MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy Training
Naropa University was pleased to offer a course in MDMA-assisted psychotherapy in 2020. This training included the MDMA-assisted psychotherapy curriculum developed by MAPS PBC (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies Public Benefit Corporation), together with training in contemplative psychotherapy from Naropa faculty in the Graduate School of Counseling Psychology.
MAPS Public Benefit Corporation (MAPS PBC) catalyzes healing and well-being through psychedelic drug development, therapist training programs, and sales of prescription psychedelics prioritizing public benefit above profit. Founded in 2014, MAPS PBC is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
The Naropa cohort of trainees brought together 50 therapists from diverse backgrounds across the United States, Canada, Chile and Somalia. Due to Covid, Part B of this training, which usually happens in a retreat setting, was held online. This allowed trainees from all over the world to join the cohort and we look forward to bringing this group through the full protocol. The FDA has suggested that MDMA will be approved by 2023.
This course was offered by MAPS PBC Trainers Marcela Ot’alora G. and Bruce Poulter with Sara Lewis and Lauren Casalino, Naropa University faculty in the Graduate School of Counseling Psychology. Trainees who successfully completed all course assignments can apply their experience for credit for Part A and B of the MDMA Therapy Training Program operated by MAPS Public Benefit Corporation; this cohort is now eligible to move to Part C & D of the training, which we anticipate offering in the coming year. Certification with the MAPS PBC MDMA Therapy Training Program is dependent on passing evaluation of therapist competencies, completion of supervised clinical work in an approved setting, and final supervision evaluation.
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Marcela Ot’alora G. was born and raised in Colombia, and currently living in Boulder, Colorado. She has an MA in Transpersonal Psychology from Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, and an MFA in Fine Arts from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Marcela began her career as an Installation artist and teacher and after completing her training as a psychotherapist in 1999 she started her private practice working primarily with trauma with diverse populations. Her interest and focus on trauma has led her to understand the healing process as an intimate re-connection with one’s innate essence through love, integrity, acceptance, and honoring of the human spirit. In addition to working with trauma and PTSD, she has dedicated her professional life to teaching, and research. She uses art as a vehicle for deepening connection to self and the world and has worked for the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) as a co-therapist and a principal investigator in various studies using MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for the treatment of PTSD and as part of therapist’s training. Additionally, she is a trainer and supervisor for therapists working on MAPS studies. She is deeply grateful for home, loved ones, making art, and the privilege to stop and smell the flowers.
I have been interested and worked much of my career with people in altered states of one form or another. I began my health career as an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) nurse at University of California (UC) San Francisco Moffitt Hospital when the AIDS pandemic first emerged and began devastating our communities. In response to the failure of ICU’s to improve the morbidity and mortality rates of their clients I received a Masters in Public Health from UC Berkeley in Health Planning and Policy. Moving to Boulder I then developed public health programs including one of the first certified nurse-midwife based perinatal programs serving low income women, and a program that identified and provided care for families at risk for abuse and neglect of their children. Frustrated with the public sector, I received training as a Rolf Structural Integration Practitioner and worked the next 25 years with people in chronic pain and was introduced to the healing potential of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy as an intimate observer of the first government approved MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) study in Spain in 1999. Returning from Spain, I was moved to run for the US senate as a progressive voice in stark contrast to the more common hopeless and stale political rhetoric. I have provided harm reduction services through Zendo and other organizations, and have now worked in many MAPS studies as a sub-investigator/therapist, beginning with MAPS MDMA for PTSD Boulder Study, to MAPS Healthy Volunteers Study and now with the MAPS Phase 3 Clinical trial. In addition to my direct care work, I provide clinical supervision to our Phase 3 therapists as well as being a MAPS trainer for new therapists moved by this powerful healing work.
Lauren Casalino, MA, LPC is an Associate Professor and former Chair of the Contemplative Psychotherapy and Buddhist Psychology Program at Naropa University. Her private psychotherapy practice includes individuals, couples, and groups. Due to her expertise in group facilitation, she is called upon by public and private organizations struggling with intractable group dynamics. Lauren Co-Founded Windhorse Elder Care. She authored "Psychotherapy and the Paramitas: Walking the Bodhisattva's Path" in Brilliant Sanity: Buddhist Approaches to Psychotherapy. Lauren’s fundamental commitment is to personal growth and professional mastery in service of health individually, relationally, societally, and globally. Right use of psychedelic medicines to promote social justice and the furtherance of an ecologically sustainable planet is an area of passion for Lauren.
Dr. Sara Lewis is Associate Professor and Chair of Contemplative Psychotherapy and Buddhist Psychology at Naropa University. She earned her PhD from Columbia University and two master’s degrees from the University of Chicago, specializing in psychological anthropology, global mental health, and clinical social work. She is author of “Spacious Minds: Trauma and Resilience in Tibetan Buddhism,” (Cornell University Press, 2019) which explores how Buddhist concepts of mind, memory, and emotion shape responses to trauma in the Tibetan diaspora. She is a former Fulbright fellow, and her work has been supported by the Mind and Life Institute, and the Mellon Foundation. She is also a psychotherapist in private practice, and has conducted research on how psychedelics can be a catalyst for change in therapeutic settings.