Becoming a psychedelic therapist: A Pharmacy Students perspective

Psychedelic therapy is a field that recently skyrocketed and is yet to reach its full potential, with the rescheduling of various substances and their potential as tools to aid with mental illness, reigniting the use of psychedelics by therapists, and cultivating the interest of students to participate in the field. 

This field remains a big blur to students since psychedelic therapy is still a project in development, and there is no paved way for becoming a psychedelic therapist. Thus the question remains.


“How does one become a psychedelic therapist?”

To answer this question, we spoke to Iara Martinez, a second-year pharmacy student, who plans about owning her pharmacy or clinic to aid psychological pathologies in terminally ill patients.



How were you introduced to psychedelics and how did this interest grow in you?

Let’s go back to when I decided that pharmacy was the right field for me. I’ll start by saying that I had a good chemistry teacher in high school, despite the fact that it was the exact opposite when I first started college. I developed a strong interest in drugs and what they do to people who use them. I had no idea there was an entire career devoted solely to drugs and pharmacology, as well as patient care. I knew I wanted to work in health care while in college, and after volunteering at a hospital, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in pharmacy, which is how it all began. I’d like to point out that my interest in pharmacies began long before I became interested in psychedelics, even though I was already familiar with illegal drugs and their applications.

After being exposed to Cannabis and other illegal drugs in high school, I began to wonder what else was out there that could have this mind-and-body effect on people. I researched various types of drugs and their mechanisms of action. After watching several videos about people’s drug experiences, I became curious about how magic mushrooms might feel. I decided to experiment with psychedelics at a young age because I was fascinated by their potential benefits for future achievements and developments in healing properties for patients.

I won’t go into detail about my psychedelic experiences, but all I can say is that after trying psychedelics several times, I noticed something in myself changing and pushing through to change for the better as a result of certain awakenings I experienced during the experiences I had, some alone and some with good friends.

 Being on medication for depression and bipolar disorder at a young age meant that I had to be on it for the long haul, and if I stopped, I would suffer the consequences. That’s when I decided to try psychedelics, which I can now say ended my suffering by exposing me to the trauma and opened my mind, allowing me to talk about and share my struggles with others. I no longer require medication as a result of the internal efforts I made to improve myself.

I noticed that psychedelic drugs had a positive impact on people who were struggling mentally, and I decided that one day I would like to open a clinic or be able to recommend psychedelic therapy as an option for people suffering from major depressive disorder and other mental health issues.


What is your advice to someone who’s starting their journey to becoming a therapist and learning about psychedelics?

You may be wondering if pharmacy school is required to pursue a career in psychedelic therapy. The answer is no.

-Iara Martinez

Before I delve into what I believe are the steps to becoming a psychedelic therapist, it is important to note that, while psilocybin for depression and MDMA to aid in the treatment of PTSD have done extremely well in clinical trials, they are still not FDA-approved treatments and remain Schedule I drugs, which means they are illegal to possess and consume.

MAPS Public Benefit Corporation was established as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelics Studies (MAPS), the organization behind the MDMA-assisted psychotherapy studies for PTSD, to guide MDMA through FDA approval and provide training to therapists interested in providing this treatment.

A licensed mental health or medical professional is required before becoming a psychedelic therapist. There are already psychedelic training programs available through various organizations. One thing to keep in mind is that MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD is currently in Phase 3 trials and will most likely be FDA-approved within the next year or two.

After MDMA, we can expect psilocybin for depression treatment to be approved by the FDA. There are currently few options for training in psychedelic-assisted therapy, but many more are expected to become available in the near future. I am familiar with the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) certificate program, which is the certificate in Psychedelic-assisted therapies and research after I am a licensed pharmacist. The program is 200 hours long and covers ketamine, MDMA, and psilocybin therapeutic applications, which are required to practice as a psychedelic therapist. The Institute of Integrative Psychiatry now only offers psychedelic therapy certificate programs, and MAPS offers MDMA therapy training. Much more information about the requirements and duration of training can be found on their websites.

If you do not yet have a license as a psychotherapist, begin by reading books and articles about psychedelic-assisted therapies, and then consider volunteering at clinics or universities that provide hands-on experience supporting people going through a difficult psychedelic experience. Participate in psychedelics discussions through organizations and look for internship opportunities, as I am doing. If you are already a healthcare provider, consider networking with other professionals interested in psychedelic medicine and attending psychedelic conferences. Before assisting people, I recommend that they have a basic understanding of and experience with altered states of consciousness. It is critical to have a thorough understanding of the medicine and its unique aspects of healing people, whether it is with MDMA, LSD, or psilocybin therapy.

Last but not least, I want to emphasize the importance of respecting the patient’s rights and vulnerability. Patients have the right to file a complaint against the therapist, so psychedelic therapists must be accountable for maintaining safe and ethical environments for their patients.


Which Websites/Foundations do you use to be updated on new psychedelic therapies/ upcoming retreats?

The MAPS and Psychedelic Medicine Association are two websites and memberships that I currently have that keep me up to date on new psychedelic therapies and upcoming retreats.

If you are just getting started and want to become a healthcare provider, I strongly recommend the Psychedelic Medicine Association. It is an amazing community that provides discussions, webinars, and education certificates for professionals looking to advance their education on psychedelic therapy, and updates members on articles and new ways to provide the best care for patients when using psychedelic medicines as an option for treatment.


Which therapy centers  you’re excited to see how they unfold (innovative therapies  you find exciting)?

I’m excited to learn about the most recent advances in psychedelic science and to hear about all the new avenues of research into things like dementia, OCD, and other physical conditions that can be labeled as treatment-resistant. When it comes to psychedelic and consciousness research, Johns Hopkins has been the preeminent and most productive research team in the United States. They continue to investigate novel treatments, such as psilocybin, and I am eager to see when it will be accepted and approved for treating various conditions. I eagerly await the day when therapy with a licensed mental health professional will be available as a treatment option in New York State.


Who do you look up to in the field of psychedelics?

Lynn Mroski, the president of the psychedelic medicine association, is someone I admire greatly. She has helped to create a space where students new to the healthcare field or providers such as social workers, psychiatrists, counselors, primary care physicians, and other health care providers can become educated on currently available and soon to be upcoming psychedelic therapies.

To this day, I admire Alexander Shulgin, also known as “Sasha,” an American medicinal pharmacologist and biochemist known as the “Godfather of MDMA,” or a designer of psychedelic drugs. I strongly recommend his books to anyone interested in ethnobotany and psychopharmacology.






It’s probable that in a near future, we witness compounds such as Psilocybin, Ketamine, MDMA, analogues of DMT and LSD, and the origin of new κ-opioid agonists, due to the recent discovery of the therapeutic potential of Salvinorin A and its analogues in neurological disorders, overtaking the currently prescribed SSRIs and opioid-based antidepressants for the treatment of various mental illnesses.

Such success in this area will open various job opportunities in several clinics, therapy centers, and organizations. Hence, it’s quintessential to cultivate the interest and teach students how to be a part of the field of psychedelic therapy.

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