Hi! I’m the host of The Psychedologist.

My name is Leia Friedwoman. I am a teacher, writer, therapist, connectress and community organizer. My work explores and supports the human experience of consciousness through a social and environmental justice lens. 

Leia stands in front of a red barn wearing overalls and holding a crate overflowing with vegetables

I grew up close to nature, surrounded by trees and rivers and gardens and wildlife. Throughout my life people often told me, “you’re such a little psychologist!” because of the questions I would ask and the sense of support and connection people felt around me. I didn’t know what a psychologist was for a while, but when I had the chance to learn, I dove into the field.

I pursued the study of psychology in highschool, under-grad and grad school, and never quite felt that the discipline was reflective of me. At UMass Lowell I minored in Writing and Arabic Studies and graduated with “honors” but no sense of direction or purpose. During my time as a student, I had powerful, mind expanding experiences traveling to different parts of the world and meeting people who taught me important and sometimes difficult lessons. I learned to speak Portuguese and Spanish, studied Arabic, and dappled in several other languages. 

I supported myself financially by working as a waitress, tutor/mentor and a dance teacher. I often felt burnt out and although I would get sick multiple times a year, I continued burning the candle at both ends. My self image was fragile and lacked a sense of self beyond pleasing others. I decided to pursue a M.S. in Clinical Psychology because, although I was passionate about helping others and exploring the mind, I still had no idea what I wanted to do professionally. I also had the sense that maybe studying psychology would help me with my food and body issues. I learned the gamut of western perspectives on mental health and groomed myself to be a big psychologist. 

Upon completion of my Master’s in Clinical Psychology in 2013, I began working in the mainstream mental health field.  The mismatch was immediately evident – I felt disturbed by the reductionist, classist, patriarchal, and pharmaceutical state of mental healthcare, but I didn’t see another way to do things, either. After this failed attempt at a job that would set me up to be a PhD student, and with my food and my body issues at an all time high, I felt more lost than ever. I found fulfilling work as an outpatient master’s level clinician and in home therapist and continued the tutoring/mentoring work while I processed what was unfolding for me. I also began teaching psychology at the college level as an adjunct.

Years later, I had my first spiritual experience and then my first experience with psychedelics. In both cases, the sensations in my body, although like nothing I had experienced before, felt oddly familiar and comfortable. I felt a humble confidence, as though this is something I had been doing for ages. As the experience unfolded, I felt myself unfolding into something new and yet timeless, infinite. I felt a connection with myself that I had been missing for so long.

I spent three months living in Costa Rica, working with ayahuasca and reconnecting with the forest. My healing was underway when I returned home renewed, refreshed and determined. I resumed work as an adjunct professor and as in-home therapist/outpatient clinician and studied the phenomena of psychedelia in my free time, attending conferences, reading the classic books on the topics, talking to others who used these medicines for their healing. I became a climate activist and a community organizer for psychedelic awareness and harm reduction. 

After a few years of working in harm reduction settings such as the Zendo Project, I began speaking and writing on the topic of psychedelics. Boston Entheogenic Network (BEN) was born when I met a colleague at Horizon’s Perspectives on Psychedelics who invited me to help him revive a psychedelic meetup group in the greater Boston area. Together a handful of us nurtured the group and the network spread. I held integration circles and meetings for the group, coordinated event planning and harm reduction and outreach to the greater community. 

During this time I was also introduced to permaculture, a life changing course for me. Born from the idea of “permanent agriculture,” permaculture is a creative design process used in farming that helps us to not only recognize the patterns, systems, and relationships found in nature, but also to mimic them as we plot out our farms, homes, and lives. Using whole-systems thinking, permaculture takes into account every aspect of the system in order to thoroughly express how each one symbiotically interacts with and shapes the other. 

I received my Permaculture Design Certificate through Starhawk’s Earth Activist Training in January, 2017. Following that course, I moved to Happy Acres Farm in Sherman, CT and lived there for a year and a half co-running the organic fruit and veggie CSA, helping with the animals and supporting other farm operations. The permaculture mindset also helped inform my perspective on the psychedelic community and movement, within which I see a number of ethical dilemmas and issues.

I became a volunteer for MAPS (the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) and restructured the Psychedelic Integration Resource List, a collection of professionals who can help integrate past psychedelic experiences (the list has since been retired). Around that time I was exposed to the reality of sexual misconduct and ethical lapses in the psychedelic community (above ground and underground). I developed a trauma-centered complaints process for addressing cases of harm or concern about providers on the psychedelic integration list and attended an ethics training for exploring how to implement more safety measures in this burgeoning psychedelic renaissance. 

At the same time, I began expanding my therapeutic skillset and learning more about self and community accountability. I worked for various psychedelic organizations and organized my own community events and workshops on topics such as breathwork, nature relationship, social justice, consent, harm reduction, conflict, supporting survivors of harm in psychedelic spaces, and restorative and transformative justice.

My introduction to restorative and transformative justice (RJ/TJ) left me fascinated with these technologies as ways to reduce violence and heal communities after rupture and harm. Rj/TJ also provides a model for how we can practice justice in our communities, unlike the current “criminal justice” system- a racist, exploitative carceral system that puts people in cages for doing something as harmless as having plant medicine on them (I recommend you watch the doc “13th” by Ava DuVernay if you haven’t already, to learn more about this. See also, The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander).

At that same time I began study Herbalism, and learned that there are thousands of medicinal plants and fungi to support us humans, and that psychedelics are just one small fraction of the plant medicine world. I also learned that some of these herbal traditions I could trace back in my own lineage.

I attended several silent meditation courses and learned how to be with myself and be still.

I began offering coaching and consultation in 2017 for individuals who were exploring their consciousness and engaging in a relationship with psychedelics and plant medicine. My hope was that psychedelics could wake up the world to recognize the unjust systems many of us are entangled in, and inspire us to heal ourselves, our communities, and our relationship to the earth. 

While I still hold this vision, my stance is more complex and nuanced. I believe that psychedelics are one tool toward the holistic, liberatory revolution that I dream of for this world. Consciousness expanding plants, fungi and human made molecules offer so much to promote the body’s innate healing capacity and intelligence. I have witnessed journey work help people (myself included) see what they need to see, process emotions, heal, learn, remember, change, connect, and let go of what is ready to be released, making room for more love and harmony within the self. These tools are amazing for supporting individuals, couples, families and communities. 

I have also seen psychedelics be used in a way that perpetuates delusion, entitlement and the potential for harm in myriad ways. I have seen people turn to psychedelics as a magic bullet and way to avoid doing their own personal work and making changes in their day to day life. I have seen people become re-traumatized from journey work. And while increased public awareness of the healing power of psychedelics has many benefits, the commodification of these medicines for capitalist gain is deeply unsettling to me. 

I strive to hold this nuance and practice discernment and curiosity around these topics. Although I don’t have any more answers than when I started, I do believe I have better questions. 

On the activism end, I promote decriminalization measures and efforts to keep psychedelic medicine accessible to all who need it and outside of the capitalist agenda, as well as mutual aid and solidarity with Black, Indigenous and People of Color, and other historically marginalized groups across the globe. I enjoy writing about phenomena relating to social and environmental justice, relationships, consciousness and the psychedelic experience. I feel that it is my calling to work with other humans, to help them develop the capacity to be with themselves, and to be in relationship with others in courageous and nourishing ways. 

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