How Dr. Bronner Came to Offer Psychedelic Therapy as an Employee Mental Health Benefit

Family-owned soap company Dr. Bronner’s is offering a new health care benefit to its employees: ketamine-assisted therapy.

Since the company rolled out the policy in January, at least 30 employees have used mental health profit, which represents about 10% of the company’s workforce, according to CEO David Bronner.

Ketamine is currently the only legal prescription psychedelic drug in the United States and in the medical world it is widely used as an anesthetic. However, when prescribed appropriately, it can induce a state of sedation, which reduces anxiety and helps people feel more connected to their emotions and memories while receiving it. It can have lasting benefits for their mental health, experts say.

To turn this into an advantage in the workplace, Dr. Bronner has partnered with Enthea, a nonprofit healthcare organization that advocates psychedelic-assisted therapies as highly effective treatments for a wide variety of issues. of mental health. All of Dr. Bronner’s employees can apply directly to Enthea for this form of therapy, which in turn will connect them with a board-certified and credentialed ketamine-assisted therapy practitioner for a consultation.

“We have a pretty broad list of qualifying conditions,” Bronner said. “Anyone who self-identifies as suffering, along with screening with the provider, will be referred to a licensed ketamine therapist.”

Typically, ketamine-assisted therapy is spread over a period of six weeks, and individual sessions last from 90 minutes to three hours. To begin, the participant discusses goals, intentions, and concerns with a professional therapist. They are given a comfortable chair or sofa to sit on, headphones to listen to music and an eye mask. A trained clinician then gives a strictly controlled dose of ketamine, which they can choose to receive by injection or oral lozenge. After each dose, the participant then processes the emotions that surfaced during a session with the therapist.

All sessions take place during the employee’s free time, although driving immediately afterwards is not recommended. As with all prescribed medication, there can be side effects – mild nausea, dizziness or drowsiness in this case – but they are limited to the duration of the session and disappear quickly, according to Enthea, which schedules regular check-ins with patients. . after their treatments.

Psychedelic therapy as a social benefit remains outside the traditional approach to mental health care, in part because there is a stigma around the concept, as these drugs trigger hallucinations in larger doses and can also sometimes be used illegally for recreational purposes.

But Bronner said he believed that attitude was slowly changing, and he hopes more companies will start including this benefit in their healthcare programs.

“The whole culture right now is going through a great education and going from the war on drugs… to understanding that these are really healing drugs as long as the approach is respectful and care is taken in the preparation and the frame,” Bronner said. “There has been an evolution.

It is a decision that has been welcomed by various medical professionals. “[Dr. Bronner’s] uses the psychedelic framework and ketamine as a supplement to help people have new ideas, experiences and perspectives,” said Scott Shannon, a psychiatrist who co-founded the Board of Psychedelic Medicine and Therapies and founded the Wholeness Center in Colorado.

Having an employer cover such treatment is particularly advantageous because most insurers do not cover it. This alone could cost up to $1,200 for a two-hour session, according to Shannon.

“That means it’s available to those who can afford to pay,” Shannon said. “Outside of an employee-sponsored program like Dr. Bronner’s, it’s not really very accessible. I am happy and excited that they are providing this and stepping in because it is so needed. This is the revolution in mental health care. I would like to see more employers do this.

Dr. Bronner receives a monthly bill from Enthea, which adjusts to the cost approximately $3,000 or $4,000 per employee who attends a standard six-week session.

According to Enthea, in a ketamine clinic, between 75% and 80% of patients with depression feel better after therapy. “It won’t just be a silver bullet,” Bronner added. “But it can be useful.”

Dr. Bronner’s decision to add ketamine-assisted therapy as a social benefit comes at a time when the spotlight is on mental health needs in the workforce. This concentration has increased considerably in recent years, especially with the pandemic. Employers have worked harder to meet the mental health needs of their workers by offering company-wide retreats, access to meditation apps, traditional therapy and more.

And while psychedelic therapy as a social benefit remains far from common, many welcome it. “There is clearly a need in the mental health space for more tools [like ketamine-assisted therapy,]”said Jamie Harvie, Executive Director of the Psychedelic Research and Training Institute. “The more options people have, the better. Right now the toolbox is a bit empty,” he added.

But, looking back, what exactly drove a natural soap brand to offer such an unconventional, albeit progressive, benefit to its employees?

Bronner, whose grandfather started the company in 1948, told WorkLife he pitched the idea to the team (his family) after seeing people in his life benefit from a ketamine-assisted therapy. Bronner has been a strong advocate for the legalization of hemp and cannabis for the past two decades and has long campaigned against the war on drugs.

He visited Amsterdam after college where he “met some amazing people and had some powerful psychedelic experiences”, which he says really opened his heart and mind and gave him a better understanding of his grandfather. . His grandfather always preached that “all religious traditions at heart point to the same transcendent source,” Bronner recalled.

Bronner said he was impressed with the power of psychedelics and decided he wanted to make them available to any employee struggling with mental well-being who wanted to try them.

“By getting involved in the movement, I really understood how powerful these drugs are for people struggling with serious mental health issues, whether it’s depression, PTSD or mental disorders. substance use of all kinds,” said Bronner, who is also a board member. of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies.

Hearing personal testimonies of the impact of ketamine-assisted therapy, including from his own brother Michael Bronner, who is Dr. Bronner’s president, is what really made him realize the impact that treatments can have on people. people.

For the Bronner family, making ketamine-assisted therapy available to their employees is just the beginning. In the future, the company hopes to add other FDA-approved psychedelic therapies to the mental health program, including MDMA-assisted therapy and psilocybin-assisted therapy. A decision on whether the MDMA-assisted therapy will be approved by the FDA is expected by March 2024.

With these types of therapies, Bronner said he hopes that the employees of his company, and anyone who decides to try them, will feel like they can go on with their lives with a new mindset.

“We are here to serve and…if we are not all thriving, not all healthy, living in a sustainable balance with nature, then none of us are thriving, and that is another huge power of psychedelic medicine – it is the power to connect us with the larger natural world,” Bronner added.

About Stephen Ewing

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