Dr. Heidi Allen Welcomes First Psychedelic Therapy Training Program Cohort This Fall

In 2022, Columbia School of Social Work (CSSW) and the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing received a $1M grant for their collaboration to educate social workers and nurses on psychedelic-assisted therapy (PAT). PAT refers to the medically supervised use of psychedelic drugs such as psilocybin, MDMA, and ketamine, paired with talk therapy through which patients address issues of addiction, various mental health conditions, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

As a result, CSSW has developed the first MSW PAT program in the world, officially taking effect in the fall of 2024. The historic stigmatization of psychedelic drugs has greatly affected the ability to research and implement PAT programs for decades, leading to structural inequities today that discourage its use and prevent marginalized communities from having access. Dr. Heidi Allen, Associate Professor of Social Work at CSSW, has worked to create a curriculum that will both normalize PAT as the FDA approves these new treatments (as early as August of 2024) and increase its availability for all people who can benefit from it, regardless of their identities. 

In her research and development of the curriculum, Dr. Allen’s main focus has been increasing the workforce of qualified PAT providers, particularly social workers and nurses. As a health care access researcher, she has fiercely advocated for the accessibility of PAT to ensure that individuals and communities that have been historically exploited and oppressed will be among the first to benefit. The adequacy of insurance is a clear barrier to receiving this care, as is the accessibility of providers. Dr. Allen states that “we need a workforce of PAT providers who are committed to access and equity.” She hopes to lower the bar for entering the PAT profession by making education available within the MSW program. Her goal is to graduate cohorts of MSWs who are fully equipped to work in this specialty field of practice, with supervision, upon graduation. She champions both affordable and equitable education that will inevitably expand the number of social workers providing psychedelic assisted therapy. 

Dr. Allen and her colleagues are thrilled to welcome their first PTTP cohort. It is their hope that once the program is up and running, it will spur similar efforts across the country and world. Social workers are already attuned to creating safe, supportive spaces that optimize the care received. With continuous advocacy surrounding PAT and its long list of benefits, more people will be able to embrace new and innovative healing modalities and enjoy their right to a happy and truly healthy life.

April 26, 2024