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New Sensations

Boulder-based Sage Space Retreat combines technology and traditional medicine for a new way of healing body and mind...
By Claire Barber
Photo Courtesy - Sage Space Retreat
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If you live in Colorado, you’ve experienced the continuous stream of complementary medicine practices, fads, and tinctures circulating through social circles. Reiki anyone? Micro-dosing or cannabinoid creams?

Whatever your taste, alternative medicinal therapies have been around for millennia. And by having technology and traditional medicines at its core, Boulder-based Sage Space Retreat is making waves.

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The retreat is unique in its extensive high-tech-based offerings, including:

Vibroacoustic Therapy: delivers a continuous sequence of custom-engineered sound PHOTO COURTESY OF SAGE SPACE RETREAT 42 COLORADO SUMMER 2023 waves to multiple locations on the body. It targets the nervous and adjacent cellular communications systems to support muscle relaxation, circulation, a sense of calmness, boosted energy, mood, and focus.

Flickering Light Therapy: utilizes rapid and rhythmic variations in light intensity. Based on customized light programming, flickering light leverages the visual system to synchronize brainwave activity to promote enhanced cognitive function, deep relaxation, and immersive visual experiences.

Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy: involves using a specialized device to generate a low-moderate intensity, low frequency pulsed electromagnetic field. It works to directly “energize” the cells within the body in a way that supports their natural ability to return to a state of cellular balance and optimized function.

In addition, the retreat offers guided natural medicine experiences with cannabis, psilocybin, and ketamine.

“We use sound, light, and psychedelics to help people transform their brains in a way that gets them unstuck,” says co-founder Gabriel Ettenson. “I think many people are resonating with the idea of feeling stuck, whether in their body, minds, spiritual path, work, relationships, etc.”

Background Story

Ettenson is a licensed physical therapist in Colorado but has been working in the wellness product-development space for years, eventually leading to his design of the retreat’s vibroacoustic bed. Ettenson is also certified in Endocannabinoid Science and Psychedelic-Assisted Therapies and Research from the accredited California Institute of Integral Studies.

Elena Georgouses, a co-founder along with Ettenson, has worked as a psychotherapist for more than 30 years, has a clinical social work license, and runs a private psychotherapy practice in Vail. Ettenson and Georgouses use their training and differing experiences to facilitate and curate each session for every client.

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“We design and curate individual experiences that help people access the deeper parts of themselves, and we utilize technologies to support that,” says Georgouses. The center’s therapies are complementary and do not necessarily replace more traditional therapeutic treatments.

“We design and curate individual experiences that help people access the deeper parts of themselves, and we utilize technologies to support that,” says Georgouses. The center’s therapies are complementary and do not necessarily replace more traditional therapeutic treatments.

Ettenson describes the different levels of therapy that the retreat provides, with sound therapy sitting on the more “gentle” end of the spectrum and psychedelics available as one of the more intense options. According to Ettenson, the center will assess a patient’s needs and “their preexisting medical situation” to decide what treatments might match.

Treatments and therapies are often combined at the center. Christy Thiel, a client and collaborator of Ettenson’s, says that her natural medicine-assisted session with Gabriel was “incredibly powerful.” At her session, Thiel took 4 grams of mushrooms and lay on the vibroacoustic bed wearing a headset. “I felt more present and in control of my thoughts, visions, and intentions than I ever have,” she says.

As for cannabis, the center treats it similarly to the other natural medicine therapies they offer, taking the participant through specific guided ingestion or inhalation.

“Once that person begins to experience the effects of the cannabis, then we provide a facilitated experience,” says Ettenson. “It’s very somatic or body-centered. So people still maintain a high level of agency and control over PHOTO COURTESY OF SAGE SPACE RETREAT their experience.”

Going by the Regulations

Dr. Jim Grisby, a University of Colorado Denver professor in the psychology department and department of medicine, adds that the levels of research and regulations for the natural medicines Sage Space Retreat facilitates are at different stages. Ketamine, for example, is a Schedule 2 drug and is “widely available to physicians,” he says. Psilocybin, on the other hand, and of course, cannabis, are illegal at the federal level.

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All three drugs are still being investigated clinically for their use in mental health conditions. Regarding regulations for facilitators in Colorado, “there are no established standards at this point,” says Dr. Grigsby.

These regulations would likely fall under the Department of Regulatory Agencies, which currently licenses mental health providers. But in lieu of regulations, Dr. Grigsy acknowledges that “no matter what we do, people will seek out this kind of treatment, and it may be helpful for them. And so my main recommendation would be that people go into this kind of thing with their eyes wide open.”

Sans the regulations for facilitators or treatment centers at this point, Dr. Grigsby stresses two things— know your provider and understand that the drugs might not have a positive impact.

Regarding psilocybin, Dr. Grigsby adds that “people need to know that it’s not magic. You don’t take this, and suddenly you have a mystical experience, all rainbows and butterflies and stuff like that. Some people probably shouldn’t take it for various reasons, medical or sometimes psychiatric reasons.”

Regardless, Sage Space Retreat is at the frontlines of a changing complementary medicine space. As for the doubters, Thiel says she would tell them that “their fear is keeping them stuck and that there is a whole other world of healing that will probably get them better results than anything they’ve ever tried.”