MAPS Bulletin: Volume XXXIII Number 1 • 2023

24 March 2023

Zendo Project Celebrates a Decade at Burning Man and a New Beginning for the Organization

Zendo Project Celebrates a Decade at Burning Man and a New Beginning for the Organization

By Chelsea Rose Pires, M.A., LMFT and Stephen Bagley and Linnae Ponte, M.A., AMFT

The Zendo Build Crew at Burning Man 2022 (Matt Foglia)

After 10 years as a project of MAPS, Zendo Project is becoming its own 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

Zendo Project’s founding Board of Directors has appointed Chelsea Rose Pires as Executive Director to focus on harm reduction services, public education, and advocacy.

At Burning Man 2022, Zendo Project trained 416 volunteers and served 566 guests.


Burning Man 2022 marked the ten-year anniversary of the Zendo Project providing psychedelic peer support at large events worldwide. The project started at Burning Man in 2012 as a harm reduction initiative of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). In anticipation of a greater need for support after a two-year COVID-19 hiatus, Zendo Project trained 416 volunteers to provide psychedelic care at two locations at Burning Man, where they cared for nearly 600 event attendees. Throughout its 10 years of incubation at MAPS, Zendo Project has cared for more than 6,500 individuals across four continents and served as a visionary model for compassionate psychedelic response. Zendo’s approach has inspired individuals and organizations all over the world to organize similar initiatives in their own communities.

What’s on the Horizon for the Zendo Project

As we celebrate a decade of psychedelic service, we’re excited to announce that Zendo Project is becoming its own 501(c)(3) nonprofit. We will remain closely allied with MAPS as we begin this new chapter. Under the leadership of newly-appointed Executive Director Chelsea Rose Pires, Zendo will renew its focus on public education through workshops and webinars, where communities can learn to support individuals exploring altered states. Zendo Project will continue to provide and expand on-site harm reduction services at large events and conferences.

Chelsea, a licensed Marriage and Family therapist, began working with Zendo Project in 2013 and has been integral to the development and operations of the program. Lovingly called “Mama Bear” by the Zendo Project community, she brings a caring, inclusive and community-centered approach into this new phase of Zendo’s development.

What is the Zendo Project?

The Zendo Project creates an environment where volunteers can work alongside one another to improve their harm reduction skills and receive training and feedback

Visit the Zendo Project

What is the Zendo Project?

The Zendo Project creates an environment where volunteers can work alongside one another to improve their harm reduction skills and receive training and feedback

Our Mission and Vision

Zendo Project provides a safe, non-judgmental environment where trained volunteers can skillfully respond to challenging situations and provide a calming presence for guests seeking support. We aim to reduce harm by caring for individuals having difficult experiences and provide expert peer counseling to anyone — regardless of psychedelic use — in need of psychological and emotional support.

We envision a world where communities are educated, resourced, and engaged in applying harm reduction principles to promote safety, exploration, and growth. We seek to build a culture of compassion and understanding around psychedelics and other complex emotional states, recognizing that skilled peer support can help transform difficult experiences into opportunities for healing and connection.

Zendo Project is an essential resource for anyone interested in learning the skills to help those in crisis and serves as an excellent training ground for psychedelic therapists, mental health professionals, and other caregivers interested in supporting their communities.

Zendo Project’s Top Priorities Moving Forward

Harm Reduction Services

Continue to provide exceptional on-site care at events, expanding services to more events around the world.

Peer Support Education

Expand our training programs, with an emphasis on culturally competent care, to reach wider and more diverse audiences and further inform communities engaging in psychedelic experiences.

Policy and Advocacy

Advocate for the wide-spread adoption of harm reduction services at psychedelic events and festivals. Demonstrate the need for harm reduction to be recognized as an essential, integral component of event safety for large gatherings — ultimately developing safety standards and expanding the demand for harm reduction services.

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The Need for Peer Support in a Changing Landscape

In 2019, over 5.5 million people used psychedelics in the United States (Livne et al., 2022). This statistic indicates that most psychedelic use occurs outside of therapeutic contexts. This trend is likely to continue as psychedelics receive increased attention in the media and decriminalization efforts gain traction in cities and states across the country. These exciting changes will pose unique opportunities, challenges, and risks for those who choose to use these substances. As more people consider exploring psychedelic states, the need for public education around harm reduction will be essential.

While we believe that cognitive liberty — the freedom to alter one’s own consciousness — is a fundamental human right, we also believe communities share a collective responsibility to address the risks. As the landscape continues to evolve, communities must adopt common-sense approaches to harm reduction, such as those taught by organizations like the Zendo Project.

More Than Psychedelic Support

It’s not a coincidence that mainstream interest in psychedelics is emerging alongside a worsening mental health crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and an increasing sense of isolation among the population is exposing a void between those in crisis and the limitations of the mental health care system. We believe that the skills taught by the Zendo Project are highly transferable and can be used to fill a gap in care by making peer support resources more available to everyone. By teaching individuals and communities how to deliver emotional and psychological “first aid,” we can have a transformational effect on how our society cares for those in need.

The Zendo Project at Burning Man

“Burning Man is very special to our organization; it’s where we began. In the beginning when Zendo Project went to Burning Man, we weren’t allowed to use the word “psychedelics” in our literature for fear of being associated with drug use. Now, all these years later, Burning Man is promoting Zendo Project as their choice for psychedelic harm reduction training and services on the playa. We’re very proud of the work we’ve done in all the years we’ve been doing it.”
Linnae Ponte, Zendo Project Founding Director & Board Member
*This chart is provided by and depicts the total number of guests served and volunteers engaged at Burning Man.

An Expression of Gratitude

“It has been truly amazing to witness the far-reaching transformational impact of this work on both those who receive and provide psychedelic peer support. More than ever before, there is a need for communities to receive education and skills to support people who use psychedelics. Now its own 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Zendo Project can take over a decade of learning and experience into its next phase of evolution to meet the growing need for psychedelic peer support.”
Sara Gael, former Zendo Project Director 2016-2020

As we enter this new phase, we would like to thank our volunteers and supporters, whose kindness and dedication make this work possible. We are grateful for MAPS’ commitment to the Zendo Project throughout the past decade and are proud to have their partnership as we begin a new chapter in our story. We’d also like to express our deepest gratitude to Ryan Beauregard and Sara Gael, whose compassionate leadership guided the Zendo Project for over a decade. Ryan and Sara played a significant role in building Zendo Project into what it is today—a community of volunteers known for their care and expertise. Their heart-centered efforts will continue to have a positive impact on the field of psychedelic harm reduction for years to come. We are proud to carry on their legacy of community-focused care.


Zendo Project’s service to the community lies at the heart of the psychedelic movement. As we focus on the future, our values of compassionate care and inclusive, community-based support will continue to guide our mission, ultimately contributing to the health and well-being of people everywhere.

Zendo Project will now function as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and will rely on philanthropy for its funding. In the last ten years, donors have given over $1.1 million toward training facilitators and providing psychedelic peer counseling services. We’re excited for what is to come and are beyond grateful to our community of supporters! To support the Zendo Project or learn more, visit

Sara Gael and Ryan Beauregard during the Temple Burn at Burning Man


Livne, O., Shmulewitz, D., Walsh, C., & Hasin, D. S. (2022). Adolescent and adult time trends in US hallucinogen use, 2002–19: Any use, and use of ecstasy, LSD and PCP. Addiction, 117(12), 3099–3109.

Zendo Project. (2022, October 18). Zendo Project. Zendo Project.

Chelsea Rose Pires, M.A., LMFT

Executive Director

Chelsea Rose graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles Honors College with a B.A. in psychology in 2007, and received her master’s degree in Integral Counseling Psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies in 2012. She has a passion for harm reduction as a therapeutic and practical approach to drug use and abuse prevention. Chelsea has worked with the Zendo Project, providing psychedelic peer support at events around the world, since 2013. Chelsea also manages the reagent drug testing kit program at DanceSafe, a public health organization focused on safety in the night life community. Additionally, she supervises the Crisis Response Team in Nevada County, supporting clients who come into the emergency room in psychiatric crisis. She lives in the Sierra foothills of California with her husband, three children, and their Basenji pup named Mochi.

Stephen Bagley

Board Member

Steve (he/him) comes to the Zendo Project Board with a decade of experience in psychedelic harm reduction. In 2012, he began organizing and running psychedelic harm reduction services at festivals in Northern California. Since joining Zendo Project in 2017, he has supervised harm reduction teams at numerous events in the US and abroad. Steve believes that Zendo Project’s contribution extends beyond the festival environment in two important ways: by providing critical hands-on training and education to volunteers, and by serving as a unique model for how individuals and organizations can respond to—and support—those experiencing psychedelic emergencies or acute emotional distress unrelated to substance use. He believes Zendo Project’s training model can bridge a gap in the way mental health support is delivered in a real-world setting, with great potential to transform how communities care for the most vulnerable among us during times of crisis and grief. Steve is passionate about the healing potential of psychedelics and is particularly interested in the use of these medicines to treat end-of-life anxiety in patients diagnosed with terminal illness. He works in nonprofit healthcare development for a major research hospital.

Linnae Ponte, M.A., A.M.F.T.

Board Member

Linnae (she/her) earned her BA in Biological Psychology from New College of Florida in 2010 before going on to work for MAPS as executive and clinical research assistant and then as the founding director of MAPS’ harm reduction program, the Zendo Project. Linnae completed her Master’s in integral counseling psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies in 2017 and has been working in various clinical settings since, including the crisis stabilization unit at Sierra Memorial and in private practice. She has worked on various clinical trials, most recently at Yale University where she provided facilitation for subjects enrolled in a study investigating psilocybin for the treatment of obsessive compulsive disorder. Linnae is passionate about the ways that psychedelic harm reduction, therapy, and research impact and inform one another, offering clarity and understanding into how psychedelics can be harnessed for the greatest benefit for humanity.