PT226 – Veronika Gold & Harvey Schwartz from Polaris Insight Center

In this episode, Kyle interviews psychologist and licensed marriage and family therapist, Veronika Gold, and author and clinical psychologist, Harvey Schwartz. They are co-founders (and Gold is the CEO) of Polaris Insight Center in San Francisco, which offers ketamine-assisted psychotherapy. Together, they work as co-therapists, as trainers on ketamine-assisted psychotherapy through Polaris Insight Center, and as investigators in MAPS’ Phase 3 MDMA-assisted psychotherapy clinical trial for the treatment of PTSD. 

They talk about their training model, the benefits of co-therapy and how a leader/apprentice co-therapy model is likely the future of therapy training, the importance of doing your own work as a therapist, the arguments for therapists not taking drugs, the subtle hierarchal and approval-seeking games uncovered in training, how working with ketamine today is like raising a teenager, the “mystery and mastery” in therapy, medicine, and psychedelics, and the casualties of the mental health care system and the importance of de-programming patients from the effects of its abuses.

Notable Quotes

“We almost need to create a culture. That’s what we’re trying to do in our training- to create a culture of courage and [fearlessness], honesty about ourselves and about the work, and humility and vulnerability, and to have as much of an egalitarian approach to our patients and clients as possible- for many reasons, but one of the main ones is to, in a way, undo the damage that many of them have had by being in the mental health system for as long as they’ve been in the mental health system, because so much gets laid down in terms of programming about worthlessness or failure or ‘it’s their fault.’ So, I feel like a big part of this model is not just giving the medicine and doing the protocol, but kind of imbuing the person with a whole new worldview about what their struggle means and what their struggle is about. …It’s almost like de-programming them from the mental health systems’ long-term effect on their sense of self and their identity.” -Harvey Schwartz

“Mastery and mystery both have risks, both have shadows. And I think teaching that is really important so that everybody learns about humility by walking down the center path between these possible errors that we could all make- being too rigid, or being too loosey-goosey.” -Harvey Schwartz

“The clients do report different experiences, even with the same doses of the medicine. And is it just the set and setting, or is it just the music, or is it really the space that we hold that allows the patient’s psyche to go deeper, to go to the inner-healing intelligence, to access things that will be safely held in that space? That maybe this inner-healing intelligence knows that if that something was not welcome or supported, it’s not going to bring it out because it would be re-traumatizing for them?” -Veronika Gold

“Psilocybin’s been on the planet for thousands of years. Iboga, thousands of years. Ayahuasca. These medicines, I feel like, have thousands of interdimensional spiritual support systems between ancestors, and it’s been going on for a long time. Ketamine is like a teenager in the spirit world, I feel like. And so, in a sense, we are really having a chance to impact the morphogenetic field in a greater level than these other things which have been around so long. So all the things we do, every session we have, I think of this. And all of our trainings, we’re kind of adding into this, helping this teenage form of therapy grow up and steward it in the way that we think it should be stewarded from the point of view of serving in the best possible ways, the safest possible ways, and the most expansive possible ways. So it’s kind of exciting to be raising a teenager.” -Harvey Schwartz


About VeronikaGold, LMFT

Veronika Gold, a psychologist from the Czech Republic and a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in California, has expertise in the treatment of anxiety, depression, and PTSD. She is a co-founder and CEO of Polaris Insight Center in San Francisco, clinic providing Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy treatment for depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental health issues. She is also a lead trainer in the Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy Training offered by Polaris Insight Center. She is a sub-investigator and a co-therapist at San Francisco Insight and Integration Center, site participating in Phase 3 MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy clinical trial for the treatment of PTSD sponsored by MAPS, and she is an associate supervisor for Phase 2 trial in Europe. Veronika Gold is as well EMDR therapist, consultant, and volunteer facilitator for the EMDR Humanitarian Assistance Program. She is a certified Somatic Experiencing Practitioner and a Realization Process Teacher. Veronika provides Psychedelic Integration Therapy and serves as an article writer, consultant, trainer, and presenter on Psychedelic Assisted Therapies.Dr. Harvey Schwartz

About Dr. Harvey Schwartz

Harvey Schwartz has worked as a licensed Clinical Psychologist in private practice in San Francisco since 1985, and is Co-founder of Polaris Insight Center. He received his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Emory University, Atlanta, GA. in 1982.
He has specialized in treating complex PTSD, severe dissociative disorders, survivors of organized abuse experiences, and individuals working on psycho-spiritual development. Harvey has undergone training in psychedelic psychotherapy with the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) and the Ketamine Training Center (KTC), and served as a trainer in two KTC trainings, and currently served as a Sub-Investigator and co-therapist on the MAPS MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy Phase 2/3 Clinical Trials for treatment-resistant PTSD. Harvey is an associate supervisor for the MAPS sponsored clinical trials in Europe.

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