“I’ve been a psychotherapist for 27 years, and I would say that psychedelic work is the best tool in my toolbox.”
ALISON DRAISIN – AIMS Institute
It’s not every day that I have the honor of interviewing one of my fellow Women of Weed™ sisters.
Alison Draisin, the founder of Ettalew’s delectable and award-winning edibles, has been serving patients Cannabis infused-treats for years. Those seven-layer bars were absolutely phenomenal.
She has also judged multiple Cannabis competitions, most recently helping to coordinate the annual Terpestival, and serves as president of the Center for the Study of Cannabis and Social Policy.
Before her successful career in Cannabis began, Alison kept busy obtaining a Master’s Degree in Art Psychotherapy, as well as a Doctorate of Clinical Psychology. Now, she has turned her attention to helping patients in a new way: through psychedelic healing and therapy.
How do you incorporate Cannabis and/or psychedelics into your psychotherapy practice?
My clients usually come in knowing that our clinic supports cutting edge integrative medicine. Some clients are already using cannabis or psychedelics, and I might offer suggestions to support their needs and provide integration in between their home sessions. We offer the chance for clients to engage in cannabis assisted psychotherapy and ketamine assisted psychotherapy in our office. These are followed by integration sessions. Integration connects the experience of what unconscious material comes up on these journeys with their daily life.
How do you support clients who may want to use psilocybin, MDMA, LSD, Ayahuasca, DMT or other drugs not considered legal?
I can’t dispense those types of medicine or have them in the office. But I can support clients who choose to use them on their own with integrative sessions between their at-home sessions. I also refer them to the Seattle Psychedelic Society meetup group, where they have presentations and discussions about different types of psychedelics.
Draisin inspires her clients, as does fractal artwork by Luis Camargo.
Tell us a bit about how ketamine assisted psychotherapy works for clients.
We do ketamine sessions once a week, for the whole day. It allows our office to be quiet. Psychedelics are all about set, setting and dose. We work with clients to set intentions before they go on their journey. Then I sit with them while they’re on their journey.
Our offices are very warm and comfortable, and we have music that’s been curated for trips. Different kinds of music, depending on what’s going on with the individual.
Alex Grey devised these blindfolds called a “mindfold” – which allows you to open your eyes while still having darkness. Clients will wear a mindfold, I’ll play a singing bowl, as they focus on their intention. We try to incorporate ritual as part of their experience.
Once a client has begun their psychedelic journey, I record everything that goes on. Sometimes I hold hands, sometimes I rock people, depending on what’s going on with them and what they need. I transcribe everything that happens in the session, as far as movements and verbalizations.
Then they land, and they have time to recuperate before heading home. They must have a ride home. About a week after their journey, they return for an integration session. We recommend that you come in and do an in-office session three times.
Humans are kind of like an onion, and you have to begin to peel back the layers. I’ve been a psychotherapist for 27 years, and I would say that psychedelic work is the best tool in my toolbox. For most clients, they find a release of pain, anguish, agitation, stress and fear.
Doing psychedelics doesn’t erase negative thoughts or events, it merely puts a pillow over them – so to speak. We have people who come in regularly.
Can you talk to us about how Cannabis assisted psychotherapy works?
Clients meet with me to address different types of issues and we discuss how cannabis can help to relax and open their minds. We refer clients who wish to embark on this type of journey to Mary Brown and her team from SMJ Consulting. Mary and her team give the client suggestions on cultivars to address specific needs. Something more uplifting for a depressed client or something more relaxing for an anxious client. The client procures the Cannabis and returns for the session. We set up a Volcano in my office and they begin with about one to two bags.
What types of patients do you treat? Do all of your patients suffer deep psychological trauma or can people who have everyday stress benefit from your services?
We get people from all over the country seeking our services. This is one of the first medical clinics where people can openly talk about Cannabis and psychedelics with their doctors and not feel ashamed, guilty or uncomfortable that they’ll be reported to their job or their insurance.
We have a lot of people who come in after reading the Michael Pollan book, How to Change Your Mind. We see clients with anxiety, depression, PTSD, trauma histories, as well as chronic pain.
Some of our clients are dying of cancer and wish to practice death, so that when the time comes they are more comfortable passing into the next realm.
It’s quite an honor to support these types of patients. We also see clients looking for transformative experiences. We see adults, adolescents, and sometimes children.
What are the benefits of Ketamine treatment versus Cannabis treatment?
Ketamine is a psychedelic in certain doses. It inhibits an ego death. That’s where change occurs, is when our ego dies, and when we’re able to really dig deep into our mind and look at the things we have been guarding against. Whereas Cannabis slightly opens our minds and relaxes our senses, but doesn’t give us an ego death. We’re still in our bodies, we’re still in the here and now. Ketamine, LSD, psilocybin and other psychedelics taken in therapeutic doses can take you into a different reality in your mind. Cannabis does not do that. You want something to dissociate, and psychedelics help us get in touch with our primitive minds. Cannabis relaxes us, and opens us up to conversation, which is great for therapy.
How do you incorporate art into your therapy practice? What type of results do you see in patients?
After attaining my Master’s in Art Psychotherapy, I used to think art therapy was the best tool. Psychedelics is really the most effective tool for therapeutic change. However, I do combine art therapy with psychedelics. Some clients will use art therapy post journey or in their integration sessions. Some clients keep journals and draw things that they have experienced on their psychedelic journeys. They bring their journals into session and we explore. Clients love to create and draw while on Cannabis and I create a space for that type of exploration, too. Using art-making with both psychedelics and Cannabis enables clients to connect with their unconscious mind. It’s beautiful witnessing those moments when my clients connect the dots of their mind and increase their understanding of their behaviors.
Is Ketamine legal in all 50 states?
Yes. It’s regulated by the DEA, and they use Ketamine in hospitals for surgeries and in the military on the front lines as an anesthetic. It’s also effective as a replacement for opiates when treating chronic pain.
Do insurance companies cover psychedelic therapies?
No. Not for the actual psychedelic journey. However, insurance will pay for the initial assessment, psychiatric evaluation and medical clearance, as well as integration sessions. Some clients do submit a superbill to their insurance, with some getting reimbursed for their journeys.
What do you want to tell the world?
Once you start doing psychedelics, you really start to open up and expand your mind, and recognize that the shit that you’re carrying around doesn’t have to be so heavy. You can let the bags go at the door and be able to go inside and enjoy life. ”
Learn more about the Advanced Integrative Medical Science Institute at
firstname.lastname@example.org | (206) 420-1321
interview by Danielle Halle @sweet.deezy | photo by DANIEL BERMAN @BERMANPHOTOS