Why do so many couples work together in the psychedelic industry?

An interview with Steve Rio discussing the risks and rewards of doing this work as a married couple.

Themes Relationships
A married couple standing on a mushroom.

Note: The following is an excerpt from an article by Jules Evans, which you can find here

The fact they’re a couple is ‘the defining factor of our work’, Steve says:

I think that’s why our work has been so impactful and what people are coming for. They’ve heard that there’s something incredibly special about doing this intimate work in this couple’s home, rather than in a big retreat centre.

On their website, they write: ‘We’re in our mid-40s, and have raised a daughter and have a number of spiritual children (of all ages) that we support and care for.’

What, I asked, did they mean by ‘spiritual children’? Steve tells me:

Part of our healing work is having people in our home and showing them what it feels like to be cared for. There’s a maternal / paternal energy going on. It’s not overt, but we know that that’s part of the process of healing family wounds. A lot of the people we work with don’t have a sense of home. They don’t have that core sense of safety in the world that comes from knowing that Mom and Dad love me. We say to our clients you all have a spiritual home here, always. This is our way of giving back to the world and healing a lot of inner children.

What are the challenges of working together as a couple? Steve says:

We have people in our home quite often. We are holding a lot of space for a lot of people. I can’t imagine doing this work with young children in the home.

The work is intense, and could lead to burnout. ‘We pace ourselves, we take June and December off,  only do 2-3 retreats a month, and we are never in medicine with clients. We draw very clear boundaries around that. And our relationship always comes first before the project.’

Steve says there’s also a risk that they buy into their clients’ transference:

I think one of the biggest risks is the amount of projection that is put on us by our clients. It’s not a real thing but it could be easy to buy into it and think you’re the shit. Either you get totally sucked into that, or the weight of projection makes the flaws in your relationship seem impossible to overcome. If we were pretending to be a great couple and masking a tonne of resentment, all we’d be doing is recreating a lot of people’s childhoods where the parents were pretending that everything was fine but they were fighting in the backroom.

The other big risk of working as a couple is that you become ‘a single unit’ so don’t act as checks on each other’s bad tendencies. Steve says: ‘If things start skewing ethically and going wrong somehow, both of you might be swept up in that and not see the forest for the trees.’

The couple have tried to put other checks in place:

I think that for a couple to do this work, there has to be a really high level of personal work done both as a couple and individually. We both have therapists or coaches, we also have a couple of people who are advisors to us that we have specifically asked to continually challenge us in our ethics and decision-making around how we do things. And we’ve built a peer network, which is really critical for checking in when things go wrong. This is high risk work. That should be accepted.