Hey everyone!

I am Holly Bennett, TheraPsil's Communications Director and I will be relaying the questions/answers in this AMA to our team. I am joined today by:

Spencer Hawkswell - CEO

Yasmeen Sadain - Director of Training and Operations

Dave Phillips - Training Advisor

Natasha Fearnley, RN - Clinical Intake Director

Based in Victoria, Canada, and established in 2019, TheraPsil is a non-profit coalition of healthcare professionals, patients, and advocates dedicated to obtaining legal access to psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy for Canadians in medical need.

TheraPsil supports Canadians who experience end-of-life distress, to exercise their charter right to seek compassionate treatment using psilocybin, through an application for exemption of section 56(1) of the controlled substances and drug act (CDSA).

TheraPsil then connects approved patients with qualified healthcare professionals who facilitate psilocybin-therapy.

Please ask any questions you may have for the TheraPsil team!






Comments: 48 • Responses: 14  • Date: 

ExViv012 karma

Question 2 if you're able to get to it. There is clearly a move to profit off of the shift in policy regarding therapeutic Psilocybin - what are your thoughts on corporate entities patenting compounds and creating IP patents on treatment processes? Are there certain companies that you find more ethical than others? The one's im aware of are Numinus, MindMed and Cybin - any others doing interesting work?

TheraPsil16 karma

There is certainly a move by many companies to profit off the shift in policy around psilocybin. People see the value of psilocybin for helping patients and wherever there is potential value, there is money. Compounds and technologies that are being patented are partially driving the innovation. If someone finds a breakthrough compound, it may well be because of investment in something patentable. We are very lucky though because, just like cannabis, psilocybin mushrooms are non-patentable and are very inexpensive. However, this is part of the reason that it’s not yet a drug in Canada, because you would need millions to bring it through clinical trials, and at the end of the day, if you’re not able to profit off an investment, an investment is not made. As for the ethics of companies, I have not seen anything done by any companies that I would deem unethical. Many of these companies are made up of highly ethical clinicians and it’s not necessarily unethical to file a patent - sometimes it must be done when the risk and investment are great.

As a non-profit, patient-first organization, however, we are always listening to those who may be impacted by potential barriers to safe and equitable treatment. We are dedicated to fighting for Canadians in medical need of psilocybin therapy, and amplifying their voices to ensure their needs are heard and met." - Spencer Hawkswell, CEO, TheraPsil

Ian_Vapsist11 karma

Are you needing any help from volunteers. If so, what kind of skills and tasks would help?

TheraPsil9 karma

We may have volunteer opportunities coming up soon! Follow us on our social channels and we’ll put out calls for volunteers on there. Thanks so much, it’s great to hear your support!

Easy-Application-1108 karma

Is there any other treatments psilocybin is currently used for in Canada other than End of Life Distress? And are you advocating for them as well?

TheraPsil10 karma

TheraPsil currently supports patients who are suffering from end-of-life distress and cancer-related anxiety. We do however see the need for all Canadians in medical need to have access to this treatment option, including those suffering from treatment-resistant depression, PTSD, Cluster headaches, substance use disorders, etc. If you or a loved one are looking for support in accessing legal psilocybin therapy, please contact us on our website here:

versedaworst3 karma

Hi! Are there any videos, documentaries, and or articles that you would point people towards to help educate themselves and others on the details surrounding psychedelic psychotherapy?

TheraPsil3 karma

Super great question. If you go to the 'news section on our website here ( you will find a bunch of great news articles and videos sharing the real stories of patients we've supported, who have found profound healing with psilocybin therapy. We also recommend the movie 'Dosed', and Ted Talks by folks like Dr. Anthony Bossis. Our Youtube channel also has some great videos/ resources.

Ian_Vapsist3 karma

How many patients have you worked with so far, and how many do you expect in the next year or two?

TheraPsil2 karma

We have facilitated 31 patients in accessing exemptions for legal psilocybin assisted psychotherapy and have connected with over 1000 Canadians waiting for access to legal psilocybin assisted psychotherapy. We know this is just the tip of the iceberg, and this limited access is bottlenecked by Health Canada / Minister Patty Hajdu: A lot of these patients have medical needs outside of what Health Canada is currently exempting from Section 56. So, unfortunately, at this point in time, we cannot help patients with treatment-resistant depression, PTSD, substance use disorder, for example. We clearly see that section 56 exemptions are not a sustainable solution and regulations are required for medical/ therapeutic access. With legal, medical access through regulations, many more patients will be able to access this treatment option with their healthcare providers support, without having to ask permission from the highest levels of government to do so.

all-of-the-questions3 karma

What is TheraPsil doing to push for Psilocybin legalization / regulation change?

TheraPsil4 karma

"Section 56 exemptions have served many people over the past year, however, we are now at a point where some patients are waiting over 130 days for a response to their section 56 exemptions.
Just like with medical cannabis, eventually, section 56 exemptions were deemed inefficient and arbitrary, and the courts forced regulations to be made.
I do believe we are at this point in Canada. Patients are wondering why they are being discriminated against - why their peers get psilocybin, but they don’t. And while the courts could be the ones to force the regulations, we at TheraPsil believe it is wrong for Patty Hajdu, our federally elected health minister, to push the decision to the courts.
We believe that the government needs to make a decision and help the patients who need access.
Over the summer we will be launching our largest media campaign yet in an effort to save Canadians with Cancer, PTSD, Depression, Addiction, etc.. from having to go to court.
We hope you will help! We will have much more information soon."

- Spencer Hawkswell, CEO, TheraPsil

wcfishies2 karma

Where’s Therapsil located? How big is your team?

TheraPsil1 karma

We are a small ‘daily’ team of 9. Our staff is mostly located in Victoria, BC with a few in Vancouver, Winnipeg, and Toronto. You can meet our team here:

Challian_christ2 karma

Hello! Thanks for carrying out this AMA. You mentioned that 19 therapists have been given a section 56 exemption to work with psilocybin themselves. Two questions:

1) How did these therapists convince the Health Minister's office that this was necessary (considering the general misconception among legislators that you don't need to know how a drug works in order to effectively administer it)?

2) Were these therapists taking part in formalized training? Or are they simply permitted to use these substances on their own time, as they please, with little to no government oversight?

TheraPsil3 karma

Hello! Thanks for carrying out this AMA. You mentioned that 19 therapists have been given a section 56 exemption to work with psilocybin themselves. Two questions:

How did these therapists convince the Health Minister's office that this was necessary (considering the general misconception among legislators that you don't need to know how a drug works in order to effectively administer it)?Were these therapists taking part in formalized training? Or are they simply permitted to use these substances on their own time, as they please, with little to no government oversight?

Part 1: We launched a big campaign to educate Minister Hajdu, stakeholders, and the general public about why experiential training for healthcare professionals was/ is in our opinion necessary for being able to safely and effectively facilitate this therapy for patients/ clients. We published dozens of videos from healthcare professionals and patients about this, garnered great support from some MP’s, and published letters of endorsements from psychedelic experts such as Rick Doblin and Stan Groff for example. We advocated for over 106 days. Our main message was: like any other form of therapy, whether that is CBT, DBT, massage therapy, relationship therapy etc, the clinician facilitating the therapy needs to have undergone this therapy personally as part of their training. This is even more true when working in non-ordinary states of consciousness, where the experience is often ineffable. We are deeply thankful to Minister Hajdu for listening to patients, healthcare professionals and experts, and for granting these exemptions. You can learn more about this here:

Part 2: TheraPsil actually facilitated exemptions for those first 19 Health Care Practitioners to take part in our experiential training program, not to be used on their own. We recognize the importance of developing a pool of suitably trained and trusted TheraPsil Clinical Associates to whom we can refer patients. As such, we created a training curriculum as the required context in which trainees may legally use psilocybin as part of their professional training. It’s important that our Clinical Associates understand the journey a patient will go through on this medicine and that’s why we advocate for them to be able to have an experience of their own in our training modules. You can learn more about our training program here:

SoontobeSam2 karma

Are you working towards psychedelic therapy in treating depression or other mental health related fields or solely end of life distress as listed above?

Do you know of any research into treating gender dysphoria through guided psilocybin therapy?

TheraPsil2 karma

We believe that all Canadians in medical need deserve safe and equitable access to psilocybin therapy. However, To date, Minister Hajdu has only approved exemptions for Canadians suffering from end-of-life distress and/ or cancer-related anxiety. We continue to advocate for regulations so that this option is not only accessible to those in palliative care, but for all Canadians in medical need.

We are not sure of any research related to psychedelic therapy and gender dysphoria - sorry!

timbergames2 karma

Why does Canada need Therapsil? What would happen regarding psilocybin access if you weren’t here?

TheraPsil3 karma

We believe that without our rapid and tangible progress in the fight for legalization over the past year, there would be:1) No facilitated immediate access to psilocybin therapy for Canadians in medical need.

No alternative to accessing psilocybin from for-profit clinics, through clinical trials, or potentially unsafe, 'underground' facilitators.

Without TheraPsil, doctors and therapists would not be getting legal access to psilocybin for training purposes.

No access to psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy for Canadians with financial barriers.

2) Prolonged stigma / misconceptions against psilocybin therapy in Canada

Medical professionals/patients/public/ government officials would remain largely uninformed about the merits and limitations of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy in a community setting without our steadfast public education and advocacy

Limited Canadian data on Public perception of legalization/ regulation change

Without healthcare professionals trained in this specific modality, patients do not get the specialized care they need, and thus do not get the safest and effective support for healing.

3) Loss of our robust training program meaning a shortfall of trained therapists, post-legalization

Without healthcare professionals trained in this specific modality, patients do not get the specialized care they need, and thus do not get the most safe and effective support for healing.

4) No nonprofit advocacy to influence public policies

5) Current and potential end-of-life patients would remain hopeless in their pursuit to die with dignity, only having medical assistance in dying as an option when faced with end-of-life distress

[deleted]2 karma


TheraPsil7 karma

Hi there, no free samples - sorry! We don't supply mushrooms - just advocate for folks to have legal access to them for medical purposes. We are working towards legalization for all in medical need.

ExViv02 karma

Hello! I'm wondering what catalysts for legalization of therapeutic psilocybin treatment you see in the near and long-term future? Approximately how long do you think until we see this become a normalized practice in your opinion?

TheraPsil1 karma

Great question! The catalyst for the legalization of some other healthcare options in Canada, such as medical cannabis and medical assistance in dying, unfortunately, took the path of patients having to go to court. We sincerely hope this is not the case with psilocybin, because Minister Hajdu has already set a precedent by granting 31 patients (supported by TheraPsil) and 19 healthcare professionals (supported by TheraPsil) exemptions for therapeutic and training purposes. What we have seen recently is the Minister (Patty Hajdu) slowing down to nearly stopping granting these exemptions. When section 56 exemptions are no longer a viable pathway for folks to gain access to psilocybin therapy, it is clear another solution is needed - regulations. By continuing to show the Minister of Health the demand for this treatment option, its safety, and efficacy, and by amplifying the voices of patients and healthcare professionals who need access, we can make this a reality, and hopefully very soon. If you want to support our work so we can continue the push towards legalization, please donate to our fundraiser. As a small non-profit, we deeply appreciate your support!

IQuitWow1 karma

Do you have information on how you administer the drug? (e.g. Set/Setting, Music, etc) ? Also, do you have any resources/guidelines for individuals that wish to conduct this therapy on their own at home?

TheraPsil2 karma

"TheraPsil does not administer psilocybin. Patients who successfully receive a section 56 exemption are referred to a practitioner working in the context of their own private practice. This therapist who has completed our training, works in collaboration with a co-sitter, to provide psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy. They follow TheraPsil’s detailed treatment protocol, which includes at least 3 preparatory sessions, the treatment day in which the psilocybin is ingested, and following the treatment day several integration sessions - lasting upwards of 6 months. These trained therapists are skilled at working in collaboration with the patient, to ensure much attention is given to the patient’s mindset as well as the setting in which the psilocybin is consumed. As this type of therapy is very patient-focused, details such as where the treatment day will occur, the room aesthetic, the music is chosen, etc is very personalized to each patient’s personality, wants, needs and wishes." - Natasha Fearnley, RN, TheraPsil's Clinical Intake Director