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The New Frontier in Mental Wellness: Psychedelics

by Laura Begley Bloom

In an episode of the hit series Ted Lasso, the main character (played by Jason Sudeikis) drinks magic mushroom tea. He ends up wandering around Amsterdam in search of his higher purpose, and—bingo—has a breakthrough on how to coach his team to victory. Similarly, in a key plot pivot on Billions, the cast goes on a shamanic retreat and tries ayahuasca, a psychedelic concoction that one of the characters calls “nature’s antidepressant.”

While it’s clear that pop culture is embracing the idea, these aren’t just narratives from TV shows: Spas and resorts around the world are using once-taboo psychedelic substances like psilocybin (the active compound found in magic mushrooms), ayahuasca, and LSD, to offer hope and healing to people in search of mental wellbeing who have found little relief from conventional therapies. 

High-profile figures are also getting behind psychedelics: NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers credits psilocybin and ayahuasca for helping him get in a better headspace, find a greater peace in life, and even win the MVP award. And the trendsetting author Michael Pollan wrote a whole book, How to Change Your Mind, about the new science of psychedelics. Always on the vanguard, the author was inspired after his own experiments with LSD and psilocybin.

“It’s literally a reboot of the system—a biological control-alt-delete,” Pollan writes. “Psychedelic therapy creates an interval of maximum plasticity in which, with proper guidance, new patterns of thought and behavior can be learned.”

One of the most accepted of all these psychedelic treatments is psilocybin—and there’s science to back it up. Recent studies from Johns Hopkins Medicine, The New England Journal of Medicine, and the Yale School of Medicine (just to name a few) have highlighted its potential in alleviating depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Johns Hopkins Medicine is so committed to the topic that it even started a Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research—the first such research center in the U.S. On its website, the center explains its vision: “To advance the scientific understanding of psychedelics and their potential for treating mental health disorders, enhancing wellbeing, and expanding our understanding of consciousness.”

The World of Guided Retreats

The Journeymen Collective is a company that creates luxury guided magic mushroom retreats in the mountains of British Columbia. It was founded by Rob Grover and Gary Logan, who together have more than 60 years of education in spiritual and metaphysical training, executive- level mindset coaching, and energetic healing modalities. They host everyone from athletes to entrepreneurs, CEOs to couples—basically, anyone who is looking for the highest level of self-discovery and personal development.

“Through the sacred plant medicine, psilocybin, we can tap into an authentic way of flowing through reality with creativity and intelligence. From these experiences often comes a spark or reignition of passions and purpose for business, relationships, and actualizing our highest potential,” says Grover. “So that’s what we do, that’s our gift to the world, helping individuals connect deeply with an ever- evolving awareness and the skills to live a more soul-centered life and embody a conscious vision.”

A Journeymen session lasts four days— with two deeply intensive psilocybin ceremonies and a day of restful integration in between each—but the work starts long before the actual experience and continues long afterward, with a total of four months of support. “We prefer to think of them as journeys, not trips. It is very intensive work for us and those that come on a journey, but it is an investment in your personal evolution and a gift that keeps on giving,” says Grover.

“Through the sacred plant medicine, psilocybin, we can tap into an authentic way of flowing through reality with creativity and intelligence. From these experiences often comes a spark or reignition of passions and purpose for business, relationships, and actualizing our highest potential.”

– Rob Grover, cofounder, The Journeymen Collective

Recent Journeymen Collective guest Kristina Botelho owns KB & Co, a plant- based eatery in Edmonton, Canada. While her business is all about healthy living and balance, Botelho had been feeling lost after the death of her sister. After hearing about a friend who had a life changing experience with The Journeymen Collective, she decided to try it out herself.

“My experience was mind-blowing. I felt like I had made my way back to self. Almost as if I left my body and hit a reset button outside of myself only returning back to earth with so much more awareness and understanding of my life’s purpose and why we’re all here,” she says. “I came out of it understanding: You are your greatest teacher. You know all you need to know within you to live your most beautiful and purposeful life here in earth school.”

Chic Boutiques Abound

One of the capitals of the new psychedelic tourism trend is Jamaica, where psilocybin has never been illegal. A number of resorts and retreats are embracing the mind- altering medicine with mushroom-fueled experiences. Take Rockhouse, an eco-chic boutique hotel in Negril where Bob Marley used to hang out. In the hotel gift store, you can buy a bar of Patoo Chocolate, a local brand that infuses Jamaican cacao and an indigenous strain of psilocybin fungi. The hotel also debuted a weekly Psilocybin Sound Bath, a two-hour wellness session that incorporates psilocybin with breathwork and sound therapy.

“The healing powers of plant medicine show unique benefits in fascinating research that point to positive possibilities of psychedelics and the neuroplasticity they can induce,” says Paul Salmon, cofounder of Rockhouse. “Combined with breathwork and sound therapy—as we do during the Sound Bath—the optional microdose is designed to create a slightly altered state of consciousness that works in harmony to enhance the immersive live sound bath.” According to Salmon, Rockhouse created the experience to expand the hotel’s wellness offerings in a whole new way. “I think ‘wellness’ is all about tapping into and softening that part of yourself that we harden in order to deal with the day-to-day onslaught of life in the western world,” he says.

You can also experience a psilocybin journey close to home, thanks to wellness experts like Derek Chase, founder of Flora + Bast (a renowned cannabis brand) and (Psilouette, a trailblazing medicinal mushroom company). Chase frequently holds events at LA’s Pause Wellness Studio, where guests can medicate with either a cannabis edible or a Psilouette product of their choosing (including the new line of Entheogenic Mushroom Gummies and Teas). Once medicated, guests are guided on a “dose and float session” with cold plunge saunas and sensory deprivation floats—allowing users to dose at a low and slow level while achieving the same state of mind that you’d get with a higher level of medicine.

“Our dose and floats are intended for people who are new to psychedelics and offers a psychologically safe environment for people to explore their inner worlds,” says Chase. “Psychedelics represent a whole new therapeutic paradigm that puts the sufferer at the center of their own treatment plan.”

Chase says he got into psychedelics when his own mental health started suffering due to an intense corporate job and dysfunctional lifestyle. A series of substances with accompanying integration work gave him the power and direction to quit his job, move from New York to California, and start a new life. “After finding a career in the cannabis industry and launching Flora + Bast after a year out of the corporate game, it wasn’t long before I decided that mushrooms were a medicine that I would like to make available to the masses, overcoming some of the dosing and administration issues for customers,” he says. “As luck would have it, our brand ethos struck a chord with consumers and we’ve been serving micro and macro medicine ever since.”

Ceremonial Ayahuasca

Another psychedelic substance has captured the attention of researchers and tourists alike, ayahuasca, a traditional Amazonian brew made from a combination of plants, contains the psychoactive compound DMT (dimethyltryptamine). The ceremonial use of ayahuasca has been deeply rooted in indigenous cultures for centuries but has recently gained global recognition for its potential therapeutic effects on mental health.

An increasing number of spa resorts are incorporating ayahuasca rituals into their wellness programs, offering participants a chance to embark on profound spiritual journeys and explore the depths of their consciousness. One place is Costa Rica’s Soltara Healing Center, an all-inclusive resort near the Gulf of Nicoya that offers ayahuasca ceremonies lasting five to 12 nights. Under the guidance of indigenous Peruvian Shipibo healers, the resort collaborates with clinical psychologists who have extensive plant medicine experience. It’s a uniquely integrative approach to healing. As Soltara puts it, “By shining the light of consciousness into the shadowed corners of our psyche, we are able to acknowledge, learn from, and release the suffering attached to them.”

Ketamine—a party drug known as Special K—is also being used at places like Scotia Lodge, a new immersive therapy retreat in the heart of Northern California Redwood Country. Here, wellness seekers can join a three-day “intermuscular ketamine journey” that includes facials, hemp-infused massages, and therapy sessions using music, art, and talk—all designed to catalyze a personal transformation.

In Australia, the government has just made it legal for approved psychiatrists to prescribe another party drug—MDMA (aka ecstasy)—for PTSD and depression. It’s the first country in the world to regulate the drug as a medication. But it’s also possible to find MDMA retreats closer to home, like Northern California’s Aluna, set on 40 pristine acres in Potter Valley in Mendocino County. The retreat offers couples MDMA weekends, ayahuasca sessions, and more.

While it’s much less widely available, lysergic acid diethylamide (aka LSD) is also being studied for its therapeutic properties. Although research on LSD is not as extensive as that of psilocybin, preliminary studies suggest that it may hold promise in reducing anxiety and depression and enhancing emotional wellbeing.

Popularity and Precautions

So why are psychedelics getting hot right now? Chase says that Covid was the tipping point—and shortcomings in the traditional medical world have contributed to it. “So many people experienced traumatic events, or were close to someone who did, and the fear and uncertainty did a number on our brains,” he says. “With a lack of effective mental health therapies, the medical world is completely unequipped to handle mental health conditions. And so much data is coming out about the positive impact of psychedelics on the mind, so people are pursuing psychedelics at a feverish pitch in order to ameliorate the problems they could not solve with the medical community.”

Of course, there are risks to any of these psychedelics. The experiences induced by these substances can be intense and emotionally challenging, and experts warn that guidance from trained professionals, as well as a controlled and safe environment, is essential to ensure a positive outcome. Spa resorts embracing this trend are investing in qualified therapists, psychologists, and facilitators who are well-versed in psychedelic-assisted therapy to ensure participants receive the support they need throughout their journeys.

“When your journey is guided, there is no danger or risks,” says Logan. “This is a sacred plant that comes from nature and should be treated with respect as medicine. If you’re not being guided through this process, however, you can get stuck in a loop or a story that repeats itself. That’s when people don’t have a good time and say it was a ‘bad trip.’

"By shining the light of consciousness into the shadowed corners of our psyche, we are able to acknowledge, learn from, and release the suffering attached to them."

– Soltara Healing Center

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