Ethics and Psychedelic-assisted Therapy ~ The Responsibility of Taking the Guide Seat

I wish to share the following as executive director of The Center for Consciousness Medicine (CCM), and as the daughter of Aharon Grossbard and Francoise Bourzat, two of the people whose ethics have been in question. This time has been challenging for me on a personal level, and my commitment to the overall vision for CCM, and for a future world that is more caring, tolerant, and loving remains unwavering. In time, I will share more about my personal experience, as well as join others within the organization, in voicing our collective stance on ethics as it pertains to working with expanded states of consciousness. Please understand that the following does not represent all that is unfolding within me, nor does it represent all of the perspective I hold around the topics of ethics, power, and accountability that have surfaced these past weeks. None of the perspectives shared should be taken as related to a specific situation or individual. Though this piece of writing is not comprehensive of the many layers of thoughts and experiences I am present to within myself, it’s a start.


Over the past weeks we at CCM have been in a period of reflection and process and apologize if the time we have taken to respond has left anyone feeling as if we don’t care about the experience of those impacted by therapeutic abuse. We care. I, Naama, care. I hold in my heart a deep and sustained prayer for the healing and wellbeing of each of you who have experienced harm. I am committed to participate in the best way I can to the righting of relationships and to a future field of healing practices that continues to improve and evolve. 


CCM, as I have founded, led, and continue to lead it, stands fully in opposition to therapeutic abuse. Abuse of power is the absolute antithesis to the healing and liberating purpose CCM is created to serve. CCM exists in service to collective liberation from the effects of widespread proliferating trauma and ways in which that trauma causes us to harm one another and the Earth. We support practitioners who share this purpose by providing healing and educational spaces that are safe, caring, and integrous. 


My prayer is that this field of healing practices can be one that models a different momentum towards accountability of impact, restoration, clarity of purpose and ethics, and of minimizing harm to those most vulnerable. We wish to see those who have experienced harm, experience healing, and be cared for. Those who have inflicted harm should also experience healing, be cared for, and they must be held accountable. CCM has taken action in response to concerns related to Aharon and Francoise and will continue to respond appropriately as issues arise. You can see our statement outlining the actions taken thus far HERE.  


On the intricacies of the practitioner’s stance: 

Clients come to therapeutic and healing relationships for help and for support. For many this act in and of itself is a vulnerable one and should be honored. The guide must meet this place of vulnerability in the client with care; with the client’s wellbeing at the center of their actions and words. It is of the utmost importance that the guide has humility and awareness of the fact that they have their own unconscious material. They must be aware of the potential harms that can be inflicted on the client when that material is not processed or when there are not explicit systems of accountability in place. Every healing practitioner must do their internal work as a matter of ethical necessity. 


One can learn the rules of ethical conduct, conceptually grasp them, but true ethics must come from within. To me, having strong ethics means acting for the wellbeing of the client. These actions must be guided by an understanding of intention versus impact, the intricacies of power dynamics within varying contexts across multiple intersections, and must take account of both the guide’s and the client’s specific current and historical life experience, wounding, and subsequent internal organization. 


If I consider that we as humans are multifaceted beings, that our present selves are made up of parts, then I imagine that all those parts are present in the guiding relationship within the client. This is the place for them to bring their full selves, including all the parts. Because of this, the guide is responsible for being aware of the parts within themselves as a guide and how to tend to those parts so they may be strong, clear, compassionate and in service to the healing container and healing work. At CCM, we call this “doing your own work” as a guide. The guide must be aware of the difference in responsibility in this dynamic. This is a space for the client. The power dynamic is asymmetrical, the vulnerability is not equal and it is the guide’s responsibility to prepare themselves to attend to this reality. 


Assuming all parts of the client are present, it must be assumed that the most vulnerable part is present and thus should dictate any kind of action or potential impact of the exchanges in a therapeutic exchange. The child part is present, the wounded part, the part that has been ignored or harmed in the past. Any action should consider that this part of the client is experiencing that exchange. This is not to disempower the empowered, whole or adult parts of the client but rather to charge the guide with practicing in a way that allows all parts to have spaciousness and attention so that the whole being of the person can give informed consent well ahead of an exchange. This may mean weeks or months of preparation for a given exchange, especially should that exchange be one that has potential to cause harm relational to the client’s unique material. 


Even with careful attention given to preventing harms or ruptures in healing relationships, they may occur to varying degrees. Each of us is complex. By the very nature of the unconscious one may think they are clear and in internal ethical alignment in their practice and still cause harm or rupture. This does not excuse harmful behavior and certainly does not minimize the impact to those harmed. Having the humility and skill to tend to these instances in an accountable and reparative way is an ethical necessity in itself. These instances must be given the proper attention, and in some instances outside support, if the safety of the relational container has been compromised. True tending and repair of a relationship can be an incredible healing opportunity for all involved. 


Everyone has unconscious parts of themselves. The uncovering of the unconscious is never over. There is some degree of personal work one must do to prepare to be a guide and to support others in bringing their unconscious material to the conscious realm. When this work is not sufficiently done or when there aren’t systems of accountability and feedback to make shadow known, the probability of abuse of power and boundary violations increases significantly. It is paramount that guides have ongoing supervision, do their own therapeutic work, and that they are a part of a compassionate community with a culture of accountability for those harmed. This community must also have the skills to establish and uphold a guide’s ethical stance, and should a transgression occur, have the skills to support the restoration of the guide’s ethical stance. These skills must support the guide in the healing of untended traumas which lie at the heart of a guide’s loss of ethical stance so that further harm is prevented. 


I hope to see these kinds of communities and structures in the greater healing field develop. As a leader at CCM I hold a vision for this organization to grow the infrastructure and capacity to be a thriving community of this very sort nested within, and in cross pollination with, the larger community of those called to facilitating healing spaces with expanded states of consciousness. I believe the creation of such a community within CCM must be built on a strong foundation held by a collective. I recognize a deep and honest look at the foundation and lineage of CCM is necessary for such a vision to manifest. It’s with respect to this process that the organization is calling upon the expertise of wisdom keepers, ethicists, leaders in the field, champions of this work, and the many layers of community for support during this transformative moment. This is a moment for us to gather, look at shadow, integrate, and move from a place of renewed and reaffirmed vision. 


My wish is that we are all able to listen deeply at this time. It’s what I am committing myself to, even in the most challenging moments. Being with shadow is hard. I feel the pressure to be reactive, to rush, to relieve the discomfort that I and many around me are feeling. The best way I know to be in this state is to go at an honest pace, one that allows me the time and space to both think and feel in order to reach conclusions with full integrity. I know this looks different for each of us. Thank you to those who have voiced themselves in all the multitude of ways. I’m committed to the work there is to do, knowing that for myself the effort I apply to the work I wish to do in the world towards collective liberation must be mirrored in the work I do within myself. I’m present to the messiness, the imperfection, the fear, the beauty and stand in humility in the face of it all.   

~Naama Grossbard


Further writing and up-to-date information on the organization and programs is now available at our new website, Gather Well Psychedelics: