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Skills for Designing Your Psychedelic Career

Updated: Nov 1, 2023

While psychedelics are now coming into focus in the public lens, there is still an unclear path to becoming a psychedelic practitioner. There are more and more one-time or weekend long training courses that can be additive to the skills of the advanced practitioner. However, most of these courses don’t fully prepare a person for the complex world of psychedelic support. Longer courses offered through organizations like MAPS, are for current professionals that usually hold degrees. What about the inexperienced entrepreneur who has not yet obtained advanced degrees, or those who are not interested in taking the academic route?

Chances are, you’ll be designing your own psychedelic career pathway. For future psychedelic healers, there are a variety of opportunities outside of the traditional medical model for employment in psychedelic spaces from working with crisis services to leading community integration support groups. Currently there are few, if any, comprehensive training for these community support roles. If you are looking to work in the psychedelic spaces without advanced training, it’s even more important to gather as much training as possible to reduce the risk of harm and maximize benefit for those you seek to support.

So, whether you are a student preparing for a degree in psychology down the road, or are working as a support person to friends and family in psychedelic spaces, here is a list of training and skills that we recommend filling your toolbox with. Not only will these skills improve your effectiveness with clients but they will challenge you and support personal grown.

Medical Certificates

CPR & First Aid - This certificate is a no brainer. Even if you’re unsure about your pathway into the healing profession, learning basic first aid and CPR is essential. You might just save a life. In fact, it’s shown that in Seattle where highschoolers are required to take CPR to graduate, there is a higher rate of successful CPR rescues by the public. Take CPR, you might just save a life. Learn more here.

MHFA - Mental health first aid is a great start in learning about bystander mental health intervention. It will give you an understanding of what you can and can’t do for strangers, how to ask about suicidal intentions, and generally increase your competency for interacting with human beings on a compassionate level. The training includes many scenarios and caters to non-medical persons. This eight hour certificate is relatively cheap and can be taken in most major cities or online. Find a training near you here.

WFR - The Wilderness First Responder certificate is a great levelup to emergency competencies without going through the longer training required to become an EMS. It covers most major injuries and assumes that medical attention may be hours away versus minutes making it a great training for those who are working in outdoor and remote environments. Having this certificate can even help land you coveted harm reduction positions with organizations like the Zendo Project. Check out the NOLs program here.

Skills Training

NonViolent Communication (NVC)- Developed by Marshall Rosenberg, PhD, NVC is an approach to communication based on principles of nonviolence. It is not designed to solve disagreements, but rather a method designed to increase empathy and promote more compassionate communication. It can offer tools and language to shift how we approach difficult conversations and is great to have in your back pocket if you plan to work with people in altered states. It is important to note that NVC, like psychology modalities, can be manipulative if used incorrectly so it is important to get support through a mentor or coach. Learn more here.

Meditation & Mindfulness - Meditation is a large topic and there’s no way that we can cover all the different types in just one paragraph. It probably doesn’t matter which type of mindfulness tradition you practice, simply picking up a contemplative practice opens the doors of perception to transpersonal experiences that can help one relate to psychedelic states. From mindfulness to vipassana, meditation teaches one to ground into the current moment even amidst the chaos others may be experiencing.

Coaching Competency - Long gone are the days when life coaching was considered a scam. After decades of hard work to change public perception, coaches are seen as valuable partners in helping clients make changes and stick to them. From finance to relationships, coaches employ reliable techniques learned from science-based training to move clients forward and focus on goal setting and accountability. If you want to learn skills to catalyze change-talk in clients in the wellness arena, look for programs that are accredited by the International Coaching Federation (ICF) or National Board for Health & Wellness Coaching (NBHWC). These accreditation programs are responsible for developing standards and setting the bar for quality and ensuring your education is recognized. There are even some masters level programs that include ICF and NBHWC training as part of their curriculum

Motivational Interviewing (MI) - More than a technique, motivational interviewing is an NIH recognized change model and takes years to master. MI is a focused counseling style that aims to promote change talk and resolve conflicts that are barriers to motivation. There are plenty of MI continuing education courses focused on everything from fitness and nutrition to careers and scholastics. Even one class on the subject can improve practitioners ability to listen and reflect their clients words more accurately. Find out more here.

AntiRacism Training & Cultural Competencies - It’s hard to know what you don’t know especially when it comes to the lived experience of other cultures, subcultures, and ethnicities. Taking the time to learn some skills to work with others from different backgrounds goes a long way in creating safe spaces for LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC community members. Being a healer means working with people how they show up, not how you wish they would show up. Join a course here.

Trauma Informed Facilitation - Creating a trauma informed space is as much attitude as a skill. It requires that you act in a way that assumes that an individual is more likely than not to have a history of trauma. While trauma comes in many shapes and sizes, providing a safe space for those with a history of trauma focus on a few key principles: awareness that people come to us with a history of trauma, understanding of the impact trauma has on the way people show up, and understanding that the healing process can retraumatize those we seek to help.

Harm Reduction - “Harm reduction is a set of ideas and interventions that seek to reduce the harms associated with both drug use and ineffective, racialized drug policies” - Drug Policy Alliance. This systems based approach looks to address the needs of users in their current state without the stigma attached to usage. Psychedelic harm reduction specifically focuses on a set of skills for people who are experiencing or may experience psychedelic substances. Finding training from this perspective of working with substances reduces personal biases that can harm others and is an essential perspective for working with altered states. Please check out our friends over at NEST Harm Reduction and Harmonia for their free training.

Work Trade & Volunteer Experiences

Support Group Facilitator - Learning to work with groups is essential for being part of, or leading a team, as well as working with groups of psychedelic clients. From 4-H to Alcoholics Anonymous(AA), there are a host of non-profit organizations that need facilitators to keep offering their community services. The best way to learn about group facilitation is to be part of a group and eventually volunteer to lead group activities. This will help you learn to work with different personalities in the community setting and see different leadership styles.

Psychedelic Peer Support at Festivals - While it is everyone's hope that an entheogenic session will go well, the reality is that difficult and unexpected situations will occur sooner or later when working with psychedelics. Volunteering to offer support to people having difficult trips at festivals is a great way to see a range of difficult altered state experiences within a safe container where peers and mentors can support you and the tripper. This is also a great opportunity to meet others who are interested in pursuing a psychedelic career path. In fact, Altered States Integration formed because of a connection made by volunteering with the Zendo Project! Check out NEST Harm Reduction, Harmonia, and DanceSafe for upcoming events and work trade opportunities.

Crisis Support Lines - There are many volunteer and paid opportunities to work on peer support lines. Pick a topic you’re passionate about and you’re likely to find a support line that needs committed individuals to answer phones and offer support. These types of positions are great for careers because they give you in-depth training and you’ll be able to start helping people right away. Look for organizations that offer in depth training and offer pay for your Peer Support Certification like these MHA National Certified Peer Specialist (NCPS) Certification programs. Find a program here.

Conferences -There are increasingly more and more psychedelic conferences available for passionate people to attend. These large gatherings are a great way to network and offer a rapid paced learning environment to absorb a lot of new information and potentially earn CE’s. Volunteering (really it's a work trade!) can give you access to the educational sessions and help you network with organizers who wear different psychedelic hats in their off-times. Conferences in general, span the wide array of topics in medicine and can support having a well rounded DIY education in the healing modalities. Check out this entheogenic specific conference organized by MAPS - we hope to see you in Denver for Psychedelics Science June 2023!

Internships- While finding a paid internship in psychedelics is rare, it’s worth reaching out to professionals and organizations to find out what paid and unpaid opportunities they have. Volunteer work is a great way to get your foot in the door of the psychedelic professional world. While some internship positions looking for aid are published, sometimes drafting an email expressing interest in helping an organization you are passionate about can be enough to open a door for an amazing learning opportunity. Just be careful to set clear boundaries of your free labor or get work trade agreements in writing as volunteer abuse is rampant in parts of this community.

There are so many ways to support healing and growth and others. It can be a fun and personally transformational journey to experience as many different types of healing modalities as possible. The best way to get to a place where you can reliably help others is to work from a place of self love and personal healing. These tools also help to provide opportunities for the self growth required as a space holder.

No singular skill building opportunities will prepare you for what you might encounter working in the field of psychedelics, however they will give you a variety of critical assessment tools to reduce harm and produce good outcomes.

If you are working in psychedelic spaces, what training or experience would you add to this list of resume builders? Send us an email at or leave us a message below.

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