While it is beyond exciting that the world is slowly beginning to re-open and COVID-19 measures are easing up, the massive influx of COVID-19 related anxiety, depression and stress lends itself to a new wave of a mental health crisis. Due to the unprecedented nature of the pandemic, whether its economic losses, increase in loneliness, health related anxiety, mental health needs across the board have only increased at an alarming rate.
Yet, concurrently during this time, the rise of Psychedelic Therapy has also risen, specifically in North America. Psychedelic Therapy is Psychotherapeutic Practices typically combined with Ketamine Assisted Therapy. The nature of the practice believes that it uncovers a unique state of consciousness and offers an alternative to more traditional modes of therapy. I spoke with both Ronan Levy of FieldTrip and Dylan Rivard of Boulder Wellness Ketamine Collective. Both practices use Ketamine Assisted Therapy. Through interviews with both individuals, it was evidently clear that the need and demand for Psychedelic Therapy will only increase as we begin to enter a post-COVID world.
I first interviewed Ronan Levy of FieldTrip. FieldTrip is a Ketamine assisted Psychotherapy practice with clinics in Toronto, New York and Los Angeles. Specifically, FieldTrip is the first Psychedelic Therapy Clinic in Toronto. When asked about how COVID could affect a potential surge in Psychedelic Therapy, Levy discussed how “You have people who are experiencing anxiety, and rage and powerlessness. That’s going to drive a lot of different emotional responses as well. There’s an incredible amount of complexity that’ll come out of the pandemic and psychological responses to it.”.
He also talked about how aside from COVID, Psychedelic Therapy will appeal to those who are unsatisfied with current models of therapy. “When you think about it, we live in an era of a mental health crisis. 1/4 people are going to experience a mental health issue in their live. 1/20 will be a severe issue. Clearly, existing options aren’t working very effectively for what would otherwise be relatively simple mental health challenges” says Levy. While FieldTrip only opened its Toronto practice just as COVID-19 hit the country, they already have seen a massive surge in interest. Levy’s note on existing options not working effectively is part of a larger trend in Psychedelic Clinics that opened as a way to deter individuals from anti-depressants. In fact, this was one of the original reasons as to why FieldTrip opened in the first place. In it’s FAQ page, FieldTrip even states that Ketamine has the ability to act as an anti-depressant. As well, as more studies show the increasingly dangerous reliance on anti-depressants, many turn to Psychedelic Therapy as a less addictive solution to coping with Mental Health.
In addition to emerging as an alternative to traditional modes of therapy and medication, Psychedelic Therapy also utilized itself effectively in the peak of the pandemic. As reported in BioTuesdays, FieldTrip also released Virtual Therapy, available during the Pandemic prior to its re-opening of its Toronto clinician May. The Virtual Therapy consisted of two types: Psychedelic Breathing & Integration Therapy and COVID Coping Therapy. The Psychedelic Breathing & Integration Therapy was essentially breathing exercises that attempted to alter the state of consciousness of individuals in a way that is similar to Psychedelics. The service consisted of a 30-60 minuted guided video with a FieldTrip therapist. After this, a 50 minute video or phone call with a therapist utilized more traditional psychotherapy techniques to specifically deal with COVID related stress. In contrast, The COVID Coping Therapy solely consists of talk therapy in dealing with COVID related anxieties, stress or depression. As well, it is crucial to note that the services are free for Frontline Workers, who are likely feeling the mental toll of the pandemic more than others.
I then spoke with Dylan Rivard of Boulder Wellness Ketamine Collective. The clinic is quite similar to FieldTrip in that they use Ketamine Assisted Therapy. Rivard also spoke of similar issues with patients approaching Psychedelic Therapy in a post-COVID world. He mentioned how patients were keen on finding equilibrium in their lives as a result of the pandemic, and Psychedelic Therapy presented itself as a great solution to that. One unique aspect of Rivard’s clinic which was particularly of use during COVID was the Psychedelic Integration Circle. The Psychedelic Integration Circle is a bi-weekly gathering where individuals come together to reflect and discuss their psychedelic experiences. Despite the pandemic, the circle did meet virtually. Rivard notes how even on a fundamental level, having that “virtual” sense of community during the pandemic was quite comforting to many of its members. Additionally, by reflecting on past psychedelic experiences, it allowed individuals to escape the realities of the pandemic and reminiscence on lighter times in their life.
On a broader level, Rivard also spoke of why Psychedelics and Psychedelic Therapy is more important now than ever. Rivard spoke that “the pandemic has only amplified the capitalist-based problems of our world, and disconnect from the earth that many individuals feel on a day-to-day basis”. He believes that individuals are feeling “a heightened sense of mental anguish, challenges and stress from the pandemic”. To Rivard, Psychedelic Therapy is culturally important because it reunites individuals with the earth and nature and helps them find a state of unity.
It is quite fortunate that the the post-COVID world and rise of Psychedelics occurred precisely at the same time. While FieldTrip and Boulder Wellness Ketamine Collective are just two reputable clinics, we likely will only see more and more pop up. Levy started that they plan to open one in Chicago at some point in the future. For example, The Cannabis Investor reported that in 2020, Champignon plans to open five new clinics in the US. In fact, at the (virtual) PsyTech summit, Rick Doblin, founder of MAPS predicts that there will be 6,000 Psychedelics Clinics by 2030. As well, this number would likely only be increased if Psilocybin and MDMA ever got medical exemptions.
It is fair to suggest that Psychedelic Therapy re-entered the semi-mainstream world, at the right place and definitely, at the right time. As more clinics open up, and more individuals turn to therapy in the aftermath of the pandemic, the world will likely see a rise in Psychedelic Therapy.