Friend and collaborator

I have known Stephen for 6 years, in a social context as a friend & part of a close community, as someone who has attended and been involved in co-creating various Find The Others gatherings, and also through the work I have done facilitating workshops at The Psychedelic Society for over five years. During the time we have known one another I have found Stephen to be an extremely supportive & trustworthy friend who has always shown me respect & kindness. Over the years, as we have talked and shared more about ourselves, he has consistently met my own passions and interests with encouragement and a quiet confident belief in me. At points of my own journey I have lacked self-confidence and have deeply appreciated his gentle encouragement & empowering nature.

I have offered regular workshops for The Psychedelic Society over the past 5 years and have always found the working environment & culture that Stephen has been a part of creating to be extremely inclusive, open minded, warm hearted, honest & encouraging. I haven’t previously found a working environment that I have felt so welcome in.

As a gay man, I have at times struggled with self-acceptance & shame. Both in the context of our interactions in the working environment at The Psychedelic Society but also as a friend, Stephen has consistently met me with total acceptance, respect & loving friendship. I know Stephen to be someone who cares about other people & will dedicate his time & energy to helping & supporting them wherever possible. I have always found him open to listening to other peoples perspectives and making changes to his approach to accommodate their needs.

He has certainly been in positions of power but unlike many I have found previously who wield that power, I have witnessed him doing his best to bring in systems that break down power structures in the work he does, whether that has been at The Psychedelic Society or through his efforts to empower others in the creation of various FTO gatherings. I have found Stephens actions to show a genuine care for other people, community, and those who are more in need than himself.

As someone who has felt deeply therapeutic medicinal benefits from the exploration of psychedelics when taken in a responsible considered manner, I have great respect for the work Stephen has done in breaking down stigma & forwarding the narrative surrounding these substances. It is in our willingness to explore the nature of consciousness and what it is to be human, that we come up against our edges, and this often incorporates challenge & deep learning. No doubt exploring & advocating for these substances is in itself a learning experience in which we make mistakes as we grow but I know Stephen to be someone who has deeply affected and positively contributed to many peoples journey towards gaining a better understanding & experience incorporating these medicines into their lives.

I am aware that like many of us Stephen carries his own trauma and this will undoubtedly have affected others within relationship dynamics & interactions. Who can say they are untouched by wounding from this life and that these wounds haven’t caused us to hurt other people along the way? Stephen will have at times behaved or communicated in ways that caused others suffering, just as we all will in different ways to different people. I am also aware of his commitment to his own development and engagement in therapeutic and self-reflective processes to move through past traumas so he may continue becoming a person who can better understand & engage in a loving & compassionate way with those people he encounters.

I can of course only speak for my own experience of Stephen and in that I know him to be a loving & caring individual, whose friendship and presence as we share the journey of this life I feel gratitude for.

— Jamie Richards