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NY Startup Fluence Aims To Provide Clarity On The Complex Nature Of Psychedelic Therapy

As psychedelics therapy becomes more mainstream, there is a growing need for 

· 03/17/2021 09:19

As psychedelics therapy becomes more mainstream, there is a growing need for trained professionals to provide these treatments to patients.

Fluence, a provider of professional training in psychedelic therapy, is one company trying to meet that demand.

However, the possible avenues for using psychedelics in a therapeutic setting are complex. And there is no one way of using mind-altering substances to improve mental health.

For guidance on this topic, consider reading New York-based Fluence's paper on psychedelic harm reduction and integration — published in the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Psychology.

“This peer-reviewed research publication is the first to define and delineate Psychedelic Harm Reduction and Integration as a clinical approach to working with people who use (or are considering using) psychedelics,” says Fluence co-founder Elizabeth Nielson.

Nielson recently spoke to Benzinga about the study, why it's important, what psychedelics professionals need to be mindful of and what the future holds for this burgeoning industry:

BZ: Why is the publication of this study significant? 

Elizabeth Nielson: This approach is distinct from psychedelic-assisted therapy, and provides an ethical alternative to treating all psychedelic use as substance use by default. The publication provides a road map for clinicians to approach these conversations from a respectful, helpful, and theoretically grounded perspective, in order to reduce harm and stigma, and to enhance the potential for benefit.

What does it mean for Fluence?

Fluence is an independent psychedelic therapy training institute. This publication demonstrates our solid grounding in a peer-reviewed theoretical approach to the Psychedelic Integration Therapy we teach. It means that those who study at Fluence, and their patients, will have a published model to guide their work. Given the wide variety of approaches clinicians may take to integration, this type of clarity in what we are doing and why we are doing it positions Fluence as a leader in the field. 

What are the personal and societal risks of self-administering psychedelics with a therapeutic intent, but without professional integration?

The risk of harms related to the use of any drug are only partly inherent to the drug itself, while factors such as local drug policy, stigma, race, class, and access to healthcare play a large role in what the risk level for any individual will be. Psychedelics are no exception to this, and integration therapists should work with patients to assess individual risks as well as those inherent to the actual drug. The risks of using psychedelics will always vary depending on who is using them, in what context, and with what degree of preparation and support.

What's the business outlook for professional training in psychedelic integration? How profitable is it?

At Fluence we provide training as a post-graduate specialty for people who are already licensed in their professions. This model is consistent with other kinds of training institutes in the psychotherapy world. There is enormous interest in receiving training in both Psychedelic Integration Therapy and psychedelic-assisted therapy, which Fluence also offers, where there is an opportunity to legally engage in practice. Providing quality training to a diverse group of providers in these areas, at a scale to meet the needs of the community, is a challenge Fluence has sought to meet since our inception, and to do so we’ve recruited a team of experts and developed our infrastructure accordingly. This has resulted in a solid, sustainable business which is seeing genuine growth through revenue from training programs and able to fund reinvestment in its own expansion. 

Any particular events (regulatory or otherwise) that would boost the business? 

There are several psychedelic-assisted treatment protocols in Phase 2 and 3 clinical trials right now, which may be approved by the FDA as treatments for specific indications in the next few years. One of the key challenges that the field will have to meet is how to effectively train enough therapists to provide these treatments to the substantial numbers of people who will need them without diluting or diminishing the quality of therapeutic care we conduct in research trials.

Furthermore, it's not just about numbers: Psychedelic therapy training programs must seek to reduce healthcare disparities that may be perpetuated in the field by training providers from diverse backgrounds, thereby improving access to treatment in marginalized communities. At Fluence we are working to develop the infrastructure to provide training in these therapies with these specific challenges in mind.

What’s next for Fluence?

Right now we are growing our network of collaborators and trainers, bringing on new talent and streamlining our operations so we can best serve our students. We are also growing our corporate partnerships to include projects such as developing psychedelic-assisted therapy treatment manuals for research, and custom training materials for license to membership-based clinician services. 

What's next for the psychedelics industry?

I hope to see expansion of equity programs, and for the psychedelics industry to address some of the disparities in the treatment of people who use psychedelics in medical vs. other contexts. I think Psychedelic Integration Therapy is one way to address this, because it acknowledges the potential for benefit from psychedelic use in any context. Increased attention to equitable access to psychedelic treatments, and the growth of the field for people from marginalized communities that have been disproportionately harmed by the prohibition of psychedelics, are aspirations that are both bold and attainable for our field at this time. 

Picture Courtesy of Fluence