🫠 Psychonaut POV

[6-min read] Q&A with Nicholas Levich, Coach & Cofounder

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Nick Levich kept hearing the same complaint from people seeking a psychedelic experience—they didn’t know where to go or who to see. So he created Psychedelic Passage, a concierge service to connect would-be journeyers with vetted guides.

We spoke to Nick about what to look for when picking a psychedelic facilitator, how state-sanctioned programs are set up to fail, and the future of the underground as psychedelics go mainstream.

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Nicholas Levich Psychonaut POV

Q&A with Nicholas Levich, Coach & Cofounder

Tell us about your own journey with psychedelics. And how did you and your cofounder first get the idea for Psychedelic Passage?

When I first got into psychedelics, I didn’t have a clue. I split an ounce of shrooms with eight buddies in college, and we just hit the park. I ended up rolling around on a blanket in the grass, watching reality shatter before me for about four hours. I had no framework for it. But strangely, I felt better. It was like wiping the slate clean.

From there, I kept exploring altered states unguided. Fast forward a few years, I was stuck in the corporate world, outwardly successful but miserable inside. My body started sending signals. I met a naturopathic doctor who introduced me to the mind-body-spirit connection and eventually to an ayahuasquero.

In ceremony, the light bulb went off. That's how these things are meant to be used. It hit me that the missing link was the container, the framework, the prep, the integration. College parties with shrooms seemed trivial in comparison. Ceremony provided the structure I needed. So that's been my 15-year journey with psychedelics.

Now, as for Psychedelic Passage, we kicked off in 2019 by asking people what they really needed. The resounding feedback was a lack of education and resources, and a struggle to find a reputable facilitator. Michael Pollan's book emphasized the importance of a guide but offered no advice on how to find one.

So we decided to bridge that gap. We connected with our legal team to figure out how we could help folks find a reliable facilitator in their area. That was the start of Psychedelic Passage. Over the past four years, we've learned that just connecting people with a provider wasn't enough. Most journeyers didn't know what they needed, weren't aware of facilitator abuse, and couldn't evaluate a guide, which created a ripe environment for unethical practices and client exploitation. So, we asked ourselves, how do we fix this?

Our solution was threefold. First, we stepped into a concierge role, curating a network of facilitators and acting as an intermediary between them and the journeyers seeking therapeutic outcomes. Next, we introduced a facilitator vetting process that held them to a higher standard than required by the state. Lastly, we established a continual feedback loop with recourse for facilitators acting out of integrity. These three elements became the backbone of our concierge model, addressing a pressing need that wasn't being met elsewhere.

Psychedelic therapy is still for the most part an “underground” market. Without regulation, there are bound to be some bad actors out there. How do you pre-vet facilitators in your network? What qualifications or standards do you hold them to?

On our website, we've got this nifty chart that gives you a visual overview of our system. We’ve honed in on what we believe makes a good facilitator, and for us, it's not about formal education or licensure. It's about those intangibles, like how you gauge presence, or your ability to make snap intuitive decisions when best practices fail. It's about assessing if people are working on themselves and have mentors who can point out their blind spots. These are aspects that are hard to screen on a resume.

Our network boasts an incredibly diverse background, from PhDs in psychology to licensed psychotherapists, retreat facilitators, psychospiritual coaches, and more. There's no one set educational track. But what was glaringly obvious to me was personal experience—having journeyed oneself. Surprisingly, it's not a requirement to get licensed in Oregon. Would you want to learn how to fly a plane from someone who's never flown? Same principle applies here.

Our interview process spans about three months on average. It's baffling that in Oregon, you can get licensed without an interview or psychological evaluation. We also mandate a minimum of two years of professional experience or 40 facilitated journeys in a professional capacity. We insist on active engagement in one's own healing journey, whether through therapy, coaching, mentorship, or apprenticeship. Then there's our North Star Ethics Pledge commitment, letters of recommendation from colleagues, and client references.

And let's not forget our comprehensive application on the site—it's a real litmus test. If you're deeply involved in the work, the questions are a breeze. If not, they're a challenge. At the end of the day, we're pretty crystal clear about what we're looking for.

Even then, there are inevitably going to be situations where a journeyer and facilitator aren’t a good match, right? How should people think about finding the right facilitator for them?

Absolutely. The first and most important step for a journeyer is to pinpoint exactly what you're seeking. There are many variables to consider, and everyone will prioritize them differently. Let's rule out price or convenience as primary factors, since they don't necessarily indicate a good fit. This is someone you're entrusting with your psyche for six to eight hours, plus the prep and integration. So, think about the setting—whether it's in your home, at a clinic, or if you prefer a medical professional present. Consider the level of licensure or experience you need to feel comfortable. Do you lean towards a clinical, scientific approach, a shamanic one, or something that integrates both?

This is where our role as a concierge comes into play. We ask these questions because preexisting belief systems and communication styles are so important. For instance, does your facilitator use terms like god, spirit, universe, or collective consciousness? Depending on your background, some of these words may be triggering, while for others, they resonate. Effective and aligned communication is key. It’s not that a facilitator is good or bad; it’s about compatibility.

Lastly, I'd recommend speaking to a few different people to get a sense of what's out there. It's a common mistake to settle for the first facilitator you come across. While you may have a great initial conversation, taking the time to talk to a couple of facilitators gives you a broader perspective and helps you make a more informed decision.

The psychedelic policy landscape is changing rapidly. How do you see the network evolving as more cities and states adopt decriminalization and legalization laws? And how would FDA approval for medical uses fit into the picture?

Here's my hot take on the whole situation: there's a wide range of people seeking some form of treatment or service related to psychedelics, and they have many avenues to explore, from retreats and underground facilitators to clinical trials and state-sanctioned programs. In my opinion, they should all coexist.

The FDA model will only cater to certain people, likely at a high cost, given the open questions around insurance coverage. It might not resonate with those who have a sacred or spiritual orientation. On the flip side, there's a large group that's disenchanted with the Western healthcare model and is seeking a more holistic, alternative approach.

Having these diverse options is a positive thing because it allows people to choose how they want to engage. I don't foresee a one-size-fits-all scenario. This parallel pathing is already evident in Oregon, where there are six service centers up and running, yet the underground scene is thriving.

I can't predict how this will all unfold. However, I do believe there will be a balancing effect. As a company, we're uniquely positioned to adapt because we're essentially a connector service. If legislation comes down restricting referrals to licensed individuals, we can adjust. However, our primary aim is to preserve the option of private at-home ceremonial use, regardless of the state-sanctioned models.

What advice would you give to someone who’s considering trying psychedelics, whether through Psychedelic Passage or otherwise?

I'd like to offer a two-part piece of advice. Firstly, understand that despite how they're often portrayed in mainstream media, psychedelics aren't quick fixes or panaceas. Secondly, please know that they often act as catalysts for a much broader, longer, and deeper healing process. And once you open that door, you can’t close it.

I've tried to convey this message in so many ways, but it can be a challenge for people to embrace it, given our societal tendency to expect instant relief from a pill. No matter how many disclaimers and warnings we provide, there's often an expectation that it'll work like clockwork, as the science says, relieving depression at a 75% rate. You are still an n of 1. So for you, maybe it will; maybe it won't.

I've witnessed enough journeyers have their entire world shaken in a fairly destabilizing way to know the media isn’t telling the complete story. I want to work toward a public awareness similar to what you see in extreme sports like surfing. When something goes wrong, there's an acknowledgment that it's an inherently risky activity, and the focus is on what could have been done differently or if there was a case of mishandling. Yet, when something goes wrong with psychedelics, there's a tendency to blame the substances rather than examine if best practices were followed. The issue isn't the psychedelics themselves, but rather the structures of support and the level of education surrounding them that determine how these outcomes play out.

Want more from Nick? Connect with a trusted facilitator anywhere in the US, or apply to join Psychedelic Passage’s provider network.

That’s all for today. Before you head off, don’t forget to share, rate, and review Tricycle Day below. Catch ya next time, Cyclists! ✌️

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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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