Their upcoming summit will feature 34 female-identifying speakers
Bea Chan and Dana Harvey hosted a psychedelic potluck last November, just a year after meeting each other. Sure, that definitely sounds like they took some shrooms and tripped out together, but that wasn't at all the case. The two women had gone through their own journeys with psychedelics and were looking for a community to share their experiences in without judgment.
“What we ended up doing was actually just putting something up on [event organization platform] Meetup,” Chan recalls. “Fifteen women, all strangers, came in and we were just laughing and crying the whole night as we shared our stories of healing and transformation. So that's kind of how everything came to be.”
That potluck quickly grew into Vancouver’s first women-only psychedelic integration circle. As Chan and Harvey hosted more events, workshops and gatherings for people who wanted to use psychedelics intentionally to heal and grow, they were met with overwhelming demand both locally and internationally.
"We rebranded from Vancouver Women in Psychedelics to Sisters in Psychedelics just earlier this year because of the resounding response that we were hearing from the global community," says Harvey. “So Bea and I are almost dog paddling to keep our heads above water to meet the demand and the desire and the need that is out there.”
The upcoming SIP summit
In creating a safe space for women, Sisters in Psychedelics (SIP) went from zero to over 1,000 global members in just a year. Its pillar events include online sharing circles for moms, female professionals and BIPOC people. One of its newest offerings will be for men who are interested in learning how to empower women.
On September 10, the grassroots organization is hosting B.C.’s first female-led, female-focused psychedelic summit from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the VSO School of Music. In order to celebrate and raise women’s voices and perspectives in an audience that includes all genders, the event will feature 34 female-identifying speakers (75 percent of whom are based in B.C.), talking about things like money and trauma, building your brand in a male-dominated industry, PTSD and parenting as well as sex and intimacy.
“We're in the midst of a mental health crisis around the world,” Harvey points out. “Our solutions for mental health haven't been updated in many, many years and we need new solutions. Psychedelics are promising as a solution that hasn't been implemented into the mainstream yet, although the research and the results and the evidence for them as a tool goes way back into before the war on drugs.”
How the co-founders discovered psychedelics
Canada being at the forefront of leading research and progress with drug-assisted therapies, Vancouver natives Chan and Harvey are looking to put their city on the global psychedelic map.
Harvey, who has a bachelor’s in communications from University of Calgary and a master’s in Asian business from Capilano University, first tried psychedelics recreationally as a teenager. It wasn’t until much later that she embarked on psychedelic-assisted therapy to work through some personal and family issues, one outcome of that being her decision to resign from a corporate career that she’d built for over 40 years.
“I dove deep into learning more about the use of psychedelics in micro dosing and in macro dosing,” says Harvey. “I did a lot of training and apprenticing until I was able to basically have the confidence to help people who were making the choice to use psychedelics, to help them reduce risks, and to make it more viable for transformation for them.”
Sisters in Psychedelics. Co-founder Bea Chan
Chan, on the other hand, took a very different path. After graduating with a business degree from SFU, she worked in corporate HR for seven years.
“I came to a gradual realization that I wasn't quite fulfilled,” she maintains. “So I did the most logical thing—I quit my job and I bought a one-way ticket to Asia four years ago.” Traveling all over Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan and Thailand, Chan was working remotely in digital marketing when she had her first taste of Thai mushrooms. “I didn't feel [much], to be honest. I just felt really relaxed, kind of like drinking a cup of wine, like you're feeling a little bit buzzed.”
But that experience led her to more countries where she sat in ceremony with medicine, her most profound one being a seven-month trip to Mexico where she had her first DMT and Ayahuasca experience. In discovering how to use sacred plant medicine to heal, she realized she needed a community where she felt comfortable to talk about it.
“In Asian culture, this is definitely not something that your family wants you to touch,” Chan says. “It's not something that I can discuss with my family, and therefore finding my own group where I feel safe in telling these stories was paramount.”
Despite the social and cultural stigma surrounding psychedelics, SIP members have expressed interest in starting local chapters in their own countries ranging from the U.S. to the U.K. to the Philippines. The cofounders are now on a mission to transform the white male-dominated industry which sees conferences hosting significantly more male speakers.
“Our women-led, women-focused summit is really a response to that,” Chan adds. “And specifically in Vancouver, because I will call it the psychedelic capital of Canada. We're in a little bubble as a lot of things are very lenient here.”