American Psychedelic Practitioners Association and BrainFutures Publish First Professional Practice Guidelines for Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

American Psychedelic Practitioners Association and BrainFutures Publish First Professional Practice Guidelines for Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy

First-ever set of professional guidelines informed by clinical research and expert consensus will set benchmarks for practitioners in an emerging field

WASHINGTON, August 8, 2023 — The American Psychedelic Practitioners Association (APPA), the leading organization focused on safely integrating psychedelics into the US healthcare system, and BrainFutures, a national nonprofit dedicated to advancing the practical applications of brain research, announced today the first-ever set of professional practice guidelines for psychedelic-assisted therapy. These guidelines aim to set a benchmark for practitioners in this emerging clinical field as informed by existing clinical research and expert consensus.

Recognizing the need for guidelines to set high standards and further legitimize the burgeoning psychedelic-assisted therapy space, a working group of experts from multiple disciplines within the field came together to write the professional practice guidelines. More than two dozen members of APPA also contributed valuable perspectives on justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion; the real-world practice of psychedelic-assisted therapy; and psychedelic use in indigenous and other settings. The guidelines can be found here.

“As the field of psychedelic-assisted therapy continues to gain momentum, the release of the Professional Practice Guidelines marks a crucial turning point. These guidelines provide the beginnings of a framework for stakeholders to consider when evaluating minimum standards of care for these emerging treatments,” said Natalie Gukasyan, M.D. a member of the working group to develop the professional practice guidelines and a psychiatrist and Assistant Professor at Columbia University.

Andrew Penn, MS, PMHNP, Clinical Professor, UC San Francisco School of Nursing and a member of the working group added, “The Professional Practice Guidelines are an important next step in the evolution and professionalization of psychedelic therapy. By seeking to clarify and define concepts such as consent, appropriate screening of patients, professionalism and ethics, safety, patient preparation, coordination with other providers, and integration of psychedelic therapy experiences, these guidelines will help to protect patients and advance the safe use of psychedelic medicines in professional settings.”

With more than 1 in 5 US adults living with a mental illness according to the CDC and young adults aged 18-25 years having the highest prevalence of mental illness according to the National Institute of Mental Health, the demonstrated need for new and improved mental health treatment has never been greater. Psychedelic-assisted therapy has shown promising results in the treatment of a variety of difficult-to-treat mental health disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), treatment-resistant depression, and major depressive disorder—especially in recent years with a resurgence in psychedelic research.

The therapy model practiced by these psychedelic research programs, which combines the administration of a psychedelic medication and therapy within the same treatment session, is distinct from other forms of psychotherapy and necessitates new processes and competencies for practitioners to administer the treatment. As likely FDA approval of one or more psychedelic-assisted therapies draws closer, BrainFutures and APPA agreed that a consensus-based guideline development process is necessary to speed the adoption of psychedelic treatments into the US healthcare system and ensure access for all who could benefit.

“With the anticipated approval of MDMA to treat PTSD next year and the rollout of other psychedelic therapies to treat a variety of mental health disorders in the next few years, there is a growing need and desire on the behalf of the practitioners to be properly trained and prepared to deliver such life-changing treatment,” said Brigadier General (Ret.) Stephen N. Xenakis, MD, Executive Director of APPA. “Patient care, safety and experiential efficacy are of the utmost importance, especially when patients can be in such a vulnerable state during their experience, and these guidelines are the first step toward an approach for practitioners to get the support they need to effectively and safely administer this treatment.”

Guidelines included in the report focus on a number of key topics in psychedelic-assisted therapy such as preparation before and integration after medication sessions to facilitate the best possible experience, the importance of informed consent as an ongoing process, building trust and rapport between practitioners and patients, and more. Each guideline includes both rationale for its inclusion as well as application guidance to provide practitioners with deeper context. 

As is typical in the development of professional practice guidelines and especially true for an industry such as psychedelic-assisted therapy, the co-authors agreed that these guidelines will be subject to change in the coming years as more research and real-world data becomes available. These guidelines will expire two years from the date of publication with updated guidelines to follow.

“Even though FDA approval for the first psychedelic-assisted therapy is still months away, researchers can use these guidelines today to design cutting-edge studies that will lead to new therapies tomorrow. We are proud to be leading the way as the medical field prepares for psychedelic-assisted therapy to become a crucial new tool in clinicians’ toolboxes,” added David Esselman, Executive Director of BrainFutures.

About APPA

The American Psychedelic Practitioners Association (APPA) exists to integrate psychedelics into the US healthcare system and ensure safe access for all who can benefit from these treatments. APPA brings together and celebrates) the diverse voices of our community, while building consensus around the infrastructure needed for the psychedelic ecosystem to thrive. This includes establishing, as a community, the range of standards of care that will ensure quality care and allow for broad, equitable access. The APPA community will also develop core competencies for an accreditation program; a supervisor matching program; and a system of accountability to establish PAT as a reliable therapy. This will ensure its safe adoption and application throughout the country. Through ongoing events, connectivity and training and up-to-date resources, we’re establishing APPA as an inclusive community to share knowledge, clarify, and foster pivotal conversations. Learn more at

About BrainFutures

BrainFutures is a national nonprofit that advances the practical applications of promising brain health interventions and expands access to treatments and technologies. We overcome barriers to access and inspire institutional action by working with subject matter experts to conduct research, engage in advocacy, and execute high-leverage projects. More information about BrainFutures’ work is available at

Nick Opich

David Esselman