PARTNERSHIP WITH THRIVE COUNSELLING
Psilocybin Canada is thrilled to announce a partnership with Thrive Downtown Counselling Clinic. This will provide Psilocybin Canada customers direct access to Thrive’s psilocybin-assisted therapy.
Also, please read our guide on Psychedelic Therapy below, we hope you find it helpful!
We are passionate about psilocybin and its transformational power when used therapeutically. We have worked directly with Thrive and their clients since 2020. Thrive’s mission is to make you feel seen, heard, and understood.
Thrive stands out given its founder’s 17 years of education and practice in the treatment of posttraumatic stress and trauma. Rather than simply offering psychedelics, Thrive uses a gold standard approach of care and ethical preparation to ensure the safety of their clients. It makes a huge difference in outcome to have experts in trauma and the nervous system offer treatments versus well intended, but often under-trained guides.
Clinical details aside, Thrive is here to help you realize that you aren’t broken and that your struggles make sense. They go the extra mile to honor the individual journey of each client in a way that feels safe, non-transactional and free from jargon. Learn more about Thrive here.
The Thrive Approach
The 1970s saw psychedelics made illegal in part due to their reckless use over the prior decade. Thrive helps to prevent this happening again by having several careful assessment and preparation sessions with a counsellor of your choice before any psychedelic work. These planning sessions may be done in person for those in the Greater Vancouver area or via Zoom for those coming from afar.
Following that, you will meet with your counsellor and a second facilitator for the treatment day in 1 of 3 themed rooms: jungle, desert or meditation. Afterwards, a strong emphasis is placed on integration of the trip—the practice of translating the work to meaningful change in your life.
Book a consultation appointment.
Please note, Thrive very commonly recommends not proceeding with psychedelic therapy. There are many reasons for thus, such as wanting to rush the process/having deadlines (“I need to do this this month!”), high levels of traumatic stress or genetic/familial predictors of poor outcomes. Thrive makes no exceptions in these instances as public safety is the absolute highest concern.
Mental illness afflicts 1 in 5 people in Canada every year. Many scientific studies have shown that psilocybin can be a safe and effective medicine for patients with depression, anxiety, addiction and other mental illnesses, when administered with psychological support from specially-trained therapists.
We Amigos believe in a better future for all Canadians struggling with mental health related issues.
Professor. Merlin & Dreamer
PSYCHEDELIC THERAPY: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THIS EMERGING FIELD
Just as with any health fad, the average person tends to be drawn in with the allure of potential. When practicing and using herbal treatments it’s important to know their properties, the stories, and all of their uses. As time is passing the medical potential from previously outlawed natural substances is coming to light, and new benefits are being discovered — and discussed more openly. We’re going to take a deep dive into the world behind psychedelic therapy.
Magic mushrooms or ‘shrooms’ have been around for thousands of years, and were used in many cultures for religious ceremonies and other events. Perhaps the most well-documented and understood of these cultures came from modern-day Central and South America. The Aztecs, Mayans, and Olmec people used the psychedelic effects for healing and to reach an elevated state of mind. The magic from these mushrooms is derived from a fungi — psilocybin.
What is psilocybin?
Psilocybin is the chemical compound found in over 200 species of mushrooms, when the fungi are ingested, the consumer processes the chemical to make psilocin. Similar to how our body breaks down the food we eat to gain carbohydrates for energy or vitamins to boost our immune systems, psilocin alters the neural receptors to induce an altered state of mind. 
The amazing history of psilocybin shrooms
There is a rich history of psilocybin use and it is only speculated to have been first recorded in the year 10,000 B.C.E. Archaeologists found cave paintings referring to the magical mushrooms in northern Australia.  Throughout time, cultures from around the globe have found documentation through similar murals or oral storytelling. Though, it is possible we will never truly know when the first people tried the drug. Not coming to European descendants in North America until the 20th century. 
In the year 1955, an amateur scientist and author in his later life, R. Gordon Wasson traveled to Mexico with his wife and a few friends. During their stay, they became the first outsiders to be invited into the religious ceremony of the indigenous Mazatecs. A healer for the tribe, Maria Sabine allowed the westerners to participate in their village near Oaxaca, Mexico. Wasson brought mushrooms home to New York City and began his own experiments.
R. Gordon Wasson published a piece in Life magazine about his experiences with mushrooms and their journey with the members of the Mazatec tribe. Writing, “As the ritual proceeded Wasson lost himself in wonderous flights of fancy in which moved him to say afterward, ‘for the first time the word ecstasy took on a real meaning’.”  With this magazine’s publishing, the world of psychedelic mushrooms exploded in the United States and Canada. Three years later, the Harvard Psilocybin Project began with two psychologists Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert. The focus of the study was to see how the drug interacted with the subject’s perception, emotion, and cognition.
Shortly after many states began to outlaw the substance and its stronger synthetic counterpart LSD. In 1970, the Controlled Substances Act came into law where both psilocybin and LSD were ruled to be schedule 1 drugs — making them illegal at the state and federal level.
Flash forward to 2018, the FDA designated the drug as a ‘Breakthrough Therapy’. Its potential to help people with treatment-resistant illnesses was recognized and the process of understanding it was fast-tracked. Over the past four years, we have seen more advancements in the therapeutic methods and are once again allowing ourselves to discuss the positives rather than only seeing the negatives.
How does psilocybin work?
Psilocybin works by interacting with the brain’s neural reactors, specifically in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. This part of the brain contains our serotonin receptors, affecting our mood, cognition, and perception. Serotonin is the chemical responsible for a person’s feelings of calm, focus, and happiness. Differing from the other ‘happy chemical’ is dopamine — focusing on pleasure, motivation, and productivity. Psilocybin primarily works with the serotonin receptors but reacts with the dopamine ones on a secondary level, increasing the transmission of dopamine.
What is psilocybin therapy?
With our newfound understanding of psilocybin, we can now take a look into the modern practice being developed as you are reading this. Psilocybin therapy is the practice of using the drug to stimulate the mind and having the same psychological support from a therapist to guide you.
Since this form of therapy is new and still looked at as taboo, there are very few places allowed to legally administer and partake in the practice. With this in mind, there are very limited test subjects. Patients with a chronic illness, treatment-resistant depression or anxiety, and those suffering from PTSD.
There is much more happening with the clinical trials beyond eating a handful of mushrooms and exploring the visuals.  ] Typically the patients will begin their trials with up to six weeks of conventional therapy leading up to ever taking their first dose. We will take a deeper dive into the step-by-step of what a typical session will look like later in this article. Following these sessions will be what’s called integrated sessions where the patient and therapist can reflect and discuss the recent trip session.
Due to the rigidness of these programs, everything done is strictly regulated and overseen. However, they are showing very promising results in their preliminary trials. 
Psilocybin therapy vs. conventional mental health treatments
To understand psilocybin therapy, one needs to understand what conventional therapy looks like. It has progressed in many ways since the fainting couches and asylums people may still associate with the practice. There are four main branches of traditional therapy: cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy, humanistic therapy, and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT). Each technique alters the approach to therapy sessions in a different manner depending on the therapist and the patient. Let’s break down each to understand these differences. 
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is heavily focused on mindfulness. The patient will often explore their darker thoughts and learn new practices to alter their understanding of these events and how to change them. CBT helps recognize negative thoughts or behaviors that could be holding a patient back and explores how changing these thoughts can alter your behavior and actions.
Psychodynamic therapy focuses on how you react to situations in the present day and how these reactions may be influenced by previous events. Looking deeper into your relationships and how they have affected your psyche in the long run. Psychodynamic therapy is taking a deeper dive into the emotional processes your mind took and understanding them to be the reason you are who you are today.
Humanistic or person-centered therapy is much different, instead of taking a deeper dive into your past or changing how you perceive and react to your emotions, it looks into your unique lens of the world. It’s based on the idea that absorbing or taking on others’ negative views can hurt who you are as a person. Emphasizing the importance of your true self in order to lead a fulfilling life.
The final form of traditional therapy we need to understand is dialectical therapy. This therapy is used heavily with patients suffering from personality issues and interpersonal conflicts. DBT is all about accepting your surroundings and learning to change strategies in order to have more effective interpersonal relationships.
Each of the traditional therapy sessions looks similar, just the topic and order of discussion may differ. Unlike traditional therapy and being on different medications like sertraline or Seroquel where it takes years of constant work and medication before seeing real results. Only a few sessions of psilocybin therapy can put a patient’s mental conditions in remission for months.
What does a psilocybin therapy session look like?
Now that we know what traditional therapy looks like and how the sessions proceed, let’s look into the new world of psilocybin therapy. Prior to ever taking the drug for a therapy session each patient must go through a mountain of paperwork, medical tests, and traditional therapy sessions.
We’re going to break down the different parts and patients’ testimony of what a typical psilocybin session looks like. The overall experience is three-fold: preparation, the session itself, and integration to follow. 
As we have discussed above the patients are required to go through a few traditional therapy sessions leading up to the psilocybin session. These sessions allow the patient and their therapist to bond and eventually choose a topic that will be focused on during the psilocybin sessions. This may be a specific event or trauma that hasn’t been processed fully or a recurring feeling that holds the patient back. Having one topic in mind heading into the session makes it easier for the patient to stay on topic and truly break down each part of it.
The second step is the actual psilocybin session, the patient will be led to a specifically designed room. Typically there will be a bed for the patient to lie down, a pre-selected playlist, and an eye mask.  The eye mask is to keep the patient’s thoughts and feelings internalized on the chosen topic. Each session lasts 6-8 hours with the therapist and an assistant. It’s important for the therapist to guide the patient but not to push the topic but rather just observe and help when needed.
Finally comes the integrated sessions, to discuss experiences and thought processes that took place during the psilocybin session. This step is vital because it gives the patient a chance to gain their own insights from the session.
How effective is psilocybin therapy?
There have been new studies done at the University of California finding potentially new ways how psychedelics affect the brain. This study is incredibly important for the advancements in psilocybin therapy and gives great insight into its effectiveness. 
There were two trials with 60 participants overall. The first trial was all patients with treatment-resistant depression who were given doses of psilocybin. The second group was a control group who were given a placebo sugar pill or a common SSRI antidepressant. Prior to both groups being tested, there were fMRI scans to show the connectivity in their brain.
Once the groups had completed the trials another scan was taken to study the differences in the brain connectivity after taking the medications.
The first group with psilocybin all showed dramatic results, showing less connection within the brain’s regions associated with depression and the thought processes that are created from the illness. New connections were formed in different parts of the brain, the patients were less emotionally avoidant and their cognitive function increased.
The second group who took the standard SSRI medication showed no change in the connectivity in the brain.
This study showed that the brain is more flexible and fluid than previously thought with the connections associated with depression.
One other study conducted in the past year is on a smaller scale, but it’s still very important to shed light on. The Imperial College London selected 43 patients who were all testing in the severe major depressive disorder range.  Similarly, one group of participants were the control subjects who were only taking a typical SSRI medication and the others were given psilocybin. fMRIs were taken one day prior to the sessions and another one three weeks after.
Like the results seen from the University of California, the control subjects in this study showed little improvement or change in their later scans. Whereas the psilocybin group displayed a liberating change, even three weeks after the session. The chemical derived from psychedelic mushrooms helped alleviate symptoms of depression and generated detectable neural responses that lasted weeks. Both studies show very promising results, even if they were both for small groups of individuals.
Psilocybin therapy in Canada?
We have talked about studies done in the United States and London, but it’s important not to forget about all of the work being done in Canada. Currently, Canada is working on a case-by-case basis. The government is trying to expedite the process and is pushing to have each application processed within two days.
TheraPsil is a non-profit organization based out of Victoria that advocates for patients who need psychedelic therapy for their treatment-resistant or terminal illnesses. TheraPsil has worked to get 55 Canadians an exemption from the section 56 law allowing them to get a prescription for MDMA or psilocybin.  There is hope growing in Canada to continue the trend of prescribing patients these drugs.
However, it is important to remember that most people get rejected and the health minister can deem all of the applications rejected at once if they feel like there is a viable threat to the health and safety of the public.
The legality of psilocybin therapy in Canada
The legality of psilocybin therapy in Canada was changed dramatically in January of this year with the Special Access Program (SAP) coming into effect. This program effectively allowed health-care providers the ability to request psilocybin or MDMA for their patients. With SAP came newfound hope for eventual changes to be made to the law about the varying degree of illegality of the product.
“There has been emerging scientific evidence supporting potential therapeutic uses for some restricted drugs, most notably psychedelic restricted drugs such as MDMA and psilocybin.”With more research and studies being published about the drug’s effectiveness the drugs will be moved up in a phase, so a phase II or phase III will be more likely to be prescribed to patients. Over 98% of the feedback the health administration has received has been positive and the people were happy that the SAP program was being put into effect.
Benefits and use cases for psilocybin therapy
The benefits of psilocybin therapy are vast. We’ve discussed quite a few throughout the article and hopefully by now, you understand the rave behind this compound. One that has always stood out is the small amount needed to reach the full effectiveness of the drug. Unlike traditional SSRIs that need to be taken every day around the same time to reach even a fraction of the usefulness..Psilocybin still shows results after three weeks of one treatment session.
How can I find a psilocybin-friendly therapist?
The easiest way to find a psilocybin-friendly therapist is to use the therapist database our team at Three Amigos has made! We’ve broken down which therapists are open to the idea of psilocybin therapy city-by-city. With info on cities from Vancouver, British Columbia all the way over to St. Johns in Newfoundland, you should be able to find a psilocybin-friendly therapist near you.
We have provided links to each therapist’s website and urge you to do some research before booking that first appointment. Remember, psilocybin therapy is most effective if you have created a real bond and trust with your therapist. Ingesting psychedelics places you into a more vulnerable state and having a good support system to help you is the most effective.
Downsides of psilocybin therapy
In order to fully understand whether psilocybin therapy is a good option for you, you need to know all of the facts. Good and bad. With any therapy, there will be downsides of the treatment. Mixing in experimental drugs can take it to a different level, if thinking about taking a psychedelic in a controlled environment like an office gives you anxiety, don’t do it. A bad trip can happen if you enter the session with doubt and worry.
According to a study done by Theresa M. Carbonaro, 10.7% of those undergoing psilocybin therapy reported that they created a situation that put themselves or others at risk of physical harm. 2.6% of the survey takers reported being violent or aggressive towards themselves or others. 
When discussing the typical psilocybin session above, it was mentioned that most users wear an eye mask. This is to help keep the person calm and internalize the feelings, but there have been cases where the eye masks weren’t worn and the visual effects of psilocybin affected the patient’s session. The hallucinations from psilocybin may overwhelm the patients and create extreme anxiety, paranoia, and a lost sense of reality.  With this in mind, most medical professionals and researchers discount self-reported data because it lacks objectivity.
Side effects of psilocybin can vary from person to person and illness to illness, just like any drug. A few widely reported side effects include; confusion, fear, hallucinations, high blood pressure, nausea, and headaches. These side effects are the reason a patient must undergo such an extensive preparation period.  No therapist should ever put a patient into a position they aren’t ready for mentally, physically, or emotionally.
There will be positives and negatives to all treatments, it is important to listen to how you’re feeling. Psilocybin therapy is showing exciting progress so far, keep an eye out to see what else comes to light in the future!