On this episode of the Psychedelic Medicine Podcast, Juliana Milligan joins to discuss her recent article (co-authored with Joshua White of Fireside Project) on warning signs when selecting a psychedelic facilitator. Juliana is an ibogaine specialist who has been working in the ibogaine treatment community for 10 years. Having been formerly opioid-dependent and incarcerated herself, she currently works at the Center for Optimal Living where she runs the psychedelic education and training program. Juliana additionally works with clients doing preparation and integration of Ibogaine treatments through her business Inner Vision Ibogaine.
In this conversation, Juliana discusses each of the 10 red flags she identified in her article. First, she discusses potential issues around sexual misconduct on the part of facilitators, emphasizing that this is a topic which always requires careful and explicit discussion well prior to the psychedelic experience. One ought to also do some individual research, as potential allegations against a facilitator are also a red flag to take seriously.
Next, Juliana talks about the importance of facilitators doing a thorough medical intake. This involves getting a medical history from a potential client and checking if there are any contraindications for this person to take a psychedelic, such as dangerous interactions with prescription medications. In a similar vein, Juliana also stresses the necessity of facilitators testing the psychedelics their clients will be consuming whether they themselves provided the psychedelics or if the client brought their own substances. Willingness to test the substances in the presence of the client is definitely a good sign and shows that the facilitator values both transparency and safety.
In terms of training, Juliana highly recommends ensuring that a facilitator is trauma-informed before committing to a journey under their guidance. Knowing that a guide will be conscientious and empathetic around issues of trauma helps to ensure that the psychedelic experience doesn’t itself turn in a traumatic direction. Similarly, Juliana emphasizes that facilitators should be open about the training they’ve received—even underground facilitators should ideally have mentors and be involved in a community of practitioners that encourages continued training.
In closing, Juliana discusses the dangers of having inflated and unrealistic expectations around the healing potential of psychedelics. Facilitators who use hyperbolic language like “ten years of therapy in one night” may actually be setting up clients for more difficult experiences than they otherwise may have had due to these fantastical claims. Juliana emphasizes that psychedelic healing is a cooperative endeavor, and neither the substance nor the facilitator is solely responsible for any healing that results from the experience. Ultimately, it is the person themselves who does this work, so Juliana highly recommends finding a facilitator who acknowledges their role as primarily supportive of this healing journey, rather than someone who presents themselves as a miracle worker responsible for these positive results.
In this episode:
Why having a trauma-informed facilitator is important, and what this means The dangers of psychedelic narcissism The importance of the harm reduction practice of chemically testing psychedelics Trusting your intuition and building this capacity Having healthy and reasonable expectations around the healing potential of psychedelics
“Once you are on a psychedelic, you cannot properly consent to touch—it must be established in advance. And if [a facilitator] is saying ‘well no I need freedom in my work, I need to use my intuition’ that is a major red flag.” [7:19]
“It’s really important that the facilitator knows exactly what is contraindicated with the medicine they’re administering, and if they’re not evaluating for this and if they’re n