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128. What's Your Cage?: Drug Harm Reduction and Pleasure Enhancement with Irina Alexander

Nicole: The first question I like to ask each guest is how would you introduce yourself to the listeners?

Irina: It's interesting because recently I've been introducing myself. With my name first as either Irina or Irina, depending on how Russian you want to get with it is usually what I say. I was born in Russia and moved when I was five, and I feel like the process of acculturation was such a big one with any immigrant families, but, you know, we like, we changed our last name and, uh, changed the pronunciation of my first name.

So I've recently been like, no, like they're both. Me, different aspects of me, and then when people are like, no, but like, but who are you? But what's your real name? I'm like, they're both my real name. Exactly, exactly. Um, so that's the first thing is my name and then usually You know, I just say a little bit about me, depending on what role people are meeting me in, but I like to introduce myself as a person first before I introduce myself as a therapist, because I think the two things are very similar, but oftentimes therapists.

Forget that, that piece of, oh, right. We're also humans. Yeah. Yeah. So I'm, I'm a therapist. I have a really cute dog named Zaychik. Oh, little bunny in Russian. I love that. I'm like looking at him right now. He's curled up in a little ball. Um, but, uh, I'm also, I'm a harm reductionist. I am the clinical director of Alchemy Community Therapy Center in Oakland, California, on Ohlone territory.

And, yeah, clinical director and co founder of Alchemy. So those are part of the reasons that I'm here today, I'm guessing. And also I work at the Harm Reduction Therapy Center, so I see myself as a street based community therapist, mental health advocate, drug policy reformer. And a lot of other things I'm sure we'll get into.

Nicole: Yeah, yes. Thank you for sharing all that. I think the first thing I want to dive into is what is harm reduction? That wasn't something that I had learned anything about until I got into the field and particularly at SANA. So I'm curious if you could give a little bit of a layout of the land. I know that's a huge question.

We could probably create a whole podcast just on that, right? But like, just a little bit about what harm reduction is and the philosophy behind it.

Irina: You know, I talk about this sometimes as funny enough being one of the things that I have the hardest. I'm describing because I feel like a fish in water.

I've been trained in harm reduction philosophy just my entire career, almost my entire life in some ways, just by the people that I've been surrounded by, uh, within the drug policy reform scene. So in some ways I always have to kind of like imagine stepping out of it and be like, wait, what, what is this that I practice?

What is this that I do? What is this concept? And really what it comes down to for me is Not being an asshole to other people so much of the time, it's just respecting people's dignity, respecting people's autonomy, respecting people's choices that they have in their own lives, and really seeing themselves as the expert of their lives, as opposed to me imposing my own set of values and so called expertise on their, their life, and instead building a collaborative relationship where we're able to talk about, you know, what are your goals and What risks are you willing to take and why?

And what choices are you making? Because there is a reason to all of the choices that you're making and really understanding that is going to support, as opposed to saying, don't do this thing, don't do that thing, because it's bad for you.

Nicole: Right, right, right, right, right. And so I'm curious then if you could get into more of like how that relates to substance use.

Irina: It's interesting because I feel like oftentimes I'm actually doing the opposite is describing how harm reduction applies to the rest of life. Sure. Because oftentimes people think about harm reduction as substance use related only. And in fact, I do the opposite of saying it's not just about. People's use of substances, which in that case, it's to me, it feels pretty clear.

It's like, you know, people use drugs, there are risks involved in using drugs and with the harm reduction philosophy, we meet people where they're in their drug use and in their beliefs around drugs. And instead of trying to push them one way or another, we say. Cool. What do you like about that? What don't you like about that?

Where do you want to get to with that? And really focus on as a relationship that a person has. I really think about it. It's similar to relationship that relationships that humans have with other humans, like a relationship to a drug. Let's talk about that relationship. And then People are like, oh, well, I don't use drugs.

And I'm like, first off, you probably do because caffeine is a drug, alcohol is a drug, alcohol is a drug. Yep, yep, yep, yep. And second off, even if you don't use drugs, we all apply harm reduction philosophy to our lives. If you get into a car and you put a seatbelt on, that is reducing harm. And I oftentimes like to play around with the terminology too.

Instead of harm reduction, I always use harm reduction. In a little bit of a joking way, but also in a reality based way, say, benefit enhancement.

Nicole: Ah! I literally have written down pleasure enhancement as where I want to get to in this conversation.

Irina: Oh, awesome, awesome. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's really not just about how do we make our lives potentially less harmful, because ultimately, the ultimate goal is about benefit.

It's about living a life full of happiness and pleasure and reconnecting to things like joy.

Nicole: Yeah, but Irena, if you come to someone, I know I love playing the devil's advocate here and like getting the theory out by asking the questions. Um,

Irina: Oh, I'm ready.

Nicole: But when you come to a client and then you ask them, why do you enjoy that substance?

Are you not further supporting their use of that drug? Why are you doing that?

Irina: That's a great question. You know, it's funny because oftentimes clients will respond in similar ways. Clients will almost push back against that question and be like, No, no, no, no, no, no. This is bad. This is bad. I'm, I'm doing this bad thing and it's bad and I'm not going to answer the question of why is this helping or why is this working or why or what do I like about it?

Like, what are you talking about? You know, you're a therapist. You call yourself a therapist and it takes a second of kind of staying in that space with someone and really it. Sitting with it and being like, okay, let's explore this a little more. Let's talk about this. So, has anyone ever asked you this question?

They're like, of course not. What are you talking about? Drugs are bad. And then it's like, okay. Well, there's probably a reason you're doing. It you're doing anything in life. There are reasons behind the actions that we do. Sometimes those reasons aren't reasons that we want to admit. Sometimes those reasons are so called good reasons, so called bad reasons, right?

Depending on our own judgments, right? And we're not going to understand The entire relationship if we don't also understand the pieces that work well, right just like in any relationship, right? Um, if someone is dating someone where there are a lot of negative parts to that relationship There's a reason that they're staying and if you don't understand the reason that they're staying Then you're not going to be able to shift that dynamic without actually understanding what they're getting out of it Absolutely.

Nicole: Absolutely. And so being able to have that conversation probably opens up so much for the person who has so much shame and negativity going on about that relationship that they have right to a substance to a person to anything.

Irina: Exactly, exactly.

Nicole: And so. I think I want to get even deeper into, I mean, and I also remember you talking about the, I think people who use substances to be able to go to work, right?

People who are, don't have a home and people who use, like, there's so much nuance to why people do this. And so I kind of want to get into also the rat park, if you could talk a little bit about that. Cause I think that's huge here.

Irina: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, so much of substance use is. So much of challenging substance use, I'd say, is related to a feeling of just disconnection and not being in community with others.

So, a lot of it is, is really based on, there, there have been a lot of studies at this point just around, like, what fuels substance use, what fuels challenging patterns of substance use, and one of the biggest things that people keep coming back to is, Feeling disconnected from community, feeling disconnected from society, feeling like we are individuals in this system, this structure that is making us just work, work, work and making us stuck in these cycles of capitalism that turn us really away from humans and into just Things that produce things that get things done, you know, I'm really objectifying the whole system is yeah So, you know, I feel like I could go on and on about this Really?

One of the biggest things is like a lot of times challenging relationships to drug use I I don't see that as the problem. I see the problem as the bigger system. The drugs are a solution to a problem A lot of the time. And the, the problem a lot of the time is this bigger system of dehumanizing other people and, you know, racism, sexism, classism, all of those things that people are just needing to find ways to cope with.

And one of the ways that people cope with it is by changing the way that they that they feel in a given moment and one of the ways it can change how you feel is by using drugs and then going to work and doing all of the things that unfortunately you have to do in order to survive in today's society.

Nicole: Right, including that caffeine when you gotta wake up to that job that you hate, uh, just throw that one out there too, you know what I mean?

Irina: Seriously. Yeah. Seriously, or the alcohol at the end of the day after the job that you hate.

Nicole: Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. And to clue you in, dear listener, when I had said rat park, that is in reference to Johan Hari's TED talk, a journalist that had done a ton of research on addiction and came across this study where the researcher had placed rats in a cage where they had the option of water or Cocaine and heroin water and they left them in the cage to see what would happen When the rats were in that cage They decided to drink the cocaine water the heroin water and overdosed frequently on that, right?

And then another researcher came in in the 70s was like hey, that seems like an interesting experiment The rats have nothing else to do. Let's make this whole cage and park for the rats to have connection and to have pleasure and other sorts of things. And the overdose rates dropped significantly. The rats no longer wanted to drink the heroin and cocaine water.

And so like, when we're thinking about these relationships with substances, we're so stuck in that first narrative of like, well, there's the cocaine and the heroin water and they overdose and they couldn't control themselves rather than taking the lens that you're talking about, which is what's the larger society.

What's the larger society that's bringing people to want to use the substances in this way?

Irina: Right. Exactly, exactly. That's such a good example, too, because ultimately, we are drug seeking as animals, because the drugs that we get from social connection are also a type of drug. You know, we get oxytocin, we get serotonin, we get dopamine.

That's all pushing the drug button. So if we can't push that in a way that's... That's maybe safer or more socially acceptable than we find other ways to push that like in that example I think one of the the things that I find people do sometimes is they'll kind of like use that example to still put it On the individual of like, you know, well like people need to then focus on making friends and building community instead of doing drugs That's like oh god, like you're missing the point you're really missing the point.

Yeah, it's Such a bigger frame than that.

Nicole: How so? Maybe someone's not catching that. Like, what is that bigger frame?

Irina: Yeah, the, the bigger frame is that, you know, if people could, then they would. I think if people could take time from the nine to five, I mean, nine to five, I feel like nowadays is a blessing for so many people.

So many people work just like 24 seven nonstop and barely make enough to survive. Especially in the Bay Area with the prices as high as they are. But yeah, I think that so much of it is that people don't have time in the current systems that we have. They don't have time, they don't have capacity. We are living in a society that is in a place of scarcity.

That's the place that everyone comes from is the scarcity driven mindset of there's not enough resources, there's not enough... Hell, like, clean water in so many cities where environmental racism exists. There's not enough food where food insecurity exists. There's not enough safety where black and brown people all over the place are getting locked up and killed and shot.

If that's the framework that so many people are living in, then how can you say, Oh, just, just set all of that aside and just, just go hang out with a friend. Just go, go make some social connections. You'll be good. You just need to do that. Why are you doing drugs? Scary.

Nicole: Scary. Hella scary. Which is why I try to talk about it.

You know, hopefully like raise some collective consciousness about it. And get conversations like this out into the world. Because like, my view on drugs prior to going to grad school and clinical psychology. And doing the psychedelic assisted psychotherapy and integration therapy training at Sauna Healing Collective was that, you know, drugs are so dangerous.

If you have one, you know, little bit of drug, you are going to become addicted. And obviously drugs in that paradigm, you know, didn't include all drugs. Coffee, alcohol, these are drugs that I was already using, so I had this idea of what, like, cocaine and heroin, cannabis, all these different pieces that if I just had one of them, then I would fall into addiction, and it was really interesting, right, to get Graduate level training and to be working under other psychologists and to actually learn about the research on substance use and it completely changed my paradigm after, you know, hearing about Rat Park and realizing that, you know, it is not the drugs themselves.

Those are not bad and Particularly within a psychedelic space, right, we get this psychedelic exceptionalism that psychedelics are good and all the other drugs are bad, so that's another thing to watch out for, but getting into the actual research on this really changed my paradigm of how I understood drug and substance use, and it's just so radical to me that this research exists and it's out there, but So much of our collective narrative around these things is still this moral issue of presuming that the person who struggles with substance use is somehow less morally ethical, or that these drugs themselves are so inherently dangerous.

I mean, there's just so much education to, you know, share about these things and so much cultural shifts that we're moving towards as we, you know, shed the layers of the ways that the war on drugs has impacted us and D. A. R. E. and all these other programs that have really sold us these incorrect and, you know, not research based paradigms on substance use.

And in terms of the scary pieces, we can obviously bracket and set aside the reality where The doctors in our country get to decide which drugs are okay, and which drugs are quote unquote bad, right? If I prescribe you an opiate, that's okay because it's been prescribed. But if you use heroin, then that is bad, right?

The power that that really is. But if we bracket that and set it aside, I think what I find so scary is that the providers with that power aren't necessarily taking in that larger systems view, which is so crucial here as the research showed, right? It's not necessarily the person that needs to be, you know, blamed and have this moral attack on their character, which is frequently what the messaging has been around drugs, but rather they're missing the whole point of what is the cage that we are all living in.

And how is that impacting us, us ourselves as power, you know, providers, but also our clients and our friends and our community. I mean, without that perspective, I think there's harm being done because we're not really pointing the arrow.

Irina: Yeah, and that's just a huge issue, is, is how many healthcare professionals in general, but specifically mental healthcare professionals, abuse their power and look at it as this top down approach of, I am the expert, I am the professional, and in fact, I'm going to label and diagnose you in this lens because you are.

The problem, right? So just also think about how our career or actual profession is set up in a way to reinforce that dynamic of the individual is the problem. And we, we even have a book at a DSM with letters and numbers and words that we use to just. Throw these things onto the person and where's the DSM for society?

How come that doesn't exist?

Nicole: Totally. Well, that's a bigger question and maybe we can create that revolution together, right?

Irina: There we go. There we go. Yeah. It'd be very big.

Nicole: Yes. And it always was such a hard thing to sit in class. You know, I think it's particularly because I'm at Sana, right? And getting these ideas and like, depending on where you're training, you might not get any of these ideas, right?

Totally. But then I'm in class and we're talking about like, yeah, if you use a substance every day, you know, that's problematic, yada, yada, yada. And then I'm like raising a question like, What about coffee? And they're like, well, that's that's different. And you're just like, okay. Okay. Okay. Okay. Okay. Okay.

You know, it's just like the math doesn't math there at some point when you start to look at all these different things.

Irina: Yeah. Or what about heroin? What about heroin if they're doing it as someone who works at Johns Hopkins and they're doing it in a way that no one else, right, that no one else sees and they're quote successful in the ways that society wants them to be because they have privilege of being white and having access to wealth and all of those things, you know, it's like, at what point is it a problem and who gets to decide that?

Nicole: Well therapist Irena, who does get to decide that?

Irina: It is a good question because it really depends on where you are and I think who gets to decide that is different than who should be getting to decide that. That's a good, yeah, question.

Nicole: The person, right? Like what is this relationship to you? What is it causing for you? How is it affecting your life? Like getting more into that nuance, right?

Right. Right,

Irina: exactly, exactly. And it's like, in order to qualify for a substance use disorder, which, which I like to say, I like to say, like, either, you know, chaotic substance use, challenging substance use, substance use disorder, defining it in that way, as opposed to just addiction. Like, what does addiction even mean?

It's so arbitrary and it's so individualized. And then, you know, for some people carry so much stigma that one word just does carry a lot of stigma. Absolutely. So instead of using that word, I like to really break it down and be like, okay, what part of this relationship is challenging to you? And maybe someone's like, Oh, it all works.

You know, I, I really, I'm fine with smoking cigarettes, except for when I smoke them while I'm at work, you know, or except. For when I smoke them by myself, I only like doing it socially with friends or they're like, I hate smoking cigarettes. I don't know why I'm doing it. And it's like, okay, let's talk about why you're doing it.

Nicole: Right. Right. Absolutely. Absolutely. So holding that space to talk about what the relationship to that substance means for that person. And then I'm also like. Thinking about the people who are impacted by other people who have, you know, maybe chaotic relationships to substances. I'm curious if there's anything that you, I know that's even a huge, right, whole podcast again in and of itself, but like, what do you say to the people who are being affected by other people who have those more chaotic relationships?

Irina: Like family, friends, neighbors, stuff like that. Yeah. Yeah. Gosh, there is so much to say about that. I think a lot of times people go to this tough love. Approach where they're kind of like, okay, if I don't set really firm limits and then the person won't change their relationship to drugs, you know, and it's actually on me to do something to change them.

And I think that's just a. Risky concept in any sort of behavioral change, you know, if you like to start thinking about things as like, first off, assuming that you have the power to change other people, and then assuming that it's your role to change other people. I think it's just a risky way of living life.

And the way that's just not going to work. Honestly, you might feel like it works if you push someone away for a moment, but they're going to keep doing what they're doing. They're just not going to tell you about it. Yeah. Yeah. You know, they won't talk to you anymore. So I would say with that, it's like the tough love approach doesn't really work, especially if you're trying to change people, I'd say, learning the stages of change, motivational interviewing, where you really sink into, you know, Is this person wanting to change?

Are they thinking about changing? Are they not thinking about it at all and it's not even in their realm and maybe will never be? Are they in the process of preparing to make a change? Are they in the process of actually taking steps towards that change? Or are they actively making a change and really assessing what part of the change Cycle people are in before trying to push them into another one, because trying to push someone into a different part of the change process is actually what, what creates, um, creates a lot of shame.

Because they're not where they think they're supposed to be. Right? And then that creates a dynamic where you're not actually listening. Right. And the most important thing to do is to listen.

Nicole: Mm. Mm hmm. Mm hmm. Essentially, to be in deeper connection, right? When we're thinking about substances and the role that that plays in needing more connection, right?

And safe relationships, even one with a substance, with other people, society, right? To threaten. connection and your support to that person is like further like deepening the wound in a way. But like, yeah, that, that complicated nature of when does it become harmful to yourself to be close to that person and all that sort of like, oof.

Irina: Totally, totally. Which is, I mean, no way saying like, you have to stick it out and you have to be there and you have to in some ways become this person's. One and only support system or this person's therapist or anything like that. Like, no, you get to also set your own boundaries from a place that's actually protective of you, not from a place that's trying to change the other person.

Right? So if you realize, like, hey, this relationship. Is actually too much, then you get to decide what relationships you get to be a part of, and you get to decide how to participate in those relationships. So maybe there is a person in your life, a loved one, a friend, where you're like, you know, I'm I need to have a hard conversation with you, and, you know, I actually can't stay in touch with you while you're using, or I can't stay in touch with you while you're behaving in these particular sorts of ways, because maybe it's not about whether or not they're using a certain substance, maybe it's actually about their behavior after they use a certain substance, you know, So as an example, you know, it's not about you drinking.

It's about you driving after drinking and being in a relationship where someone does that is, is just too, too intense. You know, that is a perfectly appropriate limit for someone to set for themselves.

Nicole: Absolutely. And that's like the nuance of the things that you don't see on a Tik Tok like psychology post, right?

It's like so much nuance in these things when you really get down to it. Right? Yeah. Yeah.

Irina: Context. Yeah. Well, and so much of it, I feel like it's like about the intention behind setting limits and boundaries. The intention isn't to change the other person. It's. To protect yourself and to be respectful of yourself, which in a lot of ways is actually really great modeling, you know, for the other person if they are struggling with boundaries in their life, to be like, hey, like, I love and respect you, and I really hope to reconnect at some point if things do change, if that's even on the table, which it doesn't have to be, there doesn't always have to be repair after a rupture, that's something to That I think is important to say, too.

People get to decide not to be in connection with others, and that's okay. Mm hmm.

Nicole: Yeah, especially even family, right? That's a big one. Culturally, that can be really hard for people sometimes to make that because of the expectations, right, of what it means to cut off in some ways. But there's reasons people make those choices, right?

Yep, absolutely. And I think I've been excited to bring you on to this podcast in a lot of ways, because I mean, one, I've talked about the joys of doing of enjoying substances on this podcast, right? And like, if we're not talking about both sides, I think there's this space in the middle where it's like, well, what if I try Okay.

A psychedelic, what if I try cannabis and I get completely addicted to the substance, right? So I think that's why you're like the nuanced nature of like the larger, you know, cage that we're in and the context and all of that might help to kind of like assuage some of those fears. Because I think there is a real reality that like people enjoy substances to like, you know, dampen pain and to enjoy pleasure.

Irina: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And one can really shift into the other pretty quickly, depending on what's going on in a person's life. Like I think about ketamine as a great example of something that can because it's both a psychedelic and it's an anesthetic and a dissociative anesthetic. So it's a really complex drug in that way, especially with people who, who have chronic health issues, who have chronic mental health issues, you know, yeah.

They might use a little bit of ketamine and find that they can access this place of joy and letting go and relaxation and maybe even not feeling pain for a little bit. And they might do that the first few times and just really like, oh, gosh, okay, that was. That was a great escape. That was a great place to get to.

I'm like, hell yeah, that's, that's amazing. Like, we want to celebrate that. That's like, the goal is for us to live in a world where people have less pain and more freedom and more joy. Right. And at what point, and I've seen this with ketamine in particular, I think in the queer community, I'd say like just more liberal communities in the drug using community.

Yeah. Because it's just a, um, It's like short lasting, it's relatively short lasting in comparison to other psychedelics especially and people can just take little bumps of it and go along either partying or lying down for a little bit and just enjoying, but because of the Particular nature of it. Um, I think that it's really easy to kind of straddle both of those worlds with it.

Where, you know, is this something that's actually benefiting my life? And does it ever shift into a place where it's actually taking away my life and making it harder for me to actually do that? the things that I want to be doing. Um, so I think with all substances, with all behaviors in general, that's something to always be aware of.

And at what point do you actually pause and reflect and reach out for support, which is a lot easier to do if you know people who talk about substances in this more holistic way, as opposed to this is only a bad thing.

Nicole: Right. And I'm not going to talk to you if you do that, right? Like that further disconnection and losing your relationships, right?

It's impossible to want to speak if that's what's going to happen. Right. I'm curious, like, how do you kind of tell that difference between like enjoying and stepping into the pleasure and maybe getting into more of a chaotic space? What does that look like for navigating?

Irina: I'm like pausing for a second because as we were talking about that, I was reminded of a. Friend of mine who died, who was the, he was the person who started the San Francisco Psychedelic Society, my friend Daniel. And he is just the perfect example of someone who was deep in the psychedelic community, deep in the process of wanting to develop community, to bring together all of the psychedelic people.

It was so good at doing that. And at the same time, he would use heroin every once in a while. And he felt so stigmatized by his heroin use, not because people specifically came to him saying you specifically as an individual shouldn't use heroin, but because, you know, he had, he heard people talking about it just, it means he didn't tell anyone about it, right?

He just, you hear enough in the psychedelic space, especially this, this concept that I think about of psychedelic exceptionalism. That's like, psychedelics are the, the golden substance, right? They're the ones that get to, like, it's okay to use psychedelics, but all the other drugs are terrible and you should stop using them.

Um, and it's, it's such bullshit. First off, uh, anyone can have a challenging relationship or a beautiful relationship with any drugs. I truly believe that. Yeah. And, you know, with the case of my friend Daniel, because of the fact that he had to hide his heroin use, he only told a few people about it. And it was really sad to be one of the people who knew, and to see See these conversations happen where I remember being in the room sometime, or I specifically remember one conversation where he had just opened up to me about his use and then we were hanging out with a friend of ours who was like, Oh, yeah, like, you know, people who use heroin like they suck.

Like, there's, there's no good reason to ever use heroin. It's all just like such bullshit. And I was just sitting there being like, this is it. And, you know, maybe like six months after that, he died. from an overdose, but it's, it's the perfect example of how, like, even, not even, especially in this psychedelic kind of society or psychedelic whatever crew that, that we're all a part of, that, that stigma can even be more amplified in those spaces, I think.

Nicole: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I hear that. Yeah. It's not the psychedelic, it's the heroin, you know, like really putting it onto that drug, right?

Irina: Oh, yep, yep. So if you, and if you think about how race and class intersects with all of that too, it's like, okay, the, the rich white people drug is okay, but the drug that people of color and people with less money are using those drugs are bad.

Nicole: Right. My Xanax is fine, right?

Irina: Yeah. Yeah. But the Xanax on the street is not okay. Yeah. Oh yeah. It's sold on the street, right?

Nicole: Exactly. It becomes very clear, like the, at least to me, it becomes very clear the absurdity of the system when you start to look at it like that and the different ways that you had different, you know, substances are allowed and prescribed versus criminalized.

And the whole slew, right? I think the more people waking up to that, we all start to rally when you start to hear that, like the sheer absurdity of the system at times. And I think more people waking up to that gets more movement and more people wanting some sort of change in this.

Irina: Yeah. Absolutely.


Nicole: Yeah. I think I'm just, uh, this is where when we started at the beginning, I was like, I'm scared and we're probably going to get into it, is trying to, you know, like my focus is on sex and relationships, right? I got into this field through my own sexual trauma that led to me volunteering in the community and then deciding to go into the field of psychology, yada, yada, yada.

We get here. My own journey with this has been that like substance have been incredibly healing, like to be able to have experiences on cannabis where my body has been able to like relax and be really present and to be able to have breath orgasms on other psychedelics like these are radical experiences that I had my own journey through of like reconnecting with my body.

And so I'm just curious what the future looks like for that. But then when I start to talk about that, I just get so afraid. One, because like, obviously, kind of like we were saying earlier, you know, like, when you're a therapist, there's a level of discretion when you're saying this to people and how you're showing up.

When I'm talking on a podcast, I don't know who's listening to this, but like, I just, You know, the more this comes into the, to the, my Lou, like, just the pleasure that I have felt in my body on psychedelics has been transcendent and has led to kind of like we talk about in the psychedelic space, like a template, right?

Like, Oh, this is possible. And then bringing that back out into the sober space. Uh, sober, right? Question mark, sober caffeine, SSRI. What are you on? You know what I mean? So it's like, how does one begin Irina to talk about this in a safe way?

Irina: To talk about, to kind of, actually funny enough, my friend Daniel, who started San Francisco Psychedelic Society, he would talk about coming out of the psychedelic closet.

So, is that what you're speaking to? More of the process of how do we talk about this, or how do we talk about this as a thing? As therapists or how, yeah.

Nicole: That's a good question. All of the first one I was talking about the breath orgasm. So I have talked about it. Like it's already out. I'm out of the closet.

I'm out of the closet. Okay. Um, but it's like. I feel like I'm climbing in a very scary territory here, but I'm curious if you have any advice and or navigating this space.

Irina: Mm hmm, mm hmm. Yeah, I mean, I think it sounds like what you're speaking to is just this concept of like being a therapist and being a human at the same time.

I mean, first off, like being a therapist is really freaking weird, like what a weird job. What a weird, like, I'm gonna get to know the depths of your soul while you don't really know many details about me at all. And, and the thing that I often like talk about with both that I've talked about like as, as a client myself with therapists and also as a therapist with my client is like, even though you don't know like the details of someone, In that type of depth and that type of connection, there's no way that you just don't, that you don't know the core of the person.

Like, you do know the person. You know, my clients know me. They do. I know my therapist, even though I like, literally know no details about her life. You know, I'm like, okay, we worked together for six years. I know her. There's not going to be something that happens where I'm like, Oh my god, this whole time, like, I had no idea that you were actually this, like, mean, terrible person.

Right. I think in some ways it's, it's really sweet because, like, those Details almost don't matter to a certain point, you know, like, where did you go to school? I mean, there are a lot of identity pieces that really do matter, for sure, and I don't want to pretend like nothing, none of that does. And in fact, pulling those identity pieces into the therapeutic relationship is, I think, really important.

Um, and talking about identity differences and how that impacts our clients. It's like part of the therapy itself. So I'm definitely not one of those therapists that's like a blank slate, you know I'm not gonna share anything about me. I think I use those pieces of my Identity and experience to bring into the therapy process but other than that, you know the more specific like Here's a psychedelic experience that I had.

Here's a sexual experience that I had. Here's, you know, like I'm dating this person who you know because they're your exes, whatever, which happens in the queer community like all the time. It can be challenging to navigate, but also there's some sort of Uh, sweetness about it. I'm like, oh, wait, we actually are like, this relationship is real.

We are actually humans with each other too. We're not just these cardboard cutout, you know, like, oh, yes, I am here to therapize you today. Um, and I've definitely had my fair share of interactions with clients where they're like, oh, I saw you at this thing, or I know someone who knows you, or, you know, I listened to a podcast you were on, whatever, that I'm like, oh, yeah, that, that's me.

How did that impact you? Let's talk about it. Let's incorporate that into the therapy. What's it like to get to, like, be closer? Yeah, totally.

Nicole: Absolutely. And I think even more nuanced, one of my professors who works predominantly in the kink space was talking about the nature of even that, right? Like, how many play spaces and dungeons are there in your city?

You walk into that space and you see someone there that you like, and like, he was saying anyone who's vanilla, right? Or whatever label would be completely horrible. Horrified by that. And like having maybe a more nuanced answer to like identity formation. Right. Of like, where is this person on that? Right.

Are they brand new? So that's like an absolutely crazy situation to see your therapist in that space, or is this someone that has been in the scene for 20 plus years? Seeing your therapist on a St. Andrew's cross does nothing to them. Right. And like the new nuanced nature of that. We're, we're going to do an independent study together so I can get more of like what this looks like in the, in the spring.

Cause I'm like, Dr. Berkey, I don't know how I'm going to do this, but yeah, I mean, that's like the nuanced nature and I at least enjoy the podcast space. Cause I feel like it's a space where I can take up more space in a very like humanistic. Here I am, this is what I do, you know, where it's not like versus the energy container of a therapy space where I'm not sharing all of my pieces.

Right. But it is absolutely complicated than if a client does. Come on and learn all this stuff, which I guess usually then I'm like, cool. Let's talk about it, you know

Irina: It's funny that this is what we're talking about because I actually saw my therapist at a memorial service that I went to Just just last week.

And, uh, yeah, it was, it was like a really healing experience for me, actually, because the first time that we saw each other in person at an event was, gosh, it was, I think it must have been like six years ago or something like that. And it was, it was actually really like pretty destabilizing for me at that time.

I wasn't expecting to see her there. It was a huge conference. I didn't know anyone else. And the one person I saw who I knew, literally the moment after, I was like, oh, it's so nice to just be at a conference and be anonymous. This is so interesting. And then I look up and I see her looking at me. I was like, are you kidding me?

Oh my god. It's not real. Um, and then at this memorial service, like, Years later she, I'm not in therapy with her anymore, but she like came up to me and I just like immediately hugged her, introduced her to one of my besties. It was just such a like full circle process to be like, Oh my gosh, right? Like we get to connect in this like really sweet human space.

It was really healing for me to kind of see the, yeah, the end of that cycle.

Nicole: Absolutely. Yeah. To have that moment, that human moment, right?

Irina: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Which is great.

Nicole: And my, my big, large hope, right. Is that like therapy is becoming such a strong, like power force within society in some ways, right. As like larger capitalistic structures, like better help are pushing this sort of content out for everybody.

Everyone's like, Oh, therapy, therapy, therapy, therapy. And it's like, we're humans. Do not dare. I mean, we know a lot, right? Like we know a lot. We've trained. This is our thing, but it's also like we are humans and like humans mess up. Humans have bias. Humans have problems, right? It's like, if we start to like idolize therapy as the source of truth, which kind of like we were saying earlier, given like the book and throwing the book, the DSM, it sounds like the Bible, right?

We're throwing the book at the people. Yeah, exactly. Right? Like, right. Yeah. There's a lot of harm that is going to be done with this level of power on society. So like, part of my hope too, in this larger conversation of creating this is also to like, change that, right? Like you're a human, you saw your therapist at, you know, a service.

I'm a human, I mess up, right? Like just kind of like bringing that in, I think is really important in our current like cultural context.

Irina: Yeah. And in fact, it's like the places that we mess up are oftentimes some of the biggest places of. insight and growth for our clients and for ourselves. I think with that example, actually, when my therapist was at that first conference that I was mentioning, I had told her that I was going to that conference and she didn't tell me she was going to be there and she messed up.

She did. She really, and there was a little bit of a rupture in our relationship after that. And she brought it in and we talked about it. And I was reflecting on this after I saw her last week where. You know, without that moment, there's so much that I wouldn't have learned about myself. She was able to really use that moment to, A, deepen our connection because we were able to have that, that real talk.

Like, how did that impact you? Let's go there. And B, actually reflect on, Wait, why was it surprising or shocking? Or, you know, why was I like, Oh God, what is she doing here? As opposed to like, Oh my gosh, she's here. And then all of my history and stuff that came into that dynamic. Um, it was honestly like one of, one of the, the biggest points of reflection and learning for me within that therapeutic relationship.

So had she been so called the Perfect therapist, which doesn't exist. And in fact, it's kinda like the perfect parent. There's no such thing. And in fact, if a parent is too perfect, then they're, then they're fucking up, you know, . Mm-hmm. . 'cause if someone is, is like too, you know, by the rules and never makes a mistake, then the child just doesn't get to learn anything about how to make repairs and how to be okay with messing up and how to be messy and how to be real.

Like that's just all part of the process. So, Yeah, if she hadn't, hadn't so called messed up, which I don't even see it as that, then I wouldn't have learned so much about myself.

Nicole: But I hate that because I have to internalize that lesson, Irina, and it's hard. If I come into supervision, I'm like, I want to be perfect.

I want to do it well, because I care, right? I care. I want to show up as best I can. I want to do it. And then like, you know, supervision trying to give me back. Well, Nicole, you're not going to be perfect. You're going to be human. I've been trying to like integrate this lesson of like, yes, the rupture and repair of even that relationship is part of like the healing and growth process.

But like, Ooh, as a perfectionist, that is hard. That is hard to internalize.

Irina: It is hard, it's hard, and I think about it a lot, like, as a white person, um, through the lens of anti racism work, it's, like, I am going to fuck up. There is literally no world in which I don't, the only world in which I don't, is if I just, like, freeze and do nothing, and that's not the answer.

Right? Like, if we freeze and do nothing, then that actually is fucking up. So the only way to, um, to do it right is to mess up. Like, that really is. And then to, like, be like, Oh my god, I, like, did the wrong thing. I said the wrong thing. I could have done this better. Like, And instead of panicking and making it all about yourself, being like, Thank you to everyone who has given feedback.

Thank you for all the lessons that I've learned. And, like, now I can do better. You know, and like, Not that it's, like, not a big deal if someone messes up, it can really impact people, it can really hurt people. And at the same time, like, if we just get stuck in those moments, then we can't move forward and actually make things better.

Nicole: Mm hmm, mm hmm, mm hmm. And then realizing what level of that is, like, a somatic experience, too, right? At least... For me, like we start to have conversations and didactics about like what it means to decolonize psychedelic healing and then I just go like, dear God, I don't even want to work in this space at all because it's so fraught with so many issues and I noticed how much my body goes.

Yep. Out, out, out, out, out, out. I'm not going there. And then I think I feel that a lot sometimes when I think about like kink and then this episode will be following an episode of someone who did, um, I don't know, Legal, uh, witnessing for BDSM cases of like death and other sorts of complicated things. And so then I start to be like out, out, out, out, out.

I don't even want to touch. I don't even want to touch any of this because this is scary and very complicated. You know what I mean? And like noticing that somatic response that's happening in my body to be able to like sit with that and like not run away from that, like learning process, which is frequently rather uncomfortable.

Irina: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, and then the irony too is that people who end up having a response like that to issues around, um, responsibility and, you know, like, these, like, potential harms that can be caused in those spaces, like, people who are like, oh my god, oh my god, this is, like, so intense, this is a lot, are actually the people who should stay.

Because the people who are like, yeah, whatever, you know, those are the people who should leave. Yeah, exactly. It's like you realize the way you realize the importance of all of this and um and it's really if you like really let yourself sit with just what a deep responsibility holding these spaces is.

It's a lot. It's a lot. It's really overwhelming which is also why I really love working at a non profit clinic where we work as a team a lot of the time and we support each other and it doesn't feel like it's just one individual. Yeah, on, you know, an entire system. Um, I feel like I'll always just be like a team.

Type of a person. Um, but yeah, I, I think that also speaks to something that could be an entirely different podcast, which is the concept of cancel culture and Go for it. You know, it's like people need to be allowed to make mistakes. People also need to Have accountability for the mistakes that they make and for the harm that's caused and we need to have enough openness.

And I know this can be like a tricky thing to talk about because it comes with a lot of trauma and a lot of people being hurt. But like, we need to develop enough openness and enough systems where People can make mistakes, can feel supported in repairing after those mistakes. And so that it's not like this fear of like, I'm going to fuck up once and then my entire career will be over because the entire public will plaster my mistake all over the internet, all over billboards, all over Twitter, like everything.

Right. It's like, how do we, in this bigger way, develop more of a society where, where we can actually come at all of our mistakes from a place of blind faith and passion.

Nicole: Yes. How? How, Irena, how?

Irina: Well, you know, I'll just tell you. Yeah! Two minutes,

Nicole: yeah, I know. Yeah, A plus B and we'll get there, right?

Irina: I have all the answers, clearly.

Exactly, exactly.

Nicole: I know, I, I... One of the many problems I will have paid in my life, right? And many mistakes I will continue to make of like being raised a fundamentalist Christian and condemning homosexuals to find out that I was queer later. And like, that was a fun journey. You know what I mean? Like there's so many parts of that process and I continue to make mistakes and we'll continue to make mistakes until we.

We die, right? Like we're always so limited by our existential lens, you know, and what we're able to see, what we choose to learn more about when we're able to sit with that somatic response and stay connected in community enough to keep going into that growing process. I mean, that will never end.

Irina: Yeah, absolutely.

Absolutely. Yeah. And I think this kind of goes back to a point that you're making earlier, um, just overlapping communities like alchemy. Our whole thing is to train clinicians who are part of the communities that we serve. So we inevitably, there's every day there's overlapping communities of like, Oh, gosh, like, is this person is like my roommate going to invite one of My client's over for my birthday party, you know, like all of these things, um, that, that we constantly talk about internally at Alchemy.

It's a lot to navigate. It's, you know, it's a lot to navigate and it's, it's just so different than this, like, Freudian concept of, you know, the therapist is the expert and the client is the person on the couch. Although we do have people lie on couches, but they're on ketamine. A little different. Yes.

Nicole: Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah, it is a little bit different. But yeah, I mean, I think maybe some more like moral of the story, like some things to think about are like, I don't know, deeper community connection, right? Being able to like, balance your ideas. Like you said, in that collective, right? Bounce your ideas off of other people, have other people that will be there with you through that process.

And like, the more that we can do this in a community connection, rather than like that silo, the individual, the Better place will be in not that I know the answers of how to get to the, like the dream utopian new society, but like, some answers might be like, connect more bounce ideas off of other people and like, sit in collaboration with that.

And when it gets uncomfortable,

Irina: yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And there's so many people doing this work already, right? Like, Adrian, Mary Brown is. Who comes to mind? You know, one of the things, just making a quick plug too, is we have amine training coming up. , yeah. Uh, through Alchemy alchemy But it's honestly, we've been doing these trainings internally for our staff and just recently we've started to.

open it back up to the public. So this is our second round of doing Academy training for providers that are outside of our organization. And I just like, bawled at the end of the last training and in the last Zoom meeting that we had together as a group. I didn't realize how impactful it would be for me to actually meet other like minded psychedelic therapists, like community mental health, social justice, harm reduction people.

And then seeing in our last Zoom meeting, these people. for a group of 40 people who had been through our training for seven weeks ending up, you know, completing the training, I just like started crying and was just like, Oh my gosh, this work can just be so isolating. And even if you're like, Oh, I found the psychedelic people, you know, then like the psychedelic people, it's like such a wide range of people and such a wide range of beliefs and different perspectives on, on so many, yeah, so many really important issues.

And so to like within that larger group really find your people and be like, Oh, like you actually get it and we can actually support each other is just such a, such a beautiful feeling. And really, I think, I don't think that's like, you know, like therapy work or therapy work in general can happen safely without a context of being held in a group.

And yeah. Receiving support.

Nicole: Yeah. When I first saw you in didactics, like, and you had come in to talk to us, you were so happy. And I remember texting Alana and being like, how is Irena so happy? Because I want that kind of joy. And I think it was also the context of like, obviously like I, it was like the beginning of trying to be a therapist, right?

Like, like learning how to Hold that level of stories and other things on top of school. So obviously I was stressed beyond, you know, whatever amount of capacity, but like you're in community. I would, I'm making assumptions that that's part of where the joy comes from. But I should ask, you know, like you, you, you do such, you know, community work that I would say is heavy.

I would imagine, right? Like, how do you keep that joy through that work?

Irina: Yeah. It's interesting because you saw me in a didactic where I was. Presenting with Vilmarie, Vilmarie, um, Fraguada Narloch, who is one of my besties. And she's such a good example of someone who's just really been like, we've really been holding each other up for, for like, at least, at least a decade, yeah, a little more than a decade at this point.

And we live in total, in different States, you know, but she's someone that I'm in touch with actually almost daily. So, and she gets it, you know, like, she's like, So, I'm like, yes, like, you completely understand what I mean. I don't have to explain, like, the intricacies of, like, well, no, this person said this thing, but it, like, well, you see, like, through this framework and this lens, here's why it's unjust and all of that.

So, absolutely, that brings me joy. Just being with her brings me joy and being with my friends and community brings me a lot of joy. And it's funny because I've been doing community mental health work now for, um, In some way, in some way or another, like outreach work for almost, what, 15 years, I think, so from one perspective, I feel really jaded as a therapist, and I really see myself more as a social worker, even though I have a therapy license in some ways, you know,

Nicole: could you explain that? I don't, I don't think everyone will catch what that means.

Irina: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I have a funny example of that actually at the harm reduction therapy center at my home station. My other job where I also work with people who use drugs in a different way, we do mobile therapy. So we set up an outreach van outside and just do free therapy on the streets for folks, mostly who are unhoused.

And we had to put up this, this canopy the other day to protect people from the sun. And I couldn't find anything to, like, strap the canopy down so that it didn't fly away. And I just, like, went in there and, like, grabbed a latex glove and, like, turned the latex glove into, like, a little tie, you know, and just, like, I'm like, this is just what you do.

And one of my supervisors there was like, wow, Irina, you really are such a social worker because I think like, I see being a social worker as kind of just like working with what you got, making it happen, being very just like oriented towards like getting shit done and navigating the systems that oftentimes don't provide you or don't provide your clients with the things that they need to survive.

So then you're like, all right, how do we actually Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. navigate this and how do we get into like the stuff that a lot of therapists try to avoid which is Do you have housing? Do you have food? Do you have safety? Do you have shelter? You know all of those basic needs that like for me as a therapist I'm, like how the hell can you pretend to be a therapist if you're meeting with a client just talking about emotions When they don't have any of that other stuff address.

How are you showing care to the person? If you're like, Oh, like, tell me about how you feel about not having food. Like, Oh, you feel hungry. How does that feel in your body? Yeah, you have depression. Yeah. Right, right. Exactly. It's like, no, like, you're hungry. You don't have food. Let's talk about how to get you food.

Let's look up resources together. Let's spend In the next 50 minutes, instead of just sitting here in silence, or sitting here talking about your feelings and your thoughts, getting shit done. Because that's the type of support that you need right now. Um, so anyway, I don't even know what I was talking about.

I can go on a whole rant about social work.

Nicole: How you were joyful. Yeah, how you were joyful.

Irina: Oh yeah, right, there we go. I stepped into the, into the anger towards the system side.

Nicole: Which is needed,

Irina: yes and, yes and. But, and I feel like in some ways, being. In some ways, like, being jaded is what helps me feel joyful.

Like, in some ways, just being like, Oh, you want housing in San Francisco? Good fucking luck. Yeah. I don't know how the hell you're going to make that work, you know? In some ways, just like being so like real and concrete and just like facing the harsh realities of what my clients face. Like I've, um, or like seeing the harsh realities that my clients face in such a like real and transparent way and seeing how my clients are still resilient no matter what, you know, and just like.

Pushing through, I used to, I worked in jails for, for some time doing like counseling there and just like witnessing the humor, the love, the care, just everything that, that my clients had, despite all of. They're challenging circumstances in life, or maybe because of seeing how they live and seeing how they survive and just having so much respect for my clients helps me hold on to that hope helps me hold on to that joy, you know, helps me be like, Oh my god, like, life fucking suck.

Society is awful. There's so many things that are so broken and so many systems that are just complete hell and And Seeing the ways that my clients are able to hold both of those worlds, to hold the challenges in life while also still having access to the, to the joy. I feel like it's kind of like remembering that we're all going to die and how remembering that we're all going to die at some point as part of what can make it feel more joyful to be alive, you know, or feel like we can actually appreciate the moments that we have to be alive more.

So it's like this almost like duality of, you know. Because of how hard things are, that's why we have to access the joy. One of my favorite quotes actually is from Tom Robbins, novelist, and he wrote this quote in one of his books, Life is too serious to take that seriously. I feel like that really sums it up, it's like life is so freaking serious and so intense and so hard.

And because of that, we have to push even harder to not take everything so seriously and to find moments of joy and connection and pleasure.

Nicole: Mm hmm. Mm hmm. And I think you can do more radical activism in that space, right? I'm always talking about that, like that shut down space of the trauma response to all the pain that is 100 percent very, very, very, very real.

Right. And like, what's that space of also joy to be able to do more work. I've talked about this a few times. Like, if we think about like, this is like a long term war that we want to change our society. Like, we can't stay in the flight, fight, freeze, fall in response all day long to do that long work. So like, when you're joyful and when you're with your clients and they're inspiring you and vice versa, right?

Like, we're able to do more in that space. space in the long run of this work?

Irina: Yep. Yeah. Yeah. And, and that's such a big piece that I tried to bring into ketamine therapy too, is that we're into all therapy, but, um, I think of ketamine sessions and preparing clients for that and really try to emphasize, you know, it's not just about doing the hard work in therapy.

It's also about reaccessing these spaces of, Oh, I get to feel relaxed. I get to feel maybe. I get to feel neutral, even. I get to feel like that war isn't happening in my body right now. Maybe it doesn't even feel joyful. Maybe it just feels like nothing. And that, for some people, is radical, right? So I oftentimes just re emphasize that.

And I've had so many clients who've actually had some of their most healing experiences happen from just like laughing for a whole three hours. Yeah.

Nicole: Absolutely. So much healing in that space of joy. Well, Irina, I know that we've talked about a lot, and I think part of my hope, too, one day is that, like, even within, like, my focus on sex and kink, right?

Like, something like kink is really, can be really complicated. There's a lot of people that put that into a pathology, that put that into a negative space, and I think in the very similar ways that we have put, like, substances into a very negative space, Like, there's a full continuum of that from, like, harm reduction to pleasure enhancement.

Irina: Well, it's all the same stuff, right? From my perspective, kink is drugs. Kink is literally, like, you're setting up, like, set in setting, relationship, drug. You're just accessing the drug in a different way. You know, you might be accessing the drug instead of, like, taking a pill. You're accessing it by receiving flogging.

Great. That is just making the drug come out of your body in a different way. So it all feels like exactly the same and kink is psychedelic as hell. So many dynamics that come up just like they do in psychedelic therapy, not just like, but, you know, a lot of really similar. Yeah. Very, very similar.

Nicole: So where's the book on that?

Who's, who's writing the book on that? I'm looking for it. I'm looking for it. And I guess at that point, that's where you're like, okay, I got to do it, I guess. Here we go. Here we go.

Irina: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And there, there are a lot of people talking about the overlap of the two, I think. Um, yeah. Uh, Latisha Brown is someone who comes to mind.

Uh, yeah. Britta, Laura Mae Northrup, a lot of folks are. Are, uh, are definitely in that scene and in that space talking about it.

Nicole: And I didn't even use the time when we talked, I talked to Britta and Lauren. I didn't even talk fully about this. We like riffed on capitalism for a good amount of time, but yeah, it's been such a pleasure to chat with you.

I'll hold a little bit of space here in case there was something you wanted to share. Otherwise I have a closing question. I ask every guest and then I'll have an opportunity for you to plug all of your stuff at the end as well.

Irina: The only thing that I would want to share is just a little bit more about alchemy, but it sounds like I can do that at the end.

Nicole: Yep. Yep. Okay. Well, I know we've talked a lot about various things and I really appreciate you coming on to the podcast space and sharing your expertise with all the listeners.

The one question I ask every guest on the show is what is one thing that you wish other people knew was more normal?

Irina: What's more normal? Normal is an interesting question. Hey!

Nicole: Anarchist check! Anarchist check! I joke every time now, if someone doesn't question that, I'm like, mmm.

Irina: Yeah.

What's more normal is there's no such thing as normal. Totally. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, really, it's like, like, there's no such thing as like the right or wrong way and that everyone is such a, such an individual and to just like come into every relationship questioning all the judgments that you have and questioning all the assumptions that you have and actually just stepping into every relationship that you have, whether it be with drugs or with new friends or with someone walking down the street and just, uh, Being open and being curious about what their normal is and what normal means to them, and why that's what their so called normal


Nicole: Embracing that curiosity and the space to be authentic in our own unique way.

Irina: Yeah, yeah. And curiosity, I think, is such a useful tool and that one of my mentors and my supervisor at HRTC, Maurice Bird, has really, he uses that term a lot, you know, this like deep sense of inquisitive curiosity, how to come into life. Always being deeply curious, like, like a baby opening its eyes up and being like, what is all of this stuff around us?

What is this? And it's like, I feel like for us, we oftentimes need psychedelics to get back into that space and then we can go into this place of like, wait, but who are you? Tell me about your life and how to bring in, how to integrate that, that vibe into just our day to day interactions. And you're like, who are you?

And why? We don't need an excuse of being on psychedelics to do it.

Nicole: Absolutely. Absolutely. New neuronal pathways. We build them. We stay there. Yes. Where would you want to plug for all of the things that you're involved in that you'd want listeners to be able to connect with?

Irina: Yeah, well, the biggest plug that I want to make is definitely for Alchemy, Alchemy Community Therapy Center.

It's alchemytherapy. org. And we are a 501c3 non profit in Oakland, California. Like I was saying, we are just a really like small non profit trying to do what, what we really love to do, which is making psychedelic therapy equitable and accessible to folks who need it. Um, and folks who are specifically impacted by systemic traumas and oppression.

So. It's hard. It's really hard to do this work because a lot of people are like, Yay! That's such great work! And then we're like, Okay, but give us money, please? Anyone? Hello? Yeah. If you know any rich people out there looking for a place to donate, I think this was such a topic that came up at the psychedelic science conference, and people kept talking about it as, as this, you know, beautiful idea, and I'm like, alright, cool.

sort of social worker part of like, cool, now give us the money. Let's make it happen. Because we are really doing the best that we can. But, you know, we need to create a more financially sustainable system where we can pay our therapists more. We pay our trainees for every hour of work that they do, which is uncommon for a lot of places where Folks are, uh, accruing hours for licensure, but we're really doing the best that we can.

And I want us to do better, but in order for us to do better, we need more money. So also people want to sign up for academy and training. That's one of the things that fuels the financial support.

Nicole: You're doing really powerful work for the world. So thank you.

Irina: Thank you. Likewise. Mmm.

Nicole: Yeah. If you enjoyed today's episode, then leave us a five star review wherever you listen to your podcast.

And head on over to modernanarchypodcast. com to get resources and learn more about all the things we talked about on today's episode. I want to thank you for tuning in, and I will see you all next week.


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