Rachel Dundas, Owner and Director of Healing and Wholeness Mental Health Services in Strathmore, is among the first few psychologists in the country to offer legal psychedelic medicine as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health conditions. 

Using psychedelic medicine to treat certain mental health conditions is a relatively new area of psychology. 

Dundas was inspired to offer this specific type of treatment after her own transformative experiences, which led her to pursue and advocate for the public to have access to psychedelic treatments. 

“After I had my own experiences and went through my own healing process, I really could see the potential benefit to so many of my clients who were really struggling,” Dundas said. 

According to Dundas, some mental health conditions are extremely challenging to treat. Conditions like treatment-resistant depression and complex post-traumatic stress disorder are difficult to treat and often have very poor treatment outcomes, so offering psychedelic medicine is an alternative to traditional routes of healing. 

“Another potential benefit of psychedelic medicine is that it is a short-term treatment. Typically, there are one to three medicine sessions, compared to a lifetime of daily medication with antidepressant or SSRI drugs, which is a benefit. They are not forever, just a short period of time.” 

For example, 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, also known as MDMA, is in the third phase of clinical trials with the FDA, and according to Dundas, full legalization of MDMA as a therapeutic treatment is expected to be here soon. 

According to the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), “MDMA is currently being researched as a potential treatment, in combination with talk therapy, for a variety of mental health disorders.” 

Based on clinical trials and academic studies, "those who are diagnosed with PTSD, depression, major depressive disorder, treatment-resistant depression, anxiety, substance misuse, eating disorders, and chronic pain could potentially find therapeutic benefits from MDMA treatment."

Although this is a relatively new medical treatment, and Dundas may be a pioneer of the industry in Canada, psychedelic medical treatments have been extensively used and studied since the 1940s. Still, it wasn’t until later that a dedicated group of psychologists started advocating for change. 

Currently, Health Canada regulations for the special access program limit legal access to psychedelic medicine for people who are struggling with treatment-resistant depression, for people with PTSD, or who have not found remission in their symptoms. 

“Typically, people will need to have tried other therapies before they can apply for access to psychedelic medicine. That is where we are today, but these will change down the road.” 

However, according to Dundas, “even the healthiest people could benefit from some of the insights and changes that come about through psychedelic experiences when delivered in a safe, therapeutic environment. It is very different than recreational use of psychedelics.” 

Recently, Alberta Blue Cross announced they will be covering psychedelic therapy for their client base, which is 1.8 million Albertans. 

“There is a shifting landscape, and legal access is already available to many in certain parts of North America and Australia. I think in the coming decades, we will definitely see a slow shift in the options available to people.” 

This shift takes time for psychologists and other therapists to incorporate into their practice. 

“Ethically speaking, when a therapist is adding a new treatment approach, they need not only training, but they also need personal experience. And they need supervised practice. And for many psychologists, they don't have the ability to access all of that until psychedelics are more broadly available and there is less red tape around them.”

Only a few professionals, including Dundas, working through the special access program in Canada provide the treatment. 

The Healing and Wholeness website provides more information for anyone interested in learning more or booking a consultation. 

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