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Creating Safe and Empowering Plant Medicine Spaces for Women

Passionate about plant medicine's holistic healing potential, I've witnessed its growing popularity and profound benefits. Conventional approaches often fall short in addressing our deep-rooted challenges, while plant medicine offers transformative journeys, fostering personal growth and expanded consciousness. Creating safe spaces for women within this realm has become my focus, aiming to rectify historical marginalization and honor our voices and experiences.

Drawing from three years of working with women in plant medicine spaces, this article shares insights for how we can build more empowering and supportive spaces for women to heal and liberate themselves.

The Need for Safe Spaces in Plant Medicine

To me, safety is is one the most important factors on the realm of experiencing plant medicine. These practices delve into the depths of the psyche, unearthing suppressed emotions and traumas. As a facilitator, it is my responsibility to establish an environment that nurtures and protects participants during these profound journeys.

A safe space is a container where individuals can fearlessly explore their inner landscapes, knowing they won't be judged or harmed. It's a place for emotional expression, storytelling, and compassionate witness. This involves setting clear boundaries, upholding ethical guidelines, and practicing comprehensive consent. It also requires building a culture of empowerment within the plant medicine community.

By prioritizing safety, we not only protect participants but also enable them to fully engage in the healing process. Deep insights, growth, and transformation flourish within these secure environments. It is essential to address uncomfortable topics and raise awareness about the need for women-only spaces, as I've discovered through years of reflection and encounters with specific concerns.

Historical Gender Disparities in Plant Medicine

Historical gender disparities in the field of plant medicine have marginalized and underrepresented women. Traditional healing practices often limited women's access to knowledge and leadership roles, relegating them to supportive positions. The imposition of Western medical paradigms during colonialism further devalued indigenous healing practices, diminishing the contributions of indigenous women. In contemporary contexts, gender biases and power imbalances persist, hindering women's visibility, participation, and recognition in plant medicine.

Addressing these disparities requires intentional efforts to promote inclusivity and gender equality. When we created Women On Psychedelics, we knew that we wanted to create a space that could amplify women's voices, honor their experiences, and provide equal leadership opportunities. I truly believe that by recognizing and rectifying historical imbalances, the plant medicine community can foster an environment that values and respects women's unique perspectives and contributions. This shift towards equity and representation can pave the way for a more diverse and inclusive field of plant medicine.

Prevalence of Sexual Harassment and Abuse

The prevalence of sexual harassment and abuse in plant medicine ceremonies or therapy sessions is a serious concern that many have a hard time discussing or holding people accountable for. Incidents of misconduct, boundary violations, and abuse have been reported in various settings involving plant medicine practices. These incidents can have a profound and lasting impact on the well-being and trust of women seeking healing and growth through these modalities. There’s still a lack of acknowledgment that these experiences not only harm the individuals directly affected but also undermine the integrity and potential benefits of plant medicine as a whole.

The power dynamics inherent in plant medicine ceremonies or therapy sessions open space for misconduct and exploitation. Women often find themselves in vulnerable positions, relying on facilitators and practitioners to guide them through their journeys. This power imbalance can be manipulated, leading to situations of sexual harassment or abuse.

The deeply personal and intimate nature of these experiences can make it difficult for survivors to come forward, further perpetuating a culture of silence. Unfortunately, the plant medicine space still does not show enough efforts made to proactively address these issues, establish clear boundaries and ethical guidelines, and implement comprehensive policies that prioritize the safety and well-being of women in such spaces.

three women hugging
Artwork: Ada Vishneva

Understanding the Challenges Women Face

Working in the Dutch plant medicine space, I have come face to face with the sobering reality of how stereotypes and biases shape women's experiences, subtly yet powerfully hindering their autonomy and spiritual growth. Through my years of working with women, I have witnessed firsthand the direct impact of societal expectations, which limit their participation in ceremonies and invalidate the profound journeys they embark upon.

But it doesn't end there. A shadow of fear looms over women, discouraging them from exploring the transformative power of plant medicine therapies. The weight of judgment and marginalization hangs heavy - even in a country where we can have open conversations about drugs - creating a stifling atmosphere within alternative healing spaces. Women find themselves caught between the pull of their inner yearning for healing and the external pressures of societal norms. They worry that their pursuit of plant medicine will brand them as "attention-seeking" or "overly emotional," causing them to hesitate and miss out on the support they genuinely deserve.

Adding to that, within the depths of plant medicine ceremonies, emotional exploration takes center stage, demanding vulnerability from those who partake. For many women, this vulnerability is accompanied by deep-seated fears of emotional exposure and the potential resurgence of past traumas. It is within these moments that a safe and supportive environment becomes an absolute necessity, one that respects boundaries and strengthens trust. Compounded by concerns of personal safety, especially during overnight stays or secluded retreats, women's experiences in plant medicine spaces become marred by an added layer of apprehension.

To address these legitimate concerns, we need to incorporate trauma-informed practices more often into our approach, particularly within the realm of women-only spaces. By openly acknowledging trauma histories, we create an environment that prioritizes safety, trust, and empowerment. Respecting boundaries becomes not just an ideal but an unwavering commitment, allowing women to feel deeply supported and protected as they embark on their profound healing journeys. Integrating trauma-informed practices becomes the cornerstone of our collective experience, cultivating a sense of safety and validation that we all deserve.

So How Do We Create Safe Spaces for Women?

Creating safe spaces for women involves various measures that prioritize our well-being, empowerment, and healing. Here are some key steps:

Establishing clear policies and guidelines

As a female facilitator and educator, I've embraced the responsibility of ensuring safe spaces for women in plant medicine. It begins with clear policies, comprehensive consent protocols, and transparent communication about risks and benefits. I prioritize obtaining informed consent, empowering women to make informed decisions.

To enhance safety, I conduct thorough background checks, provide trauma-informed care and boundaries training, and ensure the presence of trained female facilitators. These measures prioritize the physical, emotional, and psychological well-being of women throughout their plant medicine journey.

Implementing a code of conduct and an accountability system guarantees dignity for all participants, especially women. Open communication channels and confidential reporting mechanisms empower women to voice concerns, with a commitment to thorough investigation and appropriate action. This fosters a culture of respect and inclusivity.

Offering women-only retreats and workshops

As a female plant medicine facilitator, offering women-only retreats and workshops is a deeply personal and important endeavor. These dedicated spaces create a haven for women to gather, connect, and support each other. By excluding male participants, women can freely express themselves, share experiences, and embark on their healing journeys without fear of judgment or external expectations.

These all-female spaces address the unique needs and challenges that women face in their healing process. Women's experiences and traumas can be better understood and addressed in a supportive environment where shared understanding and empathy flourish. Being surrounded by other women who have navigated similar life experiences fosters validation, belonging, and solidarity, amplifying the healing potential of the retreat or workshop.

Moreover, women-only retreats and workshops delve into the depths of feminine wisdom, spirituality, and empowerment. By focusing on teachings and experiences specific to women, we tap into the collective wisdom of the feminine. It becomes a platform to honor the sacredness of the feminine journey, allowing women to reclaim their power, heal wounds, and redefine their relationship with themselves and the world. These transformative spaces empower women, facilitate profound healing, and foster a strong sense of community and support.

Providing trauma-informed care and support

As a trauma-informed plant medicine facilitator, I deeply understand the prevalence and impact of trauma on women's experiences. And how creating a safe and empowering environment is key to allowing them to tap back into their power and inner wisdom. This involves informed consent processes, actively involving women in decision-making, and fostering respect, active listening, and validation of their experiences.

Support doesn't end with the plant medicine session. Comprehensive aftercare and integration resources make a huge difference in the lives of women after ceremonies and retreat experiences. This may include therapy, support groups, integration circles, and self-care practices. Recognizing healing as an ongoing process, providing ongoing support ensures women feel supported in integrating their experiences and addressing any challenges that arise.

Prioritizing trauma-informed care and support creates a nurturing environment that promotes healing, resilience, and growth for women on their plant medicine journeys. As a facilitator, I'm dedicated to providing the support and resources needed for women to navigate their healing and integration with sensitivity and empowerment.

Encouraging women to share their experiences and stories

As an educator, I believe in amplifying women's voices to validate their experiences and build connections. Sharing our journeys not only enriches collective understanding but also empowers and inspires others. By providing platforms like WOOP for women to share, we show each other that we matter and that we are not alone.

Creating safe spaces for sharing involves active listening, empathy, and respecting autonomy. We must value storytelling and recognize its power in promoting healing and transformation. Integration circles, support groups, online forums, and dedicated events can facilitate this process. By encouraging and honoring women's stories, we foster an inclusive and compassionate community that values their unique perspectives in the realm of plant medicine. Together, we build solidarity and promote growth.

Collaborating with male practitioners and allies

It is important to cultivate partnerships and alliances that promote gender equality, mutual respect, and shared responsibility. Male practitioners and allies can play a pivotal role in challenging and dismantling patriarchal structures that have historically marginalized women in plant medicine.

Collaboration with male practitioners and allies also allows for diverse perspectives and expertise to come together. By promoting dialogue and learning between genders, we can broaden our understanding of the unique challenges and experiences faced by women. This collaboration can help nurture empathy, deepen mutual understanding, and create a collective commitment to supporting women's safety, well-being, and empowerment in plant medicine spaces.

Engaging in open dialogue and fostering understanding

In my work, I prioritize cultivating a safe and open environment for individuals to express themselves without judgment. Through respectful conversations and active listening, we can learn from diverse perspectives and deepen our understanding of women's challenges in plant medicine.

Education and awareness-building, I believe, are pillars for creating safer spaces. Workshops and discussions on consent, gender dynamics, trauma-informed care, and inclusivity bring empathy and knowledge. These opportunities enhance our understanding of women's experiences and strengthen our commitment to support one another. Continuous learning creates a culture of respect, empathy, and growth within the plant medicine community, valuing the well-being and safety of all – especially women.

art piece of women
Artwork: Emilia Schettino

Supporting Women's Healing and Empowerment

After holding space for so many women, I am deeply aware that no two women's plant medicine journeys are alike. Each woman embarks on a unique path, brimming with a collection of emotions and challenges waiting to be explored. That's why I firmly believe in the power of pre-session consultations as a vital strategy for support. In these consultations, we create a sacred space where trust and understanding thrive, engaging in heartfelt conversations about intentions, fears, and concerns. It is within this space that the seeds of transformation are sown.

Throughout the journey, experienced facilitators take on a crucial role as guides and pillars of reassurance. We are there every step of the way, offering a steady hand and a compassionate presence. But the journey does not end when the ceremony concludes. No, it is in the aftermath, during the follow-up discussions and integration support, that the true alchemy occurs. Together, we delve into the depths of their experiences, weaving the threads of insights into the tapestry of their daily lives.

Empowerment and self-care lie at the heart of this transformative process. I have witnessed the incredible power that blooms when women cultivate self-compassion and self-love. It is through nurturing these qualities that we unlock our innate strength and radiance. As a fellow companion, I encourage them to cherish their well-being, to carve out time for fulfilling activities that nourish their souls. By setting healthy boundaries and embracing self-care rituals, they embark on a journey of holistic healing, embracing the wholeness of their being.

One cannot overlook the immense value of women-only spaces such as integration circles or support groups. Within these spaces, shared experiences intertwine, forming a fusion of collective healing and empowerment. We challenge societal norms, those restrictive gender roles, and the inequalities that have hindered women's healing and empowerment for far too long. Together, we rise, breaking free from the chains of limitations, reclaiming our power, and rewriting the narrative.

The tips I have shared here are merely a starting point, a compass to guide us on this transformative journey. As facilitators, it is our responsibility to continuously educate ourselves, and to immerse ourselves in the wisdom and nuances of the communities we serve. By joining hands and working together, we have the power to co-create a plant medicine space where every woman feels a profound sense of belonging and safety.

It is through this collaborative spirit that we pave the way for healing and empowerment to blossom abundantly, reaching far beyond the confines of our individual journeys. Together, we can ignite a radiant and transformative fire that fuels the rising of the feminine spirit, and in doing so, we will bring forth a more compassionate and empowered world for all.

About the author: Jessika Lagarde is an experienced plant medicine facilitator, integration coach, educator, and Women On Psychedelics Co-founder. Jessika provides one-on-one coaching, sessions, and group ceremonies for women going through life transitions, such as grief, career change, relationship break-ups, motherhood, or moving countries. Check out her website and offerings here. Would you like to join a retreat or a ceremony facilitated by Jessika? Find more information about her upcoming retreats and women-only ceremonies in the Netherlands on her website.

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