Psychedelic Therapy may be the buzz-phrase of the year as retreat centres, community circles, research trials and therapy clinics around the world seem to pop up everywhere. If you’re in Australia however, you’ve probably noticed that anything psychedelic related – research, decriminalisation efforts, therapies – seems to lag behind dramatically. You’d be forgiven for thinking Australians simply aren’t as interested in psychedelics as the rest of the world, though the truth is they are.

Findings from the 2020 Global Drug Survey, a joint-research effort between University College London and The University of Queensland that included 11,000 Australian participants revealed over 38% of respondents had taken a psychedelic in the previous year. The primary reason for psychedelic use was to enhance wellbeing (52%), followed by use to deal with an emotional concern (32%), and to address a psychiatric condition (15%).

We sat down with Eternity Hausen, Founder and CEO of Enlighten Mental Health – Australia’s first online counselling clinic to offer psychedelic integration services – to hear how her practice is changing things up for Australians.

“I saw a big gap in mental healthcare in Australia. I had read so much research about the mental health benefits of psychedelics, so I went looking to work in a clinic that incorporated it. I quickly realised there wasn’t any clinics offering these services in an ethical way, so I set up Enlighten.”

For 15 years Hausen worked diligently for the Australian Defence Force, working her way from reserve driver to intelligence analyst whilst achieving degrees in psychology, politics, and a Masters of Intelligence along the way. Her background in the military fostered in her a special interest in helping service men and women heal from their experiences.

“Traumatic experiences are just part of daily life in the military, but they can be quite psychologically destabilising. I have been through significant trauma myself both from being in the military and everyday life; I have sought mental health support. I was lucky enough to respond to traditional therapies, but I am aware that there is more healing to be done and I can’t quite get there. I think there’s another option that I could take, and I think that option is psychedelics.”

Launched on 1st November 2020, Enlighten Mental Health became the first place in Australia those looking for professional counselling can go to safely discuss their use of psychedelics with practitioners who understand both the benefits and risks.

Pictured: Eternity Hausen | Supplied: Enlighten Mental Health

“The Enlighten team has experience with non-ordinary states of consciousness which can involve a range of different practices. Importantly, one of our key values is integrity. Whatever we offer our clients we want to do it in a professional manner, ethically and with integrity. This means keeping up to date with cutting edge research, being involved in research and clinical trials, fostering our connections with researchers from around the world, and actively building a network across Australia.”

Despite their psychedelic specialty, most of the people seen at Enlighten Mental Health are typical community members who seek regular therapy services. “We see a cohort of people from all walks of life; most of those are individuals who have never experienced psychedelics. Our practitioners use therapeutic techniques that are well-established in the mental health sphere and are beneficial on their own with no need for other substances to be involved.”

A key difference at this clinic, however, is how they also work with those seeking help with psychedelic integration. “Whilst we don’t advocate for recreational use, we do not stigmatise anyone who seeks psychedelics or other drugs recreationally. We don’t help a client source a psychedelic experience; we offer harm reduction and integration sessions. We deliver evidence-based facts on how a psychedelic can impact you, how it might interact with other medicines, drugs, and comorbidities and how it might affect an individual. We also offer integration services for those who have already had a psychedelic experience to help them make sense of what happened for them.”

Offering their services to people from all walks of life is important to Hausen, who has worked to ensure that through the use of evidence-based therapies, Enlighten Mental Health is able to offer Medicare rebates whilst also focussing on current and ex- serving members for the Defence force. Meanwhile, Enlighten is also able to support those coming to the clinic through Work Cover and are hoping to also be covered by the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) soon.

“It’s really important that these medicines and therapies are available to everyone in the community. There’s a lot of concern that these medicines will be too expensive. It’s important our clinic is both affordable and accessible to everyone, especially those who are most vulnerable. There is such a high demand for these therapies in Australia and often the people who need it the most are the most vulnerable.”

“We do not stigmatise anyone who seeks psychedelics or other drugs recreationally”

Those who partake in a session with an Enlighten psychologist or counsellor will have their therapy tailored to their personal situation and needs, says Hausen. This includes the use of evidence-based therapies such as Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT), Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Narrative Therapy, and Family Systems Therapy.

“We are using approved, evidence-based and registered therapies. We also include mindfulness techniques which are a part of DBT therapy. A session might include a meditation, it might include a visual exercise, it varies from client to client as the therapy is tailored to the individual.”

Whilst psychedelic-assisted therapy is currently off the table due to national regulations, Hausen discusses an ideal future for Enlighten. “Down the track we would love to open up a holistic psychedelic retreat. It would be a clinical setting that is trauma-informed involving psychiatrists, GPs, counsellors. It would include a lot of support in a holistic manner with frameworks such as yoga, bodywork, somatic therapies, theatre therapy, breathwork, dietetics. We hope to incorporate the retreat into the Medicare framework however we can to heighten accessibility and affordability.”

Until then, Hausen is focussed on opening a face-to-face clinic in Canberra in early 2022, with another in Melbourne to follow by early 2023. Her team are actively looking for clinicians interested in the psychedelic space to join them in working with evidence-based practices both online and at their upcoming in-person clinics. Simultaneously, an online Integration and Mindfulness portal will be live on the Enlighten website in February 2022 which will include meditations, journaling exercises, and other beneficial practices.

Hausen and her team are connecting with Indigenous Australians to diversify understanding and collaboration. “We are reaching out to Australian Indigenous communities around the country; we respect that the Indigenous peoples own the lands and we’re seeking to move through this space together with them. We know that none of this will work without their input and support”

Hausen believes there is a considerable amount of crucial information those considering using psychedelics recreationally must consider, which is not easily accessible or understandable. “It’s important people know that there is a lot of misinformation online that might not be safe or relevant to them personally, and that the safest action is to gain personal facts through a professional harm reduction session.”

Pictured: Eternity Hausen | Supplied: Enlighten Mental Health

“I wanted to do something different that was really going to have an impact on people’s lives and offer them something new, whether that was psychedelic integration therapy or psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy down the track. I want to offer hope and alternative ways of healing. A lot of people aren’t responding to traditional therapies – what’s being done for them? That is why we need to do this, and its why I founded Enlighten Mental Health.”

If you’re interested in connecting with Enlighten Mental Health, phone (02) 6198 3226 or email hello@enlightenmh.com