Q&A With Oregon's First Psilocybin Facilitators | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Q&A With Oregon's First Psilocybin Facilitators

Dave Naftalin and Jeanette Small are among the first people licensed by Oregon to facilitate psilocybin therapy. They sat down with the Source to talk about the emerging industry.

Oregon became the first state to legalize psilocybin therapy when voters approved Measure 109 in 2020. The state did so under strict parameters about the use of the drug, and people are only allowed to take the drug under the supervision of facilitators who have undergone a 300-hour course. In a recent episode of our Bend Don't Break podcast, two Central Oregonians who are among the first licensed facilitators in the state, Dave Naftalin and Jeanette Small, spoke with the Source Weekly about their training, how they plan to work with clients and the state of psilocybin research. The entire conversation is available at bendsource.com, and this excerpt has been edited for length and clarity.

click to enlarge Q&A With Oregon's First Psilocybin Facilitators
Oregon became the first state to legalize psilocybin therapy when voters approved Measure 109 in 2020.

Source Weekly: What got you interested in becoming a psilocybin facilitator?

Dave Naftalin: It's a new pioneering industry. And while psilocybin has been here for thousands of years, it's new not only in the state of Oregon, but the country. So being on the forefront of that and having the ability to be a part of this plant medicine, and being able to make it accessible to millions, was just something that's always drawn me and something that I just couldn't pass up.

Jeanette Small: For me, working with psilocybin is an aspiration that I've held for many, many years. I personally have a rich trauma background myself, and I've studied psychology, so I'm familiar with what is out there to help people find happiness and find a reconnection with their true self. Psilocybin really gives this opportunity unlike anything else, and I'm so happy to be able to participate in this.

SW: I want to get a sense of how different these experiences can be for people — how each of you are planning on approaching sessions with your clients.

DN: It's really interesting, because there's a lot of different approaches to this, and it's client focused. At the service centers that we're opening here with Drop Thesis [Naftalin's company], we're setting them up so they don't have a very medical feel. It's going to try to cater to everyone so even if people are going in there, and they want to go in for more of an experience, that is going to allow them to feel connected more to themselves or have self-love. Or maybe they haven't tried whether they have a trauma they want to work through. The end result of these sessions can be a lot different than what you think going in. So, we're just trying to create a really safe environment, an environment built on love and trust between the facilitator and the clients, to help everyone with self-growth, and be able to get this medicine to all who need it, and all who want it.

JS: I would like to work with people more one on one. I'm looking to open my own center, so that I can be the facilitator. I would like to have facilitators helping me out on occasion, but I would like to see every client that I'm bringing into the center myself. For me, this is an opportunity to work on transpersonal issues. And again, it's access to the sacred, it's access to the divine. So, for me, it is really about creating the space where the person can access those parts of themselves, where they can remember the wisdom that they hold beneath the conscious minds, beneath that verbal engagement with others; find themselves underneath the roles and the masks that we're carrying every day.

SW: You both did over 300 hours of training to become a facilitator, which is quite a bit. What is that training composed of?

JS: Our training was quite rigorous. We did quite a bit of reading; we, I think, completed about an average of six books with additional reading that was recommended but not required. We reviewed a ton of peer-reviewed journals and articles. We met over Zoom four days a week on average. We wrote assignments every day before our classes. So we really did quite a lot of work and review. And we discussed just about everything that we could that is available, in at least the Western wisdom. We have also learned a little bit about indigenous cultures and how they're utilizing entheogens [psychoactive substances found in plants]. So I feel like our preparation was quite substantial. And we concluded all of that with a one-week course together, where we practiced breathwork. Because we're the first ones, we didn't have psilocybin centers available to go and do the practicum there. So, we approximated the experience through breath work, which was really quite intense and really transformational for quite a few of us in the group.

DN: They focused not only on the pharmacology, and everything like that, but also on the social equity, which was really important. And, you know, there were a lot of studies that we had to read that were published by Johns Hopkins University, NYU, and the Harvard Divinity School. When you're reading these three massive institutions, and standing in integrity with them, it feels really, really good. I mean, they've been doing decades of research, and they're hitting all points of it from the Western medical side to the mysticism part with divinity. And it's just an amazing coursework.

SW: Is there a vetting process for clients about things like dosage or even if psilocybin therapy may not be right for them? And is there a protocol for a "bad trip?"

JS: We do have to vet the clients before they're able to receive any services. And within Measure 109, a lot of those things are already predetermined. We're supposed to be screening out certain conditions. If a person, for example, has been taking lithium within the last three months, they would not be suited to take this medication, because of the concerns of physiological harm. A lot of things are going to be up to the facilitator to determine whether they feel like there's an affinity, if they're going to be able to support the clients adequately.

Preparing for the possibly adverse effects within a trip is going to be really reliant on the relationship between the facilitator and the client. A lot of it is going to be between the preparation sessions and the intentions and the set and setting that we're able to create. But some of it is going to be just a surprise. There is no guarantee of a particular type of trip. Sometimes the experience might turn a bit unpleasant. Hopefully, the facilitator is able to support the client to regulating themselves and find value and virtue within their experience anyways.

DN: Integration is a huge piece of this. It's part of the process; you have your intake, you have the medicine session itself, then you have integration. In my opinion integration is the most important part. A lot of facilitators are actually getting their facilitator's license and just doing the integration piece. Someone goes through their session, and then it's how do I put these pieces together? How do I implement any changes? So, it's really important, I think, that people know that that's a part of it, and that there are people there to help you through it.

Jack Harvel

Jack is originally from Kansas City, Missouri and has been making his way west since graduating from the University of Missouri, working a year and a half in Northeast Colorado before moving to Bend in the Spring of 2021. When not reporting he’s either playing folk songs (poorly) or grand strategy video games,...
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