Even amid a psychedelic therapy renaissance in full swing, the vast majority of psychedelic experiences take place outside clinical settings.Freely accessible and inclusive peer support services like those offered by Fireside Project have been important in addressing the unmet needs of those who engage, and will continue to engage, with psychedelics outside the burgeoning medical model.
Since its launch in April, 2021, Fireside Project has supported more than 1,700 people on its Psychedelic Peer Support Line, which offers callers and texters free and confidential support during or after psychedelic experiences. Fireside’s services also extend to those who may be holding space for others who are having psychedelic experiences.
Now Fireside is building upon its foundation with a new suite of programs and initiatives aimed at promoting more inclusion and diversity.
Making The Peer Support Line More Inclusive
Only months after their launch, Fireside’s team began developing the Fireside Equity Initiative, a holistic program that addresses the inequity and lack of diversity in the psychedelics field through expanding representation among their own volunteer staff and by seeding the future of the ecosystem.
“Taking a quick glance across the psychedelic field including the investors and the invested in, the facilitators and the clients, the researchers and the researched—it doesn’t take long to confirm that the ecosystem of the psychedelic renaissance is awash with inequity and hegemony,” said Hanifa Nayo Washington, Fireside’s co-founder and chief of strategy.
The initiative will kick off with the training of 40 volunteers for its Affinity Peer Integration Service. This initial cohort will include people who are BIPOC, transgender, and military veterans, empowering callers and texters who dial into Fireside’s support line with the choice to be paired with staff from the same identity group, or “affinity” group.
Applications for the inaugural cohort are open until March 27. “This is just the beginning, and we intend to add more affinity groups over time,” said Washington.
Promoting More Diversity In the Ecosystem
Expanded representation of its support staff is just one piece of the Fireside’s new program. After completing a year of service on the peer support line, the Fireside Equity Fund will offer grants to affinity volunteers to pursue further education, training, and business development in the field of psychedelics.
The Equity Initiative is also supported by a variety of partners who will offer education and internship opportunities. To date, educational partners include Naropa University, Psychedelic. Support, MAPS Public Benefit Corporation, and Fluence. Paid internships will be offered with Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris of the University of California San Francisco’s Neuroscape Lab, Dr. Monnica T. Williams at the Behavioral Wellness Clinic, Dr. Christopher Stauffer of Oregon Health and Science University’s SNAP Lab, and the Training Team at MAPS Public Benefit Corporation.
“Most psychedelic use at this time occurs outside of formal clinical settings,” said Dr. Sara Lewis, associate professor and faculty co-director of Naropa University’s Center for Psychedelic Studies.
“Supporting Fireside was an easy choice for us, not only because of our shared values and mission, but because we recognize the value of on the ground support situated in communities,” she added. Naropa has committed an annual $10,000 full-ride scholarship for their Psychedelic-Assisted Therapies program.
In addition to supporting Fireside’s Equity Initiative, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) has also taken on a formal role of its own in promoting greater diversity through its Health Equity program. In 2021, they awarded $910,000 in scholarships to over 230 trainees from marginalized backgrounds.
“MAPS is thrilled to be providing five full MAPS Therapy Training scholarships, of $5,000 each, to Fireside Affinity Cohort volunteers,” shared Wes Hale, associate director of therapy training at MAPS Public Benefit Corporation. They are also offering a six-month internship working directly with their training team.
To Affinity and Beyond
The Affinity Peer Integration Service and its cohort of 40 volunteers will officially go live on June 23, 2022, and will be available Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 3:00pm to 7:00pm (PCT). Each month affinity volunteers will also lead free processing and integration sessions.
“Over generations, the impact of this initiative will create generative pathways for diverse healers to flourish and thrive,” said Washington. “Our vision, our true north is a Beloved Psychedelic Community. In this community, people of all identities are represented and welcomed—making this vision a reality is our work.”
Image: Nicki Adams