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Psychedelic Medicine

Association

Insights Gained from the First Year of Fireside Project with Joshua White

Summary

In this episode of the Psychedelic Medicine Podcast, Joshua White returns to discuss the first year of the psychedelic peer-support line, Fireside Project. Joshua (he/him) is founder and executive director of Fireside Project and has prior experience as a volunteer counselor on a hotline and as a volunteer at the Zendo Project. He has also practiced law as a deputy city attorney at the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office, where he focused on suing business exploiting vulnerable communities. He also co-taught a nationally-renowned clinic at Yale Law School.

Joshua begins this conversation by sharing the success of Fireside Project in its first year of operation. The peer support line has been called over 3,100 times in the 14 months since the launch of Fireside Project, where callers have been able to receive open-ended support from compassionate peers as they navigate a psychedelic experience or attempt to integrate a previous experience.

Joshua also shares some details about the kinds of calls the line has received, such as which psychedelic substances were involved in the caller’s experience, how callers were describing their experiences, and what mental health conditions callers self-reported. In terms of substances, psilocybin was the most commonly used by callers, though a wide range of different psychedelics were reported. For mental health conditions, PTSD stood out as the most frequently mentioned, though depression and anxiety were also common. Joshua mentions that he’s hopeful that this data may be incredibly useful in further developing harm reduction strategies, as the dataset may help uncover previously unknown correlations.

Another aspiration for Fireside Project is ensuring equity through their Equity Initiative, which allows callers to process past psychedelic experiences with someone of a similar background. Joshua shares that this initiative will also produce original research on this topic, showing for example the kinds of benefits a caller from the BIPOC community might get through having the opportunity to integrate a past experience with a BIPOC peer.

Joshua closes this conversation with powerful words about integration and harm reduction, saying that integration is a form of harm reduction. To that end, Joshua is hopeful Fireside Project can continue offering crucial harm reduction and integration services as the organization grows and reaches beyond the niche of psychedelic enthusiasts.

In This Episode

• Who has been calling the peer-support line and what kind of support they are seeking
• How Fireside Project could potentially offset the burden on emergency services in the case of negative psychedelic experiences
• The diversity of Fireside Project volunteers
• The problems of facilitator abuse and neglect in the psychedelic space
• The future of Fireside Project

Quotes

“Reflective listening—which is the core, the foundation of holding space—this is really a skill that we can continue to cultivate.” [8:03]

“My hope is that there’s no barrier, there’s no stigma, and there’s no shame to reaching out.” [12:53]

“All of the lessons we learn, we really just want to share those with the public in the hope that this will lead to less risky and more fulfilling psychedelic experiences.” [17:30]

“One of the things that I’ve noticed is—that we’ve noticed is—even though every single call is different in its own way, especially when someone reaches out to us in a heightened state, really validation, normalization, and reassurance often happen at the very beginning.” [25:34]

“It’s amazing how some of our calls are just so short because someone just wants to know that we are there.” [28:44]

“As a psychedelic community, people need to stop saying that psychedelics are ten years of therapy in one night. It’s just not true, and it sets people up for serious disappointment and can even be really dangerous for that reason.” [30:01]

Links

* The Psychedelic Medicine Podcast has allowed the Psychedelic Medicine Association to post episodes as an educational resource, and in return the PMA is hosting the podcast show notes.