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Catalyst 2020: Psychedelic Research Conference

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Calgary, Alberta

Alberta T1a4v6


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Welcome to Catalyst 2021!

Catalyst Calgary 2021 will take place on May 21-23, 2021.

Details will be rolled out throughout the summer and fall as we confirm speakers, presenters, artists and other workshops.

The conference will focus on the legal and therapeutic use of psychedelics, and will feature world-class speakers, presenters and activities that will be focused on the following four areas:

  1. Educate: Providing solid verifiable evidence and studies that have and are being done about the use of these medicines.
  2. Inspire: Motivating the attendees to find ways of helping to move the posts of legalization and therapeutic use, while continuing to give great respect to the work of the medicines.
  3. Legitimize: Bringing about a new level of respect and destigmatizing the use of psychedelic medicine for use in therapeutic and spiritual applications.
  4. Socialize: Bringing together like-minded people in working together as a community in partnership with the psychedelic medicines.

We are thrilled about the potential of leading the way in bringing Psychedelic use into mainstream awareness.

The 2021 Conference is being run as a non-profit event by Syntac Institute, a not for profit company based in Canada.

Membership access includes unique opportunities to engage with thought leaders from around the world in a small group online setting. Being able to talk directly to some of our speakers in VIP lounges online will be part of the benefits to having an annual membership.


  • There are no refunds, but registrations are transferable.

  • Advance registration is recommended.

  • Line up, schedule, prices, and venues are subject to change.

  • Your personal information is kept strictly confidential. We do not sell, lease or lend our registration database to anyone.

  • See Information for further guest behavior policies, including our safer space and photo/video policies.

* If you apply as a student we will be requiring proof of student status prior to entry.

May 29-31 2020

The PDF of the schedule is availble here: Schedule

Speaker lineup is here: Catalyst Speakers


FRIDAY 6:30 pm

Current and future challenges

Rick Doblin, Ph.D

In this opening discussion, Rick will discuss the challenges to succeeding in Phase 3 trials, negotiating with the FDA over post-approval regulations, obtaining approval in the US, Canada and Israel, and successfully launching MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy as a prescription medicine.

Taking a Walk on the Dark Side

Bruce Tobin, Ph.D

If the wheels fall off Psychedelic Renaissance 2.0, it will be because of its greatest enthusiasts, not its sceptics. How can we help ourselves succeed?

Why Is It So Hard to Love Myself? Healing Your Beautiful, Broken Heart with the Help of Psychedelics

Bruce Sanguin

Many of us find it difficult to cut ourselves slack when we fail, to act with tenderness toward ourselves under stress. We are our own worst enemy at precisely those times when we most need a friend. This talk will explore why this is so, and how we can become conscious of, and dissolve, negative early beliefs about ourselves that we formed in response to early failures of love. When E. E. Cummings wrote: “I am, through you, so I”, how is this true as it relates to psychedelic psychotherapy, the importance of the therapeutic relationship and the cultivation of self-compassion?

Friday 8:30 pm

Women’s Visionary Council

Hosted by Eleonora Molnar

Join members of the Women’s Visionary Council (WVC) to discuss allyship and social justice in the psychedelic movement. Eleonora Molnar and Danielle Schumacher will offer an overview and facilitate a preliminary discussion about how to use privilege to advance racial justice. This conversation is an introduction to a future WVC session on allyship.

Decriminalization vs Medicalization

Hosted by Trevor Millar

Psychedelics are finding their way into the mainstream, from Ayahuasca tourism to the Amazon, to underground therapists in the Western world, to clinical trials and big companies being formed for the purpose of seeing them move towards a “big-pharma” model. What is the most effective way forward? Join this panel of people who have put in years of hard work on this very question, and have your preconditioned belief systems challenged as we approach the subject in a fun, open debate forum.

Saturday 9:00 am

Psychedelics 2020

David E. Nichols, Ph.D

This talk will discuss the natural sources of psychedelics and their use in ancient times. Chemical structures of important psychedelics will be shown, but there will not be any significant chemistry discussion. The brain target for psychedelics will be illustrated, and a brief mention made of how psychedelics are tested in nonhuman species. The crystal structure of LSD in a serotonin receptor will be briefly discussed. Finally, highlights of recent successful clinical studies will be covered, where psilocybin was combined with psychotherapy to treat anxiety, depression, and certain addictions. The talk will conclude with a general hypothesis of how psychedelic drugs may be therapeutic.

Saturday 10:15 am

Psychedelics and Psychospiritual Development: A Quantitative Study

Kevin St. Arnaud

Growing evidence from both historic and contemporary research suggests that the classic psychedelics hold significant promise as therapeutic agents (e.g., Grinspoon & Bakalar, 1979; Sessa, 2012). Given their success in aiding psychotherapy and capacity to induce transformative experiences, there is equal speculation that they also hold great potential to facilitate psychological and spiritual development (e.g., Goldsmith, 2011; Masters & Houston, 1966; Merkur, 1998; Roberts, 2012, 2013). In fact, notable luminaries in the field of psychology Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers surmised that, when judiciously applied, psychedelic compounds may augment the process of growth toward full functioning (Maslow, 1966; Rogers, 1980). However, although tentative theoretical and empirical evidence supports this assertion, virtually no formal research has explored this proposition. As such, this talk will overview the findings of a recent cross-sectional study examining the relationship between psychedelic use and psychospiritual development as assessed by contemporary psychometric scales from the fields of positive and transpersonal psychology.

The Future of Psychedelics in Health Care: From Scientific Renaissance to System Reform?

Kenneth Tupper, Ph.D.

Recent scientific research on psychedelic medicine and entheogenic healing is yielding exciting knowledge about the potential therapeutic benefits these kinds of substances and treatment modalities. However, what next? Where is it all going? Could psychedelics ever become part of standard medical care, or first-line treatments for some kinds of conditions? This presentation will explore some of the practical considerations for health system shifts that could make psychedelic or entheogenic therapies available more broadly to people who might benefit from them. This will first involve advancing the science, moving from phase II (smaller clinical trials to investigate safety and efficacy) to phase III (larger randomized controlled trials to investigate effectiveness). Further research will help determine what medications are best for what conditions, what contexts and ancillary supports are most helpful, and just as importantly, for whom is psychedelic therapy not appropriate? It will also require health professional education—training therapists, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, psychologists, counselors, and others—through both specialized and generalized educational courses, programs and other opportunities. Regulatory bodies overseeing health professions, such as colleges or associations, may also need to create or update some of their standards and guidelines to include provisions for emerging psychedelic therapies. Finally, scientific and clinical knowledge will need to be translated for policy-makers and other health system decision-makers to understand the implications of psychedelic treatments and how to embed them within the mainstream health system. Some of these might include questions about how psychedelic therapies can be incorporated into health human resource planning, compensation structures, capital expenditure decisions, medication procurement processes, and health economic modelling. While the clinical research findings of today are promising, the larger-scale transformative power of psychedelic medicine will come from its integration into the health care system of tomorrow.

Saturday 11:30 am

Elite Journeys: Memorializing our Psychedelic Past and Charting a Psychedelic Future

Erika Dyck

The history of psychedelics has often been told through the stories and lives of colourful characters who have often reinforced the idea that psychedelics can offer an elite experience for elite people. Aldous Huxley, Ken Kesey, Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg and others have joined the ranks with 21st – century figures, David Nutt, Michael Pollan, and Gabor Maté – big names and big careers belonging to men in positions of some social and political power or privilege. The way this elitism is woven into the story of psychedelics is worth considering, both for how it distorts the reality of how psychedelics were understood or tested, but also for who can access those experiences going forward. By the 1970s the average consumers were not necessarily elites, and certainly not encountering acid in the clinic, but instead took to the streets both in production and consumption. Examining published memoirs alongside clinical trip reports, this chapter will take readers on a voyage of personal discoveries, from psychedelic gurus to curious housewives who consumed psychedelics in a search for inner meaning.

Thera-Psil: Therapeutic Psilocybin for Canadians in End-of-Life Distress

Bruce Tobin, Ph.D

Bruce describes his quest for permission from Health Canada to use psilocybin in compassionate treatment of terminal cancer patients, and outlines the science, ethical and legal reasoning behind his application.

Saturday 1:00 pm

Commercialization of Psychedelics

Eleonora Molnar

Novel research and emerging drug-policy reform are burgeoning alongside a renewed interest in psychedelics and psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy to facilitate healing. As a result of these developments, medicalization and commercialization of psychedelics is occurring in regulated and unregulated markets. This presentation will assess some of the values and ethics that are implicit in these activities. It is possible that some lessons could be gleaned from the recent legalization of cannabis. In addition, social justice and a culture of inclusivity (that involves people of colour, issues of gender and sexual orientation) will be considered in the nascent medicalization and commercialization of psychedelics.

Psychedelic Mindfulness

Zachary Walsh Ph.D.

The decades since the first wave of psychedelic therapies subsided have witnessed profound shifts in psychotherapy, with the emergence of new approaches that emphasize mindfulness and acceptance. This talk will explore how developments in understanding mental suffering and human behavior can inform the therapeutic use of psychedelic medicines. We will suggest how emotion regulation, distress tolerance, decentering and other constructs prominent in “third wave” behavior therapies such as DBT and ACT may be relevant to psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy with a specific focus on research from our group examining the role of psychedelic use in reducing conflict in intimate relationships.

Saturday 2:15 pm

Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy and Access: Who Will be Included

Dr. Monnica Williams

Psychedelics have been studied for the treatment of PTSD, depression, end-of-life anxiety, OCD, addictions, and a number of other mental health conditions. However, research studies of psychedelic psychotherapies have largely excluded people of color, leaving important questions unaddressed for these populations. Dr. Williams will review relevant research, documenting exclusion based on the international literature. She will discuss ethnic minority mental health and how psychedelic therapies may help or hinder healing for people of color. Also discussed are next steps in ensuring that access to culturally-informed care is prioritized as several psychedelics move into late phase trials and expanded access, including the importance of culturally-informed approaches and training focused on therapy providers of color.

Queering Psychedelics

Dr. Clancy Cavnar

Clancy Cavnar will highlight the voices of queer visionaries within the psychedelic community as well as examine the history of psychedelics from queer and non-binary perspectives. As the so-called psychedelic renaissance reaches a pivotal moment of mainstream interest and regulatory legitimacy, it is vital that traditionally under-represented communities share a seat at the table and have their voices heard so as to ensure access to all the benefits that psychedelics and plant medicine offer. Additionally, it is vital that queer spaces be established for exploring the unique needs, gifts, and strengths that LGBTQI communities bring to psychedelics and psychedelic medicine.

Saturday 3:30 pm

Feminine Collaborative Leadership in the Psychedelic Space

Helen Loshny & Dr. Rae St. Arnault

In this rapidly evolving space, where stakes are rising and tensions are emerging between old and emergent structures, new leadership models are called for that require radically different approaches… to just about everything! In contrast to “old paradigm” models of hierarchical, top-down control, new models for feminist, indigenous, service and mission-based leadership appear congruent with the lessons and teachings acquired in the psychedelic and transformational healing space. What does “collaborative feminine leadership” mean and why might it be key for addressing the ethical questions facing the psychedelic movement in this critical turning point? Drawing on their collective experiences from the healthcare, psychedelic, business, and academic worlds, Helen Loshny and Rae St. Arnault reflect on their shared process and discoveries in working both with each other and others in a collaborative and consultative fashion. They also draw on insights and survey responses from female leaders in the psychedelic space.

Whole Human Health and the Psychedelic Renaissance

Dr. Devon Christie

Dr. Christie will share her unique perspective on the importance of psychedelic research and psychedelic therapy, as it fits into a trauma-informed, Functional Medicine understanding of the genesis of chronic disease including chronic mental health conditions. She will then go on to discuss the imperative for using embodiment-oriented, trauma-informed psychotherapeutic skillsets/approaches in providing an optimal and safe therapeutic context when working with clients who are entering non-ordinary states of consciousness. Core elements of such a framework will be reviewed.

Saturday 4:45 pm

True North Pledge: Building Community, Ethics and Integrity in the Psychedelic Space

Shirelle Noble

The business of treating consciousness presents unique ethical considerations. For example: how does an organization balance the profit motive with the suggestibility of a patient in psychedelic treatment? In this new industry, the startup approach of “move fast and break things” begs the question: what is being broken here? Join us for a discussion on building a community of accountability, centered around ethics and integrity. Learn more about the North Star Ethics Pledge, a starting point for this critical dialogue, here: northstar.guide/ethicspledge.

Therapeutic Ketamine

Raquel Bennett, Psy.D.

Raquel Bennett, Psy.D. is a psychologist and ketamine specialist from Berkeley, California. She primarily works with people who are living with severe depression, bipolar disorder, and/or suicidal ideation. She is fascinated by the antidepressant properties of ketamine, and has been studying this for over eighteen years. She also has a long-standing interest in the psychedelic and mystical properties of ketamine, and the potential for this medicine to be used for spiritual exploration. Dr. Bennett is the founder of KRIYA Institute and the organizer of KRIYA Conference, which is an annual and international event devoted to understanding the uses of ketamine in psychiatry and psychotherapy. You can learn more about her work at www.kriyainstitute.com.

Saturday 7:00 pm

Psychedelic Comedy Night

Hosted by Sarah Rose Siskind

Laugh it up with Sara Rose Siskind, Shane Mauss, Nehemiah Markos, Adam Strauss (with a special appearance by Rick Doblin!).

SUNDAY 9:00 am

MDMA-for-Alcoholism: Report from Bristol on the World’s First MDMA Addictions Study

Dr. Ben Sessa

In this talk, Dr. Sessa will focus on the development trajectory from child maltreatment and abuse towards adult mental disorders and addictions. He will describe the difficulties associated with alcoholism and go on to describe the Bristol-Imperial MDMA-for-Alcoholism (BIMA) trial. He will also illustrate the talk with discussion about his experience working on psychedelic studies with LSD, psilocybin, MDMA, ketamine and DMT and discuss the current problems facing psychiatric prescribing. Dr. Sessa will propose that psychedelics and MDMA offer psychiatry the best hope for the profession going forward.

SUNDAY 10:15 am

Accept, Connect, Embody: A Psychedelic Therapy Framework

Dr. Rosalind Watts

This presentation outlines the therapy model currently used in the Imperial College London Psilocybin for Depression Study. The development and ongoing use of the ‘ACE’ (Accept, Connect, Embody) model will be described, including case material. This model is based on the Psychological Flexibility Model’ , and the approach itself is very flexible. The rationale for keeping therapy non-directive will be discussed.

SUNDAY 11:30 am

Way of the Psychonaut Movie Premiere: with Q&A

with Stanislav Grof

We will be joining the release of this important landmark work of Stan Grof: A single documentary film cannot begin to contain the full scope of the insights Stan Grof developed during his 60 year career. Stan was a pioneer in human consciousness research, and one of the primary psychiatrists who developed psychedelic psychotherapy. He later worked with Abraham Maslow and Anthony Sutich to become one of the founders and chief theoreticians of Transpersonal Psychology. While at The Esalen Institute as Scholar-in-Residence for 14 years, he developed Holotropic Breathwork with his late wife, Christina, and founded the International Transpersonal Association.

Furthermore, The Way of the Psychonaut is more than a documentary honoring Stan Grof. It serves as a portal, through which viewers can discover information and resources that can change their lives. The project’s website provides access to full interviews and in-depth explanations, letting the community dive deeper into the concepts explored. Connect with the visionaries that influenced Stan and support his discoveries. Links to courses, documentaries, lectures, and more are available through the site. It is time to share Stan’s findings in an experiential way that reaches past cultural filters, and invites viewers to continue the journey after the final credits roll. Our collective future depends on it.

SUNDAY 1:30 pm

MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy for Severe PTSD

Dr. Hayden Rubensohn

Those suffering from PTSD have rates of morbidity and mortality that remain unacceptably high despite decades of awareness of this condition and refinement of its treatment. The use of MDMA as an adjunct to psychotherapy represents a novel form of enhanced psychotherapy that may prove to be more effective than any currently available therapy for PTSD. This talk will explore the background rationale for the use of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, including the pharmacology of MDMA itself, with an effort to explain why this treatment modality holds promise. The talk will further explain the methodology and outcomes of the Phase II clinical trial work that has been conducted with MDMA-Assisted psychotherapy and where future research is heading. Finally, the talk will review three common criticisms and concerns about MDMA-assisted psychotherapy; namely, the risk of addiction, whether or not the therapy simply makes people feel good rather than actually being inherently therapeutic, and the risk of neurotoxicity. The audience will ideally come away with a comprehensive understanding of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy and its potential for future use in psychology and psychiatry.

SUNDAY 2:30 pm

The Chacruna Institute: Promoting Education And Critical Conversations As Psychedelics Go Mainstream

Beatriz Labate Ph.D.

The Chacruna Institute of Psychedelic Plant Medicines is an organization founded by Brazilian anthropologist Dr. Bia Labate, which produces high-quality research on plant medicines and psychedelics and helps propagate academic knowledge in more accessible formats. Our mission is to provide public education and cultural understanding about psychedelic plant medicines so that they may cease to be stigmatized and outlawed. We promote a bridge between the ceremonial use of sacred plants and psychedelic science and foster cultural and political reflections on the field of psychedelic science as psychedelics become more mainstream. Chacruna uses a multi-faceted approach to achieve our mission, including: publication of original academic research; curation of a popular specialized website with sections on science, culture, spirituality, policy, integration and news; organization of conferences and events on shamanism, ritual, religion, the therapeutic potential of plant medicines, drug policy, gender, and the politics of psychedelic science; community support related to the unethical behaviour of plant medicine and psychedelics practitioners; documentation, education, and advocacy on the legality of sacred plants, as well as consultation in legal cases; and the promotion of access, inclusion, and diversity through promoting the voices of women, queer people, indigenous peoples, people of colour, and the global South in the field of psychedelic science. We envision a world where plant medicines and other psychedelics are preserved, protected, and valued as part of our cultural identity and integrated into our social, legal and health care systems.

SUNDAY 3:30 pm

Training in Psychedelic Psychotherapy / Therapist Competencies

Janis Phelps Ph.D.
As innovators of the first academically accredited training program in psychedelic therapies, we have learned much in the past 4 years of training medical and mental health professions at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. In light of the challenges and opportunities within the current political climate, the burgeoning sequelae of depression and anxiety due to global events such as COVID-19, and the robust empirical findings in the field, we must develop creative and effective solutions for training tens of thousands of psychedelic psychotherapists. Highlights of the training methods include experiential and didactic learning, mentoring, online hybrid content, retreats, and volunteer work. Competencies of therapists include precise empathy, somatic, cognitive and affective complementary techniques, ability to enhance two types of trust, and so forth. There is an urgency with which we need to work as a research and clinical community to create as many new high standard psychedelic training programs as soon as possible. Globally, there are educational needs for therapists/facilitators to work with the hundreds of thousands of patients who can benefit from psilocybin and MDMA interventions.

SUNDAY 4:30 pm

Utility of Psychedelics for Palliative Care and the Treatment of End-of-Life Existential Distress

Dr. Anthony Bossis

This presentation will review the history and clinical findings from psychedelic research to relieve the psychological and existential distress associated with a life-threatening illness or at the end of life. The NYU School of Medicine clinical trial published in 2016 demonstrated efficacy of a single psilocybin-generated experience in helping individuals with cancer cultivate meaning, enhance existential and psycho-spiritual well-being, and foster a greater acceptance of the dying process with less anxiety. The landmark scientific findings of reductions in depression, anxiety, hopelessness, and demoralization along with improvements in spiritual well-being in cancer-associated distress will be presented along with implications for the future of palliative and hospice care. Psilocybin is the psychoactive compound found in specific species of mushrooms. Subjective features of a mystical experience include unity, sacredness, transcendence, ineffability, and an enhanced awareness of positive emotions including that of love. The psilocybin-generated mystical experience offers a novel therapeutic approach to promote an openness to the mystery of death and to a deeper understanding for the study of meaning and spirituality.

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Calgary, Alberta

Alberta T1a4v6


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