It’s an exciting time for psychedelic treatments. Mainstream popularity of psychedelic-assisted therapy is coinciding with new tools and techniques, making the practice more accessible than ever before. But with interest and demand for psychedelic assisted therapy growing from the patient side, clinicians are having to respond without all of the answers. That’s where Fluence comes in.

Fluence is a psychedelic education company looking to bridge that gap for mental health professionals. Their goal is to train the next generation of clinicians, psychotherapists, and wellness practitioners. To learn more about what the company is working on, we spoke with Fluence co-founder and lead trainer Dr. Ingmar Gorman.

Psychedelic Invest: Let’s start with your elevator pitch; what is Fluence all about?

Dr. Ingmar Gorman: Fluence is a psychedelic education company that’s focused on training mental health professionals and other medical providers. Our goal is to address the lack of education (or miseducation) about psychedelics in the mental health field for the last 40 years. 

We do this primarily through live training, so we put a lot of emphasis on face-to-face contact, small group connection, interactive training, and case studies. We have a two-day training called Psychedelics: Premise and Promise, the foundational offering to train psychedelic integration therapy.

PI: When you say ‘Psychedelic Integration Therapy,’ how does that differ from ‘Psychedelic Assisted Therapy?’  

IG: In psychedelic-assisted therapy, the clinician is administering a psychedelic compound, and there’s a therapeutic process associated with that. Psychedelic integration therapy is essentially a way that clinicians can work with clients who are using psychedelics already. Our two-day workshop lays the foundation of doing psychedelic work for people who want to go even further.

PI: What would that look like for people who want to go even further?

IG: We have created programs that allow clinicians to discuss their cases to solve problems as a group. For example, clinicians may discuss working with a client who has a relationship with a psychedelic. We also have reading and study groups, which is where a group of, say, eight or ten clinicians or non-clinicians get together and read the scientific literature together to learn from each other.

We also just launched a 120-hour certificate program. People can take it at their own pace, but generally, it takes around a year to complete. Once complete, the person will receive a certification in psychedelic integration therapy. We are also planning to launch a ketamine-assisted psychotherapy program in the future.

PI: What’s your goal in offering these training programs?

IG: Everything that we’re doing is preparing clinicians to work with psychedelics. We are positioning and preparing to offer formal training in MDMA-assisted psychotherapy and psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy. We are currently unable to provide this training because we want to do it in a way that is entirely consistent with legally providing the treatment. The FDA and other regulatory bodies are still defining those standards and requirements, and we want to position clinicians to offer these treatments once we know what those criteria are. 

PI: Who primarily is contacting Fluence for this training?

IG: We’re predominantly seeing social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists. Clinicians have patients coming into their offices and asking questions about psychedelics, and they realize that there’s a lack of education about it. The clinicians want to serve their clients well, so they find us to speed on how to do this work.

Although our training doesn’t necessarily allow people to administer psychedelics, I think that people who take our training will look a lot more attractive when they apply to future training programs or are involved in some business related to this medical field. My co-founder Elizabeth Nielson and I both have direct clinical research experience, as do both of our lead trainers, Jeffrey Guss and Casey Paleos. They do the work, and they have the patient participant experience. We think of it as taking this knowledge from academia and bringing it to the public through these practitioners. 

The other side of things, which I think is essential to communicate, is that we train clinicians in harm reduction psychotherapy. We’ve found it gives clinicians a framework to work with people self-administering psychedelics. Clinicians currently have a lot of anxiety that they’re doing something illegal just by conversing with somebody about psychedelics. We give them a framework to maximize care for the patient.

PI: Can you speak to your background in the field?

IG: I’m a psychologist, and I’ve had an interest in the field of psychedelic research since 2005. I’ve dedicated my life to the topic and am three years out from my Ph.D. in the field.

My colleague and co-founder, Elizabeth Nielson, has been active in the research field for a few years. She comes from Woodstock, New York, so in some sense, her cultural background has prepared her to do this work in terms of attitudes towards psychedelics. But in terms of science and experience, we’re both psychologists, and we both have a background in treating substance use disorders. To us, it’s a lens that helps us have a holistic perspective on psychedelic use.

PI: I want to loop back to the cultural attitude toward psychedelics in an academic research setting. Have you seen a shift in receptivity over time to the idea?

IG: For me, the first turning point was in 2015 with Michael Pollan’s article in the New Yorker. It went from it being a weird thing that I had an interest in, to something that people were responding to with recognition and appeal.

And then Pollan’s book was the big transition. I was already doing psychedelic integration therapy in private practice. Still, after his book, I started to have people reaching out, saying: “I read Michael Pollan’s book, and I want to cure my depression.” That shift in the culture has happened, but amongst professionals, we are still scratching the surface. 

PI: It seems like many people within the treatment industry want to see psychedelics become an available option, even if they aren’t yet using it in their work.

IG: Absolutely. It’s the hardest thing knowing patients want them and clinicians want to offer them, but not knowing when these compounds will be available as a treatment option. Aside from ketamine-assisted psychotherapy, there isn’t a defined process for becoming licensed as a psychedelic-assisted psychotherapist right now. The hardest conversations I’ve had are with people in their sixties or seventies, who were around during the previous era of psychedelic medicine and are eager to contribute at the end of their career. They feel like they don’t have the time to wait.

We are lucky to be so connected in this community. We engage in conversations with people doing this work every day, but the landscape is so varied and changing so quickly that it’s a constant process to keep up. It seems like every time we add something to our training programs, several new topics come up that need to be added as well.

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