healing culture we seek to create.

No one is immune to causing harm. And no one among us, no matter how beloved or well recognized, is above the ethical mandates of this vocation.

It is critical that we take all allegations seriously. We must listen and hold space for the pain and anger of these experiences; we must sit with the implications of abuse; we must do everything in our power to interrupt cycles of harm and create avenues for repair when it occurs. When we minimize accounts of abuse or uphold silence to protect ourselves or others, we co-sign to a culture that prioritizes those with social and economic capital over the communities we profess to serve. When we do not question the webs of enmeshment and cult-like behaviors that can occur within the psychedelic community, we collude with abuse. No one is immune to causing harm. And no one among us, no matter how beloved or well recognized, is above the ethical mandates of this vocation.

We feel that these times call for all of us to step up to constructively create communities with guiding ethical principles and actions of accountability. Adherence to the ethical principles of beneficence (moral goodness to others), nonmaleficence (do no harm), justice (fairness and equity), veracity (truthfulness) and fidelity (being trustworthy and loyal) should be at the forefront of this effort. We must commit to transparency, accountability, and protecting those who have experienced harm, even when acting with integrity may cost relationships, professional opportunities, or reputation.

We do not purport to hold answers, but commit to centering ethics in building structures to protect our communities.

We acknowledge that we are learning an abolitionist praxis of repair, and that processes of repair are not always linear and predictable. We do not purport to hold answers, but commit to centering ethics in building structures to protect our communities. We advocate for thinking about rupture from the standpoint of repair, growing toward collective action in imperfect and fluid ways from a foundation of social justice and an ethical practice of “justice-doing.” We humbly offer the following suggestions as guideposts for preventing and navigating events of harm and abuse within our communities, and commit to the collaborative development of these structures.

  1. Form an independent ethics council of professionals, calling in support from people outside the psychedelic field who are skilled in facilitating transformative justice processes.
  2. Establish a formalized process for reporting adverse experiences and creating meaningful paths toward repair that center survivors, at both the organizational level and within the field at large.
  3. Recognize that reparative processes rely on cooperation from all parties; when therapists are the subject of allegations, we expect them to take accountability and step down from their platforms while they engage in the investigative process.
  4. Create pathways back to community engagement for those who have moved through accountability and restorative processes following transgressions.

We understand that creating a culture of transparency and accountability depends on all of us. In this spirit, we invite everyone to take steps that reflect such a culture. We commit to a lifelong practice of our own healing. We will train and mentor facilitators in the highest standards of ethics, create safeguards that protect the people we serve, and address harm and abuse when we see it. We commit to listening, learning, and walking the paths of repair when we fall short. We will take action to weave justice, truth, repair and reconciliation into the fabric of our organizations and institutions, and we will hold ourselves to the same standards of conduct we expect from others. We invite those who resonate with these principles as foundational to an ethical psychedelic movement to join us in conversation about shaping a safer and more just future.

We, the undersigned, stand in solidarity with the survivors of abuse who have come forward and those who have yet to speak out.

Resources:

Vikki Reynolds (2012) An Ethical Stance for Justice-Doing in Community Work and Therapy. Journal of Systemic Therapies, Vol. 31, [Issue 4] pp. 18–33 https://vikkireynoldsdotca.files.wordpress.com/2017/12/reynoldsandpolancoethicsstanceforjusticedoing2012jst.pdf

Taylor, K. (2017) Ethics Of Caring. Hanford Mead Pub.

https://kyleataylor.com/the-ethics-of-caring/

Kaba, M., Hasan, S., (2019) Fumbling Towards Repair. Project NIA.

https://www.akpress.org/fumbling-towards-repair.html

Brown, A. (2020) We Will Not Cancel Us. AK Press.

https://www.akpress.org/we-will-not-cancel-us.html

Piepzna-Samarasinha, L. (2020) Beyond Survival. AK Press.

https://www.akpress.org/beyond-survival.html

Cheng Thom, K. (2019) I Hope We Choose Love. Arsenal Pulp Press.

https://www.akpress.org/ihopewechooselove.html

Kaba, M. (2021 ) We Do This Till We Free Us. Haymarket Books.

https://www.akpress.org/we-do-this-til-we-free-us.html

Martinez, R. June 9 2021. Accountability & Transformative Justice in the Psychedelic Space: A Roadmap for Change. PsychedelicsToday.com

Kai Cheng Thom https://ariseembodiment.org/
Leaf Seligman https://leafseligman.com/
Mariame Kaba http://mariamekaba.com/
Transform Harm https://transformharm.org/
INCITE https://incite-national.org/community-accountability/

Toward a more healed world,

Diana Quinn
Rebecca Martinez
Claudia Cuentas
Pilar Hernandez-Wolfe
Carolyn Fine

Signed by:

Aaron Orsini, Autistic Psychedelic.com Community

Adam Linder, MA

Aidan Moore, National Psychedelics Association

Alan K. Davis, PhD

Alicia Santiago, LCSW

Alex Cardenas, MD, MA

Alexander Warnow, LMFT

Alicia Fedewa, PhD, Healing Pathway Counseling

Alissa Bazinet, PhD; Sequoia Collective

Allison Feduccia, PhD, Psychedelic.Support

Alyssa B. Gursky, MA, LPC Associate; Psychedelic Art Therapy

Amy Emerson

Amy Leung, MD

Andrea Rosati, MD, PhD

Angela Allan, MA, Sage Institute

Angela Beers, PsyD, LP

Angela Carter, ND

Anne St Goar, MD, BPRG, CIIS/CPTR, MGH CNP

Ashley Sitkin, LICSW

Ayyur Sutherland, LMSW, Psychedelic Liberation Collective

Bea Chan, AKITA

Bennet A. Zelner, PhD, University of Maryland and Transformative Capital Institute

Betty Aldworth

Bia Labate, PhD, Chacruna Institute

Bob Otis

Berra Yazar-Klosinski, PhD

Brenna Gebauer, Journey Into Psychedelics

Brian Pilecki, PhD, Portland Integration Network

Brianna Bendixsen, MA, PRATI, Reflective Healing

Britton Rollins, National Psychedelics Association

Buki Fadipe, Founder, Adventures in OM

Candace Oglesby, LCPC, CEO of Jurnee Mental Health Consulting, LLC

Catherine Foster, Mother Jaguar

Charlotte James, The Ancestor Project

Chris Mays, MLIS

Chris Olson, National Psychedelics Association

Chris Stauffer, MD; Oregon Health & Science University

Clancy Cavnar, PsyD, Chacruna Institute

Clare McBee, LICSW, The Meeting Point

Corine de Boer, MD, PhD

Courtney Hurchison, SoundMind Center Philly

Craig Cardamone, LMFT

Daan Keiman, MA, Synthesis Institute

Dana Harvey, The Flourish Academy

Daniel Shankin, Tam Integration

Danielle M. Herrera, LMFT, Sage Integrative Health

Danielle Taylor Ceremony Health Collective

David N. Max, PhD

Debbie McDivitt, PhD

Deborah Servetnick, MEd, Integrate to Create

Denise Renye, MEd, MA, PsyD, Whole Person Psychology

Dennis Walker, Mycopreneur

Devon Grime, RN-BSN, NC-BC, Plant Medicine Nurse

Djinn Kadmon Thompson, Psychedelic Liberation Collective

Dominique Morisano, PhD, CPsych

Dre Wright, The Ancestor Project

Eilish Nagle, MA, CCHT

Eleonora Molnar, MA RTC

Elan Hagens, Fruiting Bodies Collective

Elizabeth Hoke, LMFT, The Liberation Institute

Ellis McCauley, LMFT

Emma Knighton, LMHC

Eric Peterson, MA, LADC, Catalyst Insight Collective

Erica Heartsong, RN, CIIS CPTR

Eric Sienknecht, PsyD, Polaris Insight Center

Esteban Orozco, Trauma Healer, Decolonize Mycology

Evan Segura, Portland Psychedelic Society

Evan Sola, PsyD

Galyn Burke, MA, LMFT, Palo Alto University

Geoff Bathje, Ph.D. Co-founder, Sana Healing Collective

Genesee Herzberg, PsyD, Sage Institute & Sage Integrative Health

Gina Gratza, MS, LMFT, Looking Glass Counseling

Gisselle Acevedo, MEd, JD, LMFT

Gita Vaid, MD

Greg Robillard, LMFT, Portland Integration Network

Hallie Swan, LCPC

Hanifa Nayo Washington, Co-Founder, Fireside Project; Founder, One Village Healing

Hank Obermayer, MA

Hannah C. McLane, SoundMind Center Philly

Harvey Schwartz, PhD, Polaris Insight Center

Heather N Brand, MPH , ARNP

Heather Valdez, LCSW

Heidi Berg, Artist & Filmmaker

Hila Corazon, Cascadia Psychedelic

Ida Ahmadi, MA, AMFT, Sage Institute

Ifetayo Harvey, POC Psychedelic Collective

Irina Alexander, LMFT, Sage Institute

Ismail Lourido Ali, JD

James Henry, MD

James Keim, LCSW, MSW / CEO Mimosa Therapeutics Public Benefit Co

Jamie Beachy, PhD, MDiv

Jamie Mayo, PhD, PMHNP

Jamilah R. George, MDiv, Chacruna Institute

Jasmine Virdi, MA

Jason Butler, PhD, Sage Institute and California Institute of Integral Studies

Jason Foster, MA

Jeanna Eichenbaum, LCSW, Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy Therapist

Jen Leland LMFT Ceremony Health Collective

Jenn So, MSW, LSWAIC

Jennifer Cornbleet

Jennifer Mitchell, PhD

Jenny Cundari, ND, Sage Integrative Health

Jessica Cadoch, MA

Jessica Fagan, Sage Institute, AMFT

Jessica Pinera, LCSW

Jill Pettegrew, LMFT, Sage Integrative Health

Jimmy Nguyen, Psychedelic Passage

Joe Izzo, Conscious Cloud

Joel Brierre, Kaivalya Kollectiv

Jonathan Afonso

Jonelle Rodericks MSW, MBA

Joody Marks, Sage Institute

Joshua White, Founder and Executive Director, Fireside Project

Julane Andries LMFT, Center for Transformational Psychotherapy

Julie Brody, RN

Julie Holland, MD

Julie Megler, NP, Sage Integrative Health

Kalika Farmer, Delphi

Karin Gagnon, Research Associate, Social Neuroscience and Psychotherapy Lab

Kat Mortimer, Mental Health Worker

Katherine A. Costello, PhD

Kat Conour, LMFT, Chair, Sage Institute

Kate Kincaid, LPC, Tucson Counseling Associates

Kate Nesterwitz, LMFT, Conscious Pathways Denver

Katherine Ring, CDCP

Kathleen McCombie, CMT, Embodied Consciousness

Katja Cahoon, LCSW, MBA, Higher Path, Inc

Kazzrie Hekati, Portland Psychedelic Society

Keeno Ahmed-Jones

Kelsey Armeni

Kristina Hamilton LCSW, Second Wave Wellness

Kristina Hunter, Certified Hakomi Practitioner

Kulkiran Nakai, PsyD, LP, Psychedelic Liberation Collective

Kwasi Adusei, DNP

Kyle Cetrulo, Director/Founding Member, Rising Consciousness Community

Kylea Taylor, MS, LMFT

Lana Abboud, PsyD, LP, MAc, LAc

Laura Riley, LPC, Portland Integration Network

Laya Jamali, LFMT, Sage Integrative Health

Leia Friedman, MS, The Psychedologist

Leti Passemier, Tripsitters.org

Leticia Brown, LMFT, Doorway Therapeutic Services

Lia Mix, MFT, CIIS CPTR

Liana Sananda Gillooly, MAPS, North Star, Chacruna Institute

Lisa Gregory, Integration Therapist

Liz Flores Farell, LCSW

Lorna Liana, CEO EntheoNation & Founder, The Plant Spirit School

Mara Rosenthal, National Psychedelics Association

Marcela Ot’alora G., MA, LPC

Margaret S. Brako, LCSW, Sage Integrative Health

Margo Fragola, ZorroFresa Oreada

Mark Futterman

Marni Levy, LMFT, Sage Institute

Martha Yesenia Juarez, APCC, Sage Institute

Matthew Ettinger, National Psychedelics Association

Matthew Gallenstein, Sage Institute

Maurice Byrd, LMFT, Ceremony Health Collective, Sage, Harm Reduction Therapy Center

McKenna Lickle , MS

Megan Frost, MD, MPH

Megan Miller, PhD, RN, Creative Dying Project

Meghan Kennedy LCSW, Co-Founder & Therapist, Sana Healing Collective

Melissa Pierre-Saint, RN

Melissa Whippo, LCSW

Melly Paluay, BSN RN

Micah Haskell-Hoehl, Healing Equity and Liberation (HEAL) Organization

Micah Saniyah, LMSW, Psychedelic Liberation Collective

Micah Stover, Trauma Midwife

Michael Zwizanski, LMFT

Michelle Christensen MA Healing Journey

Michelle Janikian, Author

Mike Margolies, Psychedelic Seminars

Mischa Freeman, ASW

Misha A. McKinney, RN, BSN, PHN, CPN

Monique Lang, LCSW

Monnica Williams, PhD, Clinical Director, Behavioral Wellness Clinic, LLC, Chacruna Institute

Morgan Bach, MS, Sage Institute

Moshe Jacobson, Founder, EntheoCoach

Nathan Howard, Co-founder & President, East Fork Cultivars

NiCole Buchanan, PhD, Chacruna Institute

Nicholas Levich, Psychedelic Passage

Neelofer Hilal

Nyanga Uuka, Myco.Mediation

Olivia Clear, MS

Oriana Mayorga, Board Director, SSDP

Perri Franskoviak, PhD, Sage Institute

Peter H. Addy, PhD, LPC, LMHC

Pinni Baumol BSW, Israeli Psychedelic Society

Q. Maxwell, LMHC

Rafael Lancelotta, MS, LPC

Rev. Tamara Lebak PCC, MDiv, Restorative Justice Institute

Rev. Tho Vong MA Ceremony Health Collective

Ridhi Shiv, AMFT, Sage Institute

Ritika Aggarwal, MS, Sage Institute

Rob Heffernan, Chacruna Institute

Ross Sullivan, North Star

Ryan Gertz, MA, AMFT, Sage Institute

Sabina Pillai, MA RP

Sabrina Sierra, MA, Sage Institute

Samuel Douglas, PhD, Australian Psychedelic Society

Sandra E. Fortson, MSW, LCSW; Psychedelic Research & Training Institute

Sarah Fox, MFA, MA, Psychotherapist

Sara Reed, MS, LMFT, Minds iHealth Solutions

Sarah Verducci, MS, LPC

Sa’ed Al-Olimat, PharmD, Founder, Psilohealth

Shireen Ghanatabadi, MA, LPCC, SEP, Catalyst Insight Collective

Shippen L. Page, Esq.

Sonia Telle, MA, MFT

Sonia Troiani MA, Ceremony Health Collective

Stephen Thomas, MSW, ACC

Stephanie Dreis, MS, LPCC, Catalyst Insight Collective

SuOm Uheri Francis, Diasporic Apparel

Susan Williams, MFT, Jungian Psychoanalyst

Syre Oni Saniyah, PhD, LP, Psychedelic Liberation Collective

Tahlia Harrison, MA, MFTA, Duke University

Taylor C. Wilmot, AMFT Sage Institute

Tess Amidan, PhD

Tessa Vita Levine, AMFT

Tyler Cooper PMHNP-DNP-I

Valeria McCarroll, LMFT, Ph.D, Center for Consciousness Medicine

Valerie Beltrán, LMFT, Sage Institute

Valery Shuman, MAAT, LCPC, Co-founder and clinician, Sana Healing Collective

Verónica Hernández, MA, PhD Candidate

Veronika Gold, LMFT, Polaris Insight Center

Victor A. Cabral, LSW, CCTP-I

Vilmarie Fraguada Narloch, PsyD — Co-founder and Director, Sana Healing Collective

Violeta Donawa, LLMSW, Psychedelic Liberation Collective

Vivian Dent, PhD

Wendy Heffner, LMFT

Yochanan Al-Khemetic, Entheogenic Advocate

Zachary Zibrat, MS

Zoë Dubus, PhD, Société psychédélique française

Diana Quinn, Rebecca Martinez, Claudia Cuentas, Pilar Hernandez-Wolfe, Carolyn Fine