for Ayahuasca Healing Professionals
written by Nina Izel
collaborators: Anna Waterbird, Divina Maa, Kasi Kennedy, Dr Laurie Maddox, Ayahusca Kaur, Faisal Khattak
When we enter into non-ordinary states of consciousness to heal, boundaries can seem different or dissolve. Therefore more attention is needed with regard to ethical issues, self reflection and supervision.What does ethics mean to us?
Our ethics are defined as being in integrity, or in other words, the commitment to walk our talk and to practice what we teach.
This requires expanding our awareness to hold more love towards ourselves and others. Ethics also means honoring our agreements. This requires open, honest and loving communication and written commitments.
Our ethical guidelines are as follows:
1. Love and compassion
Honoring the fact that we work with people in their most vulnerable state, therefore always coming from a place of love and compassion, with the intention to bring healing and empowerment and to do no harm. This means using our influence to guide and support people in their healing and awakening, using our power to empower and uplift others – our students, our clients, or brothers and sisters in the world, and finding natural and sustainable solutions to create win-win situations that benefit both the participant and the facilitator.
Coming from a place of love and compassion means being both sensitive and attuned to the individual needs of others, creating a safe space for them to express those needs, and being an active listener.
Non-discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, status, or appearance. We respect the autonomy and dignity of each person.
There is no hierarchy in the therapeutic container regardless of one’s experience or expertise. This means that if somebody has more experience with the medicine that doesn’t mean that they are better than another. We are all on this healing path together.
We respect and honor our elders and guides as well as their wisdom and experience. We are open to receiving guidance.
3. Informed consent and voluntary participation
Informed consent means that one is being informed before their retreat/ceremony/integration therapy experience about:
- Number and duration of sessions/ceremonies/retreats
- What is in the Ayahuasca brew
- Background and experience of the Ayahuasca Ceremony facilitators, and space holders
- Techniques/ all other substances being utilized during a therapy session/retreat/ceremony (eg. rapeh, kambo, tobacco, floral baths, sweat lodge)
- Use of touch
- Contraindications, individual risks, and benefits
- Explaining rules, procedures, and roles
- Right to refuse any treatment or procedure
- Clear financial terms and full transparency about number and cost of sessions, ceremonies, procedures, and treatments
- Establishing written contracts, agreements (eg. intake form, feedback form etc.)
Informed consent assures safety, transparency, and protection for all involved.
4. Privacy and confidentiality
Sharing any confidential material for training and/or advertising purposes requires written permission from the client/participant.Exemptions from privacy and confidentiality include an immediate and acute safety risk for anybody in the therapeutic container.
5. Creating a safe container
A safe container includes:
- Privacy and confidentiality
- Informed consent
- Skilled and qualified facilitators, guides who are alert and present before, during, and after the experience/ceremony
- Appropriate ratio of space holders to participants
- Appropriate facilities, environment for the Ayahuasca experience
- Responsible preparation for the Ayahuasca experience
- Facilitators hold the intention to be in service for the individual and the collective, with regard for all life
Safe container really means the optimal set and setting for the best possible outcome for all involved parties.
6. Healthy boundaries
Boundaries are essential to create a safe container where deep healing and transformation can happen. Boundaries are there to protect all people in the therapeutic container.
While boundaries can differ from person to person it is important to establish some common boundaries that apply in all situations.
- Informed consent
- Clear agreement about the use of physical touch
- Clear boundaries around roles and intimate relationships
Establishing and maintaining healthy, appropriate, and professional boundaries ensures respect, rights, and dignity of those involved in the experience.
Most boundaries get crossed when there is an abuse of power. Educating our clients and the public about the misuse of power and how to maintain healthy boundaries is important to prevent these situations.
7. Truth and integrity
Living our truth means holding the highest standards of integrity, ethics and love for ourselves and those we work with.Speaking our truth involves honest, loving and truthful communication and advertising.
Truth also means honoring our agreements or communicating honestly if we can no longer do it.
8. Respect and reciprocity
Respecting the healing power of nature and our innate ability to heal, rejuvenate and change is at the core of Ayahuasca healing.
This means doing our best to live in harmony and protect Mother Earth and especially the Amazon region in this case.
Respecting our ancestors, the ones who walked before us and especially the indigenous guardians of Ayahuasca and their traditional culture. Creating ways to uplift, give back and build bridges between the West and the indigenous guardians of the Ayahuasca instead of keeping on taking more from what little they have.
Respecting the right of our clients to choose their path including the right to refuse healing or disregard support and/or advice from the Ayahuasca professional.
Respecting ourselves, our health, our well being, our boundaries and always striving to create balance between giving and receiving.
As Ayahuasca healing professionals we are committed to have the highest standard of training and education available in our field both as a ceremonial space holder and/or as a pre and post integration therapist.
Commitment to continuous healing and self-development and maintaining a healthy balance of work and self-care is always our priority. This also means knowing our gifts and limitations in our work and referring clients to appropriate resources/practitioners when they present issues beyond our scope of training and experience.
We are striving to be aware of our own belief systems, trauma, programming, needs, and limitations and the way they affect our work.
We are committed to continue to work with the Mother Ayahuasca to further our understanding and experience.
Studying with the indigenous guardians of the Ayahuasca, getting to know their culture and giving back to their communities is a cornerstone of our ethical code.
10. Service to others
We walk this path of healing and service to contribute to the individual and collective healing and awakening of our human family and to create a more equal, peaceful and loving world.
We believe that the Mother Ayahuasca is a powerful ally helping us to remember who we truly are, interconnected, eternal, spiritual beings of light. This remembering has a huge positive impact on our relationships and how we treat each other and Mother Earth.
We recognize that there are many ways to serve but most of all we are striving to serve as an embodied example of our values and principles.
True service arises out of love, a deep desire to help and uplift others. Service never comes from obligation and never creates resentment. We are mindful to recognize and let go of any self sacrifice.
11. Support/Self care
Attending regular supervision and listening to the counsel of other Ayahuasca professionals ensures the well being of our practices and provides a safe place to hold each other accountable.Seeking individual support when appropriate, when we go through our own struggles keeps us humble, and reminds us that we are always a student and there is a lot to learn.Maintaining and nurturing healthy relationships with other Ayahuasca professionals enables us to cooperate and co-create on a bigger scale and be a strong voice of Ayahuasca in society and especially in the coming legislation and regulation of this powerful plant medicine.
Standard of practice
This document is to inform and guide Ayahuasca Healing Professionals and their clients to provide a safe and ethical healing container and competent care.
While we acknowledge that everybody has a unique healing path still we aim to provide a standard operating protocol to support our work and to provide the best experience to our clients.
1. Definitions, terminology
When we refer to the Ayahuasca, we refer to the brew of two plants, the Chakruna shrub (Psychotria viridis) and the Ayahusca vine (Banisteriopsis caapi).Ayahuasca Provider
Ayahuasca provider is a person, community or organization who grows, collects and/or prepares Ayahuasca for healing and ceremonial purposes.Ayahuasca Ceremonial Space holder
Ayahuasca ceremonial space holder is an individual who is trained and experienced to lead an Ayahuasca ceremony/healing experience.Ayahuasca Preparation and Integration Guide
Ayahuasca integration coach/guide/therapist is an individual who is trained and experienced to guide people through their personal preparation and integration process, before and after the Ayahuasca ceremony.Client/participant
A client or participant is an individual who is participating in an Ayahuasca healing experience, ceremony, preparation or integration.
2. Qualifications and permissions
What qualifies a person to guide others in their Ayahuasca healing experience in general?Personal experience
In order to guide others in their Ayahuasca healing experience and to avoid reacting from personal wounds and triggers, Ayahuasca practitioners must do their own deep personal healing work with the Mother Ayahuasca. They must be aware of their gifts and challenges and committed to their healing and personal development. They must be both confident teachers and humble students.
All Ayahuasca healing professional must be familiar with the dark side of the plant medicine path and how the misuse of money, sex and power can manifest in the Ayahuasca healing space. Being aware of this shadow aspect enables them to create ethical, safe and sacred space for their client’s Ayahuasca healing experience.
Going to the source
We emphasize the importance of studying with indigenous Ayahuasca shamans/practitioners and traveling to the Amazon region to deeply connect with the original culture and traditions that surround the Mother Ayahuasca.
What qualifies a person to guide others in an Ayahuasca Ceremony?
To guide others in an Ayahuasca ceremony, the individual can be either and indigenous person from the Amazon region who has a traditional shamanic training, lives in the traditional culture, has spent several years under the supervision of the wisdom keepers of the Ayahuasca and has received permission from the Elders to conduct an Ayahuasca ceremony.
Or the individual can be a non-indigenous person who studied several years (minimum 3 years) studying with indigenous wisdom keepers/Elders of the Ayahuasca and has received permission from them to conduct an Ayahuasca ceremony.
What qualifies a person to guide others in their Ayahuasca preparation and integration process?
An individual who serves as a guide for others in their Ayahuasca preparation and integration process has to have several years (minimum 2 years) of experience working with the Ayahuasca for their personal healing and development. In addition these individuals need to have adequate training and skills to hold space and guide others in a therapeutic container. In other words these individual need to have adequate training in some form(s) of trauma focused therapy like psychology, nursing, medicine, transpersonal psychology, yoga, breath work, bodywork, holistic healing, somatic experiencing, EMDR, EFT, NLP, TRE, family constellation, internal family systems, shamanic healing, homeopathy, kinesiology, herbal medicine just to name a few.
In addition preparation and integration guides have to have several years (minimum 3 years) of experience and feels confident as a space holder in a therapeutic container guiding others. To ensure a safe healing environment, we recommend that the Ayahuasca preparation and integration guides are familiar and adhere to this Code of ethics and Standard of practice as outlined in this document.
Getting informed consent means giving easy to understand information about the kinds of experiences that may occur, the type of tools and modalities that may be used and clearly communicating the boundaries of our shared container. It also includes advising our clients of the importance of proper preparation and integration before and after their Ayahuasca ceremony.We recommend to provide a clear, written agreement about the professional relationships (duties and responsibilities of each person, duration, location, availability and pricing) to sign and archive for at least 5 years. (intake form, agreement, liability waiver, feedback form)
In addition we recommend that each individual undergoing an Ayahuasca healing experience fills out a detailed intake from and a liability waiver before their healing experience and also fills out a detailed feedback form after their Ayahuasca healing experience, that is kept on file and archived for a minimum of 5 years by the Ayahuasca healing professional. A copy of all written agreements and session notes are to be provided to the participant and kept safe and confidential at all times.
We also recommend to keep updated, written notes about each ceremony, preparation and integration session of each client, participant and their journey in case any question occurs later. Documentation provides a safe container and it also contributes to our research in the Ayahuasca healing field.
To share any confidential client/participant material for educational or marketing purposes a written consent of the client/participant is needed in every occasion.
We value and encourage clear communication, honesty and constructive feedback. However also have clear boundaries towards abuse, manipulation and controlling others.
4. Empowering clients
As Ayahuasca healing professionals we use our power to uplift, to empower and to support those who come to us to expand their awareness, remember their own power, heal themselves and follow their own inner guidance.
We use our power to create a safe container where permission and protection is always granted. We use our power to support our clients to interpret their own journey and understand their own process. We respect the autonomy of each individual to make their best decision and act as a final authority on their health and life.
Touch is a basic need for human beings and can be a powerful force of love, recognition and support in a therapeutic setting. Touch can provide a corrective experience essential for healing. Withholding touch can be just as harmful as touching with the intent of harm, especially in non-ordinary states. However, touching with the wrong intention, in the wrong way or at the wrong time can also have a traumatic effect which can lead to further fragmentation and damage.We believe that the power of human touch can convey our authentic thoughts and feelings.
For this reason before we touch another in a healing container we ask ourselves the following questions:
Am I centered in my heart?
Is this touch for me or for the client?
Is it for the highest good of the client if touch is applied now?
What is the message, the energy that I want to convey through touching?
We recognize the healing power of touch and we commit to ask for verbal consent before touching if possible and to always follow strong inner guidance on when and how to apply touch. Consent to touch usually happens before entering a non-ordinary state of consciousness. We are mindful that our touch is guided by our intention to protect, support, guide, uplift and empower our clients in all ways.
In an Ayahuasca healing experience including the preparation and integration process intimate body parts and genitals are never to be touched and our clients are never asked to undress during ceremony or any therapy session unless if it is a medical emergency.
6. Dual relationships
We recognize the conflicting priorities inherent in overlapping relationships. This can influence professional judgment and can lead to the lack of boundaries on both sides.
Therefore we are committed to avoid dual relationships in general like working with close friends, relatives, business partners, romantic/sexual partners.
We are aware that sexual misconduct is the most common ethical violation in Ayahuasca healing environments as well as in other areas of life. Therefore we are committed not to enter any sexual relationship with former clients for at least 6 months following the termination of a Ayahuasca Healing relationship.
We also ask our clients not to enter any sexual/romantic relationship with other clients/participants during their treatment/ retreat/therapeutic process and preferably 6 months after the termination of their healing program.
7. Supervision and self care
We recognize the power of community and collaboration. Together we are stronger. We are committed to cooperate and collaborate with our fellow Ayahuasca healing professionals. Continuous feedback from our colleagues and clients is valued and important in its capacity to greatly support us in our work and professional development.
We are committed to participate in regular supervision for Ayahuasca/plant medicine healing professionals and seek individual support when needed. As self-care is vital in order to serve others, we strive to create a good work-life balance, rest, recharge and take good care of ourselves.
For our free monthly online supervision for plant medicine practitioners click here! (go to events page)
8. Trauma focus
In almost all cases, the fragmentation of the self is caused by trauma and eventually leads to physical, mental, emotional or spiritual breakdown. Oftentimes the root of dysfunction is related to past trauma(s) that need to be processed, closed and laid to rest so that healing and freedom becomes possible.
To facilitate this healing we are committed to provide a safe container where deep healing can happen. In this space our clients can touch deep wounds that limit their life and feel supported to feel, express, surrender and let go. Through training and experience we acquired tools that support our clients to process and heal trauma on a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual level.
We strongly recommend to all Ayahuasca healing professional to further their education in trauma focused therapies and have various tools and skills to support clients in their trauma healing.
We understand that it is an honor and a huge responsibility to support and guide others when they are touching their deepest wounds. We are familiar with walking this path many times over. Therefore our actions, words and intentions are always filled with love and compassion.
Ayahuasca might not be the best choice for everybody.
Therefore we are committed to pre-screen our clients/participants and learn about their medical history. We always consult with a doctor or medical professional in the event of pharmaceutical use and ensure proper detoxification has occurred when and if appropriate.
We hold the right to refuse client’s participation in Ayahuasca ceremonies and related therapies based on the assessment and best judgment of the Ayahuasca healing professional.
We reserve the right to withhold participation especially if a client demonstrates incapacity for self reflection, has a significant history of psychiatric care, or may not be a good candidate for this profound work with Mother Ayahuasca. We recognize that each situation is different and need be assessed on an individual basis.
For more information on contraindications and medical guidelines please click here
10. Code of Ethics
As part of our ethical conduct we provide a copy of the Codes of Ethics & Standards of Practice to our clients at the beginning of their Ayahuasca healing work.
We uphold the right to change, add, enhance this Code of Ethics and Standard of Practice as we grow and evolve in wisdom and experience.
Special thanks to Kylea Taylor for her book: Ethics of caring that provided the foundation for our Code of Ethics and standard of practice.
Download the book here.
1. Chakruna insitute – community guide for awareness of sexual abuse
2. TELL – Therapy exploitation link line
3. The Aware project – for safety in psychedelic healing