Dr. Mike Dow | Field Trip Health
May 18, 2021
Dr. Mike Dow | Field Trip Health
Dr. Mike Dow has achieved remarkable success helping people around the globe in myriad ways; employing innovative protocols across multiple disciplines to treat a multitude of psychological and physical conditions.
Dr. Dow holds many titles: psychotherapist, New York Times bestselling author, brain and mental health expert, functional nutritionist; and consequently, “America’s Go-To Therapist.” He reaches millions through his appearances on popular network and cable television shows, helps more in his Los Angeles private practice and countless others through his best selling books and philanthropic endeavours. Most recently, he has joined Field Trip Health at their Santa Monica based psychedelic-assisted therapy clinic.
What first sparked your interest into psychedelics as a therapeutic treatment?
Anyone who has read my books knows I’m passionate about root-cause treatments for brain health, so it’s not surprising I became interested in psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. I’m fascinated by the way these treatments rewire and repair the brain. In many ways, my training in psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy was simply a continuation of my study of non-ordinary states of consciousness.
When I was writing my hypnosis book Your Subconscious Brain Can Change Your Life, I had my brain scanned while in trance—which, to me, feels remarkably like a low dose of ketamine. My own scans helped me to understand how profoundly non-ordinary states of consciousness can change the brain by turning certain structures on and off.
On my first day of training in ketamine assisted psychotherapy (KAP), I instantly knew this was a true game changer that could help millions of people experiencing depression, anxiety, PTSD, loss, and existential malaise.
What made you want to join the team at Field Trip Health?
I had been practising psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy for a few years when a colleague of mine got hired at Field Trip Health and loved it. After reading up on the company, I had a strong feeling it was the place for me. My colleague introduced me to the founders of Field Trip, and the rest is history.
To really get psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy right, you need a whole team of world-class professionals, a space specifically designed for this type of healing, and high ethical standards. I think Field Trip Health has become the world’s largest provider of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy because we check all those boxes for our patients. We have created the ultimate haven for emotional health, and we care deeply about every single person who comes to us.
Could you share what got you excited about the mission of Field Trip?
Field Trip Health wants to bring the world to life, and I felt called to be a part of that. When people go through our program, the lights come back on. They see the world in a new way. They have profound spiritual experiences that transform their lives and rediscover their own inner healing intelligence. It’s really exciting to be part of this mission. It’s also so exciting to be part of the renaissance of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy on the global stage.
We’ve all read the Johns Hopkins study on psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy, but you can’t legally receive that treatment outside of clinical trials in most countries. Our new Field Trip Health clinic in Amsterdam will be administering psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy this year. We’re helping people who are suffering today; that’s vital.
In many ways, we’re picking up the torch that the golden age of psychedelics left behind for us—and carrying it further. We’re using 2021 technology like our Trip app—which helps people make non-ordinary states of consciousness a part of their daily life through meditation and breathwork. Field Trip Health isn’t just about psychedelics; it’s about whole-person-centered emotional health.
How do you see psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy helping people, especially people who haven’t had success with previous treatments?
I think the most incredible thing is that most patients come to us experiencing treatment-resistant depression—and we still have incredible outcomes. Our data following Field Trip Health patients found the average level of depression as assessed by the PHQ-9 was “severe” before our treatment. One month after completing our program, the average level had fallen into “mild” category.
No one really talks about how hard it is to be in a depressive episode and be told: You’re going to have to suffer for at least a month before this medication may work…more if we need to try several meds. Ketamine-assisted psychotherapy provides rapid relief, and that’s a true game-changer for people who haven’t had success with other treatments.
What kind of results have you seen, first-hand, at Field Trip’s Santa Monica based clinic?
Frankly: life changing ones.
Last week, I was having a deep conversation with a veteran who completed our program at our Santa Monica clinic. It really helped him to fully reengage with life and to find happiness in the simple things—including enjoying time with his child. He was so passionate about his results that he now feels called to share his experience with other vets.
How important is psychotherapy to these treatment options?
In my opinion, it’s absolutely vital. I’ve personally noticed that it leads to much longer-lasting improvement. Psychedelics thread the needle, but then the therapy helps the patient to complete the stitch. To me, having one without the other is a waste of a rare and profound glimpse into one’s subconscious-- or what some may describe as the collective unconscious or even the divine.
Unlike prescription antidepressants, our goal isn’t to administer psilocybin or ketamine daily or weekly indefinitely. We’re trying to administer the smallest, most infrequent dose that will effectively change a person’s mindset. At Field Trip Health, our preparation and integration sessions are just as powerful as our medicine sessions. When a person examines and verbalizes the aha moments they have in a journey-- and then connects these to changes they’ll make in their everyday life, it’s a recipe for profound and lasting change.
I haven’t abandoned my old cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) background. Instead, I integrate the depth-oriented psychedelic experience with the behavioral activation of CBT. I can tell you that it’s a really potent cocktail.
How important is it to build a safe, therapeutic environment for these treatments?
If you want to maximize effectiveness, the clinic space should be re-imagined from the ground up—which is what we’ve done at our Field Trip Health clinics around the world. I started practicing psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy at a clinic that had the look and feel of a hospital. Who has positive associations about hospitals or doctor’s offices? I certainly don’t.
As we all know, the “set and setting” affects the patient’s journey—and I now know that my former setting didn’t provide the optimal environment for healing. When you walk into any Field Trip Health clinic, you’ll notice the hints of nature and the soothing colors we’ve integrated into the space.
Our treatment rooms have zero gravity recliners, weighted blankets, and pillows. When a patient exits the treatment room, they’re encouraged to stay in one of our integration lounges and draw or journal. In every way, we are communicating to them: You are safe. You are cared for. You are seen.
What do you think it will take to see psychedelics become integrated into mainstream medicine?
I think it’s already happening. When you look at how the public’s perception of psychedelics has changed from just 5 years ago, the change is remarkable. Psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy isn’t just for Burning Man attendees. This is for the midwestern accountant experiencing depression who has never tried psychedelics.
You really can’t argue with the data. Just last week, the first randomized controlled trial comparing psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy to an SSRI antidepressant plus psychotherapy was published in the prestigious The New England Journal of Medicine. While both treatments were helpful, 57% of the subjects in the psilocybin group reached remission versus 28% in the SSRI group. Thus, it seems the genie is already out of the bottle.
Moving forward, I know word of mouth is going to help psychedelics become integrated into the mainstream. I rarely hear people telling their friends how much they love taking an SSRI antidepressant every day, but I know our patients often tell everyone they know about how their journey with us changed their lives.
What are some common misconceptions about psychedelic medicines?
The first and most common misconception is that psychedelics are addictive and harmful party drugs. When you combine psychedelics with therapy, you only need a relatively small dose of the drug a handful of times—leading to long-term improvement to the brain. On the other hand, party drugs are used in increasing amounts and frequency—leading to long-term damage to the brain.
Secondly, there is a misconception that this treatment is only for a certain type of person. While there is some research about personality traits like extraversion and openness correlating with a positive response to psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, I would also argue that the people who are the most nervous about psychedelics may be the ones who have the most to gain.
Third, I think some professionals are scared to refer to us because it’s not compatible with existing modalities. For referring psychiatrists, it’s nice to know that ketamine-assisted therapy can help existing medications work better. For referring therapists, they need to know that their patients’ work with us is only going to deepen their work in therapy.
Who is someone doing important work in the world of psychedelics?
We couldn’t be rooting harder for our colleagues doing this important work. My book The Brain Fog Fix was all about all the whole-person-centered changes you need to make to prevent dementia and depression. Both are complex, systemic diseases, and that’s why single-target drugs are usually going to be somewhat ineffective.
Schlomi Raz’s company is doing really important work using microdosed LSD in dementia that will address multiple root causes of the disease (e.g., systemic inflammation). It’s really exciting stuff—especially since it’s a disease where there is little progress in terms of treatment.
At Field Trip Health, we can’t wait to help bring all other psychedelic researchers’ work out of the lab and into the real world.
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