MAPS Canada is pleased to announce its new partnership with the groundbreaking, non-profit healthcare organization Roots To Thrive, based in Nanaimo, BC in collaboration with the Snuneymuxw First Nation and Vancouver Island University.
About Our Partnership
Founded in 2019, Roots to Thrive is Canada’s first and only multidisciplinary, non-profit healthcare practice to legally offer evidence-informed, multi-week, group therapy programs that include psilocybin-assisted and ketamine-assisted group therapy sessions.
Roots to Thrive recently achieved two historic firsts in Canada: it offered the first psilocybin group therapy program for patients facing life-threatening illness; and it received nine first-ever Health Canada Special Access Program request approvals for ANY psychedelic therapy, in any form, for the program.
MAPS Canada is supporting Roots to Thrive through fundraising and communications to promote decolonization and reconciliation in its delivery of community-based, psychedelic medicine-assisted therapies, research, and training of healthcare professionals.
MAPS Canada and Roots to Thrive’s shared intention is to co-create programs that actively engage in decolonizing activities, ensuring that the healthcare delivered is equity oriented, trauma informed, culturally safe, humble, and holistic; and that it promotes spiritual and cultural health, harm reduction, and health promotion.
Working with stakeholders in Vancouver Island Health and Health Canada, Roots to Thrive provides multi-week, virtual mental healthcare programs (which include in-person psilocybin-assisted and ketamine-assisted therapy sessions) for physician-referred patients experiencing a range of diagnoses including but not limited to PTSD; treatment-resistant depression; eating disorders; substance use disorder; OCD; and end-of-life distress within an evidence-based, decolonized, and equity-informed community of practice group therapy model.
The Roots to Thrive team is led by regulated healthcare professionals, including Dr. Shannon Dames, RN, MPH, EdD; palliative care physician Dr. Valorie Masuda, MD; and Dr. Pamela Kryskow, MD. All team members have been specifically trained in supporting and facilitating legal psychedelic therapy. The entire team includes over twenty experienced physicians, nurses, psychiatrists, registered clinical counselors, Indigenous knowledge keepers, somatic therapists, cultural and spiritual care practitioners, and trained facilitators.
Through its partnership with Vancouver Island University (VIU), Roots to Thrive also provides practicum mentorship and training for Canada’s first-ever, graduate certificate-level Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy Program, offered by the VIU Faculty of Health and Human Services. This program was developed by Roots to Thrive’s Dr. Shannon Dames, who is also a Professor of Nursing and Health Professional-Investigator at VIU, and Dr. Pamela Kryskow, who is also an Adjunct Professor at VIU.
The results of Roots to Thrive’s programs are currently being reviewed for publication. After one year of serving nearly 200 patients, participants are self-reporting significant positive results for depression, PTSD, anxiety and life/work functionality. Roots to Thrive currently has over 800 people on its waiting list for its 12-week, ketamine-assisted group therapy program.
About Roots to Thrive
Roots to Thrive is a healthcare practice that offers two evidence-informed group psychedelic therapy programs that aim to improve resilience by enhancing awareness, self-regulation, self and other compassion, meaning-making and life purpose: group therapy with and without ketamine-assisted therapy; and Canada’s first-ever legal group therapy programs using psilocybin through Health Canada’s Special Access Program and Section 56 exemptions program.
Both have resulted in significant positive impacts on the mental wellbeing of participants.
Roots to Thrive – Ketamine-Assisted Therapy Program (RTT-KaT)
This program is a 12-week, virtual, resiliency-based group therapy program that includes three in-person, ketamine-assisted group therapy sessions for physician-referred patients experiencing a range of diagnoses, including PTSD, depression, substance use disorders, eating disorders, OCD and additional concurrent issues stemming from trauma.
Roots to Thrive – Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy Program (RTT-PaT)
This program was a groundbreaking, eight-week virtual group therapy program that included Canada’s first legal, in-person psilocybin-assisted therapy session for nine people with life-threatening illness.
Roots to Thrive recently achieved two historic firsts in Canada with this program: it was the first whole-mushroom psilocybin group therapy program for patients facing life-threatening illness; and it received the first-ever Health Canada Special Access Program request approvals for ANY psychedelic therapy, in any form, for the psilocybin group therapy program.
While ketamine-assisted therapy (KaT) has been approved by Health Canada as a treatment to address mental health conditions for which first-line treatment methods have been ineffective, (including treatment resistant depression, substance use disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder), psilocybin has not.
However, in a historic first time in Canada, nine patients were able to participate in Roots to Thrive’s Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy legally in November, 2021 after the organization applied for and was granted Section 56 exemptions for each participant under Canada’s Controlled Drugs and Substances Act by Canada’s Federal Minister of Health.
These exemptions are granted on a case-by-case basis for patients experiencing end-of-life distress following a terminal diagnosis, such as a cancer diagnosis, to access therapeutic psilocybin and to health care professionals to allow them to provide this treatment legally.
While Roots to Thrive is immensely grateful to Health Canada to have received a historic, first-in-Canada Section 56 exemptions for nine participants in its November, 2021 psilocybin-assisted therapy program, Roots to Thrive has applied to Health Canada for a Section 56 exemption for both of its entire programs going forward, rather than for each participant individually.
Their reason for doing this is that Roots to Thrive believes that healthcare decisions should be made solely between a person and their primary care providers. Having to ask permission of Health Canada for a patient to participate in a medically-supervised therapeutic program (ie. giving Health Canada private and personal patient information, including past treatments they have received) goes against medical principles of patient confidentiality and fiduciary responsibility.
Each individual Section 56 application is a long, complex process that can expose vulnerable people to great distress and shame, particularly if their application is rejected.
By applying for a Section 56 exemption for the programs, rather than individual patients, Roots to Thrive seeks to increase accessibility to treatment for the tens of thousands of Canadians desperate to relieve their suffering from mental health and substance use disorders.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Roots to Thrive is a non-profit currently running a very lean practice. To date, it has received $30,000 CDN in private donations and team members have donated approximately $25,000 CDN in their time. The Snuneymuxw First Nation has donated the use of its Health Care Centre for the in-person psilocybin and ketamine-assisted therapy sessions on weekends, when it is closed for its regular delivery of services.
All fees paid by individuals or insurance companies for the cost of the program have paid for staff (except when they have donated their time). All extra funds have been used to provide scholarships for participants who could not otherwise afford to participate in the ketamine-assisted therapy program (the psilocybin-assisted program is always offered at no cost to participants).
Going forward, all funds raised for Roots to Thrive will go towards scholarships to cover the fees for more participants, allowing greater and more equitable access to the ketamine-assisted therapy program, so that money is never a barrier, and will allow staff to be paid (rather than donate their time) for more rounds of the psilocybin-assisted therapy program.
Roots to Thrive is seeking funding that will allow it to offer more programs to more people seeking treatment, offer more training, publish more research, and offer more public education.
To facilitate this, Roots to Thrive needs to have its own space, a multidisciplinary research and therapy centre, where it can offer programs seven days a week (rather than the current two days per week), and funding for enough staff to support this service delivery expansion.
Many participants in the program come from away, and would benefit from having a place to stay overnight, both before and after their in-person sessions. Roots to Thrive also envisions inviting researchers, academics, and healthcare professionals seeking training from around the world.
The vision for this space includes:
- A centre that is beautiful, safe, and healing
- Relaxing, quiet, private spaces for participant intake
- Multiple group rooms to accommodate 10-15 people per session
- Spaces for training, mentoring, teaching, and knowledge translation
- Cabins or rooms for participants to spend the night before or after their sessions
- Community spaces where visiting researchers and academics, staff, participants can all visit or share a meal with one another, where everyone’s voice and presence matters equally
- Outdoor space for quiet contemplation and walking in nature, or group activities like campfires
Hundreds of thousands of Canadians are desperate to alleviate their suffering from mental health disorders (including PTSD, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, treatment-resistant depression, eating disorders, substance use disorders, and other conditions stemming from trauma), as well as from end-of-life distress for those facing terminal diagnoses.
Many people with these conditions simply cannot afford therapy, including psychedelic-assisted therapy. They may be off work, on disability, need to work, are experiencing poverty or homelessness, are caring for children or elders, or are in palliative care.
Your donation will support the delivery of the Roots to Thrive first-in-Canada programs and fund scholarships for people to participate who otherwise could not.
We believe that Roots to Thrive’s multidisciplinary, evidence-based, decolonized, community-based, and patient-centred approach to supporting mental healthcare and healing for people with deep trauma and suffering is a model of care that should be publicly funded and scaled throughout the country. Canada currently spends billions of dollars in public fund dealing with the overwhelming lack of mental healthcare available.
Until then, your donation will directly support Roots to Thrive and those who most need access to mental healthcare and healing.
Nine Ways Roots To Thrive Is Unique
Roots to Thrive Ketamine-Assisted Therapy program is leading the way providing psychedelic therapy within an evidence-based, equity-informed, community of practice and group therapy model. The Roots to Thrive program’s pillars centre on decolonizing through practicing ways of being that provide a lived experience of connection to oneself and others.
The Roots to Thrive Ketamine-Assisted Therapy program is a 12-week, virtual and in-person resiliency-based group therapy program that includes three in-person, ketamine-assisted group therapy sessions (RTT-KaT) for physician-referred patients.
Roots to Thrive offers three group sessions (cohorts) per year, two in the winter/spring and one in fall/winter.
Participants can be experiencing a range of diagnoses, including but not limited to PTSD, depression, substance use disorders, eating disorders, OCD, and additional concurrent issues stemming from trauma.
The program combines facilitated group therapy sessions with physician and psychiatrist-led psychedelic medicine-assisted group therapy sessions. Within this framework, psychedelic medicine-assisted psychotherapy is a secondary, supportive tool that aids in the removal of barriers to connection.
The program’s three in-person, ketamine-assisted group therapy sessions take place at the Snuneymuxw Health Centre in Nanaimo, BC. The rest of the program is delivered virtually online.
The 12-week program includes:
- A comprehensive, personalized, holistic intake assessment for each participant with our multidisciplinary intake team.
- A customized wellness program for each participant co-developed with our intake team.
- 12 weeks of group sessions facilitated by the Roots to Thrive community of practice team. These sessions (group and individual) take about 4 hours per week.
- Three ketamine-assisted therapy sessions facilitated by an MD and psychiatrist-led team.
- Emotion-focused therapy and other somatic medicine modalities
- Optional one-on-one integration sessions.
Other unique aspects of the program include:
- Participants are welcome to invite friends and family to be part of their therapeutic journeys through collaborative information sessions where they can ask questions, .
- Participants are informed about how the therapy program will work in advance.
- Therapeutic approaches are based on unique challenges facing each group cohort, and people are met where they are at. Relevant psychodynamic theories are applied to allow everyone to show up, witness, and hear one another compassionately.
- Group session cohorts are invited to keep their learnings and connections going after the 12 weeks through Alumni Group chats.
- Participants receive teaching from Indigenous elders during the program.
- The healthcare team (including psychiatrists, MDs, RNs) maintain relationships with participants for as long as participants wish, including ongoing collaboration with primary care referring practitioners as requested or required.
- The dyadic, healer/patient model (ie. a patient pays a therapist to work with them to “help them heal”) is replaced with a supportive, community group model in which everyone is sharing, including the healthcare team. This helps everyone realize we are not alone, we are witnessing one another and expanding our resiliency together. We observe healing accelerate because there are so many people holding the continuum of healing and connection.
The Roots to Thrive Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy program follows the same model, taking place over eight weeks, with one in-person psilocybin-assisted group therapy session.
As of March 2022, Roots to Thrive is currently offering its second RTT-PaT program to a cohort of seven people. The practice has the capacity to offer four programs (each with a cohort of up to twelve people) per year.
The cost for Roots to Thrive to provide RTT-KaT and RTT-PaT is between $1,750 to $5,850 per participant (subject to change).
This cost includes intakes with our clinicians (RN, MD, psychiatrist); all preparatory sessions; all integration sessions (before and after); eight virtual community of practice gatherings (facilitated by our team); one psilocybin-assisted session with our full clinical team on site; and any individual sessions with team members (MD, psychiatrist, somatic therapist, etc).
In the case of RTT-KaT, the cost of this program is paid for via a patient’s extended healthcare insurance or by participants themselves.
Roots to Thrive offers scholarships covering most of the cost of the RTT-KaT program to which patients can apply. Applications by local, Indigenous applicants are prioritized.
In the case of RTT-PaT, the program is always offered at NO cost to participants. To date, Roots to Thrive has only been able to offer this program at no cost because all healthcare team members have donated their time for the program.
Going forward, Roots to Thrive and MAPS Canada are fundraising to cover the full costs of RTT-PaT to all participants (allowing the healthcare team to be paid), and to offer more scholarships to participants for RTT-KaT.
The Roots to Thrive team is led by regulated, accountable healthcare professionals who have been specifically trained in supporting and facilitating legal psychedelic therapy.
The Roots to Thrive multidisciplinary team includes over twenty experienced physicians, nurses, psychiatrists, registered clinical counselors, Indigenous knowledge keepers, somatic therapists, cultural and spiritual care practitioners, and trained facilitators.
There are four main documents that inform the Roots to Thrive operations, the priority population groups, and the delivery of ketamine and psilocybin-assisted therapy protocols:
- Roots to Thrive and its adjunctive medicine-assisted therapy treatments follow Therapeutic Guidelines, speaking to the values and safety requirements that inform the development and delivery of the RTT programs, and in the use of KaT, and PaT as medical adjuncts to address trauma and treatment resistant mental health conditions.
- Because the demand for these therapies is high and the public health systems do not cover many of the costs, there is often a waitlist for scholarships. To promote equitable access, an Equity-Informed Scholarship Decision Making Process and Application Form was created, prioritizing Indigenous People.
- The Ketamine-Assisted Therapy (KaT) Medical Procedure was developed in collaboration with the local health authority, reviewed, and vetted by medical providers who specialize in ketamine-assisted therapy. The KaT medical procedure was piloted for over a year, beginning in September of 2020, through a quality improvement project, delivered through a collaboration between Vancouver Island University and the local health authority, demonstrating significantly positive results.
- The Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy (PaT) Medical Procedure was developed in collaboration with provincial and national experts and stakeholders and has been in operation since October of 2021, serving those with Health Canada exemptions, enabling the use of Psilocybin to treat end-of-life distress. With approval of the jointly submitted Health Canada Section 56.1 Application, in addition to treating end-of-life distress, PaT may also be available for those with treatment resistant mental health conditions.
Roots to Thrive is committed to:
- Work in collaboration with multiple stakeholder experts, including the local health authorities, the BC Ministry of Health, and Health Canada to lead the development of, and complete the necessary approval processes required to deliver KaT and PaT.
- Continue to follow, review, and revise the KaT and PaT medical procedures and guidelines;
- The KaT and PaT Medical Procedures will be implemented in out-patient settings to treat those who continue to suffer from treatment resistant mental health conditions.
- The RTT communities of practice and adjunctive medicine-assisted therapy treatment sessions will be delivered following the Therapeutic Guidelines. These sessions may be delivered either virtually, or in-person, or via a hybrid of in-person and virtual sessions, following the restrictions for the current COVID-19 pandemic.
- Act as a field guide for Vancouver Island University’s practicum programs, supervising students training to provide psychedelic-assisted therapies.
- Act as a research site for Vancouver Island University’s three-prong approach to advance psychedelic-assisted therapies within a community of practice environment.
All team members are required to take part in the Roots To Thrive 12-week KaT program as a participant before they can assist in facilitating a program themselves. Healthcare professionals are also people who also need healing, and to show up for others they also need to experience their own healing journey.
The team is expanding at the speed of competency: once a healthcare professional has taken the 12-week program, they can request to join the Roots To Thrive team themselves, and step into facilitation roles as they acquire the skills to do so.
This apprenticeship model is about sharing outward and expanding the number of health practitioners trained in facilitating these therapies.
Vancouver Island University’s (VIU) Faculty of Health and Human Services is now offering the Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy program, a graduate-level certificate program designed to train healthcare professionals to deliver psychedelic-assisted therapies, in affiliation with Roots to Thrive.
It is the first program of its kind to include both theory and supervised practice from an accredited university in Canada.
The program was developed by VIU Nursing Professor and Roots to Thrive team lead Dr. Shannon Dames, and Adjunct Professor Dr. Pamela Kryskow, the medical lead at Roots to Thrive.
Students in the program will complete their practicum in administering and facilitating psychedelic medicine therapy on-site with Roots to Thrive at the Snuneymuxw First Nation Health Centre.
The certificate program incorporates learnings from Roots to Thrive, founded by Dames and co-created by numerous academics, Indigenous knowledge keepers and health professionals.
The curriculum is delivered in collaboration with VIU Elder-in-Residence Geraldine Manson, Indigenous professionals and cultural safety experts, which supports the program’s overarching vision to actively engage in decolonization and reconciliation for all.
Roots To Thrive’s goal is to provide a robust program focused on service delivery excellence; research and publishing; and training healthcare professionals.
This non-profit model of care is designed to be accessible to all. Once adequately funded, this model is designed to be scalable throughout the healthcare system, to meet the overwhelming amount of people suffering and desperate for mental healthcare.
Results of the nine-patient psilocybin group therapy study have been submitted for publication to the journal Frontiers of Psychology and are under review.
Through VIU, the team will evaluate outcomes and to mentor interdisciplinary healthcare teams to provide psychedelic-assisted therapy within a community of practice/group support model.
Results: Roots to Thrive – Ketamine Assisted Therapy (RTT- KaT)
Healing in a community setting is designed to lead to secure attachment, emotional regulation, and re-connection to what is meaningful. Many participants in this program report feeling “seen” and loved, without condition, for the first time.
After one year of operations, serving hundreds of participants, the outcomes have been outstanding, showing significant positive results for depression, PTSD, anxiety and life/work functionality.
- 91% saw improvements in generalized anxiety,
- 79% saw improvements in depression,
- 86% of those who screened positive for PTSD now screen negative,
- 92% had significant life/work functionality improvements).
Results: Roots to Thrive – Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy (RTT- PaT)
Existential distress is a common symptom among patients with terminal diagnoses, which can cause profound mental suffering for patients as well as their families and care providers.
Before psychedelic-assisted therapy, there have been few effective treatments for end-of-life distress. But studies by the University of California Los Angeles, New York University, and Johns Hopkins University have shown that psilocybin — a psychoactive prodrug compound found in magic mushrooms — effectively reduces patients’ end-of-life distress.
Psychedelic-assisted therapy provides new hope for these patients, for many of whom the only other options to find relief from their suffering are terminal sedation, which involves administering a patient with drugs that keep them sedated until death, or Medical Assistance in Dying.
Prior to participating in the group medicine session with the support of experienced guides and clinicians, all nine patients met for three weeks as a group, enabling them to show up and share their hopes and fears. Afterwards, they integrated their experience in that community and shared their experiences, sometimes laughing, crying, and holding each other.
Well-versed in the studies and scientific literature on end-of-life distress, Dr. Valorie Masuda says her experience “With these beautiful souls [in the program] was the most touching thing I have ever witnessed.”
How To Apply To Roots to Thrive Programs
Applying participants for both RTT-KaT and RTT-PaT require a referral by their psychiatrist or primary care physician, and may be located anywhere in Canada. Applications can be made at www.rootstothrive.com.