Background & Qualifications
In the Netherlands, there is not yet any formalized training program for becoming a psychedelic guide, so I am self-taught in this work. The following education, training and work experience have shaped me:
Counsellor in Psychiatry
I have developed my coaching skills (listening carefully, relying on the wisdom of the client) largely during my work as a counsellor in mental health care. I worked as a residential counsellor and an occupational counsellor (with severely disabled psychiatric patients) for a decade.
Psychedelic Harm Reduction (such as Kosmicare & Zendo)
In 2012 I started working as a volunteer at festivals in psychedelic harm reduction projects. These are crisis facilities for festivalgoers who are having a difficult experience, under the influence of substances or not. You could call it a first aid for challenging psychological experiences. As a "sitter" I have helped quite a few people with "bad trips" and have seen the dark side of psychedelics (or rather: of our mind) up close. These experiences have made me more aware of the importance of a safe, trusted and comfortable setting while using psychedelics.
Projects like Zendo at Burning Man (USA) and Kosmicare at Boom festival (Portugal) have been an extremely valuable learning setting for me. These organizations have acquired so much knowledge and experience in working with “bad trips” - or challenging psychedelic experiences, as they are more aptly called. As a sitter, I developed skills to help people through such challenging experiences and also grew self-confident as a guide. Both Zendo and Kosmicare organize an intensive training day for the volunteers every edition. Even as an experienced sitter, I learn something new every time during those training sessions.
In 2017, I helped to organize and manage a psychedelic harm reduction project at a Dutch festival: PsyFi. In the months leading up to that festival - but also on site - my job was to facilitate a good work setting for the volunteers (the “sitters”) so that they could in turn provide a safe space for confused festival visitors. For this project I also put together the training material for the volunteers.
MSc in Medical Anthropology
In 2013, I graduated (with honours) in medical anthropology. This subfield of cultural anthropology is concerned with questions such as: how do people give meaning to illness and health? What explanations do they have for illness and in what ways do they seek healing? What is the importance of context and ritual? Anthropologists deal with groups of people and study cultures or subcultures. As a coach I am interested in the same questions, but at the level of the individual: my client. My background in medical anthropology helps me to keep an open mind and to pay attention to the sociocultural context in which clients find themselves. One of the most important tools for anthropologists, in which I was trained during my studies, is the in-depth interview. Skills like asking the right questions and really listening are also valuable as a coach. They are useful tools during the Preparatory and Integration phases of psychedelic coaching.
MAPS Training: MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy for PTSD
MAPS (The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) is taking the lead in developing MDMA assisted psychotherapy for patients with PTSD. Thanks to MAPS, phase 2 & 3 clinical studies with MDMA are now being conducted and MDMA will - in all likelihood - be on the market as a medicine within a few years. I completed Part A & B of MAPS' therapist training. I was able to join this program as a non-therapist, because the OPEN Foundation co-organized this week-long on site training. I'm still very grateful for this wonderful opportunity.
Much of the training consisted of watching and discussing recordings of real MDMA sessions. Here it became really clear to me that treating severely traumatized people is only responsible and safe with trained and qualified therapists. Especially the integration phase requires a lot of specialized therapeutic skills. Even though I'm not a therapist and I don't work with MDMA, attending this training was very inspiring for my work as a psychedelic coach.
Inner Work & Motherhood
Psychedelic session can be very emotional. Everyone has insecurities, setbacks or personal losses (of loved ones) to deal with. Emotions from long ago can resurface, in order to be processed. If these raw emotions resonate with unprocessed emotions from the guide or coach, it can be challenging to stay attentive to the client. To be present for the suffering of others, it is necessary to face your own pain. I am convinced that in order to help others, you also have to work on yourself.
Over the past decade, I've explored various inner-work and personal development methods. These include, but are not limited to, making my own psychedelic journeys. I believe that there's no one-size-fits-all approach to inner growth: everyone has their own unique path. The catalysts in my own personal growth are: meditation, hypnosis, music, writing, psychedelics and motherhood.
As a mother of two little children, I'm undergoing a daily practice in patience. I'm getting better and better at the art of surrendering to the present moment. "Go with the flow" is an insight that I have often received during psychedelic journeys.... however, with a crying baby and a toddler having a tantrum at the same time, this is easier said than done. But in the merry chaos that new life brings, I have to surrender to the current so as not to drown in it. Motherhood in symbiosis with daily - OK, almost daily! - meditation, has made me more 'zen' than ever before.