PSIP 
Psychedelic Somatic Interactional Psychotherapy

three spokes of PSIP_v3.png

Graphic courtesy of the Psychedelic Somatic Institute

Biology Before Psychology

The basic fundamental approach that we hold as therapists is mental health issues are primarily biological responses coming from repressed or suppressed emotional charges. Our bodies have evolved for millions of years to be able to process trauma through the autonomic nervous system. The focus on the ANS is at the foundation to our approach. This model was developed by Saj Razvi, LPC through his early work in 2008 with Trauma Dynamics and his participation in the MAPS Phase II Clinical Trial of MDMA where Saj was a principal investigator. Steve Elfrink who is a co-founder of both OmTerra and the Psychedelic Somatic Institute was a research assistant to Saj for the peer-reviewed article for the Journal of Psychedelic Psychiatry on the PSIP Model. You can read that article here - and it is highly recommended to read it prior to contacting OmTerra. 

Why is the Autonomic Nervous System so Important?

All animals are wired to process trauma through the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The beautiful thing about the ANS is that it does require any training or techniques to process trauma - it is an innate ability that we all carry. Our challenge as people and as a culture is that we have developed incredible coping strategies to suppress and push down trauma. We distract, we eat, drink, do yoga, watch TV, take medication, do therapy, meditate or even take psychedelic medicines to heal. The challenge is these methods are designed to take us further away from what our bodies have been programmed to do for millions of years. We have become a culture where we cope with our symptoms of anxiety and depression vs. allowing the body to naturally process the trauma.

Our bodies seek something call homeostasis - a return to normal. The best example of this is our body temperature. Our body automatically keeps our body at 98.6 degrees - or close to it.  Just like our body wants us at 98.6 our bodies want us to return to a neutral state when it comes to stress, anxiety and depression.

Fight | Flight | Freeze

Graphic courtesy of the Psychedelic Somatic Institute

Biology Before Psychology

The basic fundamental approach that we hold as therapists is mental health issues are primarily biological responses coming from repressed or suppressed emotional charges. Our bodies have evolved for millions of years to be able to process trauma through the autonomic nervous system. The focus on the ANS is at the foundation to our approach. This model was developed by Saj Razvi, LPC through his early work in 2008 with Trauma Dynamics and his participation in the MAPS Phase II Clinical Trial of MDMA where Saj was a principal investigator. Steve Elfrink who is a co-founder of both OmTerra and the Psychedelic Somatic Institute was a research assistant to Saj for the peer-reviewed article for the Journal of Psychedelic Psychiatry on the PSIP Model. You can read that article here - and it is highly recommended to read it prior to contacting OmTerra. 

Why is the Autonomic Nervous System so Important?

All animals are wired to process trauma through the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The beautiful thing about the ANS is that it does require any training or techniques to process trauma - it is an innate ability that we all carry. Our challenge as people and as a culture is that we have developed incredible coping strategies to suppress and push down trauma. We distract, we eat, drink, do yoga, watch TV, take medication, do therapy, meditate or even take psychedelic medicines to heal. The challenge is these methods are designed to take us further away from what our bodies have been programmed to do for millions of years. We have become a culture where we cope with our symptoms of anxiety and depression vs. allowing the body to naturally process the trauma.

Our bodies seek something call homeostasis - a return to normal. The best example of this is our body temperature. Our body automatically keeps our body at 98.6 degrees - or close to it.  Just like our body wants us at 98.6 our bodies want us to return to a neutral state when it comes to stress, anxiety and depression.

Fight | Flight | Freeze

Kerry Myers | My Story

Finding My Way Home
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In many ways my childhood was 'normal.' I was a super smart, sweet, sensitive, helpful, Danish towhead with the blondest head of hair and the cutest little smile. I lived with two siblings and two parents in a beautiful home where hand-sewn clothing, home cooked meals and grandparents next door were the norm. I had more family a few hours south that we regularly spent time with. All of my day-to-day needs were met. 

 

What also was true was an underbelly to this idyllic scenario - something very different than what the world saw. I lived in south Phoenix on the land my father owned with his parents - where gangs dominated and violence and graffiti were also the norm. I was a timid, scared little girl in a primarily Hispanic neighborhood. I got beat up - a lot. I was scared - a lot. I tried to live as if I was invisible - a lot. I was nauseous - a lot. I tried to be a perfect little girl - a lot.

In my teens, I came into a deep depression. I started going to therapy and many of my sessions were moment after moment of sobbing. I started to really experience the pain that was living inside of me, but had not much more than a vague idea of what the pain was all about. I knew that my dad was mad a lot and I was scared of him. I knew that my mom seemed spaced out a lot. I knew that things were really rocky amongst me and my siblings. At this point, I was beginning what transpired into a number of difficult relationships with partners who were heavy drug and/or alcohol users, some who were angry or narcissistic, but all were unavailable for connection, healthy communication or emotional intimacy. 

In my 20's, I became suicidal, more out of wanting to stop hurting than wanting to stop living. This landed me in a psychiatric hospital - twice. I made note the first morning when I woke up in the hospital and realized it was the first time I had ever felt safe. I experienced so many things I didn't understand, couldn't figure out, couldn't name, couldn't fix and couldn't bear to feel. I developed the intent to understand my wounds. I believed if I could figure out what was creating my pain, it would end it. I started attending Al-Anon meetings at the request of an alcoholic boyfriend and began to grasp what seemed to be the 'problem' with me. My family system looked the same to me as what I was learning in Al-Anon. Finally, I had an answer! However, a few years of that and it felt more like a rigid box of rules, judgement, and the same dynamics that I grew up with. (And, I learned a lot there and support anyone going to Al-Anon!) I wondered if maybe that wasn't the answer after all.

 

In my 30's, the quest to heal and the painful patterns of my past continued. I was able to extricate myself from a very painful relationship, did self-help programs, saw therapists, read books, attended spiritual groups, went to workshops, journaled, and more. I had a beautiful daughter, created a career and focused my attention on living a 'normal' life. 

 

In my 40's, I was leading what most would consider a normal life. I was a good mom (not perfect - who is??), was a well-liked and respected administrator at a private school, owned a home and two dogs, hiked, did yoga, spent quality time with friends and family and loved adventuring outdoors. But there were bumps. Some things were difficult for me, even though they seemed to be easy for others. I continued to try to get support, telling one therapist, "I know there is something inside of me. I know it's in my body, I just can't find it!." My best efforts led to greater awareness, but without significant changes. I continued to understand more, like the huge gap between what felt like normal me and scared, super sensitive me, but I started to get that understanding me wasn't fixing me. Although I didn't know how to fix myself, I realized that my passion for working with people couldn't wait any longer, so I went to graduate school to become a therapist.

 

In my 50's, I decided I was done. I was done with the thoughts and feelings I'd been coping with and managing my whole life - anxiety, fear, distress. I was done with looking for a relationship, having been single for the better part of two decades for not wanting to repeat the same patterns that hadn't worked before. I was done with the 'traditional' therapeutic approach as a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT). I looked my $60K graduate degree in the eyes and made the incredibly difficult decision to not go down that path - without having any idea what was ahead. I just knew it wasn't the MFT box. I was done with feeling like I was tolerating my life, instead of thriving in it. I started a pretty intense focus on creating the life I wanted. Then, after almost a year of intensive energy, thought and practice, in walked my future. I met the love of my life. We shared many things, including a passion for healing and growth and helping people. We talked for hours and hours about our lives, our challenges, and healing paths. He told me that I wasn't broken and didn't need fixing. He said that I was just experiencing the effects of trauma - I was just experiencing feelings. And, he introduced me to Psychedelic Somatic Interactional Psychotherapy. 

 

I started doing sessions a week after we met, and my life forever changed. I immediately began to uncover a childhood of the unthinkable. It became clear that something horrendous had happened to me. In October of 2020, after many sessions rife with terror, disturbing images, sobs, screams, pleas, and whimpers, I began to uncover the specifics of the childhood sexual abuse that I had repressed. I became unable to work, left my job, moved to Oregon, and began my long and arduous healing process. There were many signs that this was my history, but denial and mind are very powerful. This is, unmistakably, also the path of integrating a part of myself that I dissociated from and repressed as a very young child - it was unbearable. I have had many AHA moments, like the one where I realized, as my partner reached out for me when I was in pain, that I am often the one keeping intimacy at bay. I am the one who gets scared and withdraws. Given the complexity and specifics of my abuse and those involved, it is also a path of intense learning about triggers, transference and relationship. It is a path of regaining myself, as I am getting back parts of myself that I haven't had since I was very young. A deep and difficult path that no one should ever have to bear, many don't believe, and often triggers those close to us. I spent my whole life preparing for this healing process, this relationship, and this opportunity to help others - and it is here!

 

This work is a homecoming that I wouldn't change for the world.

 

I am working now as a PSIP therapist and am in awe of this process, what the body holds and the healing that is possible for those of us with trauma. It would be an honor to walk with you along your healing journey.