What is Psychedelic Integration Therapy?
Psychedelics is a broad term that can include any of the following: LSD (acid), psilocybin (mushrooms), mescaline (peyote and san pedro cactuses), DMT (ayahuasca), MDMA (ecstasy), Ibogaine, ketamine, and a host of lab created substances. Psychedelics (although not all of the aforementioned) have been used for thousands of years by humans in healing and spiritual traditions, as well as, for recreation.
Users of these psychedelics report transcendental and transformational life experiences, often resulting in positive outcomes. Across history, psychedelics have been used in spiritual and healing contexts, like that of peyote ceremonies within the Native American Church, Ayahuasca ceremonies in the Amazon, or mushroom ceremonies in southern Mexico.
When used in these contexts, psychedelics are considered entheogens, something which allows the user to experience the sacred or “the god within”. Some people seek out the spiritual experience, while others use it for recreation purposes. For some descriptions of these types of experiences, check out Aldous Huxley’s Doors of Perception and James Fadiman’s The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide.
Recently, people have been able to seek out psychedelics as a way to recover from trauma and PTSD, anxiety, depression, and even addiction. Controlled research studies done by MAPS have demonstrated their effectiveness when used in a therapeutic setting. Anecdotally and empirically, people report coming out of these experiences with an increased sense of compassion, connection, understanding, and meaning. These are profound experiences and oftentimes it is difficult to make meaning out of them on your own.
Entheogenic or psychedelic experiences often transcend the boundaries of the ego, time and space. To be thrust into this realm for which you have no conceptual map for understanding can leave one in wonder and awe as well as confusion, fear, and anxiety.
Ideally, one’s experiences would be facilitated by a shaman, healer, or guide, but unfortunately, not everyone is afforded this opportunity nor wants it. Thankfully, you can still make meaning of your experience and get your questions answered.
Integrative Therapy for psychedelics can be extremely beneficial for those who have lingering questions about what they experienced, for those who are stuck in fear and anxiety over what they went through during a trip, and even for those who feel like they derived what they could from the experience on their own and want to continue making meaning with someone who understands and accepts them.
Can Integrative Therapy help me?
Here are some questions that perhaps you are left with following your psychedelic experience that could indicate that further exploration could be beneficial. This is by no means an exhaustive list but these are some of the questions I’ve encountered when discussing with peers and clients as they’ve worked through integration
- “Where did these images, feelings, sensation come from?”
- “Was it real?”
- “How do I explain the way I feel?”
- “What does this mean about god?”
- “What does this mean about the earth/universe?”
- “What is truth?”
- “This changed what I believe in. What does this mean?”
- “How come I feel different about my body?”
- “What do I believe in?”
- “What do I do now?”
What can I expect?
We begin with normalization. It is okay to not know, not feel settled, and/or be shaken up by your experience. It was profound and it is in the nature of the experience to be transformational. You are not alone and there is nothing wrong with you.
Next, we explore a little bit about you. What is your family like? What have you been through? What are the things that make up your day to day life? Doing this helps us to form a relationship and also gives me the opportunity to connect with what it is like to be you, and maybe be able to relate some of your psychedelic experiences with your lived experience. This also helps us take notice of any changes that may have occurred since your experience.
Then we begin by exploring the nature of your psychedelic experience, much like you would explore a dream. You’ll describe in detail what you did to prepare for the experience as well as the experience itself. In what context did you have the experience? What happened during? What did you see, taste, hear, smell, feel, and sense? Who was there? What sticks out to you? What was time like? If you’ve had multiple experiences, we would focus on one at a time, and then work to make sense of them as a whole.
Finally, we begin exploring the meaning of your experience. We may discuss the symbols you noticed, the people or entities you encountered, and any felt senses you had. We may also explore associations between what you experienced with psychedelics and your personal life. Most importantly, we’ll explore what this means moving forward. How can you integrate what you experienced with how you will interact with your relationships, the environment, your beliefs, your values, and your behaviors into the future.
In the end, it is helpful to know that one size does not fit all. You are unique, as were your experiences, thus the way about which we explore will need to be equally as spontaneous and novel. For some, language fails to be descriptive enough to encompass the depth of their experience. This is okay. We are in this together and there is comfort to be found in knowing you can be understood. These experiences are intimate and who you choose to share them with is highly personal and important. There is safety here as well as a ground of knowledge and understanding to help you connect with your psychedelic experiences and yourself in an even deeper sense.
If you are interested in discussing psychedelic integration therapy and how it may be helpful, please reach out, I’d love to talk with you.
DISCLAIMER: I do not provide psychedelic or illegal substances. I do not provide guided psychedelic services. I do not refer individuals to sources to obtain substances or services.