While research into the potential for psychedelic substances to treat mental health disorders isn’t new, it has received a lot of exciting mainstream attention over the past few years. And for good reason, as psychedelics may be able to treat patients where conventional Western medicines have failed.
More and more people have been exploring alternative states of consciousness, but understand that doing so alone may cause unnecessary risks. Unfortunately, these same folks don’t have a trained and knowledgeable person in their network to help. Many are left wondering how to find a psychedelic guide or trip sitter. Well, if you’re one of those many, we’ve put together this guide and its five tips to help you benefit from all these medicines have to offer.
What is a Psychedelic Guide or Trip Sitter?
Although psychedelics are generally considered safe, to fully access their benefits, it is recommended to seek the assistance of a therapist, guide, or trip sitter. These individuals are prepared to help you navigate the psychedelic experience, mitigating what could be considered a “bad trip.”
Psychedelic guides are the people who oversee a psychedelic therapy session. They’ll generally know what things to discuss before and after the session and may possibly ask questions during the trip itself.
A psychedelic guide differs from a trip sitter in that they’ll take a more active role in guiding the psychedelic experience, whereas the main focus of a trip sitter is harm reduction.
Both will be trained in harm reduction principles and know how to minimize fear and anxiety. Most importantly, they’ll be there throughout the entire experience, ensuring that the participant is safe, both mentally and physically from beginning to end.
So, you’re interested in a psychonautic adventure, and want some support during the way? Here are five tips to help you find a psychedelic guide or trip sitter.
1. Make use of Legal Resources
In the United States, there are only a few ways to legally seek the help of a psychedelic guide. This is all expected to change in the coming years with psilocybin and MDMA most likely receiving approval for therapeutic use by 2021 and 2022, respectively. And though Oregon legalized psilocybin assisted therapy in November 2020, they have two years to develop and implement a program. As for now, the options to legally find a psychedelic guide or trip sitter include participating in a clinical trial, seeking cannabis assisted psychotherapy, or seeking ketamine assisted psychotherapy.
If you suffer from issues such as PTSD, depression, OCD, or anxiety, you may be particularly interested in clinical trials. You may even find a clinical trial suitable for unique conditions like cluster headaches, Parkinson’s disease psychosis, or hepatic impairment. Some are even studying the effects of psychedelics on healthy participants.
Many universities and organizations are constantly involved in psychedelic research, and they are also looking for study participants. It’s not uncommon to find clinical trial opportunities for a range of psychedelics, from cannabis and ketamine to MDMA, psilocybin, and LSD.
You can view the options for the clinical trials which are currently accepting patients by visiting ClinicalTrials.gov. Simply enter the condition or disease you seek treatment for, enter the psychedelic substance you wish to use, and select your country. The site will display all search results relevant to your query. Also, check out our extensive guide on How to Join a Clinical Trial in 3 Steps.
Cannabis Assisted Psychotherapy
With cannabis becoming increasingly legalized around the US, some states are now home to cannabis-assisted therapy practitioners who focus on the mental and physical health benefits of intentional cannabis use. What this typically means is that cannabis is used in a controlled manner with a guide who is trained with therapy and psychedelics.
This may be a good place to start for those with no experience with hallucinogens. With more states legalizing medical and recreational marijuana, there will probably be even more legal practitioners in the coming years.
Cannabis and cannabis-based medicines have been used to treat a range of ailments. When cannabis was first introduced to Western medicine in 1838, it was remarkably successful in treating things like rheumatic pains and epilepsy.
More recently, it has been studied for its benefits in addressing symptoms of chronic pain, schizophrenia, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, urinary tract symptoms, glaucoma, Tourette syndrome, PTSD, social anxiety, and more. Cannabis assisted therapy can supplement these benefits, while also helping the sufferer feel more in control over their lives and discover a sense of purpose.
We offer cannabis assisted coaching that helps people heal and find meaning and purpose in their lives. Our clients range from artists to business executives, but all of them have one thing in common: they desire to show up in the world as the best version of themselves. You can schedule a free discovery call with one of our coaches here.
Alternatively, if you’d prefer working with a licensed therapist. We suggest checking out a resource like MAPS integration list and doing a search for licensed practitioners that offer cannabis assisted therapy.
Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy
Unlike most psychedelics that are still considered illegal substances, ketamine is a Schedule III drug, meaning that it has some “medically accepted uses.” While it’s not technically recognized as a treatment for anything beyond use as an anesthetic, it can be used in therapy. “Off-label use” is permitted for licensed practitioners, and there are many clinics operating throughout the United States.
Ketamine has proven to be very promising when it comes to treating mental health issues, particularly treatment-resistant depression. Ketamine also demonstrates potential when it comes to other mental illnesses like PTSD, anxiety, OCD, and bipolar disorder.
In fact, ketamine is considered by some to be one of “the most interesting developments in the pharmacology of depression and pain.” Many people respond positively to ketamine assisted therapy and in a world where conventional medicines aren’t keeping up with rates of mental illness, it’s no wonder that ketamine is viewed as such a promising therapy option.
The psychedelic experiences can be demanding mentally, spiritually, and sometimes physically, so it’s important to be guided by someone you can trust. But it can be daunting to search through all of the clinics to try to find one. How can you know if it’s legitimate? How do you know if they can meet your needs? How do you know if it’s within your budget? We’ve put together a guide that answers all of these questions—click the link to access our comprehensive Guide: How to Find Psychedelic Assisted Therapy Near Me.
2. Go Underground
This option is a bit more difficult, for obvious reasons. Although the government and the FDA have yet to fully recognize the potential of psychedelics, it doesn’t mean that therapists and guides around the world are as slow to see their promise. Psychedelics are in the midst of a renaissance, and there are many guides willing to risk legal complications to promote their use.
In fact, it’s these underground guides who the academic and medical researchers have to thank for providing so much insight into the world of psychedelics. These guides are continuously learning and progressing the field, without much of the necessary resources to do so.
Every year, the California Institute of Integral Studies welcomes psychologists, psychiatrists, and doctors to be trained in psychedelic therapy. Though not directly handling or accessing psychedelic substances, these medical professionals are being trained on future methods to integrate psychedelics into their medical practices when these options become legal. Suffice it to say there are some therapists that are willing to tolerate the legal risks to aid people now, and thus, their underground practice begins.
Fortunately, the underground psychedelic movement is larger than the approved use. It is made up of many highly proficient shamans and people who have been practicing for 40+ years, often drawing on knowledge of indigenous cultures. There are also local healing churches that use psychedelics as a form of sacred sacrament.
While there are benefits of going underground, there are also some drawbacks. Seeking an underground psychedelic guide could put you in the hands of someone who doesn’t follow standard protocol or who has a difficult time keeping their experiences separate from your own journey. This ‘bleeding’ of experiences could be annoying in the least, and downright dangerous in severe cases.
To summarize, finding an underground practitioner may be more accessible, but comes with a variety of personal and legal risks. The quality of the experience may also vary, as there is typically little oversight and no standards of practice. However, you can probably find an underground practitioner for any particular modality, including shamans and teachers from indigenous or spiritual lineages that are carrying on centuries-old traditions of psychedelic healing.
3. Look Locally for an Integration Specialist
Regardless of where you are, you can access a mental health support practitioner with the background and necessary skills to help you process your psychedelic experience. An integration specialist won’t be able to help you access psychedelics directly, but most are available to support anyone, anywhere.
While they differ from the therapists who can work with you to address specific symptoms, integration specialists can look into what is encountered during the psychedelic experience itself and help you gain insight. They follow a harm reduction model and provide a space free of judgment to healthily evaluate the journey.
They’re a great resource for someone trying to better understand their psychedelic experience and how it can be used to contribute to enhanced and sustainable healing. That’s exactly what we do here at Psychedelic Passage—help facilitate meaningful experiences with psychedelics.
If you want to increase the likelihood of experiencing the long-lasting and positive effects of psychedelics while minimizing the risk of a “bad trip,” we suggest you book a free call with one of our integration specialists today.
4. Check out International Resources
Legal psychedelic retreats are being held each year in various countries. Certain psychedelics are legal in some countries and others offer legal protection for traditional medicines. In countries like Portugal, all drugs are decriminalized, and, in many cases, the consumption of psychedelics is allowed by local law enforcement.
While some groups in the US are able to provide sessions, it is fully legal in other countries like Ecuador, Brazil, Costa Rica, and Peru. There are many different retreats, all meeting different needs and budgets.
Decriminalization for psilocybin mushrooms has already happened in Denver, Colorado; Santa Cruz, California; and Oakland, California. Even more promising, there are some countries where they are completely legal. Brazil, Jamaica, and the British Virgin Islands all allow personal use of Mushrooms. In the Netherlands, there’s a loophole that allows the use of psilocybin-containing truffles. In Canada, magic mushroom microdoses are available for purchase.
Several psilocybin retreats are held every month in Amsterdam, and you can also find a few scattered throughout the year in Mexico and Jamaica. If you’re looking for not only a psychedelic guide but also a picturesque set and setting to consume psilocybin, this may be the way to go.
If you’re certain that a trip abroad is in line for you and your psychedelic journey, we suggest checking out a site like Retreat Guru to understand what your options are. We know how complex and overwhelming the search can be for a psychedelic retreat. That’s why we suggest reading reviews, asking lots of questions, and using your intuition.
5. Get to Know Your Guide
Once you’ve chosen a practitioner (or at least narrowed the field a bit), it’s time to begin the vetting process. It might sound intense, but taking precautions for your safety is of the utmost importance. Taking the time to research your guide or care provider can make all the difference in a life-altering experience versus an uncomfortable one.
If possible, we encourage you to meet your practitioner before your psychedelic experience. It may sound silly, but take time to ensure that you generally get along with and have a rapport with your guide or trip sitter. Also take this time to get to know your guide, understand their process and general philosophy, and ask any questions. Here are some questions we love to ask:
- What is your personal experience with psychedelics? (We only suggest doing psychedelic-assisted therapy with therapists who have ingested the substance themselves)
- Why do you do this work?
- What safety and harm reduction practices do you have in place?
You should also use this time to get to know the area where you will have your psychedelic experience. Take time to explore your surroundings and develop some familiarity with the space and the people you’ll be journeying with.
There’s no doubt that our society still has a long way to progress when it comes to these medicines. The benefits of psychedelics are beyond promising—especially to sufferers who need them. We have nearly half a century of research demonstrating how psychedelics are not only safe but have a massive potential to improve mental health.
That’s why you’re able to access transparent legal options when it comes to ketamine and cannabis domestically, or traditional entheogens like magic mushrooms and ayahuasca overseas or in clinical trials. Unfortunately, not all psychedelics are legal in the US—but this is changing.
The silver lining here is that this field is evolving, and it’s doing so quickly. Where things like ketamine and cannabis assisted psychotherapy would have been laughable a decade ago, practitioners offering these services are now all around the US. With psilocybin and MDMA approaching that stage, there’s hope that psychedelics as a whole will soon be recognized as an essential component of any therapist’s toolbox.