In this episode, David interviews two people from different sides of Vital: clinical psychologist, adjunct professor, Co-Founder of the Psychedelics R2R nonprofit, and Vital instructor, Dr. Dominique Morisano, CPsych (the teacher); and writer, psychedelic-assisted medicine facilitator, integration coach, and Women On Psychedelics Co-Founder, Jessika Lagarde (the student).
With the 2023-24 edition of Vital set to begin in April and applications closing at the end of February, we thought it would be interesting to relaunch Vital Psychedelic Conversations, but with the spin of speaking to both instructors and students to hear their different perspectives on retreats, facilitation, psychedelic education, the quickly advancing psychedelic space, and of course, Vital itself.
Morisano and Lagarde mostly discuss experience: how it’s gained, how it changes perspectives and methodologies, how one decides they’ve experienced enough to be able to know the terrain enough to help others, the importance of knowing when a patient needs a facilitator/therapist who has had the same life experience, and knowing when one’s own skills and limitations means a patient would be better off seeing someone else. And they discuss safety, the importance of being trauma-informed (and what does that mean, really?), and the puzzling cases when facilitators haven’t had their own psychedelic experience but feel the need to use psychedelics to help others.
And of course, they talk about Vital: the joy in joining together in community with people they’ve only known virtually; how interesting these retreats are compared to others due to the level of the participants’ experience; how partnering up and taking turns as the sitter and experiencer shows how little of a difference there is between student and teacher; and how many people have reported the most impactful part of the retreats was not their own experience, but being there for someone else.
“Do you know the terrain? Let’s say you’ve taken ketamine once, and you’re doing six sessions of ketamine with a client. Do you really know what they’re going to be experiencing, and can you have had the full range of experience? …How do we define this? I can tell you: You have a hundred psychedelic experiences; most likely you’re going to have a different experience each time, and a different connection to inner/outer terrain or different realms or different ways of thinking and being. So when is enough enough? When did you learn your lesson? When did you gain the experience necessary to navigate someone [else’s experience]?” -Dominique
“You learn a lot about yourself as well, I find at the end of a day. Every journey is also a journey for the facilitator, and we are constantly mirrors to each other, so it’s very interesting work to do in that sense as well, because your own inner work is continuously being done.” -Jessika
“It’s never the same. Two sessions are never the same, and even how you show up on that day for that session, or set and setting; all of that influences [the experience], so we have to constantly be placing ourselves between being a student [and being] a teacher sometimes, but never put ourselves in the spot that we think, ‘Okay, now I know everything. Yeah, I’m done.’” -Jessika
“How do you develop wisdom? The way to develop wisdom is through experience, and often, pain.” -Dominique
Spotify: The Jimi Hendrix Experience- Are You Experienced (it’s an album, not a song, David!)