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  • Writer's pictureAvivit Fisher

Exploring Psychedelic Harm Reduction and Integration Therapy with Christopher Brown, LICSW

I recently connected with Christopher Brown on LinkedIn. Christopher is the owner of Peak Psychotherapy PLLC and the creator of the Therapist Integration newsletter in which he teaches therapists about adding psychedelic therapy to their practice. As I was intrigued by the specific topic of his newsletter, I decided to dig deeper to better understand Christopher's clinical background and the origins of his idea for the newsletter. We sat down for a quick conversation in which I had a chance to ask the questions you might want to know the answers to.

Psychedelic harm reduction therapy
Christopher Brown, LICSW

Can you tell me a bit about your private practice? Who do you work with primarily?

Peak Psychotherapy PLLC is my private practice based in Washington state. My private practice serves clients from all walks of life who are struggling with the impacts of traumatic experiences and adverse life events.

As a Certified EMDR Therapist and Consultant, many come to me seeking EMDR therapy after spending months with a talk therapist and noticing little improvement in their symptoms. As a therapist who also advertises competency and willingness to discuss psychedelic integration therapy, a fraction of my caseload is also clients who are pursuing their own psychedelic therapies and want a therapist to help them work through deeper issues that come up.

"I’m in the initial stage of developing a protocol to operationalize this approach of using EMDR to support psychedelic harm reduction and integration therapy."

What role does integration therapy play in your work with clients?

As an EMDR therapist, EMDR is the tool I use to support my clients' treatment goals. This is true with integration therapy as well. Sometimes this means using EMDR to help clients gain greater clarity or develop stronger internal resources in preparation for a therapeutic psychedelic experience. Other times EMDR is used to process through difficult content that may have come up during a psychedelic experience or to strengthen meaningful insights or healing.

Ideally, this would be performed within a week or two of any therapeutic psychedelic experience to leverage the window of neuroplasticity psychedelics can create in the brain. I’m in the initial stage of developing a protocol to operationalize this approach of using EMDR to support psychedelic harm reduction and integration therapy.

When did you decide to explore integration therapy and when did you decide to start educating on this topic?

In April 2022 I had the chance to take the 100-hour MAPS MDMA-Assisted Therapist training. Learning about the MAPS protocol I discovered only 3 of the 15 sessions include the drug MDMA. The rest of the protocol is just therapy to support the preparation before the experience, and integration after. I was inspired to know that outside of some basic education and consultation, there are not many barriers in the way of more therapists being able to support clients who pursue these experiences.

That said, two primary issues remained:

  1. There is still a high barrier to accessing these trainings and information - and

  2. Strong legal/ethical considerations must be made to prevent risk to licensure.

To tackle the first issue I used GitHub to create an open-source learning program called Open Source Psychedelic Assisted Therapy (OSPAT), which includes a wide range of free learning materials available in the public domain. As I was transitioning to private practice, I focused more on the second issue. State licensing boards were unwilling to provide guidance, so I did my due diligence and developed an Ethical Due Diligence paper analyzing state law and national clinical guidelines for my discipline. 

How did the idea of your newsletter, Therapist Integration, come about?

As I communicated with clients over the past few years, it was obvious due to promising research outcomes, those who are suffering want to explore psychedelic therapies. While talking with other therapists about my plans to market myself as someone willing and competent to have conversations with clients about psychedelic therapies, there was genuine interest and excitement, but a strong lack of confidence in their own ability to do the same. I discovered this was actually a larger trend, as evident in this graphic I often share to highlight the gap that exists:

client-therapist gap

My goal with Therapist Integration is to shrink this gap. In my view, psychedelic therapies are going to have a strong influence on mental health over the coming years. The research continues to grow and show promise. Before this renaissance in psychedelic research, the field of psychology had not seen any major innovations in decades, and people continued to suffer. While psychedelics certainly come with their own risks, it is apparent they are and will continue to play a strong role in the field of mental health. 

"I hope to see more healing in our world."

Besides the newsletter, what is the plan for Therapist integration?

We also have monthly consultation calls. When it comes to ethics and therapists exploring treatment options on the edge of their clinical competency, there are two main areas health boards may ask about:

Did you pursue education?

Did you pursue consultation?

My goal is for therapists who are exploring adding psychedelic integration therapy to their practice to have access to both education and consultation opportunities. On the education piece, outside of providing informative newsletters, I’m in talks to partner with others providing education to bring that to my subscribers as well.

What do you hope to see in the mental health space through Psychedelic Harm Reduction and Integration?

Ultimately I hope to see more healing in our world. Psychedelic research has shown there is strong potential to facilitate a greater connection to oneself, to others, and to the planet. In a world that is suffering and has so much disconnection, plant medicines may serve as a strong force for therapeutic change not just at the individual level, but for society as well.

But we know already through research that the best outcomes come from the combination of psychedelic experiences and in-depth mental health therapy, as well as sacred indigenous ceremonies that have been used for healing for generations. I hope to see more therapists embrace this healing potential for them and their clients!


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