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Episode 024

Elevating Safety in Your Psychedelic Practice

Erica Siegal

Publishing Date


Erica Siegal discusses the challenges and opportunities in the psychedelic space, focusing on harm reduction, support for survivors, and the need for infrastructure and standards. She emphasizes the importance of slowing down the growth of the industry to ensure safety and ethical practice. Erica also highlights the blind spots of facilitators and the need for comprehensive training and community support. The conversation delves into the challenges of giving and receiving feedback in the psychedelic facilitation space, the importance of accountability and ethical guidelines, and the need for transparency and financial stewardship in retreat centers. It also explores the nuances of pricing, the significance of intentionality and care in creating a nurturing space, and the future of the psychedelic space with a focus on compassion, grace, and connection.

This podcast is primarily for psychedelic coaches, facilitators, retreats, and clinic teams wanting to elevate their standards of care.

Key takeaways

  • The need for infrastructure and standards in the psychedelic space to ensure safety and ethical practice
  • The importance of slowing down the growth of the industry to prevent harm and ensure comprehensive training and community support
  • The blind spots of facilitators and the need for comprehensive training and community support Effective feedback and repair in the psychedelic facilitation space is challenging but essential for growth and community repair.
  • The need for accountability measures, ethical guidelines, and transparency in retreat centers to ensure safety and trust within the psychedelic space.
  • The significance of intentionality, care, and attention to detail in creating a nurturing and supportive space for psychedelic experiences.
  • The future of the psychedelic space should be guided by compassion, grace, understanding, flexibility, creativity, and connection.
  • The importance of financial stewardship, pricing models, and community-based review systems in the psychedelic facilitation and retreat center space.


0:00  Intro
1:15  Erica's background in harm reduction
5:20  Challenges in the current psychedelic space
10:45  Why Erica created Shine Support for psychedelic survivors
15:30  Common challenges faced by facilitators
21:45  Blindspots and power dynamics facilitators should be aware of
28:15  Importance of giving/receiving feedback as a facilitator
34:30  Considering your decision matrix as a facilitator
39:40  Finding mentorship and continuing education
46:20  Realistic caseloads and scheduling for facilitators
51:10  Importance of hospitality and attention to detail at retreats
57:45  Financial transparency and ethical pricing models
1:02:00  Future accountability measures and credentialing

Key links

Please support Erica's important work!
Shine Support
Nest Harm Reduction

Show notes

Our guest

Erica Siegal

Erica Siegal is a psychotherapist, professional harm reductionist, community organizer and a psychedelic-assisted psychotherapist. Erica founded NEST Harm Reduction Consulting to provide compassionate, trauma-informed care, trainings and on-site services to events, communities and professionals in the field. She combines a decade of direct services work with B.A in Hospitality Administration from Cornell University and a Master in Social Work from The University of Southern California, to create a unique, consumer-focused, multi-system care model that brings compassion and sustainability back into our communities, both large and small.

In addition to her community outreach and event services experience, she also worked as a psychotherapist researcher on the Phase 3 FDA-approved MDMA-assisted psychotherapy clinical trials in Los Angeles, California from 2014 - 2019.Erica provides telehealth psychotherapy, clinical supervision, workshops and education around professional burnout, psychedelics, community safety and grassroots harm reduction services.

Episode transcript

Pascal (00:00.554)
Hello, my name is Pascal and I'm the host of One Degree Shifts and I'm also the co -founder of Nectar, my beautiful wife Elaine. And today we're talking to Erika Siegel from Nest Harm Reduction and Shine Support. Hi Erika, how are you?

Erica (00:14.734)
I'm great. Hi Pascal. It's good to see you.

Pascal (00:17.546)
Likewise, I first heard about Erica about three years ago on LinkedIn and I saw her profile and I saw the work she was doing and I was like, I need to connect with her at some point. And it wasn't the right time, but three years later I did connect with her and I'm really happy I did because you've spent a whole lot of time working on harm reduction and supporting people at festivals and basically doing the front lines work around supporting people around their experiences, but also having seen.

like you said in our last meeting, a whole bunch of stuff that people wouldn't imagine are kind of out there in the psychedelic world, but they are. And so you've really dedicated a large part of your life to this work.

Erica (01:01.102)
Yeah, I when you put it that way, it kind of, you know, seems silly and also incredibly meaningful and, and working in recreational psychedelic spaces like music festivals and transformational events and things like that.

It's amazing the amount of good work and transformation and healing that can be done in those spaces and also really challenging work when things are not properly contained.

Pascal (01:48.49)
Mm -hmm.

Erica (01:48.622)
And so to think that, you know, I've been running around music festivals doing crisis response work for a decade, it kind of seems like, it feels like yesterday and also so happy to have all of the wisdom that I've gained from working in those spaces for so long.

Pascal (02:11.018)
Yeah, I have a ton of respect for what you're doing because, you know, being on the front lines of that kind of work exposes you to a lot of very challenging situations. And you've seen the space change over time. I'm sure things have been expanding and as more people are entering these experiences and you've said it really well, there's a lot of beauty and a lot of positive things that do happen in the space. And yet there's this sort of shadowy side to this work that everyone is aware of in a way, but.

It's easy to, to, it can be difficult sometimes to look behind a curtain and actually see what is going on in the space right now. And you've been exposed to it for so long. What is happening in the space in terms of where are we at in terms of holding people well and creating safety and structures that help support that. a recent research said that 55 % of people who recently left an ayahuasca ceremony were having mental and emotional and spiritual challenges for it. I think like 44%.

of people or 39 % of people thought it was the most challenging experience of their whole life. And so, you know, it is a very powerful, it can be a very powerful experience. And that powerful experience needs to be met with an equally well -structured and nourishing and supportive infrastructure after they leave the experience and before they enter it. So how have you seen the space evolve around that infrastructure that needs to be developed for this?

Erica (03:40.014)
Well, it kind of feels like the train left the station, but we haven't finished the tracks yet. And so some of us are frantically at the other end of the track still like, you know, laying down railroad ties and trying to make sure that the impending psychedelic renaissance and consciousness expanding.

Pascal (03:46.802)

Erica (04:08.494)
access is going to shift worldwide over the next decade. And whether that is to treat mental health or to have spiritual connection or to create repair and relationship with each other. I think that everybody's really hopeful. And also,

it's like the genuine definition of the wild wild west. We're seeing inconsistent practice, we're seeing inconsistent financial compensation reimbursement packages, we're seeing a lot of...

inadvertent boundary crossing that kind of falls under manipulation and coercion because we have a lot of, a lot of people who have been trained to be facilitators who have blind spots and there's no way for them to get the knowledge, expertise, experience. And so we're seeing a lot of facilitators like learn a lot of, learn a lot of the same lessons over and over again.

and one of the things that I've been working on is trying to come up with a cohesive way for us to compile all of this information. So we can learn from each other's lessons instead of having everybody siloed and just repeating the same poor practice. And that's, you know, just in poor facilitation, poor training, burnout stuff, which I'm sure we'll get into, but also, you know, we are seeing some real.

Pascal (05:32.906)
Mm -hmm.

Erica (06:02.638)
predatory, intentional, malicious abuse and harm and assault in the space.

Pascal (06:14.3)
And that's part of why you created Shine support as well. Can you tell us more about why you created it? And when I first heard about Shine and seeing the word psychedelic survivors, it really highlighted the level of harm that can happen from these experiences. Can you tell us more about why you created Shine and why it's so vital right now to support psychedelic survivors?

Erica (06:37.71)
goodness. Thanks. Thanks for freezing it that way. It like warms my heart.

Erica (06:48.366)
Because I have done so much work in crisis response, I really have seen the full spectrum of harm and abuse, everything including hospitalizations, sexual assault, domestic violence, all of the kind of criminal, including things like fraud, like financial fraud, misrepresenting, credential fraud, things like that.

that have some kind of fuzzy boundaries, especially in the psychedelic space when nobody, you know, there are regulatory boards right now that are regulating the space. So anybody can hang up a shingle that says I'm a psychedelic facilitator. And what we're working towards is finding a way to have credentialing boards and regulatory boards without...

restricting access to people who have been working in the underground who might have not have the medical or mental health credentials associated with that. But that's a segue. I will go back to the kind of harm and abuse that we're seeing in the space and what motivated me to create SHINE.

Because of all of this field work, when something would go terribly wrong, my phone would ring or I'd get an email or I'd get a text message or I'd get an article forwarded to me. Like, hey, what do you think about this? And I inadvertently became kind of one of the people, there are many people in this community who are working with survivors. One of the people that was kind of in a network of people who are supporting survivors.

starting to talk to each other. This also includes Sandra Dreisbach, who runs Epic, who I know you've done some, Nectar has done some work with her before. Catherine McLean and Leah Friedwoman, who started Psychedelic Survivors that then got, that shifted into Shine. And then seeing different organizations all over the world, in the UK, in Costa Rica, in Canada.

Erica (09:03.022)
all of these different kind of people who are working on these really interesting ethics cases and what to do about them. And so I like to say that I got coerced and manipulated into starting a nonprofit about manipulation and coercion in the psychedelic space.

Pascal (09:24.138)
Ha ha ha ha!

Erica (09:26.446)
by the community that was like, hey, you should do this, you should do this every time something would happen, every time an incident would happen. People in the community would pop up and be like, where do we support survivors? There wasn't an organization for people to go to.

And so about a year ago, a little less, a little over or less than a year ago, we launched Shine soft launch. And since then, I've spoken to about 75 different survivors ranging from untested substances, poor facilitation, poor group dynamics.

all the way to non -consensual sexual touch, financial manipulation, fraud, coercion, things like that. But I started seeing a commonality between all of the survivors, which to me was significant to take note of. We're starting to collect some data on survivors. Jules Evans, who runs Challenging Psychedelic Experiences,

project is on our advisory board and so you know we're creating all of these like a mycelium network of people who are around working on safety and harm in this space. Yeah and so.

Pascal (10:50.89)
Which is beautiful and like I said, I have so much respect for this kind of work because I imagine it's not easy to be supporting in these kind of challenging things and really getting exposed to the full spectrum of what humanity is capable of, which there's a dark and light and that's part of it, but also it must be a lot for you to hold in for others. And thankfully you have community to support you on this project.

Erica (11:15.95)
Yeah, yeah, I myself, you know, during those crisis response years, exposed myself to a lot of vicarious trauma and was experiencing some symptoms of burnout and moral injury. And really, I did have to take about six months off right before I founded Nest. I took about six months off from work and rested.

and reoriented myself. And I think that if you're going to be a psychedelic facilitator, you need to build in sabbatical. You need to be able to take time off. I kind of want to think of it as the army reserves, like one weekend a month, two weeks a year, and also then a full, I'd love to say take a full year off every seven years.

But that is hard to do. So even if it's a three month sabbatical or four month sabbatical, I think times of integration and rest need to be modeled by psychedelic facilitators for the people that we work with and for our greater communities.

Pascal (12:32.818)
Absolutely. I think that's a really good advice for the facilitators out there. Before we jump into some more specific topics around facilitators, since you've been in this space for so long and you're so involved in these organizations and projects and helping people, what are the top three things that you see in the space in general that needs to be addressed or things that maybe are being addressed but...

Of course, these things take time, like accountability, vetting of training programs, which I've seen training programs where people just go for a weekend. They get high for a weekend, they stack medicines and then they come out like I'm a facilitator. and, you know, I have a friend who's, you know, bless her heart. She's a lovely person. She she's by trade, a real estate agent. And, I heard that she went through this weekend training and now she's serving medicine. And, I'm sorry, but you're not, you shouldn't be doing that.

and there's at least a hundred different training programs out there. So I think. You know, training programs are probably one of the top three things, but I'd love to hear from you that really quickly, the top three things that you think are the most important to work on. Cause there's a lot of infrastructure things to be built here.

Erica (13:50.158)
Yeah, I mean in the in the greater top three things to work on in the greater psychedelic space or top three things to work on if you're an individual wanting to get into the space.

Pascal (13:59.498)
That's probably two questions that we can talk about because I think that's, I'm interested in both.

Erica (14:04.046)
Right, right? I think...

that I think, you know, realistic, like realistic caseload, I think is something that everyone needs to pay attention to. Yeah, number of clients you see a week, number, amount of money you think you're going to make, right?

Pascal (14:37.866)
Mm -hmm.

Erica (14:38.254)
We can't see, you know, I hear some people coming out of these training programs and they're like, I'll just see, you know, like 15, 20 cap clients a week. And I'm like, no, you're, no, you're not. And if that's what you're basing your budget off of, like you're going to really be struggling. I think there's a combination of, you know, what is ethical pricing and like what is ethical income. And that looks different to everyone.

Pascal (15:04.586)
Mm -hmm.

Erica (15:07.79)
based on environment and socioeconomic class and a whole bunch of other things. Some people are like, I don't understand why somebody would want to make a million dollars a year or how they could live off of $50 ,000 a year. And people are doing all of these things all the time and everybody has different lifestyles, so no judgment there. But I think that across the board, there should be some industry standard pricing.

Pascal (15:07.818)
Mm -hmm.

Pascal (15:30.346)
Mm -hmm.

Erica (15:38.542)
And so that's one. Two, I would say, legality, right? Looking, there's a lot of people who are thinking that they're going to an Oregon service center or that their mushroom facilitator has been trained in Oregon and now they're traveling around, but like, who actually knows? Cause there's no lookup. And so,

I think credentials, I think being able to know who you are, authentically being able to present the work that you're doing, be able to provide tested drugs, information about drugs, know how to provide informed consent, all of that kind of stuff. But knowing the legal risks of where you are.

and legal ramifications of where you are as a facilitator and as a consumer and as an investor.

Pascal (16:43.498)
Mm -hmm.

Mm -hmm.

Erica (16:47.438)
I hear a lot of people investing in the space into things that can't exist yet. And then things get delayed and things get delayed and then the investors lose their money and the business people run away with it or things collapse. And so I know that was kind of like that kind of like meshed the like financial regulatory like informed consent, basically good.

Pascal (17:03.978)

Erica (17:13.998)
facilitator informed consent and best practices. And so we don't have, we have different drafts siloed in different places. And so making sure that you are like being honest and authentic with the work that you're doing.

Pascal (17:19.146)

Pascal (17:31.978)
Right. And there's so many different pieces. Like you said, it's kind of building a railroad ahead of the train. And the other analogy is like building a spaceship while it's flying in the air. And there's a lot of different infrastructure things that I think more and more people are looking at in terms of creating structure. Like the psychedelic safety Institute is being created and they're looking at, I know you've talked to them and they're looking at more like the data and the research and...

Erica (17:41.358)

Erica (17:55.566)

Pascal (17:59.242)
Yeah. Gathering the important data around this because no one has all the information in one place. And that thing that's not allowing the space to really inform itself into like what we actually need to create to, to reduce harm and to elevate the standards of practice basically. And I'd love that you talked about pricing because, yeah, just even for retreats in clinics, for example, like the sort of business model that goes into serving people is just, it goes against principles of care that I think are really.

supportive of people because they need to make a lot of money to support their business expenses and who's investing in those companies. They also want to return and there's also financial things that get mixed up into things. A lot of wide -eyed people out there looking to have their first experience. They're like, it's $6 ,000 for a ceremony. that sounds fair. I'm going to have a beautiful life -changing experience. I'll pay it. But actually, that's the...

It's a very high price to pay for that and there's no standards around that. So it is a wild west around that. And of course, when you bring in money into it, you get the facilitator's shadow side coming in, in terms of lack of abundance or like the wounded healer. And maybe they have issues around money and challenges. And so it becomes a very charged space of service because money is intertwined into everyone's life in a way that can be very challenging for them. So.

Yeah, those are really good points. And I'd love to talk about some common blind spots that you've seen from facilitators. And I see you smile, so I'm sure you have seen a whole lot of different ones, and we can talk for hours about that. But the intention of that is really to share some reflection points for the facilitators out there and the teams that are working as well in terms of what could be ways that they can improve their service.

via self -reflection and community support. And Dan came in, just gave a talk just this morning around narcissism and psychedelics and how that's intertwined in the, in the role of the facilitator. And I can't wait to listen to it, but it was a two hour talk around just that topic. And so, yeah, I'd love to, to hear from you, like, what are the things that you've seen the most common blind spots that maybe people out there don't realize they have. And that's fine. It's not about being perfect. It's about continuous improvement, right?

Erica (20:26.542)
Yeah, I think...

I think one thing that is really important when it comes to blind spots is this idea around intentionality. Right? There is a shift in orientation when you go from a, I am here to serve you medicine, to a, I am in service of your journey.

right? There's like a power dynamic or I mean, and there's, you know, there's great ayahuasca facilitators that can hold down a space for 30 or 40 people and they energetically are, you know, holding that container. And I think that you're I think that there's a little bit of this like ego like right, you're wielding power.

when you're facilitating psychedelics, regardless, like it's in the room. You're putting somebody into a suggestible, vulnerable, altered state. Like how do we make sure that that person is cared for while in that state? And I like looking at things like the extra ethical care and boundaries for anesthesiologists and for pediatricians. Like when you're working with vulnerable population.

Pascal (21:53.866)

Erica (21:57.614)
that can't consent. What are the guidelines there? And I think my background being in this crisis response harm reduction space has really had me practice orienting myself to being of service to whatever happens to come in when we work in those spaces. And it's oftentimes not ideal. And we do the best we can.

And so I think that there's more of this practice of like playing the hand that were dealt. Then like come into my space and my sanctuary and be here and I will facilitate for you. You have a lot more power in that space and your ego exists a lot more in that space than when you're in the field. And so I think there is this little bit of, of training shift.

Pascal (22:45.706)

Erica (22:53.262)
right, is like, because I've done so much like underground recreational field work, that when things go wrong, I have taught myself how not to freak out in most, in most really weird situations. And people who have gone through a, you know, whether it's a weekend long training or, you know, a two year training might not have the experience of knowing what to do with

Pascal (23:09.226)
Mm -hmm.

Erica (23:22.03)
you know, excited delirium or what happens when somebody is in a like fugue state and takes off all their clothes. Like what happens when and it's like you don't get to see these when you're really in these programs in clinical practice. And that's why it's so risky for facilitators who don't have a ton of lived experience to be able to do this work. I like to I like to say that, you know,

Pascal (23:48.169)
Mm -hmm.

Erica (23:52.974)
like seven years of personal work before you can serve medicine with each individual medicine and getting permission from that medicine to serve it. I think that's a lot of the problems that we're seeing in the US, especially around ketamine clinics is a lot of people who don't know how to navigate the space are facilitating and leaving people dysregulated.

Pascal (23:58.026)

Pascal (24:07.178)

Pascal (24:20.586)
Yeah. And there's a, you know, and I had a couple of friends of mine just this week, actually, who has been serving for over 10 years and they had someone take off their clothes and just run off and they had to call the police. And it was the first time they ever dealt with that. And they handled it very well because of their experience in presencing and apprenticeship and doing their own work for so long that they were able to meet that extraordinary moment with a lot of.

compassion and professionalism. And when you talk about these, you know, we talk about harm reduction and all these trainings and these things like that, and sort of the financial aspect coming into it, there's a sort of...

contrasting elements to this space, which is we want it to grow and we want it to be successful. We want to help more people, but there's a contradiction there because like you said, I also believe that you should do five, six, seven years of training and apprenticeship with one medicine, have teachers and things like that. And that takes time. And yet the space is here wanting to grow and we have to train all these facilitators.

How do you merge those two realities together? Cause ultimately I think we should be moving slower, not faster yet. Everyone wants a survey, wants to open a retreat. There's all these businesses started. People want to heal. It's like this, this chasing element to it, which how do we navigate? How do we merge those two realities and actually do it better? Is it standards around years of experience? Like how do you gate that so that those moments of harm are not being presented?

as often as they could be because we've gated the ability to serve medicine in a way. And I don't know if that sounds like too rigid, but yeah, I'd love to hear thoughts around that.

Erica (26:10.254)
Pascal (26:11.754)
It's a big question. It's a hard one. Slow down the train.

Erica (26:13.39)
That is a big question.

Erica (26:17.998)
I mean, right. I also, I mean, I'm a big fan of slowing everything down. You know, you don't want to like if you're, if you're stretching the taffy, if you stretch it too fast, it's going to snap.

Pascal (26:24.298)
Mm -hmm.

Erica (26:33.326)
And so you have to move, certain things you have to move slow. And what we're seeing is people rushing forward and snapping and rushing forward and like, you know, and that is risky and that is harmful. And there is a, what we know is there's millions of people out there accessing psychedelics. If we put on,

too many criteria to access them. The people who don't meet criteria who are super high risk or super high in crisis will make the riskiest decision and go into the underground and go with unsafe facilitators. So there's this like careful balance between like making sure that we put...

Pascal (27:18.954)
Mm -hmm.

Erica (27:27.214)
guardrails on and also don't make those guardrails so restrictive that the people who need it the most won't be able to access it. And so it's really challenging to be able to...

Pascal (27:35.882)
Mm -hmm. Yeah.

Erica (27:46.158)
to slow it down because the people who are the most desperate for access are gonna break the door down anyway.

Pascal (27:56.586)
Right. Right.

Erica (27:57.038)
And so.

Yeah, I mean, I think that that is, you know, one of the biggest challenges. I think everybody should slow down and I don't think that that's actually going to happen. And so we are going to harm people. Therefore, support psychedelic survivors because we know that a certain percentage of people are for sure going to get harmed by this. And

Pascal (28:23.466)
Mm -hmm.

Erica (28:23.63)
We as people who have gotten the message from psychedelic work and have hung up the phone and started companies like this, it's our job to also build the infrastructure for the people who got harmed.

Pascal (28:38.442)
Right. It is going to happen for sure. And that's, that's a, yeah.

Erica (28:39.726)
We need to do it better. Right, we need to do it better than the systems doing it. And this is kind of, you know, the basis of harm reduction work, which is, you know, grassroots community -based organizing.

Pascal (28:52.202)
Yeah. And community is such a big part of, of all this, right. And, I know you and Sandra talk a lot about community support and peers and, you know, doing it together. We don't have all the answers. And I think that's very supportive. no one does have all the answers. And, Hiranimo from ICER is at my last podcast was with him and he brought a good point, which is like, this is a new space and then, you know, it's, it's normal that we're still struggling with certain key pieces. Just he mentioned the analogy of.

the x -ray industry, like when it started, they would x -ray babies all the time. They would just x -ray stuff left and right. They wouldn't do it properly. And so, but over time, if you look at the development of that, it's become safer and safer and safer. And it's just a normal part of an organism that's evolving basically. So we also need to honor the time and space that we're in and that we're, we're building still.

Erica (29:41.806)

Right. And we also have to look at the fact that there are psychedelics in general, spiritually, for sure don't want us to control them. And so anytime we as humans try to control these medicines, they're like little chaos machines. And they'll throw curveballs at us, and they'll challenge us, and they make us take a few steps back. And...

But to think that we're gonna be like, we're gonna be the ones that are gonna cure the whole world's trauma is not really realistic.

Pascal (30:23.69)
Absolutely. And in regards to training, I'm curious, like what's your recommendation for facilitators out there that are getting trained? There's a lot of people that are very like training hungry right now. They're looking for places to go to and develop. And a lot of very well -meaning people are training right now and expanding their skills. And what would you recommend for them in terms of maybe they don't have five years or six years to go apprentice in the jungle with someone and yet they want to.

you know, start to serve, you know, is it about mentorship and community and moving slowly? What would you recommend to them?

Erica (31:02.126)
Yes, and all of that, like mentorship, moving slowly, finding other places that you can practice your skills. Volunteering at a community center, like volunteering at a soup kitchen, like showing up and being present with people who are struggling, like.

can be really meaningful and I think it should be part of everyone's integration work. I also think that there are definitely other areas where you should get trained. I think that psychedelics, especially for therapists, like psychedelics are gonna be five to 10 % of my practice. The rest of it is being a good therapist. And so go learn how to be a good therapist, go learn how to be a good coach.

Go learn how to be a death doula or a birth doula. Anything. Go take a class in BDSM and kink. Like, you know, anything that is, you know, liminal space, altered state experiences. And like, and find out your own edges. Go to Burning Man. Go to Burning Man. That place.

Pascal (32:25.066)
Mm -hmm. Highly recommended, yeah.

Erica (32:27.79)
place will push your edges. It will teach you who you are. Right? Like any go to a sweat lodge, go on a silent meditation retreat. Like all of these things will give you the internal learning that you'll need to know in the future. And I love that there are these people who I have a background in hospitality. So I was in hospitality for a decade before I became a therapist.

And I have a lot of people who are like, I want to open up a psychedelic retreat center. And I was like, cool. Do you know how to run a retreat center? And they're like, no. And I was like, do you know how to do any sort of mental health or behavioral health care? No. And I'm like, okay, well, it doesn't really seem like you're the right person for the job. Like.

Pascal (33:14.41)
Mm -hmm.

Erica (33:15.054)
where else, right? Or go learn about hospitality and what it takes to open up a retreat center and how hard it is for your first five years of running anything and how much your program is going to have to shift and change and how much heartbreak you have to, like, it is like birthing a thing and 90 % of them fail in their first five years.

Pascal (33:25.226)
It's super hard. The retreat space is so hard.

Pascal (33:39.178)
Mm -hmm.

Erica (33:39.438)
And so what we're seeing is like just another like economic trend, an economic trend.

Pascal (33:47.722)
Right. Yeah. And then the, you know, starting a practice itself is very challenging, but a retreat space is a whole different thing. And even the sort of really well -funded businesses in the space have been failing left and right. I don't think throwing money at anything, especially in this space is a really good solution. I think it's more about building community and creating spaces of good stewardship, true values and culture and, and connection.

and humbleness, which you speak about here a little bit too around.

Well, there's two things, like one is the psychedelic exceptionalism. I think part of like, if you want to be a facilitator, you just focus on facilitator things. But what you're sharing is that just be a good human and connect with people and be present and, and always be open to receiving insights and teachings, and supporting yourself with people that are going to be saying, Hey, you know, I don't think you should have done that kind of thing, you know, a support space where other people that have more experience than you can.

tell you in true honesty and transparency. I think that's a big part of doing your own work, right? Is getting the support for that.

Erica (34:57.454)
It is so hard to give and receive feedback in an effective way. And one of the things that I found in, in starting Shine is like, I'm now facilitating a whole bunch of really challenging conversations around feedback and repair and community repair. And it is hard work and also it gets better with practice. And so.

Pascal (35:23.786)
Mm -hmm.

Erica (35:25.614)
I think practicing with safe people to then expand out to more challenging people is really helpful. And being able to go to your friends and say, hey.

Pascal (35:35.146)

Erica (35:37.934)
This thing you did last week bothered me and I want to talk about it because it's like usually I don't hang on to things. So if something I'm hanging on to like, hey, that was the wrong thing, then I should have the conversation. And because if I was out of character, if I was out of line or integrity with myself, I would want my friends to tell me that I was.

Pascal (35:49.13)
Mm -hmm.

Pascal (35:58.826)
I'd love to talk a bit more about that because I've had the same experience of being that person who saw something that the facilitator did, one of my friends that I didn't like, and I didn't say anything because I, first of all, it felt, it felt challenging for me. And that's my own stuff around sharing the truth and kind of pushing on someone's edge a little bit. And I feel like, and with Nectar as well, in terms of, you know, the...

the vetting that we do for our guys, there has been challenging stories where we had to practice like sharing in true honesty and being like, this is what come up. Like, what do you think? And having those tough conversations was a big learning for me and Elaine. What do you recommend for facilitators out there in terms of opening up to sharing that feedback? Because I do think it's a very self -regulating space in terms of the facilitators, especially they're very connected typically.

in community, they work with each other, they talk to each other, there's a very sort of strong self accountability. However, there's a ton of sensitivity around sharing the truth and really sharing harm that's been created because people get so sensitive about their work and for multiple reasons, of course, but I'd love to hear more about how can facilitators deepen that practice because I do think it's so essential that we self -police each other and self -support as a community.

Erica (37:19.054)
Yeah, well, one of the things that I have with some of my community members is, you know, agreements around, around feedback. And, and, and when and how to give it and receive it.

Like, and so creating a community that is like, hey, like, let's have a once a month check in and let's like, just make sure, right, this is what supervision and consultation groups are for and things like that. But also having almost like an invitation of saying, Hey, like, it would be, I think I would benefit from getting feedback. And so if there's any way that I've been out of line,

And usually I like, it's just like the truth that I know that I don't want to tell myself. I think my own medicine practice is very helpful. Also, that kind of does its own work. And, you know, finding people, it's hard to find mentorship.

Pascal (38:19.626)

Pascal (38:28.042)
Mm -hmm.

Erica (38:28.206)
Because psychedelic work, underground work has been so secretive for so long. And so again, this is like mentorship someplace else, right? Like it doesn't have to always be in the psychedelic space. This is like siloing ourselves into the psychedelic space and only the psychedelic space is the thing that is going to cause the problem. And so, you know, is there another place you can give and receive feedback? Can you take another class someplace? Can you?

you know, there's trainings on giving and receiving feedback. And so, you know, like learning around that and then practicing. And I think there is this fear that if you admit that you've done something wrong, that you will be judged for it, because that is oftentimes most of our experiences. And so,

Pascal (39:25.13)
Right, and I, yeah.

Erica (39:27.95)
And so saying to someone, is there anything you'd like to get off your chest? Like, I won't judge you for it. I'll just be here to listen. But like, you know, you can say like, unless it's like, I'm continuing to perpetuate this harm, but I don't think anybody would continue. Like, I don't think anybody would invite that feedback if they were, you know, intentional or malicious. But you can say like,

man, like I had a really challenging session with this client. And like, I don't know if I'm the right facilitator for them. Like, or, or things like, wow, I'm really attracted to one of my clients. Like, I don't know what to do with this. But I also feel like I need to name it and talk about it. Or my clients is hitting on me and making me feel uncomfortable. And

Pascal (40:05.834)

Pascal (40:20.138)

Erica (40:25.934)
I've set boundaries and now I don't really know what to do and they're a full fee client and so I don't want to turn them down, right? Like there's all of these things. And so just kind of inviting like softer conversation around feedback for practice.

Pascal (40:43.338)
Yeah. And that's, I think that's, you know, as a recovering people pleaser, I can share in full honesty that that's been part of my pattern, especially in the past around, kind of looking at the positive side of things a lot and maybe bypassing the shadow side a bit. And I'm now as I'm older and I, you know, I'm, I'm.

getting wiser around this, I understand now that the ability to meet uncomfortable moments and to talk about them and to share in openness challenges and really look at them and also listen and attune to someone's feedback builds a lot of trust. Because if you're always chasing the positive side of things at a core level, you're not fully trustable, basically.

And I think that this practice between facilitators can help build more trust for clients and to build more trust in the space in general, which leads to more safety, of course, when people hold containers.

Erica (41:54.062)
Yeah. And I think it's almost like there's this line of kind of spiritual bypassing or just spiritual belief system, which is the universe will send me the people I'm supposed to be working with. And I don't want to work with this person, like, because they creep me out.

Pascal (42:11.914)
Mm -hmm.

Erica (42:17.582)
Like, right? It's like there's a lot of space in between there where we're supposed to be.

Pascal (42:25.546)

Erica (42:27.086)
And then you end up working with people who you're not actually aligned with because you're not listening to yourself because you're also needing the money or needing the whatever or wanting the practice. And so what we're finding is people are not making their number one choice. People are making their third or fourth choice of facilitator of substance, of financial cost.

Pascal (42:48.362)
Mm -hmm.

Pascal (42:53.994)

Erica (42:54.222)
And so really kind of looking at this like matrix, this decision matrix, when people are choosing, but also as a facilitator, what is your decision matrix? How many people do you want to facilitate for every week or every month? Okay, how many, right? Do you want to work with trauma? Like, here's the thing, I feel like everybody's because the trauma label is on everything right now, especially in psychedelics.

Pascal (43:09.61)
Yeah. And what gender and what types of people. Yeah.

Erica (43:22.958)
And I was like, but most of you don't want to work with people who have like long -term like, like CPTSD stuff. You like actually want to like give your friends a spiritual experience and like have the same thing that you had, but like that is the CPTSD and, and, you know, chronic depression and like, these are hard things to work with that involve a lot of training. And so if you are into psychedelic coaching,

Pascal (43:30.73)
Mm -hmm.

Erica (43:50.926)
Like you shouldn't be working with severely mentally ill people or people who have severe mental health diagnoses. But also therapists don't have legal access yet. And so, again, it's like not optimal. And so it's not everybody's first choice.

Pascal (43:59.018)
Yeah. Yeah, absolutely.

Erica (44:12.142)
But I also think that more and more trauma therapists and experts in the trauma field are starting to get into the psychedelic field. And I know a lot of people who are like well -respected professionals in the therapy world who tried to get into psychedelics and was like, all of you are crazy and unprofessional and I don't want to work with you and like left, like fully left the industry.

because they can't find people who are going to hold up the standards of care that they feel would be ethically responsible. And so we're slowly working on it.

Pascal (44:46.634)
Yeah, so a big.

Yeah. And being really honest to yourself about what's your capacity. You know, I have a friend that, you know, is a bit of a cowboy, you know, he or she will take a lot of different types of clients and, you know, and, you know, this person has issues of a certain type of client, but he or she keeps seeing that type of client. And then the feedback from the community is like, you know, I was harmed in that experience. And so the feedback I had for him or her was, you know, you need to.

be more, you need to filter your clients a bit better. And I think that applies so well to retreat centers as well, which again, the money conversation comes in and like, of course you have to fill the seats and things, but who are you welcoming into your space and are you able to actually support that well, but also like, are you, are you burning yourself out? Cause like you said earlier, people are maybe seeing too much clients and I think there's a chase towards service that also has a dark side to it. Like everything else has a dark side to it. Like you're not actually helping.

Like, are you helping yourself to help others and then also filter people based on full honesty and, and awareness, which I think community comes in to build awareness around like who you should be serving and how many of them. And I think that's a big, yeah, it's a big thing in this space.

Erica (46:03.598)

And how often? I mean, like...

I really think that, and I know people who serve medicine, especially people who are of indigenous lineage who serve medicine on a fairly regular basis, more so than what I think anybody in the Western medical model would serve. With that being said, I really think that if you're running a psychedelic retreat center,

Pascal (46:31.082)
Mm -hmm.

Erica (46:42.254)
One week a month should be a non -medicine integration retreat for your community members and for yourself, or you should have, you know, I don't, there's all these different retreat models and we can go down a hospitality rabbit hole anytime of looking at things like, you know, the reason like club med.

Pascal (46:48.01)

Erica (47:05.358)
you know, like the club med model, like the all -inclusive model versus the a la carte model versus the like ecotourism model, like, right, there's like all of these different models for retreat centers. And so is it everybody comes?

for a seven, like is the turnover on Sunday or is the turnover on Monday and everybody has to come for seven days or is it every weekend and what do you do during the weekdays? Is it like, there's like so many different hospitality structures that you could look at of what could be the most successful depending on your location and size. And I think a lot of people who are in the psychedelic retreat center space are just like,

looking more at like mental health care models than they are hospitality models. And like they're all going to have to shift into, you know, weddings, weddings pay the most. So like, you're gonna get a wedding buyout and you're gonna take it because it's gonna be good money.

And so really looking at how much money do you need to make and how much rest do you need and like what that equation can look like.

Pascal (48:20.362)
Yeah, that's, that's a really good point is that people need Russ and then the intention around money is a big one as well. And I like to see retreats as sort of this very complex ecosystem where like every single piece of the puzzle ends up affecting the safety of the journey. And through that, like the, the, the self care and the capacity of the staff to be able to deliver and show up in full presence.

and attunement to what's happening in this space. And like we said earlier, there's a bit of a paradox around wanting to serve people and build a sustainable business and overdoing it. And we've talked a lot about sort of the bigger sets of harm that can happen around training and lack of support and taking too many people in. But as we've talked about on another call,

harm can be created in the smallest of ways. Like you mentioned last time, like using blankets that are hypoallergenic, like that's a very tiny piece of the equation nonetheless matters because if you have someone itching all night during a ceremony, it's not going to be the same experience. And so I, I'm really interested in exploring the nuances of that, in terms of a retreat center specifically, or even a facilitator is like looking at all the details.

Erica (49:41.454)
Thanks for watching!

Pascal (49:43.114)
right? Of like your experience. And it's not just like the deep inner work and the shadow work, but it's the smallest of things as well that I think is very interesting and enriching to look at as well.

Erica (49:54.35)
Yeah, and this is kind of like, I mean, I'm so glad that I have a degree in hospitality because I had to like study all the different like, you know, like varieties of like levels of luxury and like what expectations are and kind of being able to to explore everything from, you know.

motel models to like Four Seasons models to like a Mon Resort model and like really kind of look at what what's been and like look at what Ritz Carlton is doing as they are expanding into like cruises like small small vessel cruise ships. But really like helping build a brand like that's what I know is really it like for a retreat center.

Knowing that if I think of X retreat center, I know it's going to be good. I know they're going to have like the best pool towels and like the freshest fruit and the right like you want to be able to associate your name with the service that you are providing. And really know it like the attention to detail. The idea that all spaces should be ready to receive.

somebody who is in a sensitive space. And so controllable lighting, like controllable temperature. Easy access for showers, easy access for washing, like, you know, what if you cut your like, having things around to be able to attune to comfort.

I definitely, there's years ago, I was at a ceremony and somebody made the most beautiful giant platter of fruits and nuts and chocolates. And it was this like beautiful mandala of just like deliciousness. And it was so...

Erica (51:51.726)
well received by everybody who was like coming out of Sarah. I was like, my God, this is so beautiful. Or when it's like somebody's birthday and you like end ceremony, you go into like, you know, go for food afterwards. And there's just something that's like has care and intentionality and beauty kind of mixed into it. Really makes people feel cared for and held in the space.

Pascal (51:58.922)

Erica (52:27.086)
Are you there?

Pascal (52:29.802)
Yeah, I think you froze a bit there. Make and finish your last thought about the intentionality and I can edit it.

Erica (52:31.15)

Erica (52:37.966)
sure. God, what did I say?

Pascal (52:42.154)
Yeah, something around intentionality, around the comforts and service and all those types of things.

Erica (52:46.638)
yeah, so if there's this intentionality and this presence and this care and this attention to detail and personalization, it just makes people feel so much more held and so much more cared for when they're in that space.

Pascal (53:10.154)
which allows them to go deeper in the experience because they feel the nurture and the support and the structure is there in place that is attuned to their needs. And so they know that if something does happen, which invariably does happen, that happens to all of us where we have a challenging experience, then we know that we're going to be held well. And I think that allows us to have even less challenging experiences. Or if we need to go there, we go there willingly knowing that they care. And that...

Erica (53:39.054)
Great, that they are going to show up. Like somebody is going to answer the phone, I think is important.

Pascal (53:44.202)
And that flows from the very top of the retreat ecosystem, which is who founded the company, who's funding it. And we talked about this briefly, I'd love to talk a little bit more about it, but how do they price their services? And that applies to facilitators. And do they have a reciprocity model where they give back to something or they're involved in some...

nonprofit community efforts, maybe they're involved in the space as, you know, they're building something else to help support it. And that creates a sphere of safety or safe enough, I should say. And how transparent are they in their communications, illegal agreements, those type of things. So let's talk a bit more about the pricing piece, because I think that's a really interesting one. There's so much different pricing from like,

you know, $200 or pro bono models to like, you know, the elite $20 ,000 retreats for executives and stuff, like all of it, meeting people in different socio -economical ways. What's your kind of advice on pricing?

Erica (54:58.67)
Don't take out a second mortgage to do this work. Don't pay for something that is going to be a burden to you. A lot of ethical facilitators, churches, and retreats have sliding scale models. If you need help, ask for help. Like, you know, I really want to do this. Is there a way?

Pascal (54:58.794)
It's a broad question.

Erica (55:26.446)
Is there a scholarship? How do I get access to this in a way that is not an additional burden to me? But also, people who have disposable income and they're like, hey, let's go do this thing. Great. If you have it, amazing. And just like a, I'll use like.

Just like a very wealthy individual would probably not feel comfortable at a pro bono community circle in the same way that a pro bono community circle, a vulnerable person would not feel comfortable at a $20 ,000 retreat. They have different communities. All communities should exist. I think that...

retreat centers or organizations that are like that there should be corporate stewardship where they have financial transparency. So whether this is a B Corp or a nonprofit model, or if it is a, hey, even though we're a private corporation,

Like we're committed to giving 10 % of our profits to plant reciprocity programs. Here are the programs that we support. Here are the things that we're aligned with. Here's the other organizations. These are the people that are on my team. Like if you're gonna, support these causes.

Right? Like we are also a cause and we are a private business and you're paying for our services. And also with the profits that we do make, this is our plan. Or our plan is to expand. And we want to be in three or four different cities. And so, you know, we're planning on charging enough money so we can build enough equity to make the investment in these other businesses or...

Erica (57:28.526)
run a non -profit and have all of your finances transparent. But there's a way to have financial transparency in a private business.

Pascal (57:38.442)
Yeah, it's not that money is a, it's a bad thing. It's always the intentions that, you know, flow from the top. And that's why I think like looking at a retreat ecosystem, like looking at the founders first and saying, like, why did they get into this business in the first place? That's going to flow all the way down the pyramid, all the way down to the actual journey or experience who's experiencing this full experience of, you know, having met the retreat space online or whatever. And then like having the experience, all the touch points there.

Erica (57:43.79)

Pascal (58:07.498)
are signaling something to the journey and as a facilitator, it's the same thing and how you present yourself and how your agreements sound like, like how do you collect payments and how what's your sliding scale if you have one, what's your pricing, what's your policies around privacy of data, for example, things of that nature, all influences. So the invitation for the facilitators out there is really to look at all the pieces as something that truly matters and ends up.

compounding the safety of your container.

Erica (58:39.086)
Right. And I think that that is.

Yeah, I think having that type of transparency is actually good practice. I really encourage people who are running these businesses to kind of look at, like look at how the whole system is run, right? Look at the founders. And I like to say that you can only, the system will only get as healthy as whoever's controlling it at the top.

Pascal (58:52.266)
Mm -hmm.

Erica (59:13.902)
And so if the person at the top is not ethical, cutting corners, has inappropriate boundaries, like the system's gonna be that way. And so making sure that the people at the top are also like aligned with you. Are these people that you wanna support? Are these people, right? And maybe you don't know.

Pascal (59:14.314)

Pascal (59:35.914)
Mm -hmm.

Erica (59:41.678)
and I always encourage people that say, you're like, I, in psychedelics, I feel like there's a lot of people that by mistake find themselves in a cult, at some point throughout their journey. And so, let me just encourage everyone, you can leave at any time. Like, and if you can't leave at any time, like you might be involved in like a human trafficking rank, but like, also like, let's be honest, like you have autonomy, you have free will.

Pascal (59:58.378)
Mm -hmm.

Erica (01:00:11.726)
If something is happening that is inappropriate, you don't feel safe there, you can get up and leave.

Pascal (01:00:18.698)
Yeah. And what.

Erica (01:00:19.726)
Don't get up and leave in the middle of a serum. Like, don't get, like... Leave community, not like immediately leave. Does that make sense? You're playing a song I don't like. I'm out of here. Like, don't do it like...

Pascal (01:00:28.842)
Yeah, that makes sense. What do you think?

Yeah, I actually did leave a ceremony once midway, but anyway, it's another story, but yeah, it was totally a shit show. But anyway, that was part of a center that was just completely out of integrity. Anyway, that's another story for another time.

Erica (01:00:40.206)
It's here.

Erica (01:00:44.398)

Erica (01:00:51.47)
Yeah, yeah, I mean You're also like like I encourage people if it's not the right setting for you It's not the right setting for you and your gut is telling you something

Pascal (01:01:02.09)
Yeah. So one last question here is, you know, we talked about those challenging situations and how to better set up a space and hold spaces for people. What kind of accountability measures or.

I wouldn't say like vetting as well, like vetting and accountability seems like big things in the space. Like what do you see in the future around holding certain standards basically for the facilitators and retreat teams? Is it going to be a sort of like a B Corp model? Is it going to be some sort of community -based review system based on certain standards? Like what do you see happening? And it could be multiple things.

Erica (01:01:42.638)
So, yeah. God, there's so many things and I feel like my hands are in a lot of pots, but things like, in the US, things like the Board of Psychedelic Medicines and Therapies, which I'm a board member of, where we're creating the eligibility and credentialing exam for board certification, for psychedelic facilitators, and like APA and...

the Psychedelic Medicine Association. And so some of these people are starting, or North Star, they're creating ethical guidelines. They're kind of like putting things out, like there will be some sort of like community accountability system or a way to report somebody to the board.

It's really hairy. It's challenging work to be able to figure out what accountability might look like. We're also looking at like anonymized reporting systems that could be able to, you know, weed out credible or weed out discredited, like false reports.

And so I think we're working on it and hopefully AI and tech will help us get forward, like move forward on that a little bit quicker, but really trying to come up with ways to.

Pascal (01:02:56.554)
Mm -hmm.

Erica (01:03:10.222)
have community accountability and also some sort of licensure or certification accountability if there is harm done.

Pascal (01:03:21.098)
It's a big problem and I'm glad that you're working on it along with everyone else. And what an exciting adventure. It's a very interesting space to work into just because of the multitude of different perspectives and lineages and medicines and all those types of things. So I just really want to say thank you for all the work you're doing. And for anyone out there that wants to support a great organization doing important work, shinesupport .org.

Erica (01:03:48.27)
Thank you.

Pascal (01:03:49.898)
Erica is doing great work there with her team. What's your greatest wish for this space?

Erica (01:03:58.158)
What's my greatest wish for this space? I hope we don't blow ourselves up. Wow, like, let me try that again. My greatest wish for this space would be that we move through everything with compassion and grace.

Pascal (01:04:09.098)
It's a good one.

Pascal (01:04:26.858)

Erica (01:04:27.118)
We don't know how things are going to turn out. We don't know what legal status is going to happen. We don't know what access or safety is going to look like in the future. And still, I hope that we continue to move through the space with grace, compassion, understanding, flexibility, creativity, and hope.

Pascal (01:04:49.738)
Yeah, beautiful. And connection to each other. Cause like I said, I don't think anyone has all the answers and connecting with others that are like aligned with your values. And even if they're not maybe a lot of values learning from that too, and having those tough conversations and yeah, connection. That's what the medicines are teaching us to is to break the silos and work together to do this. And I think that's a beautiful invitation. So thank you so much, Erika, for your insights. And I'm sure we can have five more podcasts.

Erica (01:05:10.67)
Thank you.

Pascal (01:05:19.242)
around these topics, but I hope that this was useful for people out there.

Erica (01:05:23.79)
May this be the first of many. Awesome, thanks.

Pascal (01:05:26.154)
Yeah, thank you. Take care.

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Elevating Safety in Your Psychedelic Practice
From Psychedelic Renaissance to Psychedelic Enlightenment
Honouring the Spirit & Dreams of Psychedelic Medicines
Honouring the Journey After the Journey
War, Peace, and Integration
Integrating with Systemic Constellations
Exploring the Ethics of Integration
Ethics, Responsibility, and Non-Ordinary States of Consciousness
Somatic Plant Medicine Integration
Re-Indigenizing Consciousness
The We Space
Minority Perspectives
Psychedelic Storytelling
Ethical Stewardship
Indigenous Reciprocity & Interbeing
The Science of Sound Therapy
Being in Right Relationship
Breath as Medicine
Journeying Safely with 5-MeO-DMT
Psychedelic Safety and Preparation
The Eastern Medicine Perspective
Scarlet Heart Living
Exploring Men's Work
Adventures in Medicine

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