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Canadian healthcare professionals begin historic psilocybin therapy training program

Fifteen healthcare professionals are taking part in the program after receiving Section 56 exemptions to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

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Fifteen healthcare professionals are taking part in a historic psilocybin therapy training program, after receiving Section 56 exemptions to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

The 10-week training program, launched by B.C.-based, non-profit TheraPsil, has been in the works for several months and began earlier this week.

The program is led by clinical counsellor Dave Phillips. “When you combine that level of expertise with the passion of using this medicine in a curative way to relieve people of their anxiety and depression, the result will be a game-changer in the world of mental health for Canadians,” Phillips said in a press release.


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According to TheraPsil, the training program focuses on how to facilitate legal, psilocybin-assisted therapy for Canadians experiencing end-of-life and illness-related distress, such as cancer anxiety, depression and demoralization.

As part of the training, the healthcare professionals will undergo their own guided psilocybin experience to better understand what patients are feeling. 

The healthcare workers were granted Section 56 exemptions by Health Minister Patty Hajdu in December, clearing the way for them to take part in the program. Graduates of the program will become “TheraPsil Clinical Associates” and be qualified to work with palliative Canadians who have also received Section 56 exemptions. 


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The initial program is a pilot. TheraPsil will use the experience to optimize the program as it prepares to scale it and work with other organizations and healthcare professionals across the country. 

“We have decided to launch this beta version first as patient safety and treatment efficacy is fundamentally important, so we want to ensure we gather learnings and feedback from this first cohort and relay progress to the government,” said Spencer Hawkswell, CEO of TheraPsil. 

The company’s founder, Dr. Bruce Tobin, said the launch of the program makes Canada a world leader in psychedelic medicine. “I am extremely proud of our federal Minister of Health, Patty Hajdu, for her courageous support, and thankful on behalf of all Canadians who stand to benefit from the availability of treatment with psilocybin,” Dr. Tobin said. 


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Over the past year, TheraPsil has helped nearly 30 Canadians access legal psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy through Section 56 exemptions. 

In August, Saskatoon’s Thomas Hartle became the first Canadian to undergo legal psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy

“To experience the lack of anxiety I have had this week is beyond words,” Hartle said following his treatment.

The father of two has been living with a terminal cancer diagnosis for more than four years. “I have no idea how long this particular benefit will last, but so long as it’s here, it’s really, really amazing and good,” he said.

As it refines the training program, TheraPsil reports it will continue to work with palliative Canadians to secure access to psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy. Those who are interested in this treatment option are encouraged to contact the organization through its website.

*Correction: A previous version of this article stated the program’s curriculum had been approved by Health Canada. In fact, Health Canada approved a series of subsection 56(1) individual exemption requests for healthcare professionals. Health Canada did not approve the training program or the curriculum.


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