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Preparing for a Psychedelic Journey: A Step-by-Step Guide

Nicholas Levich
Nick is one of the Co-Founders of Psychedelic Passage. As a facilitator himself, he draws upon his personal experience as well as scientific literature and anecdotal reports when writing. His goal is to provide tangible and actionable advice to readers looking to establish healthy and intentional relationships with psychedelic medicines.

Taking psychedelics is no casual feat, especially if it’s your first time. Yes, this is true even in spite of the many psychonauts that experiment with these substances as a recreational activity.

When it comes to this distinct branch of drugs known as psychedelics, we are not merely taking a drug to feel high. Rather, we are toying with the intangible—with the most delicate, intricate, and fundamental parts of ourselves

The mind, the spirit, the soul—this core self deserves the deepest healing and liberation, and mind-altering substances like psilocybin mushrooms, LSD, and DMT are a master key to those parts which may have seemed otherwise untouchable. 

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. Let’s explore how you can thoroughly prepare for a therapeutic trip.

Key Takeaways

  • Reflect on your motivations and ensure they align with growth, healing, or understanding rather than escapism. Understanding your intentions sets the stage for a meaningful experience.
  • Safety is paramount in any psychedelic journey. Choose appropriate dosages, create a safe and comfortable environment, familiarize yourself with harm reduction principles, and consider working with a trained facilitator to ensure a secure experience.
  • Integration is crucial. Align your preparatory practices with your intentions and consider ongoing support from a psychedelic coach to maximize the long-term benefits of your journey.
  • Psychedelic Passage: Your Psychedelic Concierge — The easy, legal way to find trustworthy psilocybin guides, facilitators and psychedelic-assisted therapy near you in the United States.

Download Our Free Psilocybin Sourcing Guide

For harm-reduction purposes, we provide links to online psilocybin vendors, local stores, delivery services, and spore vendors for growing your own medicine at home.

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.

Step 1: Ask yourself a few questions

1. 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 great. 

Recreational psychedelic use can certainly produce a profound and beautiful experience, but it can also end up being a distraction or even detrimental if not rooted in any purpose or intention. 

Understanding your true motivations 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. 

It’s extremely common for someone to 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.

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. 

2. 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. 

3. 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 options generally include a solo experience, a recreational group experience (though these can be valuable, we 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. 

There is also the option of joining clinical trials, however, those are much less accessible and pose a host of issues when it comes to application, acceptance rates, and general setting and support quality.

Ultimately, one of these types of experiences may just “feel right.” If you need some additional help in narrowing down the experience options, we recommend booking a consultation call to help you make the best individualized decision. 

Some of the most important factors to consider when making this decision, however, are:

Download Our Free Psilocybin Sourcing Guide

For harm-reduction purposes, we provide links to online psilocybin vendors, local stores, delivery services, and spore vendors for growing your own medicine at home.

Step 2: Consider Cost

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. 

Step 3: Account for Travel

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 options in the U.S. are still available, including both legal and illegal psychedelic assisted therapy

Step 4: Choose the Right Support

Most types of experiences will be supported in some way, but there are different types of support, including 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.   

Step 5: Choose The Right Substance

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. 

Preparing for a Psychedelic Journey: A Step-by-Step Guide

Ayahuasca

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 chacruna plant (Psychotria viridis) (Hamill et al., 2019).

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, however, there are risks and benefits to consider.

Psilocybin

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 lasts between 3 to 6 hours (Daniel & Haberman, 2017).

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 and physical health conditions such as:

Bear in mind that typically, these psychedelic experiences occur in conjunction with therapy from a mental health specialist. 

LSD

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is a classic hallucinogen that was synthesized from the ergot fungus that grows on rye plants and is “LSD remains one of the most stigmatized and legally restricted agents among psychoactive substances” (Fuentes et al., 2019).

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 (Thoricatha, 2015). 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. 

MDMA

3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, or ecstasy) is a popular “party drug” that has been used both recreationally and intentionally for a range of reasons (Meyer, 2013).

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

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 (Rosenbaum et al., 2013).

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. 

However, the therapeutic and clinical use has gained popularity since off-label use has been legalized in recent years. It’s important to be aware of the pitfalls of ketamine and ketamine therapy before deciding on this as your avenue for psychedelic therapy.

Step 6: Mentally, Physically, & Emotionally Prepare

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 (we recommend 3-6 hours with optimal results after hour 5)

Step 7: 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. 

Step 8: Speak 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 trained facilitator throughout this process (before, during 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. 

One of the most 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 trained trip sitter throughout your journey will help you get the most out of it—it will be the difference between simply a fun (or confusing) night versus significant and sustained healing. 

Step 9: Prioritize Safety

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 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 recommend exploring the harm reduction materials from our Psychedelic Therapy Store.
  • Work with a trained facilitator 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

Step 10: Integrate Your 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 discovery call with us today. 

Final Notes

Once you feel the call to allow the healing powers of psychedelics into your journey, you’ve unknowingly begun preparing for it. As you saw 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.

Get Matched with a Trusted Psychedelic Therapy Provider Near You

Hi there! We sincerely hope that you’ve found valuable takeaways that resonate with your current intentions. To explore research-based education, stay updated with psychedelic news, and benefit from practical how-to articles, we encourage you to head over to our resources page.

If you’re seeking personalized advice and are prepared to take the first step toward a therapeutic psychedelic experience, we invite you to book a consultation with our team of experienced psychedelic concierges.

This consultation is more than just a conversation; it’s an opportunity to be matched with a trustworthy local facilitator. You’ll be seamlessly connected to our rigorously vetted network of psychedelic guides, ensuring potential matches align with your needs.

Psychedelic Passage offers confidence and peace of mind by alleviating the burden of having to guess who’s right for you. If you want to discover how Psychedelic Passage can help you, we empower you to learn more about our services and check out client testimonials from those who’ve gone before you.

Your healing path is uniquely yours, and our commitment is to serve you at every juncture. Psychedelic Passage: Your Psychedelic Concierge — The easy, legal way to find trustworthy psilocybin guides, facilitators and psychedelic-assisted therapy near you in the United States.

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Frequently Asked Questions: Preparing for a Psychedelic Experience

Q: What is psychedelic research? 

Psychedelic research refers to scientific studies and investigations focused on exploring the effects, potential therapeutic benefits, and risks associated with psychoactive substances. This research aims to deepen our understanding of these substances and their impact on human consciousness, mental health, and personal growth.

Q: How can I prepare for a psychedelic trip? 

Preparation for a psychedelic trip is crucial to ensure a safe and meaningful experience. It involves several key aspects, such as setting intentions, creating a supportive environment, researching the substance you will be using, seeking professional guidance if necessary, and attending to your physical and mental well-being before embarking on the journey.

Q: What is psilocybin treatment? 

Psilocybin treatment involves the controlled use of the psychedelic compound psilocybin, which is found in certain species of mushrooms. It has shown promise in treating conditions such as major depressive disorder and treatment-resistant depression. Psilocybin treatment typically involves guided sessions with trained professionals in a therapeutic setting.

Q: How can psychedelic experiences aid in healing and personal growth? 

Psychedelic experiences have the potential to facilitate profound healing and personal growth by providing individuals with unique insights, expanding their consciousness, and promoting self-reflection. These experiences can help individuals gain a new perspective on themselves, their relationships, and the world, leading to positive changes in behavior, attitudes, and overall well-being.

Q: What is the integration process in relation to psychedelic experiences? 

The integration process refers to the period following a psychedelic journey when individuals integrate the insights and experiences gained into their daily lives. It involves reflection, self-care, and seeking support from therapists, support groups, or integration specialists. The integration process helps individuals make sense of their experiences and apply the newfound wisdom to promote lasting transformation and growth.

Q: Are psychedelic experiences suitable for everyone? 

Psychedelic experiences may not be suitable for everyone, especially individuals with a history of severe mental health conditions or those at high risk of psychosis. It is important to consult with a healthcare professional and undergo a thorough screening process before considering a psychedelic journey to ensure its appropriateness and safety for your specific circumstances.

Q: What should I do if I experience challenging emotions or difficulties during a psychedelic experience? 

Challenging emotions or difficulties can arise during a psychedelic experience. It is crucial to remember that these experiences are temporary and that support is available. If you encounter challenges, try shifting your focus to your breath, engaging in grounding techniques, or seeking guidance from a trained trip sitter or facilitator who can provide reassurance and help navigate the experience.

Q: Can psychedelic experiences replace traditional therapy or medication for mental health conditions? 

Psychedelic experiences should not be seen as a replacement for traditional therapy. However, they may complement therapeutic approaches and provide alternative avenues for healing and personal growth. It’s essential to work with trained professionals and integrate psychedelic experiences within a comprehensive treatment plan tailored to your specific needs.

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At Psychedelic Passage, we offer professional 1-on-1 guidance and companionship on your journey of healing. We simply can't sit back and let Americans continue to sit in silent suffering trying to battle mental health issues within a broken health care system, all while knowing that effective alternatives exist. We stand for the sacred, at-home, ceremonial use of psychedelics for consciousness exploration, which we believe to be a fundamental human right.

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