Supportive and Specialized Care
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
Creates an environment where volunteers can work alongside one another to improve their harm reduction skills and receive training and feedback
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.
4 Zendo Project Principles of Psychedelic Peer Support
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.
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.
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.
Difficult is Not Necessarily 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
Staff and Board Members
Chelsea Rose Pires, M.A., LMFT
Chelsea Rose (she/her) 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 has worked with the Zendo Project, providing psychedelic peer support at events around the world, since 2013. Chelsea also manages the reagent drug testing kit program at DanceSafe, a public health organization focused on safety in the night life community. 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, three children, and their Basenji pup named Mochi.
Linnae (she/her) earned her BA in Biological Psychology from New College of Florida in 2010 before going on to work for MAPS as executive and clinical research assistant and then as the founding director of MAPS’ harm reduction program, the Zendo Project. Linnae completed her Master’s in integral counseling psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies in 2017 and has been working in various clinical settings since, including the crisis stabilization unit at Sierra Memorial and in private practice. She has worked on various clinical trials, most recently at Yale University where she provided facilitation for subjects enrolled in a study investigating psilocybin for the treatment of obsessive compulsive disorder. Linnae is passionate about the ways that psychedelic harm reduction, therapy, and research impact and inform one another, offering clarity and understanding into how psychedelics can be harnessed for the greatest benefit for humanity.
Steve (he/him) comes to the Zendo Project Board with a decade of experience in psychedelic harm reduction. In 2012, he began organizing and running psychedelic harm reduction services at festivals in Northern California. Since joining Zendo Project in 2017, he has supervised harm reduction teams at numerous events in the US and abroad. Steve believes that Zendo Project’s contribution extends beyond the festival environment in two important ways: by providing critical hands-on training and education to volunteers, and by serving as a unique model for how individuals and organizations can respond to—and support—those experiencing psychedelic emergencies or acute emotional distress unrelated to substance use. He believes Zendo Project’s training model can bridge a gap in the way mental health support is delivered in a real-world setting, with great potential to transform how communities care for the most vulnerable among us during times of crisis and grief. Steve is passionate about the healing potential of psychedelics and is particularly interested in the use of these medicines to treat end-of-life anxiety in patients diagnosed with terminal illness. He works in nonprofit healthcare development for a major research hospital.
Persepsion (she/her) is a community developer, creative catalyst, medicine woman, and world-bridger who has deep relationships with both plants and spreadsheets. She comes to Zendo Project with over a decade of experience in business development and management in both for-profit and nonprofit organizations across many industries. A master of complex logistics, managing big visions, and operations, Persepsion has served on multiple Burning Man boards, orchestrated several large festivals, coordinated thousands of volunteers, and made many visionary dreams come true. The symbiotic relationship of the natural world informs her work. She believes in creativity as both an artistic expression and a state of being, a call-to-action that empowers the individual and serves as a tool to foster thriving communities. With a meticulous attention to detail and a deep love for people, you’ll find her swaying easily between the glow of her laptop and the glow of the sun on her skin while she rests quietly in nature. She is overjoyed to be a part of Zendo Project in deep alignment with its mission to support communities of compassionate care.
Jessa (she/her) has pursued her passion for healing, transformation, and care-giving throughout her career. She completed her undergraduate studies in Pre-Med at Virginia Tech and The Evergreen State College. She went on to study Traditional Chinese Medicine at Hilltop Eastern Medicine Clinic and later earned her Birth and Death Doula Certifications to deepen her understanding of care-giving at transformational events. The combination of her health sciences education and personal passion for wellness led her to support various organizations through program building, business development, and marketing. Jessa believes in making the world a safer, more caring place, and looks forward to advancing this shared vision through her work with the Zendo Project.
Event Services Manager
Ben (he/him) joined Zendo Project in 2017 and has worked as a Sitter, Shift Lead, Supervisor, and Coordinator since that time. Professionally, he works as a consultant in the skilled nursing and long-term care industry, advising post-acute facilities on their admissions and business development processes. Prior to this role, he worked as a hospital liaison and admissions director for skilled nursing, personal care, and assisted living facilities. Ben is a founding board member of the Pittsburgh Psychedelic Society, and co-produced the MAPS-sponsored Sleeping Octopus Assembly on Psychedelics conferences in 2018 and 2019. He has worked as a Sanctuary Coordinator for RGX Medical, is trained as a Yoga Instructor and End-of-Life Doula, and works in plant medicine facilitation in private practice. Ben lives with his wife and daughter in Boulder, Colorado.
Armando León, MD
Armando (he/him) completed his undergraduate studies in Biology at Swarthmore College and completed medical school at the University of California, San Francisco, followed by residency training in psychiatry at San Mateo County’s community mental health program. He currently works as an emergency psychiatrist at a hospital, as well in private practice offering ketamine-assisted psychotherapy. He has worked with the Zendo project since 2016. Armando believes that psychedelics can help facilitate growth and healing when used in a safe and supportive setting, and that psychedelic peer support is an essential resource for those who choose to explore these substances.
Allison Rees (aka Allykat), M.A.
Allison, or Allykat (she/they) has been serving the Zendo Project since 2015. She earned her BS in Health Communication from San Diego State University in 2015 and graduated with her master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute in spring of 2023. While working within the Zendo in various capacities, Allykat has learned skills and developed methods of practicing harm reduction that have been used to create and advocate for safety within other psychedelic spaces. Her passion for this work lies at the confluence of philosophy, social justice, and soul tending; all of which provide a depth that continuously inspires her direction in this work. She currently provides psychotherapy under supervision within the community of Nevada County in Northern California, and works with clients undergoing spiritual emergence(y) within her own coaching practice. As a white, able-bodied, cis-female, Allykat is a passionate advocate for underrepresented people in the psychedelic and mental health space. The land that she lives on is unceded Nisenan territory in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas.
Imane El Ghazouani
Zendo Project Intern
Imane (she/her) is an active community builder and creates safe spaces for self-exploration through her collaborative immersive sound experiences. Through her own self-discovery journey and her personal interest in mind-related sciences, she believes that having strong community support is crucial to individual and collective healing. After she volunteered with the Zendo Project providing psychedelic peer support at Burning Man 2022, she felt inspired to get more involved in harm reduction. She is currently a volunteer supporting the Zendo Project with administrative functions for the coming year and is beyond excited to expand her knowledge and learn how she can contribute to harm reduction and the advancement of psychedelic research. Imane earned a bachelor’s degree in Hospitality & Recreation Marketing Operations in Morocco where she was born and raised. After moving to the US, she earned a second degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Central Florida. Imane has experience in sustainable building commissioning and currently works in project management building systems for healthy air quality in education buildings.
Sara Gael, M.A.
Harm Reduction Officer, MAPS
Sara (she/her) has worked with the Zendo Project since 2013, coordinating psychedelic harm reduction services at festivals and events worldwide, and serving as the Director of Harm Reduction from 2016-2020. In her current role as Harm Reduction Officer at MAPS, she continues to provide harm reduction education and consultation to organizations and communities. She received her master’s degree in transpersonal counseling psychology at Naropa University in 2012. She is a therapist for the MAPS clinical trials of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD in Boulder, CO and serves as the harm reduction advocate on Denver Psilocybin Policy Review Panel. 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.
Ryan Jay Beauregard
Zendo Services Trainer
Ryan (he/him) 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. During his time as Zendo Project Manager, he integrated his skills in psychology, design and and community engagement. Today, 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.
After doing psychedelics the night before, I felt I needed to talk to someone about what was happening in my head. My friend was sleeping so I knew that people at the Zendo would be able to help out. All I wanted was to talk to someone that could listen. I found that at Zendo. Thank you. This has been an important part of my journey at Burning Man.
For the first time in a long time, I truly felt safe. I woke up in a brand new world. I embraced the vulnerable feelings and integrated the experience by relaxing with friends and family back at camp. Thank you, Zendo!
Zendo was an amazing resource. It transformed what could’ve been a physically risky and emotionally devastating night into a powerful experience of growth and an emotional cleansing.
It was one of my first times using psychedelics, and I was not fully prepared at the time for the experience. I was so grateful to have reached the Zendo. I felt safe, away from the chaos. I was able to talk about the emotions that I have suppressed for so long.
After learning from Zendo Project, I am now more responsible. I practice and spread harm reduction practices among my social group.
My sister was in a bad place and you guys gave us a great place to get back a more normal place. Thank you so much. I would be interested in doing a volunteer shift to learn more.
The Zendo staff has welcomed me into the safe and calm space. They have turned their entire attention towards me throughout the entire experience starting from me coming, entering, talking, napping for three hours, eating Zendo-provided snacks, and leaving.
I am very grateful for you. You have changed my entire life. I did not know who to turn to after my LSD trip and did not know anyone who could decipher the meaning behind my experience until this day.
I knew that my sitter had helped because before going to Zendo, all I wanted to do was get drunk at a random bar so that I could pass out early in my tent. After talking, I wanted to spend time with my friends and go explore, which I did. I had a really nice night after visiting Zendo.
Positively transformed a difficult psychedelic experience through the attentive and compassionate care provided by the stellar team of volunteers maintaining a comfortable space amid the overwhelming environment.
I just wanted you all to know that what you all are doing is greatly appreciated. Please keep up the good work and hopefully society will begin to see the capability that psychedelics hold in bringing the individual personal peace.
Zendo is great. Everyone I spoke with during the burn about Zendo was very appreciative about this service. It is very helpful to the people who come, as guests and as volunteers. I was really glad to have a role at Burning Man and the opportunity to meet cool people and do a valuable service. The philosophy of Zendo is right on and totally works, and is very simple to learn.
The Zendo was perfect. I came in feeling desperate and dry, like the only thing I knew how to do was ask for help…You made sure I had food and water. That I was alive and that I could keep on being alive. So warm, so open, so gracious and human.
The moment I walked into the Zendo I started crying – as I do when I’m hurt and I see my mother. I found release here to be open enough to be exactly where I was at.
Just wanted to say a heartfelt thank you for your attention and empathy late Tuesday night at the Zendo. That night ended up being a real turning point for our camp and for me, with everyone reuniting at the temple at sunrise. The crazy experience and crazy weather really brought us all closer together in the end. It made a huge difference to have your help processing reality when it was a bit challenging to figure out what was real.
Do You Have a Testimonial or Feedback?
The Zendo Project is always interested in hearing more from our community about your experiences with our services, volunteering, and our trainings. You can choose whether to share your information or remain anonymous.