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Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy

At The Mindful Living Centre, we are committed to offering the most cutting-edge, research-supported treatments available to foster deep, lasting healing. One of our most innovative services is psychedelic-assisted therapy (PaT), a potentially transformative intervention that combines the use of psychedelic medicine with empirically-supported psychotherapy to foster deeper levels of insight, self-awareness and emotional healing.

Man under psychedelic-assisted therapy

What is Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy (PaT)?

PaT is a therapeutic practice that involves the guided use of psychedelic substances, such as ketamine, psilocybin (found in “magic mushrooms”), or MDMA, in a safe, controlled, and supportive environment. This form of therapy is conducted by trained professionals who facilitate sessions designed to explore the psyche, address deep-seated emotional issues, and promote profound personal growth.

This innovative approach is grounded in a rapidly growing body of research showing the potential of psychedelic medicines to significantly alleviate conditions like depression, PTSD, anxiety and addictions when traditional treatments have not provided the relief of symptoms that is desired. Our trained therapists guide clients through the therapeutic process within a safe, supportive, and confidential environment that facilitates exploring and integrating their experiences for lasting positive change.

Our Goal

Our primary goal is to create a compassionate and supportive space for individuals to explore their inner worlds, heal from psychological distress, and foster a greater sense of connection to themselves and the world around them. We aim to:

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Facilitate profound emotional and psychological healing

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Promote increased self-awareness and insight

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Assist in overcoming treatment-resistant conditions such as severe depression, PTSD, anxiety, and addictions

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Enhance personal growth and spiritual development

Woman undergoing psychedelic-assisted therapy

Our Approach

Our practice is committed to offering psychedelic-assisted therapy within a framework that prioritizes safety, professionalism, and the highest ethical standards. Our team of clinicians is trained in the latest research-supported approaches to ensure that your journey is safe, transformative, and grounded in compassionate care. You will be provided with information throughout the process so you can make informed choices that are right for you.

Our Centre’s methodology combines traditional therapeutic practices with cutting-edge psychedelic-assisted techniques to offer a holistic approach to mental health and well-being. This integrated treatment model involves several stages, starting with thorough psychological assessments and preparatory sessions to establish trust and set intentions to optimize results. Following this, clients undergo one or more guided psychedelic sessions with substances such as ketamine, psilocybin, and MDMA, chosen for their unique therapeutic benefits and match with the client’s needs. Ketamine is typically utilized for its rapid-acting relief from depression and anxiety, psilocybin for its efficacy in treating depression and fostering emotional openness, and MDMA for its profound impact on PTSD by enhancing feelings of safety and empathy. Each psychedelic session is closely monitored by our experienced therapists, ensuring a safe and supportive setting. The integration phase follows, where clients process their experiences with the therapist, translating insights into lasting positive changes in their lives. Many of the most meaningful changes associated with psychedelic therapy are a result of the integration work done between clients and their therapists. Our approach is deeply rooted in evidence-based practices, ensuring the highest standards of care and confidentiality for our clients.

Benefits of Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy

Psychedelic-assisted therapy represents a potentially significant advancement in the treatment of various mental health conditions, offering new hope to individuals who have found limited relief from traditional therapies. This innovative approach has shown especially promising results in treating conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and addiction. The benefits of this therapy are backed by a rapidly growing body of scientific research, highlighting its potential to facilitate profound and lasting psychological changes.

PTSD

Studies have shown that MDMA-assisted psychotherapy can lead to significant reductions in PTSD symptoms. A pivotal Phase 3 trial published by Mitchell et al. (2021) in “Nature Medicine” reported that participants receiving MDMA-assisted therapy experienced a significant reduction in PTSD symptom severity compared to those who received a placebo, with 67% of the MDMA group no longer qualifying for a PTSD diagnosis.

Anxiety

Psilocybin therapy has also been explored for its potential to alleviate anxiety, particularly in individuals with life-threatening cancer diagnoses. Griffiths et al. (2016), in a study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, found that a single therapeutic dose of psilocybin significantly reduced depression and anxiety in cancer patients, with about 80% of participants showing clinically significant improvements.

Depression

Research on psilocybin, the active compound in “magic mushrooms,” has demonstrated its efficacy in treating major depressive disorder. A study by Davis et al. (2020) in “JAMA Psychiatry” found that two therapeutic doses of psilocybin, combined with supportive psychotherapy, produced rapid and substantial reductions in depressive symptoms that were maintained at a 4-week follow-up assessment. 

Addiction

Ketamine-assisted therapy has been researched for its effectiveness in treating addiction, among other conditions. A randomized trial by Dakwar et al. (2019) in the “American Journal of Psychiatry” demonstrated that ketamine showed potential in treating cocaine dependence, with participants experiencing increased abstinence rates and reduced cravings.

These findings underscore the therapeutic potential of psychedelics when administered in a controlled, therapeutic setting, offering profound insights and emotional breakthroughs that can catalyze recovery in individuals struggling with mental health conditions resistant to conventional treatments.

The Science Behind It

Emerging research in the field of psychopharmacology and neuroscience suggests that psychedelics have the potential to significantly alter brain function in ways that promote neuroplasticity—the brain’s ability to form new neural connections. This can lead to shifts in perception, emotion, and cognition, providing a unique opportunity for therapeutic intervention. Also, psychedelics have the potential to make emotionally painful material easier for people to face and process adaptively, acting as a metaphorical ‘rocket fuel’ for traditional psychotherapy. Studies have shown that when combined with psychotherapy, psychedelics can offer profound benefits in treating various mental health conditions, often where traditional therapies have been less effective.

Patient Eligibility and Screening Process

The patient eligibility and screening process for psychedelic-assisted therapy in North America is designed with a focus on ensuring the safety and well-being of participants. This involves a thorough assessment of an individual’s medical and psychological history, current health status, and their potential for benefiting from such therapy, while minimizing risks. Our psychedelic-assisted therapy interventions adhere to accepted practice and safety/harm reduction protocols and typically include the following steps:

Initial Inquiry and Pre-Screening

  • Purpose: To gather basic information about the individual’s interest in psychedelic-assisted therapy, their mental health history, and any immediate disqualifier.
  • Method: This might be conducted via an online form, phone call, or preliminary consultation.

Comprehensive Screening and Assessment

  • Medical Evaluation: A thorough medical examination to assess physical health, including lab tests and sometimes an EKG to rule out cardiovascular risk.
  • Psychiatric Assessment: A detailed evaluation by a mental health professional to understand the individual’s mental health history, current symptoms, and suitability for psychedelic experiences.
  • Informed Consent: Ensuring that the individual fully understands the potential risks, benefits, and the nature of the therapy.
  • Psychoeducation: Providing information about what to expect during the psychedelic sessions and the integration process.
References:
Mitchell, J. M., Bogenschutz, M., Lilienstein, A., Harrison, C., Kleiman, S., Parker-Guilbert, K., … & Doblin, R. (2021). MDMA-assisted therapy for severe PTSD: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled phase 3 study. Nature Medicine, 27(6), 1025-1033.
Davis, A. K., Barrett, F. S., May, D. G., Cosimano, M. P., Sepeda, N. D., Johnson, M. W., … & Griffiths, R. R. (2020). Effects of psilocybin-assisted therapy on major depressive disorder: A randomized clinical trial. JAMA Psychiatry, 78(5), 481-489.
Griffiths, R. R., Johnson, M. W., Carducci, M. A., Umbricht, A., Richards, W. A., Richards, B. D., … & Klinedinst, M. A. (2016). Psilocybin produces substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer: A randomized double-blind trial. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 30(12), 1181-1197.
Dakwar, E., Levin, F., Foltin, R. W., Nunes, E. V., & Hart, C. L. (2019). The effects of subanesthetic ketamine infusions on motivation to quit and cue-induced craving in cocaine-dependent research volunteers. Biological Psychiatry, 86(1), 64-72.

The Therapy Process

The psychedelic-assisted therapy process, as developed by organizations such as the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) and researchers like Roland Griffiths at Johns Hopkins University, follows a structured protocol designed to maximize therapeutic outcomes, though the protocol may vary depending on the client’s unique situation and the medicine being used:

Preparation Sessions

  • Number of Sessions: Typically 2-3 sessions.
  • Duration: Each session lasts approximately 90 minutes.
  • Activities: Building rapport with the therapist, setting therapeutic intentions, discussing previous experiences with psychedelics (if any), and preparing for the psychedelic experience with mindfulness or other grounding practices.

Integration Sessions

  • Number of Sessions: Typically 2-3 sessions following each psychedelic session.
  • Duration: Each session lasts about 90 minutes.
  • Purpose: To help the individual process and make sense of their psychedelic experience, integrate insights into their daily life, and discuss any changes in perceptions or behaviors.

Psychedelic Sessions

  • Number of Sessions: Varies by protocol, but often 2-3 sessions are involved.
  • Duration: Sessions can last from 1 to 8 hours, depending on the substance used (e.g., ketamine, MDMA, psilocybin).
  • Setting: Conducted in a controlled, comfortable environment designed to promote a sense of safety and relaxation.
  • Process: The individual ingests the psychedelic substance under the supervision of trained therapists, who provide support and guidance throughout the experience.

Follow-Up and Support

  • Ongoing Assessment: Monitoring the individual’s progress and well-being post-therapy.
  • Additional Support: Additional integration sessions or follow-up care may be recommended based on the individual’s needs.

Key Considerations

  • Safety and Support: Throughout the process, a strong emphasis is placed on creating a safe and supportive environment, with therapists trained in handling the unique challenges that can arise during psychedelic experiences.
  • Personalization: The exact number and duration of sessions can vary based on individual needs, the specific psychedelic used, and the therapeutic goals.

This structured approach, combining preparatory work, supervised psychedelic experiences, and integration sessions, aims to facilitate profound personal insights and lasting psychological growth and symptom reduction.

Safety and Regulatory Compliance

Safety and regulatory compliance are paramount in the administration of psychedelic-assisted therapy, ensuring the well-being of participants and adherence to legal standards. Here’s how these protocols are addressed:

Health Regulations and Safety Protocols

  • Training and Certification: Therapists and medical professionals involved in the therapy are specially trained and certified, ensuring they are equipped to safely administer psychedelic substances and provide psychological support.
  • Medical Screening: Participants undergo thorough medical and psychological evaluations to identify any contraindications and ensure they are suitable candidates for the therapy.
  • Supervised Sessions: All psychedelic therapy sessions are conducted in a controlled environment, under the supervision of trained professionals, to manage any adverse effects and provide immediate support.
  • Emergency Protocols: Facilities are equipped with protocols for managing medical or psychological emergencies, ensuring participant safety.
  • Data Privacy: Compliance with health information privacy regulations protects participant confidentiality and personal information.

    Legal Compliance in Ontario, Canada

    • Controlled Substance Regulation: In Canada, psychedelic substances such as psilocybin and MDMA are regulated under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Therapeutic use of these substances is subject to Health Canada’s approval and oversight.
    • Special Access Programme (SAP): Health Canada’s SAP allows practitioners to request access to controlled substances for patients with serious or life-threatening conditions when conventional treatments have failed, are unsuitable, or are unavailable in Canada. This program is a pathway for legal access to psychedelics for therapeutic use.
    • Research Exemptions: Health Canada grants exemptions for the use of controlled substances in clinical trials. Centres offering psychedelic-assisted therapy may operate under such exemptions, conducting research in compliance with regulatory standards.
    • Legal Framework Adherence: Therapy centres ensure compliance with local and federal laws by adhering to the legal frameworks governing the use of psychedelic substances for therapeutic purposes, including obtaining necessary licenses and approvals for their use in therapy.

    By adhering to these health regulations and safety protocols, and navigating the legal landscape for the use of psychedelic substances in therapy, The Mindful Living Centre strives to ensure the most responsible and compliant delivery of psychedelic-assisted therapy services possible.

    Clinic Staff and Therapists

    Dr. Chris Edmondstone
    Co-Director of PaT Services

    Dr. Santiago Hoyos
    Co-Director of PaT Services

    Dr. Susan Sergeant
    Associate Director

    Dr. Chris Parrish
    Clinical Director

     

    Ms. Marie Alexis
    (In Training)

    Dr. Abid Azam
    (In Training)

    FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

    What is psychedelic-assisted therapy?

    Psychedelic-assisted therapy is a therapeutic approach that combines traditional psychotherapy with the guided use of psychedelic substances, such as ketamine, psilocybin or MDMA, to facilitate deeper emotional and psychological healing.

    How does psychedelic-assisted therapy work?

    The therapy involves a series of sessions, including preparatory meetings, the psychedelic experience under the supervision of trained therapists, and integration sessions to help process and apply the insights gained during the psychedelic session.

    What conditions can psychedelic-assisted therapy help with?

    Research suggests it can be particularly effective for treating conditions like PTSD, depression, anxiety, and certain addiction disorders, especially when traditional treatments have not been effective.

    What are the potential side effects?

    Side effects can vary depending on the psychedelic used but may include temporary nausea, increased heart rate, vivid emotional experiences, or changes in perception during the session. Psychological support is provided to navigate these experiences safely.

    How do I prepare for a psychedelic therapy session?

    Preparation involves psychological assessments, setting intentions for the therapy, and learning techniques to navigate the psychedelic experience. Stable physical health (including proper nutrition, exercise and relative stability in day-to-day life), as well as an open and receptive mindset, are important.

    What can I expect during a psychedelic therapy session?

    You’ll be in a comfortable, safe setting under the care of trained therapists. After taking the psychedelic medicine, you’ll experience altered states of consciousness, where you may explore deep emotional and psychological insights with the support of your therapists.

    Is psychedelic-assisted therapy legal?

    The legal status varies by location and substance. In some regions, certain psychedelics are approved for use in clinical trials or therapeutic settings under strict regulations.  The legal status of various substances is also evolving as research supporting the potential therapeutic benefits of various psychedelic medicines accumulates. It’s important to consult with a qualified provider to understand the legal framework in your area.

    How long does a session last?

    The duration can vary based on the psychedelic used. Ketamine dosing sessions can be as brief as one hour, whereas psilocybin sessions typically last 4-6 hours, and MDMA sessions might last 6-8 hours, not including preparatory and integration sessions.

    How many sessions will I need?

    The number of sessions varies based on individual needs and the specific therapeutic protocol, but typically includes 2-3 psychedelic sessions, along with preparation and integration sessions.

    How do I know if psychedelic-assisted therapy is right for me?

    Eligibility is determined through a comprehensive screening process that assesses your mental health history, current physical and psychological health, and specific therapeutic needs. It’s important to discuss your candidacy with a qualified healthcare provider.

    Discover More

    To learn more about how psychedelic-assisted therapy can support your path to wellness, please contact us at 289-270-1757, or email info@mindfullivingcentre.ca. We are here to answer your questions and guide you through the next steps in your healing journey

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