Psychedelic therapy has been making waves in the world of mental health in recent years, and for good reason. Psychedelic substances such as LSD and psilocybin have shown promise in treating a range of mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
However, the actual steps in a psychedelic therapy process remain fairly unclear to a lot of folks. You might know about the major ones, like hiring a facilitator and setting an intention, but before embarking on a journey, it’s important to understand the precise contours of a psychedelic healing process.
Of course, no two experiences are exactly the same, and every facilitator specializes in their own modalities, meaning that levels of guidance can vary. Overall though, the structural integrity of a westernized psychedelic therapy process is relatively well preserved across different treatment programs.
Today, we’re giving you a start-to-finish lowdown on the psychedelic therapy process. How can you know if you’re healthy enough to have a psychedelic experience? What exactly happens on ceremony day? Should I go on a special diet before embarking on a psychedelic journey?
We explore everything you need to know in order to seek quality, personalized, and professional psychedelic support. In fact, at the very end, we’ll tell you exactly where and how you can find legal therapeutic psychedelic services in any U.S. state. Let’s jump right in, shall we?
Step 1: Acknowledging Personal Interest in Psychedelic Therapy
This first step might seem silly to include. If you’re reading through this guide, it’s likely that you’ve already acknowledged your interest in seeking psychedelic-assisted therapy. However, that won’t reign true for everyone that comes across this article.
In life, a lot of us tend to romanticize an image of what our future will look like, but often fail to actualize those visions by neglecting the work that it takes to get really specific about what it is that we want. “The work” being introspection, self-accountability, and the facing of facts that might not be so pretty to look at.
The roadblocks to actualization can be tedious and complicated, but a lot of the time– most of the time, the only thing standing between us and our goals is a lack of decision making. Now, we’re not saying that Step 1 requires you to make a concrete decision about seeking psychedelic therapy.
In fact, we tend to advise against that. You have from step one, all the way up to journey day, to decide whether or not this is the right time and place to have a psychedelic experience. What we are saying though, is that Step 1 requires acknowledgement.
Would you say that it’s appropriate for you to acknowledge that psychedelic therapy is an experience you’d like to partake in, perhaps not right this second, but maybe in 3 months, 6 months, 12 months time?
If this resonates with your current circumstances, then congratulations! You’ve just completed Step 1– acknowledging your interest, validating your curiosity, and honoring your Truth. If you weren’t already at this point, this would be the time to start conducting research on psychedelics. Fortunately, you’ve arrived at the perfect hub for education on all-things-psychedelic.
Research can involve learning about the benefits of psychedelic therapy or understanding how the effects of one psychedelic drug differ from the effects of another. This is the ideal time to begin examining criteria that may exclude you from psychedelic therapy eligibility.
A quick note though– we find that first-time journeyers who heavily rely on psychedelic trip reports for insight, tend to enter the psychedelic therapy process with an over-intellectualized and sometimes unrealistic set of expectations.
It’s easy to hear about the life-changing experience that psychedelics exposed your favorite content creators to, but it’s not always easy to detach from those stories in order to allow your experience to flow organically and authentically.
This is all to say– do your research, learn about the process, but don’t let yourself fall into a game of comparison that will inevitably result in attempts to control your experience and in attempts to mirror a truth that is not yours to embody.
Step 2: Setting Your Intentions
Setting clear intentions before embarking on a psychedelic journey is essential for navigating the experience with a focused mindset and a grounded presence. At this point in the process, you’re not expected to be 100% clear on your intentions.
Usually, your facilitator will help you refine them as you move through the preparation stage, but it’s important to have a general idea of the motivations behind your decision. It’s best to keep your intentions to 2-3 broad items that, if addressed, would have a cascading effect on most other pressing issues in your life.
Your intention doesn’t have to be to treat a disorder. Actually, facilitators often advise that your intention be more thoughtful. If you’re suffering from depression, for example, an intention to find light in your shadow could be an effective way to face Truth with Love.
On the other hand though, there are many people who seek psychedelic therapy that don’t have a specific mental health diagnosis, and are already happy with current life circumstances.
For those individuals, intentions may relate more to enhancing mindfulness or spiritual connection, self discovery, or just flat out curiosity. If you’re having a tough time coming up with an intention, take a moment to consider these questions. They can help you take a personal inventory that offers some clarity and direction.
- What emotions or thought patterns do I want to explore or let go of?
- Is there an emotion that I tend to avoid? If so, what kind of relationship would I ideally want to establish with this emotion?
- How do I cope with conflict? Do my coping mechanisms tend to elicit regret, shame, or further conflict?
- Is the voice in my head a friend, a bully, or a bystander?
- Am I an active and involved member in my own life? Do I follow my intuition more or less often than I suppress it?
Step 3: Establishing a Support System
A strong support system will help you feel confident in your mental and emotional ability to navigate the psychedelic experience. However, we must acknowledge that psychedelics are still stigmatized in a lot of communities.
Thus, it may not be ideal to communicate your plans with certain people in your life, especially if you feel that it’ll affect your mental and emotional stability throughout the process. However, we do always recommend that journeyers have at least one trusted person who they can confide in, aside from their facilitator.
A support system can include family members, friends, and of course, whatever mental health professional you’re currently connected with. Blending regular talk therapy with psychedelic therapy can be an incredibly supportive experience.
As you navigate the preparation and integration process, a licensed therapist can help you supplement the work being done with your facilitator. You may feel called to share any ideas that came up for you throughout the process with someone who knows you in your day-to-day life.
If there’s someone who you feel confident sharing this experience with, this would be the ideal time to start expressing your interest in psychedelic therapy to them. After you’ve done enough research, you can help educate them on what the process will look like, the potential effects of having a psychedelic experience, and what you hope to gain out of the journey.
We always stress personal accountability over your own healing journey, and calling in trusted peers for emotional support or simply for a caring presence, can help you solidify that accountability as you integrate your newfound realizations into a daily routine.
Step 4: Booking a Consultation & Finding The Right Facilitator
Finding the right facilitator is crucial for making educated decisions about your therapeutic plan and for having a safe and supported psychedelic journey. A qualified facilitator is an experienced professional who can guide you through the process using best and safest practices.
Oftentimes, facilitators work independent of a therapy center, which can make it more difficult to locate their services. Luckily, that’s the bread and butter of what we do here at Psychedelic Passage. We’ve taken the guesswork out of hiring a facilitator by creating a pre-vetted network of experienced psychedelic facilitators that are located around the country.
Our network of guides will take you through every step of the therapeutic psychedelic experience. If you book a consultation, our psychedelic concierges can answer any questions you have about the process. And if you’re ready, they’ll help you get matched with a facilitator that’s right for you.
They’ll consider factors such as location, intention, native language, and health conditions, to ensure you’re connected with a professional that specializes in whatever modality you need. Whichever route you choose to take, the most important qualities to look for in a facilitator are therapeutic transparency and personal and professional psychedelic experience.
Ensure that you feel comfortable and safe with the facilitator, as they’ll be guiding you through a potentially intense and emotional experience. Look for honesty, clarity, and empathy. The best facilitators will make choices that benefit your well being, not their profit potential.
Step 5: Introduction Calls With Potential Facilitators
After you’ve had a phone call with one of our psychedelic concierges, it’s time to meet your facilitator. Oftentimes, especially in major cities, facilitators will have a wait list of clients that are in queue to schedule an introduction call.
Once they begin taking new clients, sometimes a few days or weeks following your initial consult call, you’ll be formally introduced to a potential facilitator, usually over a 30 minute introduction call. During the intro call, you and your facilitator will briefly discuss intentions, expectations, and perhaps an outline of what the process will look like.
Most importantly though, this introduction is an opportunity to gauge your comfort with the facilitator. Pick up on their therapeutic approach, on the way you feel while you’re talking to them, their openness to answering questions about past client experiences.
It’s also important to note that after your first introduction call, you always have the option to reconnect with our psychedelic concierges in order to evaluate your other facilitator options. You might not resonate with the first facilitator you’re introduced to, and that’s okay.
There may not be anything explicitly wrong with them or with their work, but it’s important to trust your gut and intuition. If you have any doubts, express them to your facilitator or to our psychedelic concierges.
It’s at this point where you’ll typically commit to the process or choose to take some time to consider your options and the realistic implications of embarking on a psychedelic journey. You don’t have to make a decision while you’re on the call. In fact, it’s usually advised that you take a couple of days before reaching back out with your decision.
Step 6: The Health Screening
Ideally, you’ll have considered eligibility criteria before getting too excited about joining psychedelic therapy. However, in between your introduction call and your first preparation session, you’ll receive a health screening that ensures you’re mentally and physically fit for an experience of this magnitude.
Typically, this health screening will consider mental health disorders, current medications, and current life circumstances, such as the presence of a recent traumatic event, or the stability of your day-to-day living conditions.
Not all facilitators are comfortable working with people who have bipolar disorder due to the possibility of triggering a manic episode. Some facilitators are comfortable working with people who have one type of bipolar disorder, but not another. This will depend on your facilitator and on their assessment of your conditions.
It’s important to note that some medications like SSRIs and antidepressants are known to blunt the effects of psychedelic substances. Your facilitator will notify you if any medications are contraindicated by psychedelic medicines.
After the health screening, you’ll make the decision to either taper off of these medications under the supervision of your healthcare provider, or not to. This can be a deal breaker for some individuals who rely on these medications for physical and emotional stability.
Some will choose to taper, others will decide that the psychedelic experience isn’t worth ceasing the use of their meds, and others will choose to journey regardless of the effect-blunting risks.
Other factors that may preclude you from moving into the next stage of the psychedelic therapy process can include the presence of cardiac conditions, if you have a history of psychosis or schizophrenia, and even the intentions that motivated you to seek this experience.
For example, facilitators in the Psychedelic Passage network ensure that this is an experience you’re seeking out to fulfill personal motivations, rather than external pressures. Overall, this step is set in place to assess potential risks and examine whether or not those risks outweigh the potential benefits you’ll reap from a psychedelic experience.
If you’re not deemed as a healthy candidate for this experience, don’t feel discouraged. We’ll ensure that you receive appropriate referrals to other therapeutic alternatives that can help you navigate your personal healing journey.
Step 7: The Preparation Stage
The preparation stage is as important as the psychedelic ceremony itself. This is where you and your facilitator establish concrete expectations for your journey. They’ll use their personal and professional experiences with psychedelic medicine to inform you on all of the potential outcomes that may result from your journey.
They’ll also tell you about things that might come up for you during the psychedelic session. Preparation is the first time you are really sitting down with your facilitator and communicating your personal history, traumatic past, and really any information that feels even remotely tied to your intentions for the experience.
It’s also here where your facilitator will help you get clear on your intentions. As we briefly mentioned, it’s common for prospective journeyers to have some uncertainty related to the focus of their journey. Your facilitator is here to help you out with that.
The structure of the preparation stage is fairly simple. Typically, journeyers will have two, 1-hour long preparation video calls with their facilitator before ceremony day arrives. This is usually done over the span of two week.
On these calls you’ll work with your facilitator to create a comprehensive plan for your psychedelic experience. The plan includes logistics such as sourcing, medication tapering, location of the journey, dosage, and form of ingestion (i.e. in a tea, with microdosing capsules, in raw form).
After you’ve decided on your medicine of choice (usually before or during the first preparation session), you’ll begin sourcing your psychedelic substance. Your facilitator will inform you on safe sourcing practices. On the other hand, some people choose to grow their own medicine. A popular option is to purchase mushroom grow kits for psychedelic therapy.
However, the psilocybin mushroom growing process can be a little bit tricky sometimes, so if you’re considering growing your own medicine, it might be a good choice to start sourcing your grow kits now and beginning the process of cultivating your mushrooms.
By this point, you should have spoken to your healthcare provider about tapering off of any contraindicated medications, if you chose to go that route. Usually, clients will either be completely done with their tapering process by the time the preparation stage begins, or they’ll be a few days away from concluding the tapering process.
Location of The Psychedelic Ceremony
Regarding the location of your psychedelic ceremony, facilitators in the Psychedelic Passage network offer three options. Some facilitators have the ability to host clients on their own property. This can be a great option for someone who wants to journey in a new environment.
Facilitators in our network who have the ability to host, also typically own land that’s located in a very natural and scenic setting. If that’s not really your speed though, another option is to have your psychedelic ceremony from the comfort of your own home.
Most of the facilitators in our network are able to travel to their clients for the psychedelic ceremony. This can be a good option for someone who wants to have this experience in an environment that’s familiar and already personalized.
For some, neither of these options will be ideal. That’s why there’s a third option to rent an Airbnb for the day. The benefit of this alternative is that you can truly choose any type of environment you’d like.
You can choose to journey in a cabin surrounded by pine trees and wildlife, on a lakefront or oceanfront property, or even in a countryside home– as long as the location is in a safe area, sufficiently furnished with proper ventilation, and in a private residence.
Establishing Boundaries in The Facilitator – Journeyer Relationship
During the preparation stage, you’ll establish boundaries with your facilitator, such as the level of involvement you’d like for them to have during your ceremony, and your level of comfort with physical touch (i.e. hand holding, pats on the back, and hugging if needed).
You’ll also indicate your procedure preferences in the event that you have a mental, emotional, or medical emergency. You’ll share emergency contacts and establish whether or not you’d like your facilitator to check in with your contact throughout the ceremony.
You’ll decide if you want them to check in every hour, every two hours, over a phone call or text. Your facilitator will only share information about your well-being with your chosen contact, unless you indicate that you’d like for them to share more in-depth journey updates.
Setting The Ceremonial Container
Other factors that are ironed out throughout the preparation process include your choice of music (if any), the area of the home that you’ll be mainly journeying in, and the sensory conditions of your experience (i.e. with or without an eye covering or headphones).
Often, journeyers find that instrumental music and an eye covering helps them settle into the psychedelic experience more fluidly and immersively. Other times it can be a bit of a distraction. You always have the choice of bringing your headphones and an eye covering, then deciding if you actually want to use them. You can use or remove them at any point.
Some find it just as helpful to wear headphones without playing any music. This can help reduce the sensory load which may promote a more introspective experience. However, if you’re already committed to employing music throughout your journey, many people enjoy creating a personalized playlist.
It’s here where you’d begin designing a psychedelic therapy playlist or scouring the web for ones that have already been created. If you’d like to leave this up to your facilitator, they will happily use a playlist that they’ve carefully curated to accompany the psychedelic experience.
Involving Your Therapist in The Process
If you were already working with another mental health care professional like a licensed therapist, then the preparation stage is where you and your facilitator will connect with your therapist to get them up to speed (if you choose to involve them, and if your therapist agrees).
Some therapists will not feel comfortable taking the legal risk of actually attending your preparation and integration sessions. If your therapist is supportive of your decision to seek psychedelic therapy, but isn’t open to attending your psychedelic sessions, you still have the option of updating them throughout your psychedelic therapy process, during preparation and throughout integration.
Preparing Your Mental and Physical Body
At some point in the preparation process, your facilitator will inform you on ways to prepare your mental and physical body for the experience. Some options include abstaining from sex and alcohol for some time before your journey, eating more natural and less processed foods, and even being mindful about the type of media you consume.
These options don’t exist in attempts to frame sex and alcohol, or social media and news stations, as “bad” or “wrong”. These options exist because consumption of any kind inevitably has an effect on the way our systems function.
In addition, they exist because it’s a simple fact that certain behaviors and activities obscure and blur our perspectives. It’s important to go into the psychedelic experience being clear and committed to your intentions.
It’s a common misconception that the psychedelic healing process begins when you actually take the psychedelic substance. In reality, the psychedelic healing process begins the moment you decide to seek psychedelic therapy. If you’ve decided that change is needed in your life, it’s important that you start making those changes with the tools that you have right now.
This doesn’t have to mean fully eliminating sex, media, or alcohol. Sex is a beautiful tool of love and unity, media is a beautiful tool for information and knowledge, and even alcohol can be used as a tool for expression.
The option to be mindful about your consumption habits in preparation for a psychedelic experience is based on the natural concept of balance through intentionality. We can accept that all of these tools can be both good and bad. They all have their light sides and their dark sides.
In acknowledging this, we can understand that these options exist not to antagonize certain activities or the people who conduct them, but rather to extend an opportunity for mindful thought and intentional living. It’s an opportunity to begin your psychedelic healing journey right now, in the present moment. It’s not about limiting ourselves, it’s about listening to ourselves.
It’s about deciphering what factors of our life deserve more or less attention. In doing that, we begin the process of intentionally creating our reality, our perspective– which is exactly what a psychedelic experience helps many people learn– our power to create, transform, and rebirth.
Step 8: The Day of Your Psychedelic Ceremony
You’ve done the work, you’ve prepared your mind and body, and today is the day this has all been leading up to. The day of your psychedelic ceremony can be both exciting and nerve-wracking.
It’s important to remember that pre-trip anxiety is completely normal. Often, it means that you hold a healthy respect for the psychedelic medicine, much like you do for the ocean’s powerful waters.
However, it’s equally important that you do a brief check-in with yourself. Identify if your this feeling is a naturally-expected sensation, or if it represents a thought that you’ve been suppressing. Don’t think too deeply into it, but just continue being honest with yourself, as you have been throughout the entire process.
This is the last point in time where you can exercise the option to postpone, reschedule, or take a pause in the psychedelic therapy process. Once you take the psychedelic medicine, your internalized resistance will surface and manifest itself in some way. So, honor your Truth.
On the day of your ceremony, your facilitator will arrive at your home or at another location of choice, in the mid-morning to early afternoon hours. If you’ve decided to be hosted by your facilitator, you may have arrived the night before, or will likely arrive in the morning of.
It’s usually best to have a lighter meal the morning of. If you like, you and your facilitator will do a few minutes of meditative mindfulness practices. You may prefer to practice breathwork or feel called to stretch or journal before you take the medicine.
This is the time to do anything that helps you feel centered, grounded, and present. You might send some texts to friends and family letting them know that you’ll be off of your phone for a while. Or you might bring blankets, pillows, printed pictures, stuffed animals, or any other items of comfort to the main area where you’ll be journeying.
You and your facilitator may now begin preparing the psychedelic medicine. Again, some options include steeping the mushrooms into a tea, eating them raw, grinding them up and putting them on a piece of toast, or breaking open microdosing capsules and emptying their contents into a drink.
Once you’ve taken the psychedelic medicine and are beginning to feel the effects, your facilitator is there to ensure that your experience unfolds safely and organically. After the effects have worn off, your facilitator will make sure that you have whatever it is that you need in order to fluidly transition out of the altered, psychedelic state of consciousness.
Before leaving, they ensure that you’re in an appropriate mental state to go about the rest of your evening in a safe manner. They might prepare a light meal for you and will make sure that you are hydrated and feeling healthy. If you’re leaving the ceremony location after the effects have worn off, your facilitator won’t leave until your designated driver arrives.
Step 9: The Integration Process
Integration begins immediately after the guided psychedelic therapy session ends, and integration sessions with your facilitator typically begin in the days or week following your journey, and can last for several weeks or months.
However, most clients typically have two integration sessions over video chat, over the course of two weeks. Throughout this time and at any point thereafter, you can stay in communication with your facilitator, updating them on your process or asking them any questions you might have.
The integration process is as important, if not, more important than your actual psychedelic experience. This is the stage where you commit not to the psychedelic healing journey, but to your broader healing process.
You can choose to integrate the new perspectives that your psychedelic experience gave you, or you can choose to fall back on old habits that don’t serve your intentions. Though, we should acknowledge that the integration process isn’t so black and white.
Integration means you’re taking the time to process your experience and make meaning of it. Fresh out of the psychedelic experience, changes in perspective aren’t always crystal clear. You begin noticing more changes as you continue going about your daily life.
You might have a conversation with a colleague and realize that you don’t necessarily agree with the views they’re sharing, even if you agreed with them before (or thought that you did). These are points where integration practices can come into play. Will you express your perspective to your coworker authentically? How about lovingly?
Sometimes, these changes in perspective can begin affecting your view on certain activities that you used to enjoy doing, or on certain socio-cultural-political topics. These shifts in thinking may affect certain relationships that you have with people in your life.
You might find yourself having a difficult time relating to certain individuals who hold certain views or engage in certain activities. This is okay. This is normal. Again though, these are points where you have the option to accept, validate, and integrate your new-found perspectives.
Will you continue engaging in activities that don’t make you feel good? Will you continue hanging out with certain individuals simply to avoid the potential discomfort of letting go or the discomfort of sharing your views? Or will you honor your Truth and do the work?
Psychedelic therapy is not a magic cure for mental health issues or personal growth. It’s a tool that can help facilitate healing and transformation, but it’s ultimately up to you to take responsibility for your own healing.
This means being accountable for your own well-being and taking proactive steps to integrate the insights gained during the experience into your daily life. It also means taking care of your physical and mental health and seeking out additional resources or support as needed.
Step 10: The Gift That Keeps on Giving
A psychedelic experience is the gift that keeps on giving. What we mean by that is– psychedelics are only the catalyst of a much larger and longer journey of self discovery and healing.
There may be a span of a few months where you’re focusing much of your attention on manually integrating your experience, but the perspective shifts that occur as a result of a psychedelic experience create a much longer chain of shifts that occur throughout the course of your entire life.
Psychedelic experiences set new patterns in motion, both thinking and behavioral. As time goes on, if we act intentionally, these patterns will only continue birthing new, more refined and authentic ways of being and relating. Integration and healing don’t end after your last integration session with your facilitator. Only you can make the choice to keep them alive in your life.
At some point though, whether years after your first psychedelic experience or days after your third, fourth, maybe even tenth journey, healing won’t be the main focus. There will come a point in your journey, if you remain committed, where you’ve healed all that can be healed.
Of course, life will always birth little traumas (what we call ‘Little Ts’) that require some extra TLC. Aside from that though, if you commit to living in your Truth, it won’t always feel like you’re in the thick of a healing process. Instead, it’ll feel like the high of life heals your soul with every breath, every moon, every season, and every tune.
Psychedelic medicine has the potential to grab us by the ankle and shake us upside down, then place us gently on our feet, and teach us how to ground, how to accept, how to surrender, and how to be open to experience.
They are powerful tools for personal growth and transformation. Just remember, you are the creator of your own personal change, not the witness or subject of it. It all starts and ends with you.
Explore How it Feels to be Connected
Psychedelic therapy has caused seismic shifts in perspective and sense of purpose, for many people. But, it’s important to approach the experience with intention, preparation, and a commitment to personal responsibility and accountability.
If you’re considering embarking on a therapeutic psychedelic experience, it’s important to do your research and seek out qualified and experienced facilitators who can guide you through the process.
Speaking of facilitators– our network has a whole team of them. As we mentioned earlier, our psychedelic concierge service can help you get connected to pre-vetted facilitators located around the country. Some facilitators even offer microdosing coaching.
So, if you’d like to get connected to a facilitator, or want to speak with someone regarding all-things-psychedelic, we empower you to book a consultation with our knowledgeable concierges.
If, however, you’d like to learn some more about the world of psychedelic medicine, we encourage you to head on over to our resources page. There, you’ll find an extensive bibliotheca of informative articles like this one. Well fellow safety-first psychonauts, that’s all we’ve got for now. As always, mindful journeying!