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Colorado's Naropa University is Now Offering a Minor in Psychedelic Studies
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Colorado's Naropa University is Now Offering a Minor in Psychedelic Studies

Seraiah Alexander
Seraiah Alexander
April 08, 2024
3 min

The emerging field of psychedelic-assisted therapy will require trained facilitators who are equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to help patients navigate the profound and often intense experiences associated with psychedelic medicine. Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, hopes to contribute more knowledgeable professionals by introducing a new minor in psychedelic studies, which will be available as part of its Bachelor of Arts degree offerings. The minor will be open to all undergraduate students to prepare them for careers related to psychedelics and other natural medicines.

What the minor entails

Naropa University, America’s leading academy of contemplative education, is one of the first institutions in the nation to offer a psychedelic minor program for undergrad students of all majors. The 12-credit BA Psychedelic Studies Minor was created for students interested in the historical and cultural aspects behind psychedelic substances and plant medicine and how these concepts could be applied in clinical practice.

\ Naropa University was founded in 1974 by Tibetan Buddhist teacher Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, using the same ideologies to this day to combine both Eastern knowledge and modern Western science. As a result, students in the minor program will learn from an interdisciplinary approach to ensure they are well-rounded in their knowledge regarding psychedelic medicines. The minor will focus on a humanities-focused approach, as it “emphasizes religious and ceremonial contexts, cultural practices, policy implications, and healing justice frameworks,” alongside learning about the clinical applications of psychedelic medicines.

The curriculum, while still under development, aims to offer a holistic perspective on psychedelics. Potential classes feature an introductory course, religion and psychedelics studies, decolonial psychology, herbal medicine, transpersonal psychology, and the poetry of psychedelics.

“Psychedelic minor graduates will be well prepared for a career in psychedelic-assisted therapy, with both Naropa University’s rigorous academic education and our singularly unique contemplative pedagogy woven throughout the curriculum,” said Naropa University president Charles G. Lief in a statement. “Naropa is a higher education leader when it comes to incorporating justice, equity, anti-oppression, and understanding lineage and indigenous community relationships with plant medicines.”

Upon completing the minor, students will not only have a solid academic foundation but also practical experience and a strong sense of the ethical implications of their work. The minor will be a starting point for beginners in various fields of research who are interested in filling the future demand for psychedelic professionals.

“This minor will integrate well with the range of undergraduate majors offered at Naropa, including Psychology, Interdisciplinary Studies, Art Therapy, Religious Studies, Creative Writing and Literature, Yoga Studies, or Visual Arts,” adds Lief. “Several of these majors have an online option, making the new minor very accessible to students in North America and beyond.”

A growing need for licensed psychedelic practitioners

In 2022, Colorado passed Proposition 122, legalizing the use of certain psychedelics for therapeutic contexts. The guidelines require a regulated system for all facilitators to undergo training programs to ensure the safety and efficacy of the program. As a result, facilitated psychedelic centers are not expected to be available in the state until next year since the infrastructure, including training and certification programs, needs to be established to support this new form of therapy.

Psychedelics like psilocybin and MDMA are increasingly recognized as potential treatment modalities for mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression, and PTSD. And while the FDA has designated these substances as breakthrough treatments, accelerating their path toward approval, their integration into healthcare programs must be approached with diligent care to safeguard patient health and well-being.

This is why Naropa University launched the Naropa Center for Psychedelic Studies (NCPS) in 2022 to conduct research, education, and comprehensive training in psychedelic sciences for future psychedelic facilitators, ensuring that they are equipped with the necessary competencies to guide patients safely through psychedelic experiences. NCPS offers a psychedelic-assisted therapies certificate program to train prospective facilitators in alignment with the evolving legal frameworks and ethical standards in the field of psychedelic medicine. After the authorities in Colorado establish the necessary regulations, the university will launch a targeted training specifically for a psilocybin facilitator training program.

While the psychedelic studies minor at Naropa will not include a certification, the preliminary course “will provide primary education for students interested in working in this emerging field,” according to Joseph Harrison, M.S., executive director of NCPS. “We are creating a pathway for students that begins with the BA Psychedelic Studies Minor. Serious students can further their learning through Naropa’s Graduate School of Counseling Psychology and then our postgraduate training programs to become licensed practitioners in states such as Colorado and Oregon.”

From classroom to clinic: shaping the future of psychedelic therapy

The legal status of psychedelics isn’t stopping Naropa University from preparing its students for the forefront of this innovative field. As the field of psychedelic therapy continues to evolve, Naropa’s educational programs are designed to not only meet the current standards but also anticipate future developments in the field.

Naropa University is offering $200,000 in scholarships to BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ individuals as an initiative to make “this landscape as diverse as possible so the therapeutic benefit of these medicines reaches as many people as it can,” added Harrison. 

By providing a diverse group of students with the knowledge and skills necessary for the field, Naropa is paving the way for a future in which the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics are accessible to all communities, therefore ensuring that the benefits of these medicines are shared inclusively.

Naropa hopes to roll out the new minor this year’s upcoming Fall semester.


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Seraiah Alexander

Seraiah Alexander

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Table Of Contents

1
What the minor entails
2
A growing need for licensed psychedelic practitioners
3
From classroom to clinic: shaping the future of psychedelic therapy

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