A growing number of people in the Netherlands (Europe/UK/US/Planet Earth) are currently offering guided psilocybin truffle ceremonies, retreats and experiences. The Guild of Guides seeks to bring these providers together; be they identifying as facilitators, shamans, guides, therapists, priests, chaplains, spiritual caregivers, or coaches (further: ‘guides’).
The Guild of Guides (further: GoG) welcomes both individual practitioners and organisations that offer guided psychedelic experiences and functions as an umbrella organisation. It represents and is run by the (inter)national community of guides. It encourages the implementation and dissemination of professional standards, best practices, professional knowledge, and an overarching code of conduct, as such ensuring:
- the physical, mental, spiritual, and ethical safety and integrity of those participating in any form of psychedelic (assisted/supplemented) ritual, ceremony, therapy or session;
- the dissemination of accurate and sufficient legal, medical, spiritual and therapeutic knowledge and sharing of best practices among guides, to protect and educate guides and to enhance the wholesomeness and positive impact of their activities, while mitigating risks and potential harm;
- a healthy ‘ecosystem’ of psychedelic services where collaboration, safety and ethical conduct are the norm;
- the formation of (peer)supervision structures that allow for open exchange of insights, knowledge and practices, that facilitate community accountability and enable growth and learning through the study of difficult/challenging cases;
- access to (underground) “psychedelic elders”, wisdom keepers and established therapists and their valuable understandings and decades of practice;
- access to guides for people from low-income households, Black and Brown people, Indigenous People, and People of Color, LGTBQIA+ people, and those from marginalized communities;
- the creation of a support and accountability system for guides and their clients to navigate conflicts that are too difficult or precarious for the guide and client to resolve independently and/or that require high levels of transparency and/or community involvement;
- the formation of an accreditation and/or certification program for guides, in collaboration with psychedelic elders, therapists, wisdom keepers, educational institutions, and psychedelic scientists that would allow for people with various backgrounds to become certified and recognized practitioners;
- the formation of training and/or mentorship programs, a modern interpretation of a guild, that can lead to new forms of accreditation and/or certification and can increase access to training for marginalized communities;
- the facilitation of ongoing conversations with governments, NGO’s, and insurance companies to move towards insurance/health care system coverage of the costs of psychedelic sessions offered by guild members.
The document that follows is meant to inform both guides, clients and their loved ones, and the larger population. It is a living document, which means it adapts to new knowledge and experiences, and responds to changing legal and professional contexts. Important to note is that we have already received reflections on the use of particular language, blindspots and the potentially unintended consequences of some of the proposals here. We are actively working on our blindspots and are dedicated to be as inclusive as possible, while upholding rigorous ethics. This is a work in progress and we welcome critical reflections and constructive feedback.
The principles that follow in the document are meant to guide practitioners towards ethical behavior while leaving enough space for distinct differences that might come with the diversity of psychedelic practitioners.
Culture of vulnerability, self-reflexivity and self-regulation
This document invites guides to actively reflect upon their practices and develop both an inner compass and external safety structure, that are attuned to the ethical concerns that emerge out of the wider context of psychedelic guidance. Although there are some ‘absolute’ boundaries that we feel need to be upheld by everyone in this space, the general tone of this Code of Ethics is not to judge, but to open up a constructive dialogue -both internal and external- that moves beyond right and wrong into an ever deepening understanding of what constitutes wholesome activity. This requires the space to learn and grow from past ‘mistakes’ and invites both a self-reflexive and a self-regulatory stance.
Such a self-reflexive stance can only flourish within a culture of vulnerability, honesty and transparency. Therefore GoG is devoted to fostering communication and relationships amongst its members that invites critical curiosity and non-judgment. The following code is a condensed version of what we feel are the most important ethical considerations for doing this work. It is, so to speak, a bare minimum, a bottom line, or a common denominator. These are the principles that all guild members aspire to. We value openness, acceptance and deeply appreciate the capacity for learning and growth. We feel that the current political climate requires an obligatory commitment to these principles and wish that every member of the Guild does so. This brings us to the self-regulatory stance.
Failure to observe some of these guidelines – especially those pertaining to sexual misconduct, racism and discrimination, participant safety, and physical and spiritual integrity – should result in some form of sanctioning. Guides that have gravely neglected their participants should be held accountable. Therefore, without a capacity to sanction – for example to (temporarily) withdraw certification – the GoG would not be able to ensure the quality and reliability of the guides it represents.
Our 5 principles
All the guides that the guild represents are deeply moved by human suffering and aspire to alleviate it where they can. In doing so, they seek to embody the following five ethical principles: care, respect, competence, accountability and integrity.
Care – All guides seek to embody and invite a universal experience of care, kindness and compassion. This reflects the commitment to the welfare and well-being of each client or participant and a duty to ‘do no harm’. Moreover, guides feel a responsibility to take care of their clients, participants and colleagues and to nurture a practice of self-care. Guides take steps to responsibly manage personal stress, maintain their own mental and physical health, ensure that their work is supervised by colleagues, and devote time to their own spiritual, contemplative or reflective practices. Due to the demanding nature of this work, guides are aware of the first signs of compassion fatigue and burn out. Because these might comprise their capacity to care, they work actively to remain healthy.
Respect – Guides deeply respect the rights, dignity and integrity of their clients. Guides treat clients as persons of intrinsic worth with a right to determine their own priorities. They respect their clients’ dignity and give due regard to their moral, spiritual and culturally specific values. The autonomy of a client is always the point of departure. As far as possible, guides ensure that participants and clients understand and consent to whatever professional action they propose. GoG encourages members to contemplate the ways in which they can make this consent legible and transparent; such as signing (digital) documents.
Guides uphold reverence for the medicines they work with. Whether they consider these psychedelic substances as conscious agents of change or as molecules with the capacity to enhance the innate healing capacities present in all humans, they are moved by a deep respect for psychedelic medicine. They are aware of the cultural and historical backgrounds of these medicines and do not claim ownership over them.
Competence – Guides monitor and develop their professional or vocational skills and ethical awareness on an ongoing basis. They recognize that their expertise and capacity for work are limited, and take care not to exceed their own limits. Guides also stay up to date about relevant cultural and scientific developments and movements regarding psychedelics.
Accountability – In their professional activities, practitioners are required to act in a trustworthy and reputable manner towards clients, participants and the community of guides and other professionals at large. They act appropriately to resolve ethical dilemmas and conflicts of interest and are accountable for their actions.
Integrity – Guides are honest about and accurately describe their qualifications and the care and services that they can (and cannot) offer. They treat others in a fair, open and straightforward manner, honor professional commitments, and act to clarify any confusion about their role or responsibilities. They abstain from giving medical advice if they are not certified to do so. They do not use the professional relationship to exploit participants and they deal appropriately with personal conflicts of interest. They take action against harmful or unethical behaviour in colleagues in a wholesome way that invites growth and learning; while being primarily guided by protecting those that might suffer from the harmful behavior.
These five principles form the foundation from which the Code of Conduct (CoC) follows.