🫠 Psychonaut POV

[5-min read] Q&A with Victor Alfonso Cabral, Educator & Therapist

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Victor Alfonso Cabral, like most (all?) of our guests, believes in the therapeutic value of psychedelics. But more than that, he believes humans are medicine. So he’s making a documentary to prove that healing is possible for anyone and everyone.

We spoke to Victor about what’s stopping marginalized communities from accessing psychedelics, why therapists need to focus on themselves first, and how a film can be a form of medicine itself.

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Victor Cabral Psychonaut POV
You’ve mentioned that psychedelics are not so widely embraced in Black culture. So what drew you to psychedelics personally?

The first time I heard about psychedelics was in the Dominican Republic when I was very young. I just talked about mushrooms in front of my grandparents, and it became a whole thing. I didn't actually do them, but I got in really big trouble. Then in college, a close friend told me how psychedelics helped him heal, but I didn't have the maturity to understand. I thought, "This guy's kinda crazy, but that sounds interesting."

Then I started having my own awakening in different parts of my life. As I began tending to my mental health, I realized what I was searching for had to be deeper than what I'd found so far. So I started researching and learning about psychedelics. In 2016, I had my first experience with someone I trusted.

As a Black Latino, I have an intersectional identity. When I first started with these medicines, there weren't many conversations about them that I was aware of. But that's shifted significantly. Now, folks in my communities are interested, and many are using mushrooms and other medicines. It's not necessarily stigmatized, but people still don't really talk about these things outside of trusted circles.

What are the main barriers to accessing psychedelic medicine for historically marginalized communities?

The barriers in mental healthcare for historically marginalized communities are even more pronounced in the psychedelic space. It's like taking all the issues with the regular mental health system and overlaying the complexities of psychedelics—the war on drugs, cultural appropriation, and layers upon layers of challenges.

The main barrier is trying to introduce these medicines within a system that's perpetually violent and inaccessible to certain groups. Everything else stems from the core fundamental issues, such as systemic racism, transphobia, and other forms of overt or subtle intolerance. There's also a lack of representation on the professional side, which makes it difficult for folks to find providers they trust. Then of course, there’s the high costs. It’s not uncommon to see $2,500 psilocybin sessions not covered by insurance.

For me, the solution lies in centering human beings, their experiences, and their needs. It's about creating safe spaces where people can access different ways of being and seeing. One of my teachers, Hanifa Nayo Washington, talks about building "beloved community," or finding the unique medicine you offer and bringing that to the world. For me, that's speaking truth, expressing myself authentically, and letting people see themselves reflected in me.

Whether it's policy, training, education, or sitting with someone in therapy, my goal is to show up as aligned as possible. By embodying that authenticity, whatever we create—programs, policies, regulations—can be safe and welcoming for people. The medicines will find a way to do what they do. I feel my responsibility is to push against the edges of the system, find the cracks, and try to expand what's possible.

Through your teaching at Naropa University, what principles are you trying to impart to the next generation of psychedelic therapists?

I try to embody what I teach through storytelling, personal sharing, and taking accountability. I'm not always perfect; no one is. I open up anyway and use vulnerability to humble myself and demonstrate what I'm talking about in tangible terms.

The main principle I want to impart is that, counterintuitively, this work is really about your relationship with yourself. If people have a grounded sense of how to be compassionate with themselves and stay with the hard stuff, their external work with others will reflect those skills.

Practicing self-compassion teaches you to be more accountable because you can receive more from others without becoming defensive or too triggered to listen. When you can sit in those feelings without reacting, you can respond instead. For some people who've been traumatized, just having someone genuinely acknowledge a harm can be a reparative act.

As a therapist, I've learned that to be truly present with someone sharing their deepest wounds, I need to do my own work first. Again, it's not about being perfect, but rather self aware. When I step into a room with a client, my job is to hold that container. The work we do on ourselves creates space to be with people in a sacred way.

At the end of the day, the material I teach is just a gateway to deeper conversations about ways of being. It's about using ourselves as the tool for transformation, as my mentors Hanifa and Niyonu Spann taught me.

Tell us about your documentary, We Are The Medicine. What’s been the most rewarding part of creating the film, and what impact do you hope it will have on the psychedelic community?

Creating We Are The Medicine has been a growth experience for me, both as a participant and in supporting the film operationally. It's taught me to trust, let go, and respect the process. I’ve had to embrace that the film isn't all about me.

The purpose of the documentary is to educate our community about these medicines' benefits and risks, so that they have enough information to make educated choices. We present it in a culturally relevant way that feels reflective of our experiences. My primary goal is for anyone watching to walk away feeling better about being human. I do especially hope people from historically marginalized communities see themselves reflected and find a path to engage with these medicines and a larger spiritual paradigm.

Working with Sway Calloway, Esteban Serrano, and Eric Blackerby has been incredibly rewarding. These are wildly successful artists who have remained down-to-earth through it all. They’ve taught me a lot about how I want to be in the world. Sway, in particular, has been authentically supportive from day one, even without a personal relationship to these medicines. He senses the soul of what we're doing.

The most impactful part has been realizing that we truly are the medicine. Every time we show the film, the room feels different afterward. People walk away changed, not because we're giving them medicine, but because of how we're showing up and embodying the message.

How can the psychedelic field become more diverse and inclusive, and what role should BIPOC leaders play in shaping its future?

To make the psychedelic field more diverse and inclusive, we need genuine commitment. We need to walk the talk. This means aligning who we say we are with who we actually are being. Institutions need cultures rooted in accountability. The expectation should be that we’re constantly reflecting on what we're saying versus doing and addressing the misalignments.

The challenge isn't understanding these issues intellectually, but actually doing the work. When people realize it requires naming values and standing by them—even when it costs money, time, or effort—many back away. You have to consciously approach capitalism differently, which can be inconvenient and uncomfortable.

As a leader, my main responsibility is ensuring my communities and other historically marginalized groups have real choices in this space. They can be therapists. They can be researchers. They can receive medicine. I want to make space for all those pathways.

This work spans policy change, education, advocacy, and all the ways I show up as an example. No matter the setting, my strategy is the same—to demonstrate who I am, flaws and all. Simply being visible lets others see that this path isn't unattainable. I’ll keep rubbing up against the edges of the circle until there’s room for everyone.

Want more from Victor?

Watch a clip from We Are the Medicine and consider donating or sharing to support the film.

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DISCLAIMER: This newsletter is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice. The use, possession, and distribution of psychedelic drugs are illegal in most countries and may result in criminal prosecution.

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