Oregon psilocybin facilitators share their experiences with professionals preparing for rollout of mushroom distribution in Colorado


Shane Ersland


Mental health professionals discussed the roles that psilocybin facilitators will have once mushrooms are available in Colorado during a webinar on Feb. 28.

The meeting was the third part of an ongoing webinar series hosted by Mental Health Colorado and the Healing Advocacy Fund to discuss the impact of psilocybin legalization in the state. Nearly 1.3 million residents voted affirmatively for Proposition 122 in 2022, making Colorado the second state in the nation to approve a state-regulated program for legal access to psilocybin therapies. 

Ashley Perales, partnerships and development manager for Mental Health Colorado, said the organization is dedicated to promoting mental health and well-being, and believes in exploring all avenues that show promise in alleviating mental health challenges and promoting healing. 

“As the scientific community continues to uncover the potential of psilocybin, it is essential to ensure that individuals train to guide others whose experiences are equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to do so safely and effectively,” Perales said. “By supporting the training of psilocybin facilitators, we’re not only advancing the field of mental healthcare, but also empowering individuals to access alternative treatments that may offer relief where traditional methods have fallen short.”

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Colorado is currently conducting rulemaking for a regulated psilocybin program, which is slated to launch next year. Those involved are benefitting from being able to learn from the implementation process Oregon has undergone in rolling out its psilocybin program. Oregon passed Measure 109 in 2020, which created a state-regulated therapeutic model for access to psilocybin, Healing Advocacy Fund Executive Director Tasia Poinsatte noted. 

“Colorado’s law also fully decriminalized the personal use, possession, cultivation, and sharing of four naturally-occurring psychedelic fungi and plants for people 21 and up to use in the context of community healing, recognizing that people are using these in their personal mental health growth and healing processes,” Poinsatte said. 

Neither state’s model requires a diagnosis or prescription for use. Both models require that someone who is accessing psilocybin through the licensed program complete some steps before use. The first is completing a safety assessment, followed by preparation for the psychedelic session with a trained facilitator. There is a requirement in both states that the facilitator be present with the participant or participants through the psychedelic experience itself, Poinsatte said. 

Two Oregon facilitators joined the webinar to discuss their experiences. Ana Holub is the director of facilitation at Omnia Group Ashland, and is a licensed psilocybin facilitator. She said she has facilitated psilocybin for many people visiting Ashland from other states, as well as some international people.   

“They’re mostly people who have been suffering from depression and anxiety. That’s what I see the most. Sometimes there’s [people with] PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) or OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), folks who have really tried to work with their mental health for many years, and really need something different. We’re having some really beautiful outcomes. It’s not right for everyone. But for me, as a facilitator, it’s incredibly moving and beautiful when everything works, and the mushrooms offer their wisdom, and people get some really profound help.”

— Holub

Dr. Kathryn Kloos, lead facilitator at InnerTrek, said the Oregon center started seeing psilocybin clients very recently. She facilitated a three-day event for a womens’ group, which was very transformational for them, she said.

“They came from all over the world and locally,” Kloos said. “And they had found out about psilocybin through the news. So they were totally fresh, coming in with anxiety, OCD, (or) depression. The mushrooms working within the context of a group is so powerful because you get the experience of support that a group naturally offers itself. It was totally transformational for the women. We’ve been having after-care with them, and their lives are still transformed, and they’re still receiving gifts from that session that was two months ago.”

Dr. Shannon Hughes, co-owner of Elemental Psychedelics in Colorado, said she expects psilocybin distribution facilities there to see plenty of out-of-state visitors as well. 

“We might see a lot of people coming from out of town who are able to stay for three or four days, do a couple ceremonies, then go back home,” Hughes said. “But I think we’ll see a lot of folks here who are regular clients you’ve been working with knowingly. And then when it feels right, maybe you prepare for a mushroom journey. And then you see each other for months more. I really like the idea of having an ongoing relationship with clients, and being able to integrate mushroom work into your practice when it’s right.”

Holub was asked about the types of challenges that could arise from distributing psilocybin. She said she recently had an experience with a client who demonstrated a lot of anger. 

“She had a lot of childhood trauma, and she needed to voice it. She got pretty loud. And I thought that was fantastic, because I knew that she would move through it. I knew that wasn’t the only thing she was going to experience. I said, ‘The mushrooms will show you, so just keep relaxing into it.’ And that’s what she did. I was prepared for that and she was prepared for that. Rage can come up. Everybody involved needs to feel safe with that, and know that (it) will move, and it’s very healing.”

— Holub

Barine Majewska, counsel in Vicente LLP’s Denver office, said she has heard that a loss of trust between facilitators and clients can be a concern as well.

“From my work with my clients, I would say one of the biggest things that can happen is a general loss of trust between the client and the facilitator,” Majewska said. “And once that trust is lost, it seems to take a very skilled facilitator to get it back. Which is why we’re always telling our clients to be super careful about preparation work and integration work, and don’t put people into these states until you’re sure that trust has been established. 

Because the problem situations that we hear about are very rarely health issues, so far at least. When that can’t be repaired, that creates problems that last long after the session. Which is obviously bad for the facilitator, but really bad for the client if they’re not getting the integration they need.”

The next session in the series will be held on Thursday. Presenters will discuss integrative approaches to maximizing the benefits of psychedelic therapies.

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