Psychedelic experiences are sometimes long, most times complex, and nearly always life-changing. You may be unsure what to expect from your upcoming psychedelic experience and wondering how to prepare for it. If you’re interested in being an active participant in your experience and not just someone the trip is happening to, an intentional psychedelic experience is what you’re looking for. The first step in preparing for your experience is understanding that the journey begins well before the trip, and the lessons don’t end until well after.
How to Prepare for a Psychedelic Journey: The 6 Steps
Simply put, adequate and proper preparation is key for a rewarding psychedelic journey. We’ve broken down the important aspects into a step-by-step guide so that you can start preparing for the experience now.
Ask yourself a few questions
Why are you using psychedelics?
This is the most important question you can ask yourself as you start preparing for your psychedelic journey. We all have different reasons for choosing to have a psychedelic experience, but it’s important that you get to the bottom of yours.
First, ask yourself if you’re doing psychedelics responsibly. Is your reason driven by a desire to learn, grow, or heal? Or is your choice based on a desire to escape? If it’s the latter, re-evaluate your interest in psychedelics to determine if it’s a healthy behavior. Seek help to get to the root cause of that desire before considering psychedelics.
The reason behind your psychedelic journey could be to simply have an enjoyable experience and connect with this planet and the people on it, and that’s okay. Recreational psychedelic use can certainly produce a profound and beautiful experience, but it can also end up being a distraction. Understanding your true intentions and needs will help determine the difference.
For us here at Psychedelic Passage, our initial recreational experiences lead to those that were more intentional over time. We often find that someone may start dabbling in the psychedelic world for fun, but the power of these substances ends up causing a shift in the individual. This may encourage them to explore psychedelic substances for all of their healing and transformative power—not just for a fun weekend activity.
You should never feel forced or pressured into doing psychedelics. It’s important to understand that it could (and probably will) end up being one of the most profound and impactful experiences of your life—and your motivation and full participation is crucial in getting there.
You’ll know that you’re using psychedelics for the right reasons if you feel called to participate in the experience despite the potential for discomfort, the surfacing of repressed thoughts or emotions, or the notorious “bad trip”.
Some nerves and uneasiness are normal, this is your ego starting to tremble at the fact that its seemingly secure position in your reality is going to get a shakeup. This could be the habits that you’ve said you’ll give up for years, that old relationship that’s no longer serving you, or that traumatic experience that you’re ready to process. Any signs of discomfort could indicate that change is coming, and it’s generally for the better.
At this stage, it’s likely that you’ve tried other alternatives to achieve your desired goals. It’s also likely that they haven’t gotten where you want to be. If you’re nodding your head or starting to feel more comfortable about the possibility of psychedelic-induced discomfort, you have officially started the psychedelic healing process.
What do you hope to get out of the experience?
Once you have an idea of why you’re embarking on a psychedelic journey, you can start to pinpoint the specific things you want to get out of the experience. This will be related to your reasons for choosing a psychedelic experience but will require you to dig even deeper.
This will be your intention, which will serve as the backbone or anchor in not only the rest of your preparation but also during the experience itself. If/when times get tough, your intention will help you endure any discomfort.
You’ll want to be crystal clear on your intention, and the more specific, the better. This may be anything from seeking relief from a certain mental illness, to wanting to get to know your emotions better, and even working through past trauma.
Take some time to write your intention(s) down. Yes, get them down physically so that they live somewhere other than in your head—whether on the notes on your phone, in your journal, or even on a scrap piece of paper that you’ll have with you during the experience.
It’s alright to have more than one intention, but we’d recommend keeping it between one and three. You don’t want to end up feeling like you need to resolve all of your life problems in one session. The psychedelic healing process is a long one.
Investing time and effort in this stage always pays off—the more you prepare, the more impactful your psychedelic experience will be. Once you are clear here, you’ll have a better idea of what the rest of your preparations will look like.
What type of experience will be best for you?
Now we can get into the fun stuff—determining what type of experience is best suited to your needs and identifying any restraints that stand in your way. You’ll find that there are several different ways to consume psychedelics. You’ll likely have access to at least one or more of the options we’ll discuss.
The experience options generally include a solo experience, a recreational group experience (though these can be valuable, we at Psychedelic Passage do not recommend this for wellness), psychedelic assisted therapy (both legal and underground), or a ceremonial experience like those typically found in a psychedelic retreat.
Ultimately, one of these types of experiences may just “feel right.” If you need some additional help in narrowing down the experience options, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide that discusses the pros and cons associated with each of the intentional use options.
If you don’t want to read the full guide, here are the SparkNotes. These are the most important factors to consider:
The financial investment that comes with both psychedelic ceremonies and psychedelic assisted therapy is exactly that: an investment (and a costly one).
We can’t speak to all retreats offered around the globe, but a recent look into psilocybin retreats in Jamaica found that packages average from $1,700 to $10,500. Average psychedelic assisted therapy isn’t much cheaper, with each session costing around $600 to well over $1000.
Solo experiences are the least expensive, provided you have a trusted trip sitter and a safe environment available.
As most psychedelics are illegal in the United States, many people who are interested in harnessing their healing power are required to travel abroad to experience them. Some of the most commonly visited countries include Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Jamaica, the Netherlands, Peru, Portugal.
If you experience psychedelics in a ceremonial setting—which we recommend—you’ll need to set aside a significant period of time to do so. The retreat itself will be anywhere from around four to 21 days (with some going even longer). You’ll also need a day or two for travel time and a few days to acclimate once you return home.
It is worth noting that U.S.-based options are still available, including both legal and illegal psychedelic assisted therapy.
Most types of experiences will be supported in some way by either a professional therapist, a shaman, a healer, or an experienced guide. Even if you decide to experience psychedelics on your own, you’ll need the support of a trip sitter, or a trusted and responsible sober friend.
When we seek the support of anyone—be it a dentist or a yoga teacher, our connection with them will impact what they’re able to provide for us.
When searching for someone to support you through your experience, you’ll want to feel a connection with that individual. You’ll want to feel respected and supported. You don’t want your psyche to be lost in the throes of someone’s power trip or inexperienced assumptions.
We’re saying this because we’ve been there—and we’ve learned from our own mistakes. Get in touch with one of our psychedelic mentors to discuss how to find the best support for your experience.
What type of substance will be best for you?
We’ve written an in-depth guide about how to choose the correct psychedelic substance, but here’s a general overview to get the ball rolling and help you decide which psychedelic to incorporate into your journey.
This psychotropic brew has been used by indigenous Amazonian Indians for millennia. It’s composed of a woody vine (Banisteriopsis caapi, B. inebrians, or B. quitensis) that’s been brewed with leaves from the chakruna plant (Psychotria viridis).
The Quechuan Indian word ayahuasca translates to “spirit” (aya) and “vine” (huasca) and in a ceremony, the shaman helps to connect the natural with the supernatural world, connecting participants with healing spirits.
Many people choose ayahuasca for four main reasons: spiritual growth and self-exploration, emotional and physical healing, curiosity, and the desire to travel to an exotic location.
Psilocybin is the psychoactive ingredient found in magic mushrooms. It produces a hallucinogenic trip with effects that begin within the first 20 to 40 minutes and last between 3 to 6 hours.
In addition to some of the same reasons ayahuasca is used (spiritual growth and healing), psilocybin has been used in therapeutic settings to address a range of mental health conditions. These include suicidality and depressed mood, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and alcohol/cigarette dependence. Bear in mind that typically, these psychedelic experiences occur in conjunction with therapy from a mental health specialist.
Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is a classic hallucinogen that was synthesized (on accident) from the ergot fungus that grows on rye plants. It’s one of the most powerful mind-altering substances and only an extremely small amount is required to produce hallucinations.
The countercultural revolution in the 1960’s introduced LSD as a “magic pill for direct spiritual experience.” Like the other psychedelics listed here, it’s still used for that reason.
In addition, over the past several decades, LSD has been used in therapy to treat several different mental conditions including neuroticism, personality disorders, and manic-depression, to name a few. Currently, it shows promise in helping to reduce depression in patients who suffer from a life-threatening illness.
3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, or ecstasy) is a popular “party drug” that has been used both recreationally and intentionally for a range of reasons. These include a desire to connect with friends, partners, or family members and a wish to experience the altered emotional and sensual effects of the drug. Many people choose to use MDMA to better understand themselves, better connect with others, improve psychological function, and experience an improved outlook on life.
In addition, MDMA has been understood to allow the user to access deep-seated emotions, which is why it’s currently being used in clinical trials to address PTSD.
Ketamine’s initial use was as a general anesthetic and a short-term sedative. The use of the drug evolved and now it is being used clinically (and very successfully) to treat patients with suicidal ideation and depression.
When ketamine is used outside of clinical settings, it is done so for several different reasons—most notably for the sometimes pleasurable feelings of dissociation and the connection to spirituality that sometimes accompanies the feelings of losing oneself.
Mentally, physically, and emotionally prepare for the experience
It’s never too early to start preparing for your experience. It doesn’t matter if you’re still a few months out from your psychedelic retreat or if you’ve even just started to form a curiosity around psychedelics, you can start to make preparations for the experience now.
Your intention will play a large role in what and how you prepare. However, there are certain things that anyone can do to get ready for a psychedelic experience:
- Start eating healthier
- Start cutting out alcohol and other drugs (especially medications that interact with psychedelic substances)
- Ensure that you’re getting enough sleep
- Incorporate practices that introduce you to new states of consciousness (like breathing exercises and meditation)
- Fast before the experience itself (we recommend 3-6 hours with optimal results after hour 5)
Start a journaling practice
Take note of what comes up for you after you commit to the experience. Your ego will typically freak out with the subconscious awareness that it’s about to lose its hold on your psyche. Your old patterns, destructive habits, and repressed trauma may all start coming to the surface, even months before you have the psychedelic experience. Write all of this down.
When you’re aware of some of these things prior to the experience, you can start to work through them. If you give them your attention as they arise, you’ll have less to process during the experience itself. It’s like getting a head start on a race—a race that will change the trajectory of your entire life.
Talk with a professional
We understand that dealing with things like repressed trauma and destructive habits is huge—especially if you’re doing so on your own. Working with a coach throughout this process (both before and after the experience itself) can help you get the most out of your journey and set the stage for optimal growth and healing.
A typical psychedelic experience may include the following: feelings of being stripped of repressive social conditioning; feelings of a loss of control or a surrendering to the process; a glimpse of parts of you that you typically keep repressed; or an ego death, where you merge into oneness with the universe and temporarily lose the sense of who you are.
Now, imagine how hard it would be to navigate all of this without support or anyone to talk to. If you plan on exploring the depths of your psyche without a coach, you’re essentially shooting in the dark. You can end up with an ineffective experience, or worse, in mental and physical danger.
One of the common mistakes people make with psychedelics is assuming that they can do it all on their own, without any support before, during, and after the experience. It’s easy to feel nervous or self-conscious about your experience with psychedelics and it’s easy to let years of stigma get in the way of asking for help.
But when it comes to what may be the most profound and life-changing experience of your life, you should leave no stone unturned when it comes to preparation. Feeling supported by a coach or mentor throughout your journey will help you get the most out of it—it will be the difference between a fun (or confusing) night versus significant and sustained healing.
This didn’t come first in our list but that doesn’t mean that safety isn’t the most important part of your psychedelic experience: it is. It is crucial that you take the utmost care in ensuring your personal safety, something that is all the more important if you’re planning a solo psychedelic experience.
Here are some things to consider:
- Choose an appropriate dose: Check out our psychedelic dosage guide for help with determining the best dose.
- Ensure a safe environment: You should have a space that’s comfortable and intentional, it should be ready BEFORE the experience with things like blankets and comfortable clothing, soothing lighting and music, prepared water and food, and easy access to a bathroom.
- Familiarize yourself with harm reduction principles: We’d recommend exploring the harm reduction materials from Zendo Project.
- Work with a mentor or coach to ensure safety: If you have any unanswered questions or concerns about things like medicine interactions, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Get in touch today to ensure the safest psychedelic experience.
Intention and integration go hand-in-hand as some of the most important aspects of a psychedelic experience. Prior to the experience, integration will help you bring together your intention and preparatory practices to ensure that you’ll have an optimal experience. Following the experience, it’s likely that you’ll be left with significant insights, knowledge, and awareness, but without any active participation in the integration that follows, they may fade over time.
To keep you and your integration on track and keep the ball of healing and self-actualization rolling, it’s recommended that you continue working with a psychedelic coach who can provide ongoing advice and resources. We can help you turn insights into actionable practices and make positive shifts in your daily routines and habits. Click the link to schedule a free discovery call with us today.
Let the Preparation Begin!
Once you feel the call to allow the healing powers of psychedelics into your journey, you’ve unknowingly begun preparing for it. If you’re reading this, you’ve already started preparing for your psychedelic experience. Take a moment to appreciate that monumental step!
As you’ll see in this article, preparation isn’t just coming up with an intention or two and it isn’t just deciding on the type of experience you want to explore. In fact, it’s a multifaceted approach that involves several steps and will require your full participation in every aspect.
The good news is that intention, respect, and thoughtfulness will increase your odds of having a meaningful experience—one that will fill the holes of an incomplete life and contribute to long-term growth and healing.
For those of you looking to be professionally supported as you prepare for your next psychedelic experience, we encourage you to schedule a discovery call with us today. You can also learn more about who we are and why we do this type of work. At the end of the day, our goal is to ensure that everyone has a safe and meaningful psychedelic experience.