Synthesis Institute, the Dutch psilocybin training program that collapsed earlier this month, is still accepting Oregon students through its online portal—then badgering them to pay.
Last Friday, I went on the Synthesis website and filled out its application for a psilocybin facilitator training course that is set to start in April. Among the questions: How many psychedelic journeys have you facilitated? How many years of professional training have you had guiding non-ordinary states of consciousness? Are you a psychotherapist, healing practitioner, life coach, or a community organizer?
My answers: zero, none and no.
But I meditate and do yoga, and maybe that was enough, because on Sunday, two days after submitting my application, I was accepted into the next Synthesis training.
“We are writing to let you know that you have successfully met all of the necessary criteria for acceptance into the Psychedelic Practitioner Core Training—Oregon Edition,” Synthesis told me in an email. “We are extending you a formal invitation to enroll in the program! We believe you will make a wonderful addition to the training and are excited to have you join us on this pioneering journey!”
To be sure, Measure 109, the initiative that made the regulated use of psilocybin legal in 2020, requires little to be a facilitator. A candidate must be at least 21 years old, be an Oregon resident, and have a high school diploma, or the equivalent. But Synthesis asked all those other questions, leading me to believe that folks without such experience might have a tougher time.
I was surprised to get in so quickly, both because I have no experience with providing any kind of therapy (I’ve received plenty), and because Synthesis is in flux. One part of the company, the part in Holland that does retreats, is bankrupt, and another, Synthesis Digital, which trains facilitators, is in disarray. It fired all of its employees March 2, leaving hundreds of students in the lurch, mid-training.
“Synthesis Digital reached the end of its financial runway in early 2023 as a result of unplanned financial circumstances that included Synthesis Retreats in the Netherlands,” Synthesis told students March 6.
A Canadian company called Retreat Guru, which is kind of an Expedia for self-improvement getaways, is trying to take over the Synthesis curriculum and keep the program going. Before, Retreat Guru was merely the booking agent for Synthesis, collecting payment from students.
In an email sent to students March 9, Retreat Guru co-founder Cameron Wenaus said he had completed administrative steps to take over the training, paid money owed to staff, and sent them new contracts.
Retreat Guru didn’t immediately return emails seeking comment on why the Synthesis is still enrolling students for the 13-month training that starts next month. Were Retreat Guru staff vetting applications amid everything else they have going on? Or did Synthesis have some kind of bot that did it? And did that bot really review all my answers on the application?
My larger questions: Did Synthesis ever look at students’s applications? What was its acceptance rate?
I asked Synthesis co-founder Martijn Schirp the same questions and got an automated email back.
“This is receipt I received your message. Due to a high number of emails I am unable to reply to each email individually. I appreciate your patience. — Martijn Schirp, Co-Founder & Chief Visionary Officer.”
Concurrent with my acceptance email, I got a second one urging me to pay my tuition.
“To confirm your spot in the upcoming training program that begins in April 2023 you need to select the tuition payment terms that best suit you, review and sign the Enrollment Agreement, and follow the tuition payment instructions,” Synthesis said. “Please note that the early registration discount offer — to receive $1,000 off your tuition when you pay in full — will expire on Friday, March 3rd and that you will need to complete payment by this deadline.”
That deadline had passed. If it hadn’t, I could have paid $11,997. Now, my options were a six-payment plan for a total of $12,997, plus a $600 “admin fee,” or a 12-payment plan with a $1,200 fee.
I’m holding off for now.