Today, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) and Fireside Project announced a collaboration that will be recognized as a major step forward in creating a safer, more thriving psychedelic movement. As medicine and mental healthcare begin to embrace psychedelic therapies, and as increasing numbers of people use psychedelics in retreats and social contexts, there is a pressing need for a free national support line to help those having difficult psychedelic experiences or those wanting to make sense of past psychedelic experiences.
When Fireside Project’s Psychedelic Peer Support Line goes live on April 14, 2021, volunteers who have completed Fireside Project’s intensive 36-hour training will begin providing support by phone, text message, and live chat to people during and after their psychedelic experiences.
The purpose of the collaboration is to engage the expertise of both non-profit organizations in expanding access to peer support services for people who choose to use psychedelics, in legal therapeutic contexts or otherwise. Fireside Project and MAPS’ Zendo Project will work together to improve the quality and accessibility of psychedelic peer support services, such as sharing training materials, hosting joint public education events, referring and recruiting volunteers, and improving psychedelic peer support at festivals when such events are again permitted.
“MAPS is deeply honored to collaborate with Fireside Project,” said MAPS Founder and Executive Director Rick Doblin, Ph.D.. “As interest in psychedelics expands, the need for psychedelic peer support has never been greater. It is absolutely essential that there be a free, confidential, and around-the-clock resource for people to help them navigate and process their psychedelic experiences. Others have dreamed this dream, and Fireside Project is finally making it a reality.”
Since 2012, MAPS’ Zendo Project has provided safe spaces and specialized care at festivals such as Burning Man and Lightning in a Bottle for individuals having challenging psychedelic or emotional experiences. The Zendo Project has also facilitated psychedelic harm reduction training and educational opportunities worldwide. When the pandemic caused Burning Man to be held online in 2020, the Zendo Project began providing virtual peer support at select events.
Inspired by his experiences volunteering at the Zendo Project, Joshua White founded Fireside Project, which will operate the world’s first ever peer support line specifically aimed at helping people navigate psychedelic experiences.
“No one should have to feel alone with a psychedelic experience,” said White. “By joining forces with MAPS, we can co-create a world where people have access to psychedelic peer support through whichever means works best for them in the moment, whether that be phone, text message, live chat, in person, or in a virtual meeting room.”
The agreement also envisions potential collaborations at festivals. “Imagine going to an event where you could receive psychedelic peer support in-person at the Zendo Project, or by phone or text message from Fireside Project.” said White. “More support means more challenging situations are de-escalated, preventing unnecessary psychiatric hospitalizations, arrests, and traumas.”
Katrina Michelle, PhD, LCSW, Director of Harm Reduction at MAPS and Fireside Project Advisory Committee member, notes, “Zendo Project has served as a beacon to galvanize the expansion of reputable psychedelic peer support services beyond the festival and into communities. This collaboration with the Fireside Project addresses a critical need for qualified peer support throughout the psychedelic landscape and is a promising complement to Zendo Project’s expanding training programs.”
Doblin agrees: “We know psychedelic peer support works. We hope that this collaboration between MAPS and Fireside Project brings this important service to more people, so that they can mitigate risks and enhance the benefits of their psychedelic experiences.”
MAPS has been a leading supporter of Fireside Project since its inception. Doblin spoke on Fireside Project’s launch panel on November 17, 2020, along with Dr. Julie Holland, who has served as medical monitor for multiple MAPS studies. Dr. Holland is also a member of Fireside Project’s Advisory Board, along with three members of the Zendo Project: Dr. Katrina Michelle, Chelsea Rose Pires, and Ryan Beauregard.