Hi Dee Dee. You’re facilitating a workshop on current research and clinical applications of psychedelics for sexual health and healing. Tell me how it works, being a therapist who focuses on sexuality and a spiritually informed/integration therapist.
Great question. I think it’s really important to say upfront that I do not give psychedelics to clients and do not refer them to “underground” healers. My practice is actually one centered on sex positivity and body positivity combined with a transpersonal or spiritual lens. I also create space for people who have experienced healing with psychedelics prior to their work with me to process their experiences in a safe place.
That makes sense. I imagine that sex/body positivity is a natural extension of transpersonal theory, since both are focussed on positive influence rather than a disease model to help humans reach their full potential for happiness and growth. Do you incorporate psychedelic principles into your practice, or do you just focus on integration of past psychedelic experiences with those who have had them?
One feature unique to my therapy work is that I have developed a series of guided meditations and exercises that I call Psychedelic Embodiment that I use with clients in my practice to help them to get more comfortable with being alive and safe in their bodies. These exercises are also very useful for combatting intrusive memories of sexual abuse that emerge for many survivors during sexual activity. So, I use principles I’ve learned from the master plant teachers and create ways of accessing the wisdom of the body without using psychedelics.
So some of your therapy has been informed by your experiences with psychedelics. At what point in your career did you realize that you were going to specialize in sex and the plant medicines? Which came first?
It was intuitive for me to focus my psychotherapy practice on serving the sex positive and LGBTQA communities in New York as I identify as a queer poly person. My direct lived experience in those communities gave me unique insight about the struggles and strengths that people with “alternative” sexualities might experience, so that was my starting place. I saw sexual identity issues and sexual trauma as a source of so much pain and confusion in clients. I felt if I could benefit others by helping them to accept and embrace their sexuality, I could do a small part to make the world a better place.
Separately, I was becoming increasingly aware of the astounding emerging research on psychedelics to heal trauma, depression and anxiety, and as a therapist I was deeply intrigued. As renewed research emerged of the tremendous healing potential of psychedelics in a controlled, supportive clinical environment, my interest grew and grew.
The turning point for me was my work on my own healing. I’m very open about being a survivor of abuse in childhood and also sexual assault as an adult. Those experiences had a profound impact on my identity and my ability to have healthy relationships. I had tried psychotherapy and meditation, but found that there were some very deep scars that I personally could not heal using those modalities.
It was in a desperate desire to find my own healing that I came to ayahuasca. I credit my ayahuasca experiences as giving me healing I never thought I would be able to achieve. I was able to deepen my compassion for others, forgive myself for all of the negative beliefs I’d been holding onto about myself my whole life, and eventually find and sustain a very healthy relationship full of love.
While I would never say ayahuasca (or any psychedelic) is the right treatment choice for every person, it allowed me to heal from trauma and regain my sexual freedom. I knew that the niche of radical sex positivity and psychedelic work was my life’s calling. That is to say, my ideal therapy practice of the future would be to use psychedelics legally with clients to heal from relational trauma, sexual trauma and find self-love.
Apart from advocating for psychedelic research, are you “out” as a psychedelic person?
If clients come with prior experiences with psychedelics and want to talk about them, I think they get a sense pretty quickly that I have personal experience with psychedelics. As an advocate for the rescheduling of psychedelics for controlled clinical use, I’m very much “out” as someone who has been healed by these medicines and wants to see them available for people who cannot afford to leave the country for, say, an ayahuasca retreat and used in safe clinical environments.