This article was written by Sara Gael, M.A., and Ryan Jay Beauregard and appeared in the MAPS Bulletin Winter 2018: Vol 28, No. 3


The Zendo Project provides a supportive environment and specialized care designed to transform challenging psychedelic experiences into valuable learning opportunities. We work to reduce the number of unnecessary psychiatric hospitalizations and arrests and create a harm reduction model for a post-prohibition world.

Since 2012, the Zendo Project has assisted over 4,200 guests, trained over 3,000 volunteers, and provided outreach and education to thousands more in the principles of psychedelic peer support. Zendo Project media reach has steadily increased, and expanded significantly over the last year, with Zendo Project staff regularly featured on podcasts and news articles.

The Zendo Project has become an industry leader and model program in the field of psychedelic harm reduction. As evidenced by an increased number of grassroots peer support organizations that utilize our training materials, people look to the Zendo Project as a model to emulate in their own communities and at local events. In 2018, we have seen an exponential increase in demands for harm reduction services from festival producers, the festival community, and the public.

Training and Outreach

In response to increased international demand and in service of our mission, we have increased our focus on education and outreach in 2018. Our primary goals in this area have been expanding public knowledge of psychedelic harm reduction and creating industry standards for the practice of psychedelic peer counseling.

We are increasingly focused on providing education to other emergency service professionals including law enforcement, medical personnel, and security staff, as well as festival production teams hoping to gain knowledge in harm reduction and psychedelic peer counseling.

In 2018, the Zendo Project facilitated nine Peer Support Trainings. Three of these trainings were at music festivals, and six took place in major cities throughout the US: Portland, Seattle, Washington, D.C., New York, Pittsburgh, and Santa Fe. We also partnered with two universities as training hosts: Humboldt State University and the University of Colorado Boulder. The Zendo Project trained 280 volunteers during Burning Man 2018.

Expanding our Impact

In 2018, our team provided services at Envision Festival (Costa Rica), Lightning in a Bottle (California), Burning Man (Nevada), and a handful of other events. Our team of both staff and volunteers has grown significantly over the past few years, and we’ve seen that our approach has created a replicable model that is scalable. With an experienced a group of supervisors and leads, we see how the systems we have created for handling the flow of guests can run smoothly and sustainably.

This year at Burning Man, we were placed directly next to the official Black Rock Rangers headquarters and Sanctuary, and for the first time since 2013, directly on the Esplanade—the Main Street of Burning Man. The feedback we received from both guests and volunteers was overwhelmingly positive, and the consensus was that 2018 was the smoothest year to-date in regard to operations.

Our 2018 fundraiser was also our most successful to date, raising over $127,000 from 412 donors. We are deeply grateful to everyone who donated and shared the campaign for contributing to the Zendo Project’s development, expansion, and continued impact. With the funds raised, we are purchasing upgraded infrastructure, as well as expanding our training program and outreach initiatives to more events. The Zendo Project is completely made possible by our community of donors who believe in the importance of this work.

The Future of Zendo Project

With the ongoing mainstreaming of psychedelics, most recently exemplified by the popularity of Michael Pollan’s new #1 New York Times bestselling book How to Change Your Mind, people are becoming more aware of the beneficial potential of psychedelics and are more curious than ever about them. That’s why it is increasingly important to provide the public with information necessary to mitigate the psychological risks associated with all drug use, including psychedelics.

As we head into 2019, the Zendo Project will continue to develop and expand our training program, increasing our reach, depth, and accessibility. We are in the beginning stages of developing an international outreach initiative tour to connect communities, organizations, and individuals around the world with resources for psychedelic peer support. While we have a lot of work ahead of us, our global community is making this vision a reality, and helping bring our passion and perspective about this work to the international stage. Please contact us directly at zendo@maps.org if you have access to lodging, venues, or communities that can help support our staff on our upcoming world tour.

Sara Gael, M.A., received her Master’s degree in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology at Naropa University. She 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. She can be reached at saragael@maps.org.

Ryan Beauregard 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. He can be reached at ryan@maps.org.