Non-profit patient rights advocacy group TheraPsil announced the launch of its phase one psilocybin therapy training program with 15 healthcare professionals on March 2. The announcement comes after Health Canada granted medical training exemptions for psilocybin use to the organization last December.
This 10-week beta program is designed to train healthcare professionals working with Therapsil on facilitating legal psilocybin-assisted therapy for Canadians suffering from end-of-life distress, which can include symptoms such as severe anxiety and depression.
“Our beta-program training group is made up of highly skilled and experienced healthcare professionals,” Dave Phillips, TheraPsil’s British Columbia-based lead clinical counsellor writes in a press release. “When you combine that level of expertise with the passion of using this medicine in a curative way to relieve people of their anxiety and depression, the result will be a game-changer in the world of mental health for Canadians.”
Health Canada exempted 19 healthcare professionals under Section 56 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act in December, permitting them to legally consume psilocybin during their training program. The decision included psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical counsellors, social workers, general practitioners and nurses involved in the process of psychedelic-assisted therapy.
“All of these individuals may have to interact with the patient at some point, or will be involved in the actual psychotherapeutic sessions. Anyone involved in a session should know how to hold space and act in that room when the patient is undergoing an altered state of consciousness,” Spencer Hawkswell, CEO of TheraPsil, told Truffle Report during a previous interview.
The Health-Canada-approved curriculum is aimed at training the professionals in ‘the nuts and bolts of how to facilitate legal, psilocybin-assisted therapy’. The trainees will receive hands-on training by experts during the 10-week-long program as they undergo their own psychedelic experiences to understand the medicine. They’ll then carry through what they’ve learned to mentor other patients undergoing the process.
“We have decided to launch this beta version first as patient safety and treatment efficacy is fundamentally important, so we want to ensure we gather learnings and feedback from this first cohort and relay progress to the government,” Hawkswell writes in the statement.
“We will use our learnings from our pilot program to optimize future iterations of the program, determine next steps, be able to open this program to larger cohorts and invite the many doctors and therapists who have already expressed interest in our training program to participate in these future cohorts,” he adds.
TheraPsil has successfully treated 27 Canadians suffering from end-of-life-distress, severe anxiety, and depression —including the first non-palliative patient— since August 2020. The organization has also offered interested healthcare professionals the chance to sign-up for the training program to treat palliative patients.
“Our goal is to create a comprehensive, accessible and scalable program that incorporates continual improvement that works in the best interest of the patients who desperately need access to qualified healthcare practitioners trained in psilocybin-therapy, across the country,” Hawkswell says.
In February, ATMA Journey Centers, an Alberta-based private company, announced the launch of a similar training program in collaboration with Wayfound Mental Health Group that would help professionals get equipped with the required skills to conduct the process. That program is scheduled to begin in March 2021.
Ritika is a Toronto-based reporter. She writes about drug policies and developments in psychedelics.