This year, millions of people will use psychedelics outside of supervised medical contexts, many of them for the first time. Taking psychedelics can result in overwhelming and uncomfortable experiences, more likely with high doses, amongst first-time users, and without adequate preparation or setting. Psychedelic harm reduction includes a variety of methods to help prevent and transform difficult experiences while in a non-ordinary state of consciousness.
The Zendo Project:
Reduces the number of unnecessary psychiatric arrests and hospitalizations
Creates an environment where volunteers can work alongside one another to improve their harm reduction skills and receive training and feedback
Demonstrates that safe, productive psychedelic experiences are possible without the need for law enforcement-based prohibitionist policies
Zendo Project's 4 Guiding Principles for Psychedelic Experiences
If someone is having a challenging experience try to move them into a comfortable, warm, and calm environment. If possible try to avoid noisy or crowded spaces. Ask what would make them most comfortable. Offer blankets and water.
Talk through, not down
Without distracting from the experience, help the person connect with what they are feeling. Invite person to take the opportunity to explore what’s happening and encourage them to try not to resist it.
Sitting, not guiding
Be a calm meditative presence of acceptance, compassion, and caring. Promote feelings of trust and security. Let the person’s unfolding experience be the guide. Don’t try to get ahead of the process. Explore distressing issues as they emerge, but simply being with the person can provide support.
Difficult is not bad
Challenging experiences can wind up being our most valuable, and may lead to learning and growth. Consider that it may be happening for an important reason. Suggest that they approach the fear and difficult aspects of their experience with curiosity and openness.
Characteristics of a Challenging Psychedelic Experience
Psychedelic experiences can vary tremendously, and are sometimes unpredictable, but are most influenced by these factors:
- Presence of impurities
- Sense of safety
- Level of noise/activity
- Emotional state
- Psychological well-being
- Previous experience with substance
Possible characteristics of a challenging experience:
Feeling alone or trapped
Altered sense of time and space
Fear of losing control
Mission & Vision
The Zendo Project provides professional comprehensive harm reduction education and support for communities to help inform and transform difficult psychedelic experiences into opportunities for learning and growth.
We envision a world where communities are educated, resourced, and engaged in applying harm reduction principles to support individuals exploring psychedelic states; recognizing that challenging experiences can be opportunities for self-exploration and healing.
Zendo Project Staff
Katrina Michelle, PhD, LCSW
Harm Reduction Director, MAPS Zendo Project
Katrina Michelle received her Ph.D. in Psychology with a Transpersonal specialization from Sofia University at The Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in 2017 after completing her dissertation on “Exploring Resistance to Spiritual Emergence.” Since then she has served on the board and as executive director of The American Center for the Integration of Spiritually Transformative Experiences (ACISTE). In 2004 Katrina graduated from Stony Brook University with her Masters in Social Work and a specialization in student community development and has maintained an integrative psychotherapy practice, The Curious Spirit, in New York City since 2008. Katrina serves as adjunct faculty at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Social Services and The Institute for the Development of Human Arts (IDHA) and is currently working on producing her first documentary film, “When Lightning Strikes “, with the intention to educate the mainstream about spiritual emergence.
Ryan Jay Beauregard
Harm Reduction Programs Manager, MAPS Zendo Project
Ryan received his B.A. in Psychology from Claremont McKenna College, and spent 10 years mentoring at-risk teens and families through wilderness survival skills and nature connection. His passion for community connection, the environment, and intrapersonal healing continued with his involvement in permaculture, natural building, and ancestral grief rituals. As a volunteer with the Zendo Project since 2013, Ryan has had the opportunity to connect and expand the scope of psychedelic harm reduction in communities and festivals all over the globe. As the Zendo Project Manager, he integrates his skills in psychology, design and and community engagement. When he isn’t on the road with the Zendo Project, Ryan can be found at his home in Boulder, CO enjoying the great outdoors, experimenting with sustainable technology, and designing websites, logos and sacred geometry art.
Chelsea Rose Pires, M.A., Registered Associate MFT
Harm Reduction Operations Manager, MAPS Zendo Project
Chelsea Rose graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles Honors College with a B.A. in psychology in 2007, and received her master’s degree in Integral Counseling Psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies in 2012. She has a passion for harm reduction as a therapeutic and practical approach to drug use and abuse prevention. Chelsea also works with DanceSafe, a public health organization, as manager for the reagent testing kit program. Additionally, she supervises the Crisis Response Team in Nevada County, supporting clients who come into the emergency room in psychiatric crisis. She lives in the Sierra foothills of California with her husband Alexandre, who is also involved in harm reduction work, their three children, and their chickens, fish, and kitties.
Sara Gael, M.A.
Harm Reduction Officer, MAPS Zendo Project
After receiving her Master’s degree in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology at Naropa University, Sara began working with MAPS in 2012, coordinating psychedelic harm reduction services at festivals and events worldwide with the Zendo Project. Sara was an Intern Therapist for the recently completed MAPS Phase 2 clinical trial of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD in Boulder, CO. She maintains a private practice as a psychotherapist specializing in trauma and non-ordinary states of consciousness. Sara believes that developing a comprehensive understanding of psychedelic medicines through research and education is essential for the health and well being of individuals, communities, and the planet.
Zendo Project is sponsored by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), a 501©3 research and education organization that develops medical, legal, and cultural contexts for people to benefit from the careful uses of psychedelics and marijuana. To find out more, visit MAPS.org.