Harm Reduction With Psychedelic Psychotherapist Danielle Herrera
San Francisco based harm reduction and psychedelic psychotherapist Danielle M. Herrera, LMFT (she/hers) brings a holistic approach to healing, addressing a wide range of issues that impact the individual, including systemic oppressions, violences, internalized systems of patriarchy, the false notion of white supremacy, and the system of capitalism. Frshminds had the pleasure of learning about her therapeutic approach to caring for people.
What got you interested in providing psychedelic integration to your patients?
My interest in working with drugs in general sparked from my intimacy with the drug-using community when I was a young child. I witnessed close family and family friends both discover their lack of separation with the divine from both psychedelic and non-psychedelic drugs, while also encountering some dear ones who struggled with a more chaotic and internally stigmatized relationship to both non-psychedelic and psychedelic drugs. I did not originally intend to specialize in working with medicines or with people who use drugs in my psychotherapy practice, until I experienced my own underground psychedelic healing utilizing medicines that gifted me profound insight and compassion. After integrating these experiences with my own psychotherapist and unconditionally loving community, I knew I would simply be initiated into providing a degree of services in this related field. I continued my own medicine work and training to find myself only increasingly passionate about the offerings medicine-work held, and imagined great potential for healing unresolved and intergenerational traumas held in bodies, particularly BIPOC bodies. The experiences offered by psychedelic and entheogenic medicines in combination with psychotherapy are endlessly expansive and unique, rich in direction of both difficulty and beauty, and ripe with symbolism and meaning that can inform a lifetime of direction and healing.
What makes your practice special?
I am grateful to provide some elements of my psychotherapy practice that can be quite non-traditional and alternative as informed by my cultural traditions as a mixed Indigenous woman and queer person. These identities have allowed me to embrace those on the fringe or outside of the mainstream. When appropriate and desirable with clients, I will utilize practices of ritual and ceremonial magick, Tarot, and Astrology, to name a few. My lens also prioritizes a decolonized framework, with attunement to systemic oppressions and violences that impact the individual within a complicated ecosystem, and I am comfortable with naming internalized systems of patriarchy, the false notion of white supremacy, and the system of capitalism. These elements undeniably make my practice a bit more radical than others, and are thus not for everyone — but those who may be familiar with this sense of not being “for everyone” can be held with the most tender care in our collaborative work.
How do you see psychedelic therapy evolving in the future?
Psychedelic therapy is rapidly evolving, feeling “new” nearly every couple weeks. For us practitioners, this can be both exciting and a tad bit concerning. I hope the field can embrace a slow process, akin to the skin of the shedding snake that cannot be forced. Then, can I imagine an evolution in profound edges of healing accessible across a range of bodies and communities of bodies. Then, can this offering be held in the sacred light it deserves, with profound protection, utmost respect, and careful accountability to all those holding power or involvement.
What’s the one piece of advice you would offer to patients considering psychedelic integration to help them manage their mental health?
Integration is absolutely key. I truly encourage all those lucky to access the healing potential of psychedelics and entheogens to lengthen and strengthen this aspect of their work. There can sometimes be a desire to chase the dragon, to stay on the summit forever — but we must come down. We must know the wisdom in the descent and its relationship to the ascent. To find our connection to the Earth, to ground, over and over again after contact with the Spirit — is our gift, is our responsibility. While the actual practices and methods of integrating non-ordinary states of consciousness may vary vastly, our work in weaving the worlds together remains the same. We must. I encourage folks to truly connect with themselves and their non-judgmental community during this space, to offer their nervous systems new stimuli (perhaps practices they’ve never tried before, or haven’t yet felt open to) or new rituals. As long as it is experienced with the most tender intention and presence, it can become a practice that deepens the most subtle of seeds sown in this medicine work.
What are the most remarkable changes you have seen in patients who have leveraged psychedelic integration to manage their mental wellness?
While ethically I cannot speak to the individual stories of clients, I can speak to the general sense of pure magic that occurs in the space of psychedelic integration. Remarkable is everything that happens beyond what can ever be captured in an anecdote, or even in a memory. Remarkable is merely that moment when a person holds their hand to their heart and acknowledges that an extraordinary experience has happened to them, and the intensity of love that is offered to the self when deciding to maximize the benefits of such an experience through the radically courageous act of being vulnerable with a psychotherapist, to committing to what my clients and I playfully refer to as “The Work™” 🙂
What challenges do you see for further integration of psychedelic based therapies into more mainstream health care?
Stigma, cultural appropriation, commercialization, commodification, spiritual bypassing, inaccessibility, misrepresentation, lack of care in regards to consent and ethics. There are truly countless challenges in such an endeavour, which I speak of not to frighten you. Many eyes of incredible pioneers in the field are focused on edges such as these as psychedelic medicines surface to the mainstream. Know there are eyes. Know there are communities to turn to, even within the community, when something doesn’t land quite right. This field is a but a budding leaf, and in so many ways we are all just making it up as we go. Mistakes are inevitable and we are accountable to each and every harm done. My hope is that we stay so finely attuned to these harms, and just as tender to the most subtle and most magnificent beauty.
You can learn more about Danielle at her website. If you want to find other Danielle or another San Francisco psychedelic integration therapists, check out the listings on Frshminds.
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