I’m excited that you’re here!
If you’re reading this then it’s safe for me to assume that you’re interested in psychedelics and particularly interested in what coaching might be able to contribute to the psychedelic experience, may that be in helping you prepare, integrate what you will or have learned into your daily life and work or perhaps you are looking to have someone in your corner from start to finish, the whole nine yards.
I wrote this page to give you some context on psychedelic coaching, answer some of the most frequently asked questions, provide some useful resources and to give you an overview of how psychedelic coaching may work for you. I’ll outline prices and packages, address some of the risks and any legal concerns you may have and you’ll have the chance to book a consultation with me so we can talk about these things in person.
If you’re already an experienced psychonaut and you have already decided to work with a coach, please feel free to
However, I suggest that you read through this page carefully either way so that you know what I’m offering (and, importantly, what I’m NOT offering) before we speak. I’m looking forward to meeting you soon!
Psychedelics – due to a new wave of scientific research initiated in 2006 by Johns Hopkins University’s Centre for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research and the explosion in media attention that followed… read more
…in part by the publication of Michael Pollan’s international bestselling book How to Change your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence, combined with the fact that “millions of users worldwide consume psychedelic substances [outside of therapeutic settings] without serious mental health problems.” (Krebs & Johansen, 2013 as cited by Jungaberle et al., 2018)), it seems as if everybody and their mum is coming out of the closet to tell the world how they’ve benefited from their psychedelic experiences. Whether it’s a one-off high-dose trip back in the day or regular micro dosing in Silicon Valley, the anecdotal evidence for the positive effects of using psychedelics to change your life for the better is strong and the science is catching up fast. Just take a look at these brain scans from Petri et al. (2014) and Carhart-Harris et al. (2016) which show stable brain activity in a normal brain on the left and a connection points in the brain under the influence of psilocybin. From this and similar studies we have learned that brain regions that do not normally communicate with each other become strongly linked under the influence of psychedelics. Imagine the possibilities for outside-the-box thinking, creative problem solving and perspective shift.
Earlier this year (2019) Robin Carhart-Harris gave a fantastic lecture at The Weekend University, during which he provided an excellent introduction to psychedelic science and how it affects the brain, including some of the links to wellbeing, growth and insight:
I can also recommend this “comprehensive review of research literature on psychedelics, for the lay person” which includes a chapter on How Psychedelics Improve Well-being.
“So where does coaching come in?” you may ask considering that all the scientific fuss is about psychedelics-assisted psychotherapy. read more
Well, if psychedelics in combination with a limited number of therapy sessions can cure hard-to-treat depression, free addicts from long-term substance abuse and take away cancer patients’ fear of dying through inducing powerful shifts in perspective and consciousness, opening up new ways of thinking and increasing our capacity to relate to ourselves, others and the world… imagine the potential benefits for those largely free from disease and disorder but eager to change, grow and improve themselves personally and professionally – which is the demographic that would typically go to seek a coach.
Now, psychologically trained coaches arguably practice in similar ways and based on similar principles than therapists and counsellors. In fact, there are already a considerable number of coaches offering services around the psychedelic experience with varying degrees of qualifications and training, and since it is an unregulated profession and the demand increases by the day, it is important that you check any coach’s credentials and experience before you consider working with them.
The bottom line is that psychedelic coaching already exists and is rapidly growing in popularity. Given the powerful potential of these substances I believe it’s important that seasoned professionals offer this service, as otherwise I fear that clients may either experiment on their own in unsafe environments or work with unqualified practitioners who spotted a lucrative gap in the market.
While there is a very broad range of what therapy and coaching can be (and hence it being difficult to make general statements about each), what we can say is that coaching and therapy have a lot in common in that both are a conversation to help and support a client in getting what they want.
In therapy that is generally a form of healing or fixing of a problem or issue that causes the client considerable suffering or that they feel they are not able to cope with on their own. Typically, a therapist would focus on helping you understand your past and how it affects your present and the client would generally be free to talk about whatever is present for them in the moment with limited guidance from the therapist. Due to this framework therapists tend to be sought out by clients who feel broken or in need of fixing.
Coaching, in comparison, is generally a much more structured and interactive conversation and usually focused on creating positive outcomes and tangible results for clients who are quite able to deal with everyday life and work but who have a desire to grow, learn, understand and develop themselves.
Existential Coaching, a branch of coaching practice that, due to the nature of its existential philosophical origins, has arguably built many more bridges between the two camps than most other approaches. It’s been defined as follows:
“Existential coaching focuses particularly on existential issues such as freedom, responsibility, authenticity, meaning, purpose, paradox and dilemma. It helps a person to get more of a perspective on the way they live and to ask some new and more profound questions about life. […] Ultimately it is an approach with an entirely pragmatic objective: to help people to live their lives with greater deliberation, liberty, understanding and passion.” (van Deurzen & Hanaway, 2012)
I’m offering my coaching services around the psychedelic experience within this framework.
The term “psychedelic” literally means “mind revealing”. The context and etymology hence fit well with existential coaching as most forms of coaching and therapy, and existential work in particular, help clients to raise their levels of awareness as to how their mind works and help them get to know themselves better in the process. I therefore found coaching to be an excellent tool for preparation and integration work.
Standing on the shoulders of some of the most prominent researchers in the field, I’ve been arguing that psychedelics in combination with a series of coaching sessions can powerfully help those who aim to:
- Live and work with a (greater) sense of meaning and purpose in life
- Solve complex problems
- Improve their relationships
- Make extremely difficult decisions
- Achieve greater happiness and life satisfaction
- Find “God” or other forms of spiritual awakening
- Have a more positive outlook on life
- Exist more mindfully
- Be more open to experiences
- Generally grow as human beings
Consider the following quotes:
„The potential significance of psychedelics for psychology is comparable to the value the microscope has for biology or the telescope has for astronomy.”
(Stanislaf Grof, godfather of transpersonal psychology and pioneer of psychedelics research, as cited in Stolarov, 2004 & Doblin et al., 2019)
“Participants attributed improvements in attitudes about life/self, mood, relationships, and spirituality to the high-dose experience, with >80% endorsing moderately or greater increased well-being/life satisfaction.”
(Roland R. Griffith, Professor of behavioural biology, Founding Director of the Johns Hopkins Centre on Psychedelic and Consciousness Research and godfather of the current psychedelics research renaissance, Griffith et al., 2016)
“It is simply unprecedented in psychiatry that a single dose of a medicine produces these kinds of dramatic and enduring results,”
(Stephen Ross, clinical director of the NYU Langone Center of Excellence on Addiction, as cited in The Scientific American in relation to the first double-blind experimental study with depressed patients, whereas more than three-quarters reported significant relief from depression and anxiety from a single dose in conjunction with “limited psychological counselling”)
“There are consistent claims by users and researchers that psychedelics might be useful in improving healthy human functioning (Mackenzie, 2014; Walsh, 1982). […T]here are numerous anecdotal claims and preliminary scientific data about sustainable positive effects of psychedelics on aspects of healthy human functioning (Elsey, 2017).”
(Henrik Jungaberle, executive director of MIND – European Foundation for Psychedelic Science and lead author of the meta-analysis „ Positive psychology in the investigation of psychedelics and entactogens: A critical review”, Jungaberle et al., 2018)
Now while it is important to note that the research using so-called “healthy normal populations” as its participants (those not suffering from a diagnosed condition) is still in its infancy (mostly due to restrictions on such research unfairly imposed by the US political establishment of the 1960s motivated by fear of the counter culture movement), it can be argued that there has been appropriate research to date to deem the occasional, guided and supervised use of (even high doses of) psychedelics as low risk as long as certain conditions are met.
After all, “millions of users worldwide consume psychedelic substances without serious mental health problems (Krebs & Johansen, 2013)” and “it is agreed upon that toxicity of LSD, ayahuasca, psilocybin and DMT is generally low” (Baggott, Coyle, Erowid, Erowid, & Robertson, 2011; Heyden & Jungaberle, 2017) as Jungaberle at al. (2018) state in a meta-analysis of 77 psychedelic studies.
If you have used a psychedelic drug and are still trying to make sense of the experience or you’ve firmly decided to take a psychedelic substance and would like to do so in a safer way and with the outlook to gain something from the experience in the context of the above outlined or other potential benefits and would hence like to work with a coach to support you and maximize such benefits, then I invite you to read the following carefully and decide for yourself whether working with me might be right for your purposes.
The Foundation – “Therapeutic Powerhouses”
Once demonized in an effort to contain the US counter-culture movement of the 1960s, which ultimately brought all research to a halt for over 40 years, psychedelics have been experiencing a powerful renaissance sparked by 2 decades of new scientific research into the therapeutic use of these substance followed by some mind-blowing results (and as an academic I don’t use these kind of terms lightly). We’re talking… read more
Grof, one of the founders of the field of transpersonal psychology and “pioneering researcher into the use of non-ordinary states of consciousness for purposes of exploring, healing, and obtaining growth and insights into the human psyche”, wrote in his book ‘Beyond the Brain’:
“Western Science is approaching a paradigm shift of unprecedented proportions, one that will change our concepts of reality and of human nature, bridge the gap between ancient wisdom and modern science, and reconcile the differences between Eastern spirituality and Western pragmatism.”
The way I see it, coaching lies at the heart of “Western pragmatism” while psychedelics have developed out of different cultures. All my life I’ve been integrating different modalities or working with people and different schools of thought as to benefit myself, science and my clients in the best way possible. Bringing together coaching and psychedelics based on the available literature in combination with mine and many other people’s experiences just made sense for me.
Beyond therapy – The case for coaching
Beyond receiving treatment for their illnesses and disorders, participants of psychedelic studies often reported positive effects linked to personal growth, development, insight and increased levels of happiness and wellbeing, yet “Little attention has been given to the potential of psychedelics to improve healthy peoples’ lives through the enhancement of characteristics that are not directly linked to risks and pathologies (Elsey, 2017).” I believe it’s time to change that… read more
For example, the above mentioned smoking cessation study reported that “at 12-month follow-up 13 participants (86.7%) rated their psilocybin experiences among the five most personally meaningful and spiritually significant experiences of their lives.” (Johnson, Garcia-Romeu & Griffiths, 2017, p. 55) and these sort of findings persists in long-term follow ups (e.g. Griffiths et al., 2008; Griffiths et al., 2011; Ross et al., 2016).
A range of other positive effects have been reported by Jungaberle et al., 2018, who examined 77 psychedelic studies for effects linked to positive psychological constructs, the science associated with wellbeing, happiness and optimal human functioning. Their analysis reports, among other benefits, increases in:
- Psychological wellbeing, happiness and life satisfaction
- Personal development
- Mood and positive emotions
- Insights (often psycho-spiritual, but also in relation to problem solving)
- Relationships, feelings of relatedness and pro-social attitudes
- Empathy and emotional processing
- Decision making and clarity
- Problem solving, creativity and cognitive flexibility
- Openness and trust
- Spiritual insights and purpose in life
- Personal meaning
- Changes in life-values and orientation
- Mindfulness-related capabilities (such as decrease inner reactivity & judgmental processing)
Many of these findings were upheld at 6-18 months follow ups and have hence been demonstrated to be persistent and sustainable in those samples. While more research is needed, particularly studies that exclusively focus on those who do not suffer from mental health conditions or diagnosed disorders, the fact that these positive results have been recorded in a broad range of these populations suggests that it is very likely we will find similar results in “healthy normal” people.
It can also be hypothesized that the marginal risk of harm will be even lower for those who are not suffering or vulnerable to begin with since they are generally less likely to be affected by a history of mental illness, use of prescription drugs or other factors that have been suggested to interfere with the positive effects of psychedelic substances.
What struck me as I worked through the existing literature with my positive psychological lens on is that the positive side effects that have been reported by a variety of research correspond with many of the pillars of psychological wellbeing (personal growth, self-acceptance, purpose, environmental mastery, autonomy, relatedness – Ryff & Keyes, 1994), flourishing (positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, accomplishment – Seligman, 2011) and life satisfaction (Diener, 1984). I’ve since started to compile the evidence in a table which you can find here.
Packages & Prices
I can see coaching and psychedelics working together in a number of potential ways. Regardless of what you’re interested in, we’ll be meeting for a consultation of up to 2 hours during which we’ll assess whether working with a coach is right for you, to make sure we’re a good fit and to tailor any programme to your specific goals and needs… read more
What’s important is that you have already made your choice to use psychedelics. I will not, under any circumstances, advise with any authority on whether you should or shouldn’t use psychedelic drugs and I will not ever supply any such drugs to anyone. I also reserve the right not to work with you if I feel that my level of skills or qualification may not meet your needs or if I have any other concerns. I will, however, always discuss any concerns with you openly and directly as to help you find the right person to work with.
You’ve firmly decided that you are going to experiment with psychedelic substances and want to do so as safely as you can and learn more about what’s to come in order to prepare properly and make the most out of your experience. Hence you’re reaching out for support.
I suggest that we meet 3 times for 2 hours to help you figure out how best to do this. I will help you set your intentions, recommend you appropriate and scientific(ally-informed) literature to help you broaden your knowledge and manage your expectations and we will work together to help you prepare for the journey as best as possible. Where appropriate I’ll also share my own knowledge and experience with you to guide your research and preparation efforts.
Depending on your previous level of knowledge and experience around the subject of psychedelics, the length and number of sessions may vary. We’ll agree on the appropriate way to help you prep during our consultation.
Investment: £150/hour – Full Prep Package: £900
I see this all the time and have experienced it myself: People have amazing insights during their trip, but as they return to their “normal” life, they quickly fall back into old habits and familiar patterns. A few months later little has changed other than being able to tell an impressive story (which now feels increasingly inauthentic due to the fact that little of the wisdom acquired has been put into action).
It is even more concerning to me that travellers may have a really challenging experience, perhaps a dark or confusing trip, or they’ve had some difficult-to-accept insights into their past, who they are or how they affect themselves or others with how they conduct themselves, and afterwards they don’t speak about it with a professional to help them makes sense of it.
Oftentimes other people simply can’t grasp the quality of the experience, they attempt to make sense of your experience for you or they are simply not particularly good at listening and allowing you the space to work through your experience yourself. Imagine somebody else would interpret your dreams for you or try to convince you that your boss’s criticism had nothing to do with the quality of your work without having been there to listen to the conversation and understand the wider context of the situation. Well-intentioned friends, even if they’ve had many psychedelic experiences themselves, usually do not have the skill set of an experienced professional.
Option A: The “Flexible” Package – Following your psychedelic experience we will meet for 10 hours to help you integrate what you’ve learned or experienced into your life going forward. Each time we meet I’ll block 2 hours for us and you decide how much time you’d like to use that day. So you could work through this process intensely over a few days or we could meet once a month for 50 minutes over the course of a year (as well as anything in between). It’s completely flexible.
Investment: £1.5k – Duration: 10 Hours
Option B: The “All in” Package – Following your trip we will meet 6 times over the course of the next 3-6 months (that’s twice/month for 3 months, once a month for 6 or more often in the beginning and then less regularly going forward). Sessions last as long as they need to. I always block 3 hours for us and we allow the session to come to a natural end during that time – generally they last around 2h). You’ll also have access to me in between sessions via email and WhatsApp (within reason) in case anything important comes up or you need any ad-hoc support. I’ll be in your life as long as we’re working together to help you integrate what you’ve learned or experienced into your life going forward.
Investment: £3k – Duration: 3-6 months
- Microdosing Support
Microdosing is still a developing area of research with mostly anecdotal evidence as to its effectiveness. At this point I don’t feel I have enough experience with or knowledge about microdosing and have not come across a sufficient amount of science to provide any dedicated microdosing coaching package.
That said, I have coached a number of clients who, as I later found out, had been microdosing over the period that I had coached them, and who attributed part of their growth to the combination of coaching & psychedelics (though hard to say with any certainty whether the microdosing really had a mediating effect on the success of the coaching as it’s impossible to have a meaningful control group or other useful comparison).
However, if you are looking for support from a coach who will not judge you on your use of psychedelics I’d be happy to work with you. The same format and prices apply as outlined in the two integration packages above.
Investment: as above
- “The whole 9 Yards” VIP Package
I’ll be there for you for the whole journey over the course of a year helping you to set your intentions and prepare for the journey 1 month ahead of your psychedelics experience, during which we will meet up to 3 times for up to 3 hours each session (think of it as the Preparation Package+).
I’ll travel with you to wherever your journey will take place (I can make some recommendations, but ultimately you choose a legal retreat centre that you feel good about and you cover the cost of this) and be as close as we agree to be helpful and appropriate for you (and considering the code of conduct of the organisers).
I will then be on call and on location over the next few days for as many conversations as you would like to have about your experience.In the follow up period we will meet 6 times for as long as it takes over the next 6 months (I always block 3 hours for us, regardless of how much time you choose to use that day. Most such sessions last around 2 hours) to help you integrate your experience into your life, which may include establishing new behaviours or habits, taking specific actions to strengthen your relationships or resolve conflicts, get new projects off the ground or create a strategy to live and work more aligned to your values and beliefs. These sessions will take place online, on the phone or you will come see me in my private consulting room in East London (we can agree on a place suitable to us both at an extra cost).
In case anything surfaces as a result from the trip that may lie outside of what I can do for you, I’ll have experienced therapists as well as a range of other wellness or mental health professionals in my network that I will refer you to at no additional cost for (the first) 6 sessions. Furthermore, you’ll have access to me in between sessions (within reason) via email and WhatsApp.
In short: I’ll be in your life for the duration of 7 month as a first point of contact for your psychedelic journey and on the anniversary of your trip we’ll meet up once more for a day to celebrate and take stock, for which I’ll come see you wherever you would like to meet and take you out to dinner.
Investment: £20k – Duration: 1 year
Not sure which package is right for you or looking for a combination?
Is it legal?
In short: Exploring your mind is not an illegal activity and while some of the substances that can help you do this are illegal in many countries, there is nothing illegal about having a psychedelic experience in another country (as is the case with e.g. smoking a joint while in California or getting married as a gay couple in Australia). In our coaching sessions we will have conversations about your experience, which is also not illegal… read more
To spare you a trip to a foreign country I suggest you check the legal status of psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms and most commonly used for psychedelic experiences) in your respective country. If psychedelics are not yet legal in your country (the number is steadily growing with two US states decriminalizing mushrooms in 2019), there are a number of countries (highlighted in green on the list) that you can visit for legal experiences. In these countries it is legal to buy and consume these psychedelics and, more importantly, led to the emergence of retreat centres where people can experience psychedelic trips in a safe environment with experienced trip sitters and mental health professionals on call in case someone needs professional psychological support.
Trips to these centres and retreats are organised by psychedelic societies and other organisations around the globe so there may be a provider in your city or country that can help you (for example, the UK Psychedelic Society organises legal “Experience Retreats” to the Netherlands and the website www.psychedelicexperience.net lists centres around the world). It is important that you find an organiser that you trust to make sure that you’ll be in safe hands during your trip. Psychedelic tourism is bound to get commercialised and hence, unless you already have had an experience or know where to turn to, it’ll be an important part of our work to find the right way for you to have this experience in a safe environment.
As for our work, there won’t be any substance use involved in any of our sessions. Coaching is a service that helps you think, plan, set goals and intentions and to make sense of your experiences. That means that we will be having conversations to help you have a safe and legal experience and to help you get the most out of it.
I will not prescribe or provide any drugs, neither will I prescribe or perform any particular psychedelic practices. I won’t convince you to do or not to do anything against your will (other than when I feel you or any third parties are at serious risk of physical or psychological harm, as is standard policy with any other coaching client. In these cases, which note-worthily never occurred in my 10 years of coaching practice, I would first try to convince you to stay safe and avoid any harm but have to break confidentiality and take appropriate action as to keep you and others safe and out of harm’s way.
I’d be more than happy to discuss this further with you during our consultation and in fact this is something we both need to be very clear on before we start working together). I am not an underground guide, nor will I refer you to one. I cannot condone any illegal activity in my role as a professional coach and will assume that you are not planning on breaking any laws as part of our work together.
Will you be there during my trip?
Generally, no, I don’t need to be there. There will be plenty of material to talk about before or afterwards and generally these trips tend to be inwards-focused with little to no interference from any person present (such as a professional trip sitter)…read more
It’s also important that we keep the coaching work and the actual psychedelic experience separate as not to get tempted to do any coaching work while the substance is active. Some practitioners may offer to work with you while you are under the influence of a psychedelic and while I could imagine this to be valuable under small doses or in the fading stages of a trip, I think it is way too early to practice this approach safely as a coach and deem it unethical to experiment without the appropriate clinical and research setting.
So far, all of the peer-reviewed literature that I’ve read strongly suggests not to interfere with the psychedelic experience and I suggest that you refrain from having someone try to interfere, influence or guide your psychedelic experience as to make sure that what you get out of it is coming strictly from your own mind, rather than someone else’s. Your trip sitter is strictly there to hold space for you and make sure that you are safe, comforting you if need be but not to guide, answer questions or do any psychological work.
If you would like to learn more about how a guided journey might look or feel like, I suggest to read James Fadiman’s The Psychedelic Explorers Guide, and Michael Pollan’s How to Change your Mind, which describe what such an experience might be like, outline best practices in this regards and are generally great resources for the inexperienced psychonaut.
That said, I am happy to be close by for the duration of your retreat so that you have access to me following your trip and to add an additional layer of safety. However, since I will, in most cases, have to take a week off work this service is only included in The Whole 9 Yards package.
What are the risks?
Nothing in life is truly risk free and 100% safe. There are risks to taking psychedelic substances, as there are risks to taking any substance and, if you think about it, engaging in any growth-oriented activity in general…read more
As Bill Eckstrom powerfully noted: “Growth doesn’t happen in a state of comfort“, and the risk is often relative to the benefits that are on offer. So while the risks for physical harm or any sustained psychological damage are extremely low, I do not wish to downplay any potential risks or make it sound as if it’s completely safe. Just because researchers in the field agree that the most commonly used substances (such as psilocybin and LSD) to be of low in toxicity and deem their use to be relatively safe provided that they’re taken in safe and supervised environments, does not necessarily mean that nothing adverse can ever happen.
However, that said, nobody has ever died during or following a supervised psychedelic experience aimed at personal growth or learning and it is very unlikely that you will experience any long-term adverse effects. Consider the following quotes from Jungaberle et al. (2018) which resulted from a meta-analysis of 77 psychedelic studies as well as a thorough literature review
“It is agreed upon that toxicity of LSD, ayahuasca, psilocybin and DMT is generally low (Baggott, Coyle, Erowid, Erowid, & Robertson, 2011; Heyden & Jungaberle, 2017).”
“Clinical settings supervised by medical doctors and psychotherapists were shown to provide safe environments for the administration of psychedelics and entactogens with marginal risks for severe incidents (Danforth, Struble, Yazar-Klosinski, & Grob, 2016).”
“Millions of users worldwide consume psychedelic substances without serious mental health problems. (Krebs & Johansen, 2013)”
That said, so called “bad trips” can invoke extremely negative feelings during the experience. However, these experiences do not pose any physical risk and fade within minutes or hours. They are also, in hindsight, almost always judged as extremely valuable with regards to the quality of insight and learning by those having experienced and processed them appropriately during integration sessions).
Physiologically the risk is very low as even at extreme overdoses users have been found to have no measurable adverse effects following a short period of discomfort.
Known physical risks are e.g. walking into traffic or falling from heights, and these can easily be controlled for by providing an environment supervised by a trip sitter.
As a general statement with regards to the coaching services offered, there is no risk at all during our sessions, may that be to help you prepare or make sense of your experience after your trip. We will be talking to each other without any immediate influence of psychedelic drugs and any challenging experiences that may come up during or as a result of our conversations will be talked about in our safe and confidential coaching space.
If anything surfaces that I, in my role as a coach, am not able to help you with and that either of us feel needs addressing to ensure your safety, we will discuss together how to move forward and whether there may be someone in my professional network of therapists and other medical and mental health professionals who would be appropriate or necessary for you to see.
What can I do to prepare/decide?
We will talk about this during our consultation, but it is useful to ask yourself some questions and read around the subject in order to use our time most effectively…read more
“Before we’re ready to prepare ourselves for the psychedelic experience itself, it’s important to take a step back and find your own personal answers to a few questions. Why are you doing this? What are you looking for? What substance are you taking? Are you in good health? These questions can’t be ignored if you’re looking for a truly fulfilling and safe experience.”
Other useful literature includes:
- The Highway Code by the Global Drug Survey
- The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide by James Fadiman PhD
- Navigation within Consciousness (a.k.a. Flight Instructions) by William Bill Richards
- How to Change your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence by Michael Pollan
Who am I?
Now that’s a big question with many layers. I believe that it’s impossible to truly answer it in any way, shape or form since as human beings we’re always in the process of becoming. Nevertheless, here are some of the pillars of my personal and professional identity that may help you to form a bit of a picture of who I am, what I bring to the table and why I’ve decided to work with psychedelics…read more
In short: I am an existential coach (MA), positive psychologist (MSc), coaching supervisor (DIP) as well as a trainer (former Programme Leader of the MSc Coaching Psychology at the University of East London, Course Lead at Animas Centre for Coaching and visiting lecturer at institutions such as Birkbeck University of London, Regent’s University and The New School of Psychotherapy and Counselling). I also work for the School of Positive Transformation as a consultant and learning facilitator on the internationally renowned Positive Psychology Practitioner Certificate, which features many of the biggest names in the field of Positive Psychology, and I teach at The School of Life here in London.
I work with coaches, leaders and anybody who considers themselves to be in a “position of great responsibility” or grappling with some of life’s big questions to help them gain clarity, make difficult choices, build resilience and navigate their life to achieve sustainable wellbeing. I present at conferences internationally, co-founded the think tank “Coaching & Psychedelics” and my book, An Introduction to Existential Coaching, was published by one of most prestigious academic publishers, Routledge, in 2019.
My approach to life and coaching is positive-existential, which means that I combine the sciences of positive psychology and coaching psychology, both of which I studied and later taught at Masters level at the University of East London (MSc Applied Positive Psychology, Programme Leader MSc Coaching Psychology) with existential philosophy, which I’ve studied in depth during my MA in Existential Coaching at the New School of Psychotherapy and Counselling and which I later wrote my first book about: An Introduction to the Existential Coaching.
To put it plainly, I’ve long been interested in what makes people happy and how we can live life well (positive psychology), but at the same time I wanted to acknowledge that life can be quite absurd, that we can never quite be free from anxiety for long and that it is hard work to keep living in alignment with our values due to the simple fact that we’re human beings, existing in a VUCA world (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous), blessed as well as plagued with a number of conflicting wants and needs, which make our existence both exciting and meaningful as well as angsty and full of anxiety and suffering. The only ways to escape both feelings (we can’t only have one for any prolonged period of time. They’re two sides of the same coin) is to either distract ourselves and keep busy constantly, or to stop existing altogether. However, I’ve learned that when we change our relationship with the existential type of anxiety, the eerie feeling or dread and absurdity, and we choose to embrace life’s uncertainty, meaninglessness, temporality and isolation as the stuff that is uncomfortable but also makes life worth living and the human experience unique, then we learn to live happily in the face of life’s many challenges, lemons and curved balls. That’s my positive-existential philosophy.
I’ve created what you may call a portfolio career as I was lucky enough to recognize quite early in my life that I’m wired differently to those who excel at one thing and become a master of their trade, a Multipotentialite (to use Emilie Wapnick’s terminology), someone who explores many areas and is able to integrate and draw on the best of many worlds. So following a brief excursion into music production and audio engineering in Switzerland, I’ve decided to pursue a field that I figured would never get boring due to its complexity and perpetual state of flux: People! Following my undergraduate degree in Psychology during which I dipped my toe into a variety of different sectors and writing my research dissertation on the link between cannabis and flow states, I’ve fallen into the science of Positive Psychology and am still grateful that the 2nd MSc programme in the world happened to had been established at the University I was studying at, which allowed me to be part of the 2nd cohort of students and one of the first few hundred Master Positive Psychologists in the world.
After learning all about happiness, optimal functioning and what constitutes a good life, I’ve had to realize that many positive psychologists are way too positive for my taste and that many would shy away from recognizing that life just sucks quite often. It hurts, feels uncomfortable, we struggle with our inner conflicts and paradoxes and what I’ve learned over the previous 2 years was simply not enough to provide me with an appropriate framework for the human experience or anywhere near a useful framework for how to navigate life. What it did open is the door into coaching, which turned out to be the ideal foundational framework for all of my professional activities. I had been toying with psychotherapy and counselling for some time but felt it was too restricting and not really my style. I wanted to go deep, but also work forward and be very practical. I wanted to acknowledge and help resolve suffering, but I didn’t want to listen to people’s problems and be exposed to their suffering all day. I wanted to facilitate change and transformation, but I wanted to approach it from a positive perspective and starting point. And so I set out to look for a training programme that would integrate coaching and therapy elements. What I found was a Masters in Existential Coaching, which provided me with a solid and yet flexible framework to understand the human experience in general and people in particular, and also allowed me to integrate the best aspects of other approaches and modalities (such as all the positive psychology stuff I was still so excited about). Positive Existentialism started to form in my head.
After I graduated I started teaching on the MA and eventually got offered a job as Programme Leader of the MSc Coaching Psychology at UEL, which also included teaching the foundational coaching module, The Practice of Evidence-based Coaching, to all coaching-related MSc programmes at the University of East London (which included the MSc Career Coaching, the MSc Applied Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology MAPPCP, the MSc Integrative Coaching and Counselling and the MSc Coaching Psychology). As part of this position I started supervision coaches and around that time I also started to develop my own coach training programmes in Positive Psychology and Existential Coaching, which I then started running for the UK’s 2nd largest coaching school, Animas Centre for Coaching.
There are a range of other coaching-based professional activities, such as my mediation (conflict resolution/alternative dispute resolution) work and the leaderships workshops I run around the topic of existential resilience. I’ve also worked on a 7-year positive education curriculum, which saw me teaching wellbeing and personal education at a number of schools in London. However, since I got married in 2019 I’ve decided to leave my University job as to focus my time on growing the existential approach to coaching and my work with coaches, leaders (especially those who just enter leading positions within organisations that I respect) and anybody who finds themselves, or aspires to be, in what I call a “position of great responsibility”. This could mean leading an organisation but could also mean becoming a parent or deciding to take charge of your life and generally make more courageous decisions in the face of uncertainty. This is what truly excites me.
My path into psychedelics is dating back to my late 20s, when I tried LSD for the first time and was fascinated by the powerful change in perception and the seemingly endless potential for learning, insights and growth. Following many such experiences, countless conversations and a thorough exploration of the existing literature and scientific research, I’ve decided in 2018, following the publication of Michael Pollan’s game-changing book “How to Change your Mind” and with the encouragement of my coaching colleague Libby Davy, to start exploring how coaching and psychedelics could work together in order to produce many of the results that I had both heard about and experienced myself. Fuelled by the growing popularity and media attention that trailed the “2nd coming of psychedelic research”, the renaissance that started in 2006 at Johns Hopkins University’s psychedelic research centre, I’ve found enough evidence to conclude that coaching and psychedelics can indeed produce phenomenal results. After working with a few clients to help them integrate their experiences, I felt ready to offer my coaching services to a wider audience of psychonauts, mind explorers and anybody looking for the many positive side effects that have been found in the research literature and the countless anecdotes in the psychedelic community. So here we are. That’s my story in a nutshell. I’m be delighted to tell you a bit more and welcome you to book a free consultation so we can get to know each other a bit more.
In the meantime you could also check out a few of the podcasts I’ve got on the resources section of my website or read a few of my nuggets on my blog in order to get a more personal sense of who I am and what I’m like.
Or you have a look at what others said about working with me in the testimonials section.
Is psychedelic coaching right for me?
In short: I can’t possibly comment on that without having had a thorough conversation with you. And even then I will not advise you for or against using coaching to accompany your psychedelic exploration as I believe it is crucially important that you make that decision yourself and own the responsibility that comes with it. Our first consultation is a safe and confidential space designed to facilitate that decision making process for you without asserting any influence or preference from my side. Naturally I’m a bit biased as I’ve seen and experienced so many positive results but I’ve been trained to bracket my opinions and am fully committed to helping you make this decision freely and autonomously.
As a general recommendation…read more
I believe you should talk to any coach you consider working with (in fact I recommend talking to a few different ones before making a decision). Tell them what you are trying to achieve, understand, resolve or work on, make sure you’ve got good rapport and that they are confident in their services. Ask them about their approach to coaching, their qualifications, whether they have any psychedelic-specific training, whether they have a supervisor and how often they see them, and what they would do in case anything surfaces that they’d deem outside of what their coaching can help you with (be careful with coaches who have never referred any of their clients to a therapist!).
Coaching covers a broad range of practices these days. It’s an unregulated profession so that anybody who would like to call themselves a coach may do so. This has led to an explosion in coaches on the market with varying degrees of qualifications, training, experience or commitment to ethical guidelines. This also means that you may have experienced psychotherapists who offer coaching services, or you may have inexperienced “intuitive” life coaches with no training or qualifications who may or may not provide a safe and helpful place to open up and work on yourself.
When it comes to using psychedelics, it is crucially important that you are in qualified hands! There are limits to what any one practitioner can help you with for a variety of reasons and given how powerfully psychedelic substances can open your doors of perception, it is of utmost importance that you work with someone who knows how far they can go, what they can and cannot help you with and, for times that this may be necessary, have a good network of professionals so that they can refer you to the right person to work with.
Typically, coaches work with you looking forward at a development goal, some sort of agenda that you are bringing into the space, may that be clarity, understanding or a greater sense of joy or peace or something very concrete such as an answer to a specific question, resolving a particular conflict or finding a solution to a pertinent problem or challenge at work or in your private life. Therapy, traditionally, tends to be the right address if you are currently suffering or finding it difficult to cope with your life. Therapists often specialize in healing deep wounds, processing past trauma, managing severe mental health issues or dealing with incisive challenges such as bereavement. The line between the two practices is very blurry and oftentimes it’s not clear who would be best to work with. However, a skilled practitioner will get a sense for your situation relatively quickly during an initial consultation (which are often free of charge) and together you will be able to decide on a way suitable way forward including appropriate safety measures and what to do in case the two of you find yourselves in a space that the practitioner feels is outside of their competence.
As a rule of thumb, if what you are seeking coaching for has a long history of causing you or others suffering or distress, you have been diagnosed with a mental illness or you are currently on psychoactive medication such as antidepressants, coaching may not be right for you. You may still benefit from coaching. However, in in these cases the coaching work will not focus on your illness or condition but instead focus on helping you with other areas of your life or work. It’s also important to note that if the above fits you, then you should contact a medical professional before taking any psychedelic substances.
If you are unsure about any of the above, I’d be happy to talk to you about it during our consultation.
What are the next steps from here?
If what you’ve read so far sounds interesting to you, the next step will be to book in a consultation and we’ll take it from there, no strings attached! We can meet in person, online or speak on the phone. I’m looking forward to meeting you!
ReferencesClick here for a full list of any above mentioned literature and research
- Baggott, M. J., Coyle, J. R., Erowid, E., Erowid, F., & Robertson, L. C. (2011). Abnormal visual experiences in individuals with histories of hallucinogen use: A web-based questionnaire. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 114, 61–67.
- Carhart-Harris, R. L., Erritzoe, D., Haijen, E., Kaelen, M., & Watts, R. (2017). Psychedelics and connectedness. Psychopharmacology, 235, 547-550.
- Danforth, A. L., Struble, C. M., Yazar-Klosinski, B., & Grob, C. S. (2016). MDMA-assisted therapy: A new treatment model for social anxiety in autistic adults. Progress in NeuroPsychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, 64, 237–249.
- Diener, E. (1984). Subjective well-being. Psychological Bulletin, 95(3), 542-575.
- Doblin, R.E., Christiansen, M., Jerome, L. & Burge, B. (2019). The Past and Future of Psychedelic Science. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 51(2), 93–97.
- Elsey, J. W. B. (2017). Psychedelic drug use in healthy individuals: A review of benefits, costs, and implications for drug policy. Drug Science, Policy and Law, 3.
- Fadiman, J. (2011). The psychedelic explorer’s guide: Safe, therapeutic, and sacred journeys. Rochester, Vt: Park Street Press.
- Global Drug Survey, (2014). The Highway Code: A Guide to Safer More Enjoyable Drug Use. Retrieved from https://www.globaldrugsurvey.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/COMPLETE-High-Way-Code.pdf
- Griffiths, R., Richards, W., Johnson, M., McCann, U., & Jesse, R. (2008). Mystical-type experiences occasioned by psilocybin mediate the attribution of personal meaning and spiritual significance 14 months later. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 22, 621–632.
- Griffiths RR, Johnson MW, Richards WA, et al. (2011) Psilocybin occasioned mystical-type experiences: Immediate and persisting dose-related effects. Psychopharmacology 218, 649–665.
- Griffiths, R.R., Johnson, M.W., Carducci, M.A., Umbricht, A., Richards, W.A., Richards, B.D., Cosimano, M.P., & Klinedinst, M.A. (2016). Psilocybin produces substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer: A randomized double-blind trial. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 30(12), 1181–1197.
- Grof S, Goodman LE, Richards WA, et al. (1973) LSD-assisted psychotherapy in patients with terminal cancer. Int Pharmacopsychiatry, 8, 129–144.
- Harman, W. W., Mckim, R. H., Mogar, R. E., Fadiman, J., & Stolaroff, M. J. (1966). Psychedelic agents in creative problem-solving: A pilot study. Psychological Reports, 19(1), 211-227.
- Heyden, M. von, & Jungaberle, H. (2017). Psychedelika. In Maximilian von Heyden, Henrik Jungaberle, & Tomislav Majic (Eds.), Handbuch Psychoaktive Substanzen (1st ed.). Berlin-Heidelberg-New York: Springer, 423–436.
- Jungaberle H., Thal S., Zeuch A., Rougemont-Bücking A., von Heyden M., Aicher H. & Scheidegger M. (2018). Positive psychology in the investigation of psychedelics and entactogens: A critical review. Neuropharmacology, 142, 179-199.
- Krebs, T. S., & Johansen, P.-Ø. (2013). Psychedelics and mental health: a population study. PloS One, 8(8), e63972.
- Mackenzie, R. (2014). What can neuroscience tell us about the potential of psychedelics in healthcare? How the neurophenomenology of psychedelics research could help us to flourish throughout our lives, as well as to enhance our dying. Current Drug Abuse Reviews, 7, 136–145.
- Petri, G., Expert, P., Turkheimer, F., Carhart-Harris, R., Nutt, D., Hellyer, P.J. & Vaccarino, F. (2014). Homological scaffolds of brain functional networks. Journal of the Royal Society, 11(101),
- Pollan, M. (2018). How to change your mind: What the new science of psychedelics teaches us about consciousness, dying, addiction, depression, and transcendence. New York: Penguin Press.
- Richards, W. A. (2003). Navigation within consciousness: Insights from four decades of psychotherapy research with imagery, music, and entheogens. Journal of the Association for Music & Imagery, 9, 27-39.
- Ross, S., Bossis, A., Guss, J., Agin-Liebes, G., Malone, T., Cohen, B., Mennenga, S.E., Belser, A., Kalliontzi, K., Babb, J., Su, Z., Corby, P. & Schmidt, B. L. (2016). Rapid and sustained symptom reduction following psilocybin treatment for anxiety and depression in patients with life-threatening cancer: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 30, 1165–1180.
- Ryff, C., & Keyes, C. (1995). The Structure of Psychological Well-Being Revisited. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 719-727.
- Schiffman, R. (2016). Psilocybin: A Journey Beyond the Fear of Death? Scientific American. Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/psilocybin-a-journey-beyond-the-fear-of-death/
- Seligman, M.E.P. (2011). Flourishing. New York: Free Press.
- Stolaroff, M. 2004. The Secret Chief Revealed: Conversations with a pioneer of the underground therapy movement. Sarasota FL: Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies.
- van Deurzen, E., & Hanaway, M. (2012). Existential Perspectives on Coaching. Basingtoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
- Walsh, R. (1982). Psychedelics and psychological well-being. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 22, 22–32.
Click here for a broad collection of research findings on psychedelics in the context of therapy
- A comprehensive review of research literature on Psychedelics, for the lay person (Psychology Compass, 2019)
You can read a whole range of testimonials on my website’s testimonials section.
Convinced now? 🙂