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May 17, 2021

Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy

An interview with Dr. Craig Heacock, M.D., about innovative treatments in psychiatry. Curt and Katie talk with Dr. Heacock about psychedelic-assisted therapy – looking at efficacy, safety, and risks for these promising treatments (ketamine, psilocybin, and MDMA) for depression and trauma. We also discuss the debate about medicalization versus legalization of these substances.  

It’s time to reimagine therapy and what it means to be a therapist. To support you as a whole person and a therapist, your hosts, Curt Widhalm and Katie Vernoy talk about how to approach the role of therapist in the modern age.

Interview with Dr. Craig Heacock, M.D.

Dr. Craig Heacock is an adolescent/adult psychiatrist and addiction specialist in Colorado as well as the co-producer and host of the psychiatric storytelling podcast Back from the Abyss. He was a therapist in the Phase 3 trial of MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy for PTSD and has particular interest in the use of ketamine and other psychedelics to treat severe mood disorders and PTSD. He is a graduate of the University of New Mexico School of Medicine and did his psychiatry training at Brown University.

In this episode we talk about:

  • The innovations in psychedelic-assisted therapy
  • Why it is so hard to find a good psychiatrist, especially one that goes beyond med checks
  • How psychiatry is changing, as well as how little has changed in medication since 1994
  • Treatment-resistant may mean deep-seated trauma
  • Definitions of psychedelics, psychedelic-assisted treatment
  • Ketamine, MDMA, psilocybin
  • Efficacy for treatment with ketamine, MDMA, psilocybin for trauma and depression
  • The speed of building trust and moving into the working phase with these treatments
  • Safety concerns and side effects with ketamine, psilocybin, and MDMA
  • Boundaries and safety for therapists (as well as clients) during these treatments
  • The vulnerability during these treatments
  • Self-assessment for mental health providers whether they should work in this space
  • The importance of doing your own psychedelic treatment before being a therapist in this work
  • Client-perceptions of clinicians doing their own psychedelic work (or publicly owning their story)
  • The increasing acceptance of these types of treatments – the treatments becoming more mainstream
  • Psilocybin – in trials for FDA approval for trauma treatment, but may be legalized before it is medicalized and used for treatment
  • Medicalization versus legalization conversation
  • The problems with medical THC (including making symptoms worse and psychotic breaks)
  • Micro-dosing efficacy and risks and whether they should be managed by a doctor
  • The importance of assessing sleep and substance use/abuse
  • Abyss stories – how Dr. Heacock started telling these stories and the power of these stories

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Resources mentioned:

We’ve pulled together resources mentioned in this episode and put together some handy-dandy links. Please note that some of the links below may be affiliate links, so if you purchase after clicking below, we may get a little bit of cash in our pockets. We thank you in advance!

Craig Heacock, MD Website

Back from the Abyss Podcast

Interview with Lisa Ling

Laura Northrup Inside Eyes Podcast

Article: Self-admitted psychedelic use and association with psychedelic culture harm perceptions of researchers’ scientific integrity


Relevant Episodes:

It’s NOT a Chemical Imbalance

Preventing Client Suicide

Therapists Struggling with Darkness


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Who we are:

Curt Widhalm is in private practice in the Los Angeles area. He is the cofounder of the Therapy Reimagined conference, an Adjunct Professor at Pepperdine University and CSUN, a former Subject Matter Expert for the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, former CFO of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, and a loving husband and father. He is 1/2 great person, 1/2 provocateur, and 1/2 geek, in that order. He dabbles in the dark art of making "dad jokes" and usually has a half-empty cup of coffee somewhere nearby. Learn more at:

Katie Vernoy is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, coach, and consultant supporting leaders, visionaries, executives, and helping professionals to create sustainable careers. Katie, with Curt, has developed workshops and a conference, Therapy Reimagined, to support therapists navigating through the modern challenges of this profession. Katie is also Past President of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. In her spare time, Katie is secretly siphoning off Curt's youthful energy, so that she can take over the world. Learn more at:

A Quick Note:

Our opinions are our own. We are only speaking for ourselves – except when we speak for each other, or over each other. We’re working on it.

Our guests are also only speaking for themselves and have their own opinions. We aren’t trying to take their voice, and no one speaks for us either. Mostly because they don’t want to, but hey.


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Voice Over by DW McCann

Music by Crystal Grooms Mangano