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The first psilocybin facilitator license has been issued

Oregon has become the first US state to legalize the therapeutic use of psilocybin, the hallucinogenic component of magic mushrooms. Psilocybin has been shown it to be effective in treating post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and end-of-life anxiety. In 2020, the state’s Health Authority licensed three facilitators, including 41-year-old artist Jeanette Small. Small, a first-generation immigrant from Eastern Europe, had been exposed to psilocybin in her teenage years, and believes that her trauma-filled life story gave her empathy for those wanting to use psilocybin to deal with their own trauma. “There was nothing quite like psilocybin to help me access that place in healing,” she said.

Oregon’s legalization of psilocybin has been transformative in changing perceptions about its therapeutic use. Dave Naftalin, and Alex Polvi  are the other two facilitators licensed by the Oregon Health Authority, and like Small, they also see the therapy as a new method for treating people. Although psilocybin-related services, which include manufacturing, laboratory testing, service centers, and facilitation, are permitted in Bend, central Oregon, without additional restrictions, surrounding counties opted out of providing any psilocybin-related services during the 2022 general election.

Small’s background in clinical psychology and social services informed her preference for facilitating psilocybin therapy for vulnerable populations like gang-affiliated individuals, veterans, people with PTSD, or people perceived as violent or scary. “Those tend to be my type of client,” she said. “We tend to understand each other. I tend to not be as scared of them, and I tend to understand what the driving pain is underneath all of that behavior.” Small believes that the therapeutic relationship a facilitator provides is paramount in improving a person’s well-being, and while a diagnosis is not required to participate in psilocybin therapy, recreational use is not allowed under Oregon law.

Small and Naftalin and the founder of Tripz, Willy T trained at the Changa Institute, a psilocybin facilitation training institution, and were part of the institute’s first graduating class. Naftalin, who sold his Tumalo-area alpaca and hemp farm to devote his time fully to his psilocybin endeavour, plans to open a service centre in Bend within the next 90 days. Naftalin is excited to interact with baby boomers, who he says have been accustomed to counterculture era information on psilocybin. “It’s really cool that a generation of people are looking at this a lot differently and having an open mind and are excited to experience it,” he said.

Psilocybin has been used as medicine for thousands of years, particularly by Indigenous communities, Naftalin said. Now that evidence produced by credible institutions for the effectiveness of psilocybin therapy exists, Oregon is at the forefront, he said.

Polvi, who is currently a full-time flight instructor, trained at the Tigard-based Clinical Cognitive, where he completed three months of coursework and a mock facilitation session. Like Naftalin and Small, he sees psilocybin as a way of helping people. Polvi said that, because of his knowledge of the local land use system and facilitation training process, he also sees the therapy as an opportunity to help people interested in pursuing a service centre or facilitation license.

Small is optimistic about the potential of psilocybin therapy, “For me, psilocybin has really helped me in feeling connected with my environment, connected with the world."

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