Updated: Oct 8
As our Western medical system struggles to address much of the depth and breadth of our suffering, demand for Psychedelic Assisted Therapy (which has been feared, attacked and villianized by western medical science, business and culture) is skyrocketing. With little understanding of what they’re seeking and no publicly-facing legal and business infrastructure to connect to care; even those with immense privilege are struggling to find help. When a quality practitioner is procured or a safe and trauma-informed retreat or medical tourism destination is procured, our current system does not offer an adequate container to successfully integrate the vulnerable and potent process of deconstructing who we thought we were to reclaim who we really are, e.g. the spiritual, biological and psychological path of healing.
Healers with the skills and integrity to provide holistic care are acting alone and in the shadows when plant medicines are involved. Not only do they have to provide care in a state of personal risk, they are tasked with securing safe medicines, assessing medical safety for treatment, educating, treating and integrating a client’s experience, when a comprehensive care team should be in place to support what is often a temporarily destabilizing but ultimately transformational healing process. It is neither safe nor sustainable for healers to run a mind, body and soul ER and OR on their own, without the legal safety, business infrastructure, human support and compensation necessary to stay healthy, safe and effective in the critical role in manifesting a better tomorrow.
Transformative healing requires the bravery to explore vulnerable and tender places in our minds, bodies and souls. In our most raw moments, we need the support of someone who is both attuned to and capable of holding what arises in us and has the skill to then help us process, externalize and heal from what we’ve needed to repress or deny to survive. Because this work is inherently relational and both parties are human: At best, an ill-equipped practitioner cannot hold a client in their work. At worst, they will: (1) blame and project upon the client (fight); abandon the client (flight); or, disconnect from the client (freeze). As such, practitioners must be in their own therapy and seek supervision and mentorship to provide support with their triggers and blind spots. Community based care also prevents the perpetuation of systemic oppression and trauma.
Diversity, Equity & Representation:
Further, decolonizing holistic healing is critical to safety and efficacy. It is challenging to safely and efficaciously guide someone where you have not ventured; provide strength, trust and attunement you have not developed through your own healing process to heal wounds you have not suffered. Even when client and practitioner are culturally attuned and oversight from central governing bodies and credentialing organizations is in place; incompetent, unethical and exploitative practitioners are under-reported and under-addressed in the healing profession. Dismantling the power differential between “practitioner” and “patient;” and, offering avenues of accountability without invading client privacy is critical to safety and efficacy, regardless of where the healer is trained, what credential they hold and how much oversight exists in their field. This can only be done effectively at the community-level.
State of the Industry:
As miraculous healing stories and mainstream research continue to increase awareness, validity and excitement for the holistic healing arts; bad actors and bad outcomes are also surfacing at a greater speed. This makes it more challenging for those acting in integrity to safely engage with clients seeking care and practitioners seeking training. This is especially true for those serving severely traumatized clients, where relational work is laden with temporary confusion, projection and ruptures requiring trauma-informed repair with those who struggle to trust that any human being could be safe. We are hurt in relationship and heal in relationship. As such, this process cannot be put on an artificial timeline. It simply takes whatever it takes to properly heal the severity of the wound that is present. As such, while it is a practitioner’s job to hold whatever the client brings, this becomes stressful and challenging in the shadow of bad actors and under the threat of legal action. As such, many of our best healers are waiting until systemic support and safety are in place to offer their gifts to those who need them most. Others are doing their best to manage the stress of operating under great personal risk, which impacts their overall wellbeing; and thus, the quality of support they can offer to their clients.
Even as alternative treatments gain incremental healthcare coverage, become legal, and/or decriminalized; a massive shortage of competent providers will drive up the cost of care in a capitalist system. Practitioners will be left with a massive gap in compensation between working with those in need, vs. those with means, which has hindered access to underserved communities in our current system for decades. In addition to cost of care; holistically healing oneself often requires time and space away from work that few have the privilege to take, even if they are able to access quality care. Until we outline what it really takes for someone to heal themselves and make those resources available to communities at scale, we will continue to force people to cope with curable suffering in ways that negatively impact their long-term health; or, re-traumatize them by providing inadequate support, which often leads to victim blaming when they don’t improve.
Many healers have spent years acting as first responders during the often invisible pandemic of disconnection from self, each other, the planet and the spiritual realms. As mainstream interest grows, so does the pressure and demand on these healers. Many are getting sick, burned out and overwhelmed, further exacerbating the supply/demand imbalance in the healing profession. Others are so traumatized by seeing preventable harm and suffering misdiagnosed and untreated for so long; they need the support and time to recover, so they can rejoin the movement.
Until transparent, holistic, community based care is more broadly available, many potentially transformative, holistic healing experiences will continue to be ineffective, re-traumatizing or incapacitating, because the healing system is:
Unsafe, manipulative and exploitative
Lacks the expertise, support or resources necessary to stabilize and integrate a client after a challenging experience
The greater movement is being put at unnecessary risk (again)
As a result:
Both care access and care quality is lower than they should be
Preventable harm is being done to humans, communities and environments
The greater movement is being put at unnecessary risk (again)
If we hope to keep skilled and ethical healers in the field, these practitioners need:
Adequate professional and administrative support
Relief from the legal risks and financial strain, causing undo stress
A sustainable work schedule; and,
Regular access to their own holistic care