Elena Schmidt

Disclaimer: Psychedelics are largely illegal substances and we do not encourage or condone their use where it is against the law. However, we accept that illegal drug use occurs and believe that offering responsible harm reduction information is imperative to keeping people safe.

As the third wave of psychedelics gains momentum, more and more people are turning towards plant medicines to heal, develop, and transform their lives. The love and connection psychedelics inspire toward oneself, others, and the natural world is irrefutable by those who have received their lessons over the centuries. Today, fueled by a growing body of research, these mystical substances are redefining modern therapy and personal growth for those who have access and support.

LSD, psilocybin, and MDMA are a few of the most well-studied psychedelics. This year, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) published a randomized, double-blind phase 3 clinical trial on MDMA for severe PTSD. After three psychedelic sessions, 67% of the participants no longer met the diagnostic criteria for severe PTSD, compared with 32% in the placebo group. As a result, MDMA could receive FDA approval by 2023, according to the New York Times.

Psilocybin, given its breadth of neuroscience research, could be next on the FDA’s list of approved therapeutic drugs. Psychedelic research from Imperial College London recently reported that this classic entheogen produced promising results for treating depression. And that’s just one of countless clinical trials that show psychedelics, including LSD, can effectively alleviate major mental illnesses.

What is less reported, yet also known, are the implications of non-ordinary states of consciousness on the betterment of the “well”. The “well” refers to people who don’t struggle with clinical mental illness, yet feel called to make transformative change in their lives, relationships, or careers. Wellness benefits, including greater optimism, openness, and reduced stress, are even more pronounced for people who set intentions and mindfully approach the use of psychedelics with guidance. That’s where coaches come in, and they are so profoundly needed to expand this space.

What is a psychedelic coach?

Psychedelic coaches are professionals who support people on their journeys to greater well-being. The “healthy normals” they serve seek psychedelics for a wide range of outcomes, such as to strengthen relationships, enhance creativity, access flow states, or move past mental blockages.

To help them, psychedelic coaches create a framework for setting intentions, preparing for journeys, and integrating the lessons afterward. Coaches incorporate a variety of strategies to help people translate mystical experiences into actionable changes.

To become a psychedelic coach, professionals must receive training and typically experience personal psychedelic journeys before helping others. This empowers them to guide people on their personal development journeys reliably. However, coaches are not medical professionals. When it comes to clients who need mental health treatment, coaches must refer them to psychedelic therapists.

What’s the difference between psychedelic coaches and psychedelic therapists?

Psychedelic therapists differ from coaches because they come from a healthcare background in fields like transpersonal psychology, psychiatry, or psychotherapy. They are mental health professionals and licensed clinicians who diagnose and treat people with mental illnesses. And through psychedelic assistance, they create a protocol to help those people heal. Therapists can also supervise the use of sanctioned psychedelic substances such as ketamine, as well as MDMA, psilocybin, and LSD in clinical settings for research purposes.

Ketamine-assisted psychotherapy for mental health

In the US, ketamine-assisted psychotherapy is authorized as an off-label mental health treatment protocol. As facilitators of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, therapists can use talk therapy before, sometimes during, and after psychedelic ketamine journeys to help people navigate traumas and find relief from debilitating symptoms. Only licensed and trained providers can sit with patients during these experiences.

That said, not all psychotherapists supervise journeys. In fact, most harness their educational background to help patients analyze and integrate the psychedelic experiences after the fact. Integration work is typically where psychedelic therapy and coaching cross paths.

Psychedelic integration work

Integration is the process of exploring psychedelic challenges and insights and determining how to deploy them in everyday life. Some integration experts are therapists while others are coaches. One is not inherently better than the other. Both use conversation, mindfulness practices, and techniques like somatic release and holotropic breathwork to facilitate growth, healing, and change. Additionally, both therapists and coaches may recommend similar integration tools such as:

  • Journaling
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Dance
  • Nature walks
  • Art

Psychedelic therapy training vs. coaching training

Despite coming from different backgrounds, clinicians and practitioners might participate in the same psychedelic training programs from the same trusted institutions. These include Third Wave, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, the Integrative Psychiatry Institute, and Synthesis Institute, to name a few. By training with these organizations to cultivate a deeper understanding of psychedelic science, history, and clinical research, therapists and coaches are better equipped to support those in need.

What is the purpose of psychedelic coaching training?

Psychedelic coaching certification programs are designed to support professionals with existing coaching practices to accelerate client transformation. While they’re not clinical-grade, certificate programs can also help psychotherapists master the skill of psychedelics. Courses create a space where practitioners can come together to have meaningful conversations around responsible and intentional psychedelic use, harm reduction, and integration practices.

Psychedelic certificate programs are so essential because they provide coaches with the skills to address a society wrought with stress, anxiety, and general dissatisfaction. Despite feeling stuck, humans want to reach their full potential. And they’re starting to realize that psychedelic drugs might open the door to that unfettered reality. Now they need help from trained coaches to keep the door unlatched, even after walking through and leaving their altered state of consciousness behind.

How does a psychedelic coaching training program work?

Psychedelic coaching training typically covers core topics to prepare practitioners for success while recognizing the nuances of this new coaching paradigm. Like Third Wave’s Coaching Certification Program, reputable organizations never claim that psychedelic modalities are one-size-fits-all solutions. Instead, they discuss the shades of grey when working with plant medicines and empower coaches to discover their own methodology to achieve their desired results.

Coaching programs typically do not require prior psychedelic science knowledge or personal experience. Still, they may offer retreat opportunities for practitioners to experience plant medicines in legal settings. This allows coaches to master the skill of psychedelics so they can make a transformational impact on both their clients’ lives and their own. Developing psychedelic skills also means learning how to recommend tools, like microdosing, to help integrate larger dose experiences or “test the waters” for people new to psychedelic modalities.

Third Wave’s 13-week Coaching Certification Program includes lessons on:

  • The history of psychedelics, the field of psychedelic medicine today, and the framework for the third wave of acceptance.
  • An overview of the legal landscape and how to navigate potential liability.
  • How to reliably help clients achieve personal transformation.
  • Psychedelic research surrounding neuroplasticity.
  • How psychedelic medicines target stress and anxiety to promote optimal well-being.
  • The role of psychedelic medicines in stimulating clarity, creativity, and innovation.
  • Preparing clients for a psychedelic journey, including assessing readiness, set and setting, and practices for harm reduction.
  • The interplay between macrodosing and microdosing.
  • The critical role of integration work and supporting practices.
  • How to reposition an existing coaching practice to support alternative modalities.

Psychedelic medicine: safety and ethical concerns

Another core aspect of psychedelic coaching training is a focus on safety and ethical practices. This includes lessons on how to responsibly source medicines like peyote and ayahuasca that are currently overharvested. Courses may also cover the creation of safe spaces for clients to work through challenging journeys that inevitably arise. These harm reduction practices may include assisting people to reframe their experiences, creating an appropriate set and setting, and guiding clients on how to select an optimal dose or substance.

Awakening at a Cultural Level

Third Wave believes that awakening at a cultural level begins with transformation at an individual level. Now more than ever, people are disconnected from themselves, nature, and each other. Psychedelic coaches are a conduit to support individuals on their journeys to reconnect. By adding psychedelics to their coaching paradigm, practitioners can help people awaken to their sense of purpose, strengthen their spirituality, live with passion, and realize that they are so much more than they’re led to believe.

Are you feeling the call to dive deeper? Third Wave’s 13-week psychedelic coaching certification program offers an honest, in-depth approach to embracing this modality within your existing practice.