San Francisco Psychedelic Society and Chacruna Institute Community Meeting Series on Psychedelics, Music, Integration, Policy and Culture

San Francisco Psychedelic Society and The Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicines are partnering up to create a cutting-edge series to infuse deep psychedelic knowledge on sacred plants, culture and policy into our growing, local community. Over the next ten months we will produce a five talk series with special guest speakers from Chacruna presenting in the cozy womb of SFPS 3rdThursday community meetings in San Francisco. You can expect revolutionary psychedelic research, music therapy, integration, policy, and wisdom and education in a more accessible form. Each talk will be followed by a breakout group with the speakers to integrate the presentations while weaving community and building new connections. We hope and intend that this new partnership combining Chacruna’s scholarly and educational expertise with the SF Psychedelic Society’s community-minded mission will foster deeper understanding and legitimacy regarding these substances.


February 21st, 2019.

An Examination of Psychological Healing with Ayahuasca

Clancy Cavnar

Ayahuasca has been progressively regarded as a tool for psychological exploration, healing, and mental well-being. Family dynamics, past trauma, and unacknowledged feelings are often brought to the forefront in early experiences of drinkers, and several authors have written about the importance of integration of the powerful visionary experiences people have. This paper will explore the claims made by those who have experienced psychological benefits from ayahuasca, as found in the academic literature and published personal accounts. It will consider reports of psychological insights gained, and the resulting personal transformation or healing that took place. It will also analyze and identify the specific elements of the ayahuasca experience that are considered to be key to psychological healing, both within the experience and afterwards; these aspects will be related to psychodynamic and transpersonal theories of healing. Finally, the text will contemplate what is known about ayahuasca as a mood enhancer, and how that may assist psychological healing.

Clancy Cavnar has a doctorate in clinical psychology (Psy.D.) from John F. Kennedy University in Pleasant Hill, CA. She currently works in private practice in San Francisco, and is Associate Director of the Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicines (https://chacruna.net), an organization that provides public education about psychedelic plant medicines and promotes a bridge between the ceremonial use of sacred plants and psychedelic science. She is also a research associate of the Interdisciplinary Group for Psychoactive Studies (NEIP). She combines an eclectic array of interests and activities as clinical psychologist, artist, and researcher. She has a master of fine arts in painting from the San Francisco Art Institute, a master’s in counseling from San Francisco State University, and she completed the Certificate in Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy program at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS). She is author and co-author of articles in several peer-reviewed journals and co-editor, with Beatriz Caiuby Labate, of eight books. For more information see: http://neip.info/pesquisadore/clancy-cavnar

7:00-9:00 pm
Location:  Odd Job Bar, 1337 Mission St., 3rd floor, San Francisco, CA
Tickets here
Facebook event here


April 18th, 2019

How to Deal With a Troubling Psychedelic Experience

Alexander Theberge 

Plant medicines and psychedelics, used in thoughtful and intentional ways, can be incredibly life changing and transformative. They offer the potential for profound spiritual experiences and deep healing not offered by other modalities. But these experiences can sometimes be very challenging, difficult, dark, or painful. This is especially true when the person is unprepared for the magnitude of what they experience or is working with psychedelics in an unintentional manner. Even people going through positive transformative journeys with psychedelics can find themselves struggling to come to terms with what happened or return to a balanced state. It is not always a smooth process even in the best of circumstances and there are often bumps along the road of psychedelic experience. And there are a variety of experiences that can be particularly troubling and deeply challening for someone journeying with psychedelics or plant medicines. Based on my experience working with hundreds of people before, during, and after psychedelic and plant medicine journeys, I have identified several archetypes of troubling or challenging experiences that can occur as part of a psychedelic experience. These include the classic “bad trip,” experiences with a hellish quality, unexpected revelations, the rocky return home, the spiritual crisis, and psychotic breaks. This talk examines each of these scenarios, discusses how to deal with them as they happen, and offers integration guidance for each of the different archetypes.

Alex Theberge, MFT is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist based out of San Francisco specializing in psychedelic integration and support. He has been exploring psychedelics for 25 years, has spent several years living in the Peruvian Amazon studying ayahuasca shamanism and facilitating plant medicine ceremonies, and continues to lead plant medicine retreats to Peru. Previously, Alex worked at the University of California San Francisco’s Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute where he was a staff therapist and Program Manager in the Partial Hospitalization Program.  Alex has a 15 year history of working in diverse clinical and healing settings including community mental health, residential treatment, and hospice care. He is a member of the Charuna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicines Women, Gender Diversity, and Sexual Minorities Working Group.

7:00-9:00 pm
Location: TBA
Tickets here


June 20th, 2019

Empowering the Individual: A Focus on Self-Driven Integration

Kendra Birdsall 

Working with ayahuasca can be an incredibly challenging undertaking that has the potential to profoundly impact the lives of those who seek healing with this Amazonian plant medicine. Following work with the medicine comes the further challenge of integrating these experiences into everyday life. Integration of the ayahuasca experience is an incredibly personal process and as such, creating an integration plan should also be highly personalized. This talk will present an approach to integration that is focused on empowering the individual. It will cover the importance of managing expectations, encouraging approachable and simplified practices, and ultimately placing integration tools into the hands of the individual through self-driven resources. An example of such a resource, “The Hero’s Journal: An Integration Workbook” will be presented. This talk challenges us to prioritize integration programs that empower the person working with the medicine to direct their own healing. The tools presented in this talk are informed by experiences with the plant medicine ayahuasca but can also be applied to psychedelic integration on a wider scale.

Kendra Birdsall is currently the Integration Specialist for Soltara Healing Center, whereguests work with the plant medicine ayahuasca, which is served in ceremony with Peruvian Shipibo healers.  Kendra is also the author of “The Hero’s Journal: An Integration Workbook”. Kendra holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania with coursework in Cultural Anthropology and Mind-Body Medicine (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction). As a student, she was involved in various health psychology research projects. She has professional experience working in a therapeutic setting supporting individuals with histories of trauma, depression and anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse, and developmental and physical disabilities. Kendra has also worked within the Native American community in the Northwestern United States where she facilitated an outreach program and support group for native elders.

7:00-9:00 pm
Location: TBA
Tickets here


August 15th, 2019

Creating Playlists For Psychedelic Therapy

Matt “River” Baldwin

This talk encapsulates perspectives from The Chacruna Institute’s Psychedelic Therapy Music Forum; providing a brief history of the use of music in psychedelic work, theoretical information on the structure of playlists and clear practical steps on how to create musical playlists for psychedelic work, both within and outside of a research setting. It will cover a variety of points, including: 1. The different multiphase models for musically-driven psychedelic journeys 2. Technical audio issues and ways to maintain sound quality 3. Fixed vs more flexible playlist approaches 4. The usefulness and appropriateness of different styles of music for psychedelic playlists 5. How to individualize playlists for each listener. The talk ultimately makes a case for psychedelic therapy being a form of music therapy, with the depth and power of the music selected being one of the most important factors in play.

Matt “River” Baldwin, MFT, is a musician and psychotherapist living in San Francisco. He is a 2017 alumnus of the California Institute of Integral Studies’ Psychedelic Assisted Psychotherapies and Research Program. He has produced 9 albums of music under his own name, collaborated with a variety of artists, and has toured widely as a performer. He specializes in the use of music in psychedelic psychotherapy, having designed playlists for a MAPS Phase 3 MDMA trial and a variety of other applications. Matt holds a bachelor’s degree in rhetoric from The University of California at Berkeley and a master’s degree in counseling psychology from John F. Kennedy University. He is currently Director of the Psychedelic Music Therapy Forum for the Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicines, an organization that provides public education about psychedelic plant medicines and promotes a bridge between the ceremonial use of sacred plants and psychedelic science.

7:00-9:00 pm
Location: TBA
Tickets here


October 17th, 2019.

Empowering Legal Protection and Freedom for Sacred Plant Communities in the US

Robert Heffernan 

The use of ayahuasca in the United States has greatly expanded over the last 20 years. What began as an obscure Amazonian sacred plant medicine used in small hidden groups has turned into a vibrant movement. It now involves everything from extremely well organized churches who have won major court cases to traditionally based shamanic groups that have organized themselves into incorporated spiritual congregations to new age endeavors of questionable quality and some misleading and fraudulent practitioners. This presentation will offer perspectives on some of the social and legal challenges and opportunities ayahuasca and other plant communities face in the US. The author will suggest ways groups can organize and protect themselves, engage in legal harm reduction and associate with like minded groups nationally and internationally. He will outline how Chacruna’s Council for the Protection of Sacred Plants can support the community in these efforts. 

Rob Heffernan is an independent researcher and activist who has been involved in the vegetalismo, Santo Daime and other syncretic traditions since 2000. He has been involved with legal issues and organizing efforts in the Santo Daime and ayahuasca community for the last 12 years and has recently begun to speak and write about these matters publicly. He is part of Chacruna’s Council for the Protection of Sacred Plants. He is involved with integration work as a certified Shamanic Breathwork facilitator and a certified Integrative Sound and Music Practitioner (sound healing). This is complimented by a long term involvement with Buddhist Dharma. He has recently begun to write and speak about the integration of Buddhist Dharma and medicine work.

7:00-9:00 pm
Location: TBA
Tickets here