THIRD WAVE PODCAST

“Breaking Our Perception”: Healing Mental Illness through Psychedelics

Episode 124

Keith Kurlander

Keith Kurlander, MA, LPC has two decades of combined experience in business administration, teaching at the undergraduate and graduate level, yoga and meditation instruction, and as a licensed professional counselor in private practice. After years of treating highly complex patients, he turned toward integrative psychiatric practices as a key component to understanding mental health and human potential. His current focus is training psychiatric providers to resolve underlying causes of mental illness through psychedelic therapy, so patients can go beyond symptom reduction and attain a state of wellness.

Keith Kurlander has practiced integrative psychotherapy and coaching with individuals, couples and groups for over 15 years. After years of treating highly complex patients, as well as a personal journey of overcoming trauma and mental illness, he turned toward integrative psychiatric practices as a key component to achieving mental health and understanding the healing process. In this episode, he and Paul discuss the core areas to focus on when getting well, the role of psychedelics in healing mental illness and trauma, and the importance of a well-trained therapist and guide.

This episode is brought to you by the Integrative Psychiatry Institute, which just launched a great program for licensed medical and mental health professionals. In this year-long online course, IPI will train you to become a Certified Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy Provider (PATP). This is an awesome opportunity for licensed therapists and counselors, clinical psychologists, doctors, and nurses interested in accelerating their therapy practice with the power of psychedelic medicine. Plus, as a member of the Third Wave community, you may qualify for course discounts. Just go to https://psychiatryinstitute.com/thirdwave/ and book a call to apply.

This episode is brought to you by Athletic Greens, the daily drink for a healthier you. Whether you’re looking for peak performance or better overall health, Athletic Greens makes investing in your energy, immunity, and gut health simple, tasty, and efficient. With 75 vitamins, minerals, whole food source ingredients, green superfood blend, and more, Athletic Greens fills the nutritional gaps in your diet and improves energy, focus, and mood. Right now, they’re offering a free one-year supply of vitamin D and five free travel packs with your first purchase. Just go to athleticgreens.com/thirdwave and start making a daily commitment to your health.

Podcast Highlights

  • How a challenging psilocybin experience at age 19 initiated Keith’s lifelong spiritual journey.
  • Keith’s struggles with mental illness, and how his mental health and spiritual journeys intertwine.
  • Addressing the root cause of mental health issues through psychedelics.
  • How psychedelics create cohesion in the self.
  • The three core areas of self to focus on when getting well.
  • What lifestyle changes result from mystical experiences?
  • How psychedelics can help us feel less alone.
  • Psychedelics as a tool for a more integrated life.
  • What are the “skills of psychedelics,” and can they be taught?
  • What role do non-psychedelics play in keeping us balanced?
  • The ideal psychedelic guide, especially for someone with a mental health disorder.
  • How the Integrative Psychiatry Institute’s guide training is structured to provide ideal patient outcomes.

Podcast Transcript

0:00:00.2 Paul Austin: Welcome to the Third Wave Podcast. I’m your host, Paul Austin, here to bring you cutting edge interviews with leading scientists, entrepreneurs and medical professionals who are exploring how we can integrate psychedelics in an intentional and responsible way for both healing and transformation. It is my honor and privilege to bring you these episodes as you get deeper and deeper into why these medicines are so critical to the future of humanity. So let’s go and let’s see what we can explore and learn together in this incredibly important time.

0:00:40.0 PA: Hey listeners, this episode is brought to you by the Integrative Psychiatry Institute, who recently launched a certification program for mental health professionals in psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. Upon successfully completing this year-long online training, you’ll become a certified psychedelic-assisted therapy provider. Now, this program is run by a good friend of mine, Will Van Derveer, who has also been in the podcast before. Will has been studying integrative medicine for almost 20 years now, and some incredible guest faculty are involved, including Rick Doblin and Gabor Mate. So be sure to go over to psychiatryinstitute.com/thirdwave, and schedule a discovery call to apply. Spaces are limited, so be sure to apply soon. This is a great opportunity for therapists, clinical psychologists, doctors and nurses who are interested in accelerating their therapy practice with the power of psychedelic medicine. You will also have the opportunity for a hands-on experience with Ketamine-assisted psychotherapy. Again, go to psychiatryinstitute.com/thirdwave, and schedule your discovery call to apply.

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0:04:18.3 PA: What’s sort of your philosophy been around health and well-being, holistic wellness, mental health, and why have you chosen then to roll out this program around psychedelics, in other words, why do you think psychedelics are useful, integral tools in terms of your fundamental philosophy on well-being?

0:04:34.8 Keith Kurlander: So that starts with my personal story. So professionally, the podcast is one element of what I do right now, right? So the Higher Practice Podcast is a piece, and that’s just to get the knowledge out to people of like how you just live a life that’s really meaningful and stay in a regulated state, and have a healthy mind and… But there’s other things I’m doing too. The Integrative Psychiatry Institute, which is hosting the psychedelic training, that’s really about changing the conversation in mental health care, so that’s an educational institute to change the conversation in mental health care around, “Let’s talk about the root causes of why we suffer, and let’s address those. And how do we do that as providers? How do we help people actually get to the deeper thing?” And I’ll say more in my personal story about why psychedelics is a major component of what I believe in that process for many people. And then we also have a brick and mortar clinic where we’re doing Ketamine-assisted psychotherapy and integrative psychiatry. And I’m a therapist and coach by training, I don’t do a lot of that anymore, I do a little bit of that, but just because of my time and… But that’s really where I learn professionally, what I’ve come to today with these different companies.

0:06:01.8 KK: So let’s back up now to where this all started, it’s a very fun story. [chuckle] So let me start my story…

0:06:10.8 PA: That’s good to hear. I like it when the origin stories are fun, ’cause sometimes they’re like, “Yeah, I was puking my guts out with Ayahuasca deep in the jungle.”

0:06:17.2 KK: Well the origin story is dark as fuck.

0:06:20.7 PA: Okay, there’s that too. Okay, good.

0:06:23.0 KK: But it’s also an incredible story of transformation and what’s possible for everyone. There was just a lot of darkness in there, but, so what? So, the story for me really starts with a Psilocybin experience when I was 19. So I’m 45. So when I was 19, I had already tried LSD a couple of times, and then I tried Psilocybin. And in that night of doing Psilocybin, I was alone after hanging out with some friends and went to my room, and I was still very deeply engaged in the Psilocybin. And I was alone in my room, and in that moment, I got hit with what we would just talk about… Now it’s just very, very challenging material, but then it was bad trip or whatever, so got hit with this overwhelming experience in my dorm room, I’m on the 19th floor, or 22nd floor, I don’t remember, of this high-rise at University of Amherst, and I’m sitting there alone, and I feel like my entire life has just been a life of just incredible loneliness, pain, suffering, isolation, physical discomfort, overwhelm, fear, panic, and that just led me into a place of like, I just wanna die so bad, like this is all in this moment on Psilocybin by myself, and I then…

0:08:01.2 KK: And just like inner chaos, and my mind was just so chaotic in that moment and pain, and then I walked myself over to the window of my dorm room, and was contemplating jumping out as like, I don’t wanna feel this way anymore. I have felt this way my whole life, and didn’t quite know it, but I knew it enough throughout my life, but it wasn’t quite as amplified in that moment as on Psilocybin. So I got myself off the window-sill, so to speak, I talked myself down enough just that I’m talking right now, and that led me on a deep journey that has two arms, one is a spiritual journey and the other arm is a mental illness journey. So from there on, things unfolded, and I’ll lead more onto some more psychedelic parts of this.

0:08:58.7 KK: But from there on, I ended up with every diagnosis you can think of throughout my life. I mean, I’ve got a bipolar diagnosis. In the beginning, I had a depression, anxiety, OCD, ADD, there’s some other ones in the DSM-II, but some weird psychosis, not otherwise specified, not like schizophrenia, just like I’ve been there in terms of diagnoses. So things were on and off in my 20s, a lot of pain and suffering, but also an incredible spiritual journey that actually really got kicked off with that Psilocybin moment. So I’ll pause there to see where you wanna go with this, ’cause there’s a lot we can explore here and how it leads into why the healthy use of psychedelics is what I believe one of the main things we need right now to help this planet and to help people suffering, and my whole focus is psychedelics in the mental health space. So I have a particular view about how that has to work in the mental health space. There’s other uses there.

0:10:18.5 PA: So you do Psilocybin, you’re about to jump out of a window, you’re like, “Nah, it’s probably a bad idea,” you step back from the window, there’s some shifts, there’s some things that are amplified, that you become more aware of. There’s probably certain practices you put into place afterwards that started you on a path of healing and awareness and understanding, and now you’ve developed this training program. You’ve been a coach and a therapist for many years. You have a Ketamine clinic, you directly work with Ketamine. Where is the bridge? What’s the gap between that first experience and where you land now? In other words, what is your process of transformation as both an individual and a coach therapist through your own psychedelic use?

0:10:57.8 KK: So psychedelics is a slice of the pie in my story, but a big slice, but it’s a slice.

0:11:04.9 PA: Does it have ice cream on top of it?

0:11:06.3 KK: It’s got pepperoni.

0:11:07.3 PA: Oh, okay, there you go, cool.

0:11:08.4 KK: So there’s… I’ll say it’s got like eight slices or something, so it’s definitely a boom, it’s a slice, right. So again, I had a mental health… So I had a big spiritual journey going on until now, but I also had a big, really concrete mental health journey in the sense of dealing with mental illness in a more traditional sense, dealing with severe mental states on and off through my adulthood. So they’re sort of like, they weave together and they’re separate this sort of spiritual journey that I’m going on and yoga, meditation, and teachers and gurus and all that’s happening. And then I’m also engaging my inner experience through the mental health space and the mental health field, so psychiatrists, therapists and that kind of thing, and I’m kind of doing both, which many people do in personal development.

0:12:09.0 KK: But I had this concrete mental health issue that I’m dealing with, and it looks different ways, and I would just say this… Depending on how much time we wanna just talk about my journey itself, but I would say one thing, which is that most people who struggle with significant mental health issues, significant PTSD, that’s really impacting them, significant trauma that’s really impacting them, or significant depression, significant anxiety, significant bipolar or if it’s both, or I guess we could say, basically kind of an agitated or manic plus depressed state, people who are dealing with those things and they’re significant, those sort of states, they are so absorbing when you’re in those states. And so you feel so like no one can tell you why it’s going on, no one can really give you an answer about what the hell happened here to get to this point, especially when it’s significant, you just feel like a big walking puzzle of like, what the hell? Now, I will say that, so fast forward getting to where I am now, we know now enough, to give those answers to those puzzles.

0:13:29.7 KK: We didn’t 20 years ago, or you could find the rare provider. But maybe there were a few in the whole country 30 years ago that could really make sense of this whole thing. Now, there’s hundreds or maybe a couple of thousand in the country that could really tell you what’s going on. And that’s really about the Institute is really educating people about this expanded spectrum of causes that create these mental health conditions, and having guides that can walk you through the causes in a systematic way. And psychedelics, we’re turning to psychedelics now. When we think about my mental health conditions specifically, psychedelics play a very important role in many of those cases, and not all of them. And that is what the research has been about in let’s say, mostly the last 10 years, really… It’s been going on longer. But the research in the last 10 years that has gotten us really far, particularly with MDMA, Ketamine, and Psilocybin, now we actually can say and hang our hat on data of like, “This helps in this way in these situations.” And now we’re seeing that there’s a big role. And I could say more about what I think psychedelics do for people with certain mental health conditions if we wanna go there, but we now know there’s a role.

0:15:04.5 PA: Let’s talk about the puzzle a little bit ’cause I think that’s an interesting analogy or metaphor to use for this. A lot of the sort of current medical model, if you will, has been built on a purely biological basis, and there’s this fantastic book called “Anatomy of an Epidemic” that explains how the initial mental health models were built from sort of the penicillin physical models, in other words, you take penicillin, it’s an antibiotic, it attacks something specific in the gut and eliminate it, thus, you are healed. And the model was, there are certain neurotransmitters in the brain, will create this drug that will target serotonin or dopamine or certain neurotransmitters and adjust it, and therefore the assumption was you will be healed. And now what we’re seeing after 40… Basically, 40 years of clinical data, is that SSRIs don’t necessarily outperform the placebo.

0:16:00.3 PA: And now there’s this conversation, psychedelics have emerged in the last 10 or 15 years, and there seems to be… Psychedelics are much more… They address underlying root causes. For example, the reason why MDMA is so great at healing PTSD is because… Well, there’s lots of ways to explain it. Because you feel safe, you can heal certain attachments, because the amygdala is relaxed so the fear response doesn’t overwhelm you if you’re talking about traumatic injuries, there’s things related to adverse childhood experiences that play into that. What’s sort of your understanding of the puzzle and how psychedelics are helping to sort of create cohesion in the self, if you will?

0:16:41.4 KK: Really, first of all, it depends on the psychedelic we’re talking about like you just mentioned. What the role of cohesion of self is with MDMA versus Psilocybin or versus Ketamine. These are really different conversations. So first off, in the puzzle, what happens when we enter into more significant mental health conditions, moderate to severe conditions of depression, anxiety, insomnia, bipolar, not so much schizophrenia, I won’t talk too much about that today, it’s kind of an animal in and of itself, or even psychosis I won’t talk too much about today, bipolar psychosis. But when we get into these conditions, the puzzle is that, generally speaking, there are a number of complex root causes that need to be addressed. You generally need to address those with functional medicine. If you’re really messed up for a really long time, generally speaking, now, your body isn’t functioning effectively, systemically, there’s different issues with different systems.

0:18:07.7 KK: You’ve got brain detoxification, there’s endocrine. The body itself now is in a disordered state. Now, if we just talk biological, that’s cool. If you take the biological lens and you’re a progressive provider, you’re already thinking in a more functional framework in your head to go, “Well, what else is happening beyond just the neurotransmitter reductionistic model?” which did have… It does have its benefits, but it’s also got its drawbacks like you talked about. There’s that issue, right? So first of all, I would just say that in the puzzle, you have to understand that there are ramifications that happened in the body typically in different organs, including the brain, that need to be addressed in a systemized way to help that come along. The other component, and then I’ll bring it to psychedelics. There are issues in what I would call our mind.

0:19:13.4 KK: We could spend a whole podcast defining the mind, but I would just call that in our psychology, in our mind, and our mind integrating with our nervous system too… In our neurology too, but the aspect we call mind where cognitions form, where we experience mood. There’s a whole complexity of unraveling what happened, what’s happening there, which is what the whole field of psychotherapy is trying to address. And again, I’ll link this to psychedelics in a second, too. And then so we simplify this in our framework. And then your lifestyle, the way you’re behaving and the way you’re relating to people and to nature and things, generally speaking, there’s issues there that we need to learn how to change behavior in those things; whether it’s what we put in our mouths for food, whether it’s how we relate to people, our social nervous engagement system, and whether we’re in addictive patterns in our behavior, robotic, addictive, compulsive, impulsive patterns, versus more creative patterns in our behavior and strategic patterns in our behavior that have an aim and a purpose that go into the long-term future. So that’s another component.

0:20:34.0 KK: So just to bring this back, if we look at three core areas, we look at the body. There’s things to address in the body, there’s things to address in the mind, and there’s things to address in our life. When we understand the root causes in those three areas, we could start to really move the needle and get really well.

0:20:52.6 KK: And let’s talk about how psychedelics fit into this now, right? So I would say, generally speaking, the most amazing thing about psychedelics is that they allow us to have an experience that breaks the repetition of our perception. So we’re perceiving things in a repeated pattern for either weeks, months, or years, or your whole life. We’re having this perception of life and it’s this one way. And generally speaking, that perception of life has a lot of falsehoods in it, a lot of assumptions in it that we haven’t tested, a lot of dissociative patterns entangled in there of how we disconnect and aren’t aware from our reality around us. And so I think, generally speaking, psychedelics give you a moment where now, you have to look at it completely differently. And they show you things that you go, a lot of people go, “Whoa! I knew that,” or, “I didn’t know that,” but like, “Whoa!” It’s like this breakthrough of just like, “Here’s a new perceptual reality to this one moment to tap into, and see what you get from that.” Now, that’s fucking radical, that anything could do that, that we can…

0:22:31.6 KK: Talk about altered states. To get that much of an altered perceptual experience is so radical, and very few people have ever done that. There’s still a small, we’re still talking about a small, select group of the world population that have done psychedelics. It’s a big undertaking to say, “You know what? Give me a new perceptual reality just for this night.” That’s a massive, that’s a beautiful and courageous step and we, especially when we’re talking in the mental health conversation, I think there’s a right way to do that if we’re in the mental health conversation. If we’re in, especially if someone is suffering from mental health conditions, there’s a way to do that that will support that process, and there’s a way to do that where you’re taking a risk that you don’t need to take, if we’re dealing with someone who’s dealing with some things that have been researched in the last decade or two.

0:23:36.7 KK: That’s my first thing, I would say. Psychedelics gave us this massive moment where we have a new perceptual reality to work with, the material inside of ourselves. There are other things they do, which we’re learning now, which they actually can actually do some things on our biology that can last. Ketamine has this really interesting mechanism with depression and inflammation, and it’s so cool. And so MDMA does this thing that we’re still understanding, and you talked about the amygdala, and it just downregulates this aspect of our brain and creates this opportunity. So I think there’s a lot more we need to know about psychedelics in terms of what it does on the biology. We’re gonna learn so much in the next 10 years about that. But I think we know, at this point, we’ve known for a really long time in human history that psychedelics will give you, reliably, not every time, but reliably, a completely different perceptual reality where you can open to things that you were not open to without the psychedelic.

0:24:53.8 PA: Have you read The Immortality Key?

0:24:56.8 KK: I have not.

0:25:00.9 PA: Are you familiar with the, or have you heard… Okay, so this idea that we, as humans, have used these for thousands of years, it’s sort of the religion with no name, which is basically how I felt after doing mushrooms and acid. I was like, “Oh, I kinda get now what Christianity was about and Islam and Buddhism.” I read Aldous Huxley’s The Perennial Philosophy soon after my first early psychedelic experiences, and it helped everything to come together and there was a coherence in that. There’s a coherence in this blissful connection to something that’s beyond ourselves, what they’ve termed the “mystical experience” in that. And there’s a quote in that book, The Immortality Key, that is something along the lines of like, “Without these substances, life isn’t worth living,” that’s what the ancient Greeks believed.

0:25:48.9 PA: So I think it’s only appropriate that now, when we’re sort of coming to grips with this, basically, existential crisis that’s informing the mental health crisis, that’s influencing all these other crises, that people are looking more and more to psychedelics to sort of, like you said, break the patterns, break the rigidity, oftentimes, of modernity, and to see beyond sort of the overly rigified construct of modern times. I even think about how there’s this concept of, like Terence McKenna came up with the Time Wave concept where he essentially said, “What would be the zero point of time?” And as we know, time, as we know it, 24/7, 365, Gregorian calendar, has largely become so integrated because of industrialism over the past 300-400 years. As industrialism dissipates and goes away, so does our concept of time. Or maybe we have new concepts of time. So I think psychedelics are so interesting for so many ways. And then when it comes specific to mental health and with the program that you’re rolling out, from your perspective, you mentioned body, mind, life or spirit or soul or whatever.

0:27:04.0 KK: Lifestyle.

0:27:05.7 PA: Lifestyle.

0:27:06.0 KK: Yeah.

0:27:06.1 PA: How do you see lifestyle tied into that mystical experience? In other words, what behavioral outcomes, what lifestyle changes result from having this “mystical experience” either from your experience, or from the work that you’ve done, or how you’ve seen it with patients? What’s sort of the tie-in, the connection there?

0:27:21.2 KK: Yeah, yeah. Well, technically, we’ve actually broken our three areas into four areas. We went to spirit, body, mind, lifestyle; we actually did that. We used to put spirit just for simplicity in lifestyle, but… I’m sorry, in mind. But now, we’ve broken out spirit, we broke it out to spirituality, body, mind, lifestyle. So there, I think that psychedelics, it’s very clear that psychedelics can allow us to have mystical experiences, that’s obvious, and that’s obviously going on forever. [chuckle] I think that the tie-in around how those mystical experiences help us, I think there’s different aspects. People who are seeking truth and want a deeper connection to reality and the essence of reality and that, alone, obviously, can help that process, having mystical experiences on psychedelics. But then you also see the opposite like, obviously, Ram Dass wasn’t part of that and said, “Okay, now, I’m gonna sit on a cushion and see what that does.” And I think that there’s a time and place for everything in a person’s journey.

0:28:56.4 KK: And so there’s that aspect of it, which is just like these open doorways into allowing ourselves to move beyond space and time, what you’re talking about, and relative cognition, thinking in relative matters and experiencing the infinite versus the relative, and anything in between those two places. And so that, now, how does that help with mental health is a great question. I don’t think it’s necessary for what we would traditionally call mental health. I don’t think that… I’ve met a lot of people. I’ve worked with thousands of people. I don’t think that to have a stable perceptual reality and a stable mood regulatory reality where mood is stable, and a functional behavioral reality where we’re very successful, behaviorally, however we define that, I don’t actually… From everything I’ve seen, you don’t actually have to be very connected to the mystical to have that, or the essence. But I think that connecting to the essence is very typical, in terms of the question of what is reality, often comes up in people who suffer quite a bit. And if they suffer mentally, they’re often asking deeper questions, not everyone. So it helps in that way, obviously, for people who are asking the deeper question.

0:30:43.7 KK: I think it can also help just in people recognizing that they’re not alone and that the reality they have is connected to something outside of their own bubble. That’s very helpful and healing to people who suffer mentally because again, like I said, if you’ve ever suffered strongly, mentally, when you’re really suffering, you feel like, “I’m in a puzzle that nobody can truly understand. Nobody can truly get it.” And the truth is, is that no one can ultimately get it because you’re in a complicated puzzle that you found yourself in. So people can definitely have a lot of ideas in the road to getting out of that. But then, psychedelics can provide this experience where we’re connected. Psychedelics can do… And from the mystical experiences.

0:31:39.0 KK: So I think the mystical, the other aspect is meaning creation. We all have meaning, we all develop meaning. There’s no one that doesn’t constantly create meaning all day long, every day. We’re basically meaning-making beings. That’s what we do. So I think that’s another aspect of spirituality because the meaning we make on this reality is that is spirituality, that’s one aspect. In my definition of what spirituality is, it’s really the pursuit of meaning that allows us to create a positive impact on this world and have a healthy experience of reality. So yeah, it’s a spiritual pursuit right there.

0:32:29.8 KK: So meaning-making is another aspect of psychedelics, as you probably know. We generate a lot of new meanings from psychedelic experiences that we… So for some times we never had them prior, we’re like, “Wow! This is brand new. I never knew this.” And other times, we wake up to a meaning that was always living inside of us. We’re like, “Oh, my God! I’ve been thinking this way the whole time and I didn’t quite know it.” And so I think that psychedelics can provide us with an opportunity to get to more effective meaning structures that can connect us and have more optimal experiences in these four areas: Spirituality, body, and mind, and lifestyle. They can create meaning structures that can seep into those areas to integrate us more fully as a human being.

0:33:29.0 PA: That’s an interesting concept to land on, the topic of meaning, ’cause that is very deeply integrated into the healing for psychedelics. And Nietzsche pronounced at the end of the 19th century that God was dead, and that as a result of that, that the way that most people had found meaning in life was through Christianity, at least from a Western perspective. This is obviously different based on global location, but purely from a Western perspective, that we found our meaning because of the Christian church, that now, with the onset of materialism and industrialism, science, reductionism, that we had lost our concept of meaning, that God was dead. And his prediction was this would introduce an age of nihilism, which would then lead to World War I, and World War II, and mass consumerism, and all these things. And a lot of people would sort of blame the current existential climate crisis on this dearth of meaning in the world. So that’s sort of like a backwards-looking perspective.

0:34:38.3 PA: And then you have folks like Ken Wilber who write about that the future meaning will come from these religions of tomorrow that find a synthesis of science and spirituality, that can look to create these integral models through the balancing of science and spirituality, through religion, these new meaning-making models, meaning-making concepts. So my question.

0:35:07.2 KK: Question.

0:35:08.2 PA: Question. So Synthesis, which we started in the Netherlands, is now doing depression for Psilocybin in the Netherlands with Ros Watts. They’re building this sort of new, it’s almost like a new mental healthcare model, somewhat retreat, facilitated groups. And the vision of Synthesis is it’s sort of like this futuristic institute church community experience. When it comes to mental health, when it comes to psychedelics, when it comes to how you’re teaching and informing and educating, how do you see that combination coming about between mental health, ceremonies, group healing, if you will, and psychedelics, let’s say, and meditation and breathwork?

0:36:05.0 KK: Well, yeah, I’m probably, at heart, an integral philosopher. So I see psychedelics as a tool in an integral life. So I don’t see anything as a singular. I think the biggest issue that you’re sort of speaking to, I think the biggest issue is when we try and create a singularity around a tool as if that is going to create a holistic experience in life. Even if it’s meditation, just sitting on a cushion, that’s it, that’s all you ever need to do to experience a holistic life. And I think that psychedelics, whatever ceremonies are done in a medical setting, they’re, for me, they’re a tool that has to speak to the other tools we’re using in order to live well. [chuckle]

0:37:10.2 KK: And so I think integration, for me, and that’s what our institute… Our institute isn’t… It’s integrative, it’s integral. And we’re basically pulling together some ancient sciences, which is really the spiritual traditions, like you mentioned, meditation and the modern sciences, and synthesizing and integrating these different aspects into a map ’cause now, we have access to so much information. We can do this, we can synthesize this now because we have access to so much information in the modern age. So we are at a very different point in history than we’ve ever been.

0:37:56.0 KK: Yeah, there’s definitely things we’ve gone through now with modernization, we’re facing something new there. Facing something new with soil depletion, so environmentally, we’re facing something new. But we’re also facing something new in our access to information, and bringing things into more inner growth. Inner growth theory can actually take hold now ’cause we have access to the information to do it. So I see psychedelics or ceremonies or whatever as a tool, and really, sometimes, a really key tool along the way.

0:38:32.7 KK: Generally speaking, in the mental health space, psychedelics doesn’t tend to work well as a long-term tool. Maybe microdosing is different, but we still need some more data there, but that would be different. But I’m talking about actually doing that altered perception thing where you get into a whole new reality and you’re in that space no matter how challenging or whatever. Generally speaking, it seems like doing that a lot doesn’t necessarily promote the healing of a mental health disorder. And I, a lot, we could talk about what I’m even meaning there. But it seems like it’s more used in the protocol and it’s an intervention and a launching point. And you may come back to that protocol, and you may come back to different medicines as they become more available throughout your journey, in your mental health journey.

0:39:28.0 KK: But this is, again, I’m talking really specifically about a mental health journey here, which I’ll go further and say that most people, if not all people, are in a pretty intense mental health journey right now on this planet. That is not… We’re talking about depression is on its way to absolutely become the biggest disease issue on this planet. That’s coming. That’s the path we’re on. That was named eight years ago or something by the CDC about the global burden of disease. I don’t remember how many years ago. Insomnia, it’s becoming a global problem now. There are some studies that say there are more people not sleeping well than are sleeping well. Mental health disorders are increasing.

0:40:23.0 KK: So I think what I would just say here is that if you’re really looking at psychedelics in the context of the mental health journey you’re on, we have to be careful of looking at how to use these so that it promotes more wellness and doesn’t end up getting us spun out in our journey in a way where we don’t even know if the psychedelic is helping us or hurting us. And we could talk a little bit more about the pitfalls of psychedelics in a mental health journey, we probably should, ’cause that’s just a different conversation and really, I think very useful.

0:40:58.7 PA: Well, that dovetails into the next question that I had for you, which was around psychedelic use as a skill. So just like you can learn to become more skillful at writing or cooking or martial arts or meditation or whatever the skill is, soccer, for all I know. Obviously, psychedelics are a bit different than soccer, but this is a skill we can develop. So I would love to hear your thoughts on, through your program, how are you teaching the skill of psychedelics to these facilitators. And then let’s go into some of the pitfalls, then, about psychedelics for mental health and how you’re covering that element ’cause there are some, certainly, and I think a lot of the pitfalls are around a lack of vetting, and a lack of care to attention, and a lack of container setting. But as we know, if the vetting is done, there’s prep and integration, most of the pitfalls can be minimized, so to say.

0:42:07.7 KK: Well, sure, so let’s talk about… So first, I’ll say about the skill. So I was in a Ayahuasca community in my 30s, and went down that road for five years pretty intensely, was very in it. And I was in, from what you would call a shamanic container, held as good as it gets from a shamanic perspective. I wouldn’t say that from a… Ayahuasca is not generally done as a psychotherapy-assisted treatment. So in terms of the skill of tolerating the experience, if that’s what we’re talking about, just the skill of riding the experience, I absolutely got better at riding the experience, but I actually… It turned out that psychedelics, for me, across the board, because my mental health condition is quite complex, which there’s plenty of people’s that are. Because it’s quite complex, it has to be done in psychotherapy-assisted medicine therapy. It can’t be done without a therapist right there.

0:43:23.0 KK: Now, again, that’s not everyone, but because of that, I ended up getting very sick, over time, by using Ayahuasca without that component, and not every psychedelic is right for every being. So Ayahuasca was not actually probably the ideal medicine for my constitution, so that was a different factor, which is cool about research ’cause then, we can start to learn about conditions and what might be better for different conditions. So I would just say that one of the pitfalls with psychedelics, in general, skill, I think… Look, I think that some people will sit with a psychedelic, they don’t have the right support, and they just don’t get any skill there. They just keep getting blown out. Some people are very… They’re designed differently than me, and they actually can learn how to tolerate the psychedelic experience quickly in their experiences with psychedelics; 20, 30 in, and they ride those waves really well, and that’s skill.

0:44:35.8 KK: But I don’t know that… I wouldn’t say that developing the skill to ride the experience… In and of itself, I think that in and of itself, it’s necessarily healing. If you can contain a very overwhelming experience, that helps you in life, that’s great. But I wouldn’t necessarily go to psychedelics, personally, especially with someone on a mental health journey to just try and learn that skill after 100 psychedelic experiences. It’s not probably the best way to learn what we would call… That’s something we would talk about in trauma therapy, which is like, “How do you learn how to stay resourced in the overwhelm?”

0:45:21.1 KK: I don’t think, over time, that is necessarily gonna translate from just doing psychedelics to get that. So I think that there’s a place for it for certain people to learn how to stay neutral and non-reactive from journeying, over time. That’s a road, and you obviously can do that same road on a meditation cushion; you can. So I think there’s a time and place for that. But I think in the mental health space, that’s not so much… It’s an aspect of the healing, is like just tolerating intensity. I think there’s a lot of other things that are going into the healing, though, in the mental health conversation.

0:46:15.3 PA: One of the way that I’ve always thought about it, it’s that’s part of developing the skill. I love your point about, essentially, how do you lean into the uncertainties, especially at higher doses, and learn to go with that and then integrate it as you need to. I think that’s one component. But the way that I’ve seen it as well is microdosing, as an integration tool, could be considered part of that. When is it appropriate? Which substance is appropriate? But most importantly, what I’ve continued to come back to are the non-psychedelic practices themselves, what role does meditation and journaling and diet and sleep and yoga. And what is that playing in keeping you balanced, so to say? With an understanding like the analogy that I will often use is you go to the dentist every six months for the deep hygienic clean and everyday, you brush and floss twice a day. So I think…

0:47:08.4 KK: Yeah.

0:47:09.7 PA: And then of course, what I think is most critical in this, which we’ve beaten around the bush a little bit, but haven’t said it explicitly, is that guide, that container. Again, it’s like, “Who’s the Obi-Wan Kenobi to the Luke Skywalker? Who’s the person who’s holding space for someone on their journey who’s walked that path before and is helping them to guide and navigate it, in some ways?” And this is not the role of the coach or a therapist or you know?

0:47:31.1 KK: Well, let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about it, right?

0:47:34.5 PA: Yeah, yeah.

0:47:35.0 KK: So I think that… First off, I will just say my interest in psychedelics just happened to be in the mental health conversation, mostly. So I’m probably not the best person to ask a lot about using psychedelics over time with the skill question. It’s just not really my interest. In the mental health conversation, we know now in the research, you can have your breakthrough with no skill-building around psychedelics in one to six sessions. So to me, that’s just where my focus is. I’m more focused on the catalyst of psychedelics in a mental health and spiritual journey, more so than the ongoing use of it as a tool of continually relating to life. But I’ve done it all, so it’s not like I… This is where I’m sort of focused on.

0:48:39.0 KK: But in terms of like, “What does the guide need?” I think, again, when we’re in the mental health conversation, let’s say… And that’s the only thing I’m really focused on. So if I’m talking about a patient going to try and deal with a mental health disorder, I think the guide needs to be someone that is deeply trained in those conditions. You could have a coach or a sitter, or the problem is, is that they haven’t been trained on ego development, deeply, usually. They haven’t been trained, typically, on a ton about the neuroscience of trauma. They haven’t been trained, typically, and gone deep down the rabbit hole of a psychotherapeutic modality or else, they’ll be a psychotherapist.

0:49:28.9 KK: So I think we’re in the mental health conversation, specifically, if you want the most bang for your buck as the patient, you want the most likelihood of getting the results you want and not getting the fallout of someone missing something in the whole experience. You want a psychedelic-assisted therapist who is a therapist. And psychedelic-assisted therapist, that’s an advanced training of therapy. They’ve already gone through all the other stuff that have taken years. So I just think that’s my view in terms of someone who’s really in it and wanna try and get the most out of the experience. You’d want someone with that training behind them.

0:50:16.4 PA: And so let’s say for… There’s practitioners who are listening to this, how have you built your training through IPI to ensure that clients get ideal outcomes?

0:50:27.7 KK: Yeah, so that’s a great question. So first of all, the training focuses almost entirely on three medicines. It focuses on getting people able to work with Ketamine because Ketamine is available. We teach people how to, first of all, what are the safe ways to get involved with Ketamine as a therapist or a doctor, whoever is doing the therapy, but I’ll just call him a therapist for the moment. We also teach people how to work with MDMA in the anticipated approval of MDMA coming. And we also teach people how to work with Psilocybin in the anticipated approval of Psilocybin. We’re focused right now on working with: What do we think people are gonna have access to as a medical mental healthcare professional? So we’re focused on those. We cover the other psychedelics briefly, but not in the context of how you would go work with them, just won’t get educated if you don’t have the education about them because you might have people coming to you talking about them.

0:51:39.0 KK: And then in terms of the actual competencies in the program, so first of all, you have to come to the program with a therapy background. So there’s already a prerequisite because, again, this is an advanced psychotherapy training. And I think it’s very important to keep clear that someone who doesn’t have a psychotherapy training can offer something, but it’s different than someone who does. And that’s just really important to know. Those are two different things, two different offerings. So they come with that psychotherapy training, which is already an advanced training, it’s a graduate-level training, so someone’s already done that.

0:52:20.0 KK: And then in our program, we’re doing every… We’re covering different areas, covering… We’re getting everyone up-to-date on research and science. You wanna understand how this works on the body, the research we’ve done now up to this point, what we’re seeing, safety protocols like what could happen, what could go wrong. And that’s actually relevant with Ketamine, specifically, for sure; and Ketamine’s used in surgery, so there’s things to know. Then we’re covering a lot of other core competencies in terms of the therapeutic encounter, integration. We go further. In integration, for instance, looking for like, “Well, where is somebody creating new meaning and stories that actually might even be more out like not connected to reality than the old stories that they had?” So we also are doing a lot of experiential learning, so there’s a lot of role-playing throughout the program. Most of these programs’ online. A lot of role-playing, every week, role-playing.

0:53:36.0 KK: We have probably the widest faculty body out of any program out there. We’re gonna have probably 40-50 faculty. So we’re learning from all the experts out there, that people have been… Most of them have been doing this since the beginning… A long time. We’ve got some new people that are younger in the field, also teaching, but… So we have a diversity of faculty so that you’re not just getting one person’s view, which I believe is really important in psychedelic training. You don’t really want just one person’s view because it’s always biased, especially in the psychedelic world. You get your own view of psychedelics from your own personal journey, like I had mine.

0:54:16.7 KK: And then we also have an in-person experience, that’s optional, of experiencing Ketamine and facilitating Ketamine, which we stand for. I mean MAPS has stand for that in their early research of they wanted their researchers to have an MDMA experience. And a lot of the research stands for that. So we obviously stand for that in training, that you need to have an experience. And so we focus that experience with Ketamine, since that’s the one we can use right now, and also, that’s the one that people can go out and get involved with. So we use Ketamine as that experience for the moment.

0:55:04.0 KK: And it’s a year-long program. So we also believe if you really wanna be an advanced psychedelic-assisted psychotherapist, you really wanna, an advanced training in this, we feel it’s gonna take a year. You could go do a three-month program, and you’ll get a window, for sure, but this program’s designed to get people feeling like they feel confident to deal with a lot of different issues that arise in psychedelics. And ours leads to a certification, an internal certification, ’cause we felt like we also want the wider perception. We need the public to be able to start looking at different certifications and being able to trust them. And we feel like that we’ve created a program that warrants a certification that people can trust.

0:56:02.0 PA: Beautiful! And then, what’s the best way to find out more information? I know we’ll include this in the show notes and the links as well, but if folks that are interested in reviewing the faculty and the curriculum and dates, deadlines, where is the best place to go for that?

0:56:20.0 KK: Yeah. Well, as you know, we created a page for your audience, specifically, to come look at it. So it’s psychiatryinstitute.com/thirdwave. So yeah, that’s easy to remember since this is Third Wave.

0:56:34.3 PA: Yeah, yeah.

0:56:35.8 KK: So that’s the best place. I mean that has everything in there. Our process, if you’re a therapist, or you do therapy, you can go look in the details of this page of who can apply for this program or processes. You’re gonna sign up for a call, we do an interview. And there’s also an application you’ll fill out. We have a scholarship program to look at, a BIPOC and LGBTQ program to check out. And it’s competitive. We have a lot of slots. Again, we’re gonna probably be one of the largest comprehensive programs this year. There’s others that are getting close to what we’re gonna do, but we’re gonna have hundreds in this program, and it’s still competitive. We opened registration two, three weeks ago now, three weeks ago, and in one day, we had 100 applications. So, so many people want this training, is what that means. We’re all so ready in the mental health field. This is the people in the mental health field that do this. So we’re so ready, we’re so eager. But if you wanna get involved, you should come to our website and get involved now. A month from now, we may have even closed the whole thing down.

0:57:53.6 PA: And enrolment closes June or July?

0:57:57.8 KK: So enrolment closes, it either closes when we hit a certain number.

0:58:02.9 PA: Once you’ve filled the spots. Right.

0:58:04.9 KK: Or we go all the way through July first-ish.

0:58:09.7 PA: Okay. And then when does the training start?

0:58:13.7 KK: Training start date is July… I’d have to look at the actual date. I think it’s the third week of July, but there’s actually… That’s the live training start date. The whole program is taught live. This is the other thing to know: So we have… You get pre-training material when you sign up in our program. So right when you sign up, you get, whatever it is, 15, 20 hours in your portal and you’re starting to learn. Those, I consider prerequisites in my head. And so our program is also unique, and we don’t have like, “Go study for 50 hours on your own,” and call that program hours. We just don’t do that. We’re like, “No, we’re gonna teach you the amount of hours live. And then there’s recordings of people who miss it live. So our whole program is taught live, once we go live, basically. So there’s a lot of… If you miss some, you go watch it, but there’s a lot of room to really dive in over the course of the year with live engagement with faculty, peers. So it’s, yeah, it’s gonna… I’m really excited. So excited about this ’cause I’m like, “The revolution’s here,” that’s happened.

0:59:24.0 PA: Yeah, yeah.

0:59:25.6 KK: But what I’m really excited about is the mental healthcare revolution is just starting, just starting in terms of mental healthcare and psychedelics. We’re just starting. So we are about to be in a whole different place in the next three to four years. Whole different place where a person down the street from you, who you would have never thought would talk about psychedelics, is talking about it, and they’re like, “Oh, I’ve been a little down for so long and depressed,” and, “Hey, I think I wanna go try it down at the clinic.” That conversation now is not far away, it’s already happening, but it’s like we’re right at the tipping point. So it’s time to get people trained. Now is the time, right now. The next three years, we need to train 20,000 providers, or we’re not gonna be able to do it.

1:00:15.1 PA: Yeah.

1:00:15.8 KK: So that’s our goal. We’re like, “We gotta get people trained.” So that’s why I’m psyched, I’m like… This year one is like, “Let’s get it right,” and then we just have enough that we can train thousands of providers over the next few years.

1:00:29.0 PA: I love it, I love it. Well, Keith, thanks for popping in, giving us the low-down on IPI. We’ll include all the links. The URL is psychiatryinstitute.com/thirdwave, if anyone with a background in therapy wants more information. This is a great conversation. I spoke with Will, who you’re doing this with. Will’s as a psychiatrist who helps to run the Ketamine clinic. We had a great conversation on shaping your reality with Ketamine about a year ago, maybe just under a year ago. So if anyone wants sort of an addendum to this conversation, I highly recommend listening and giving that one a listen as well ’cause Will and I went into some really great topics in that one as well.

1:01:14.4 PA: And I, like you, just to mirror what you said, I’m really proud of what Synthesis rolled out. They enrolled about 100 practitioners, I think, and have a great 12-month program with a lot of great faculty. I was really thrilled to talk with you and Will, probably even six months ago in terms of what you were working on and rolling this out, and you’re stepping it up to 500 or 600. And that’s, I think we can both speak to the beauty of entrepreneurship, and that’s the role that it serves, is it’s emergent, it’s adaptive, and it can fulfill these really important needs ’cause a lot of folks are like, “Shit, this is gonna be medical in three or four years. What do we do? We gotta train all these people!” And then we have great entrepreneurs like you and Will who are building programs, trained hundreds of people. And so I think there, I love how all of this is coming together, the faculty that you put together, and the way that we’re really shifting mental healthcare treatment. And overall, just how we approach the self and the healing and cohesion and all of it, I think it’s a whole new model that’s emerging, and it’s something to be really, I think, optimistic and excited about.

1:02:21.3 KK: Yeah, it’s an old model that we are… It’s an old science an old technology that we are now putting some structure to. Yeah, a very ancient technology that we’re now contextualizing into modern society and how to use it in modern experience to heal properly.

1:02:48.3 PA: That’s Synthesis’ spirit and science. Science is the cutting-edge, it’s the new, it’s what’s helped build a lot of this, but like we talked about with The Immortality Key, this is a biotechnology that, as the ancient Greeks said, “Without it, life would not be worth living.” And so I think it’s beautiful that it’s coming back now.

1:03:05.7 KK: Yeah. Well, thanks for the conversation.

1:03:08.0 PA: Yeah, it was good.

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