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What is Cannabis Assisted Psychotherapy & Where to Find It

Cannabis has been used for millennia, and its popularity has grown in recent years. In fact, it is one of the most commonly used drugs in America, surpassed only by alcohol and tobacco. In the United States, cannabis was effectively banned in 1937—yet that didn’t prevent people from continuing to use it for medicinal purposes. 

Over the past few decades, cannabis has slowly been recognized by the medical community as a plant medicine with healing properties. Now, many states have changed legislation around medicinal and recreational marijuana. As such, cannabis is now used in a variety of different therapeutic modalities. 

You may be asking, how to find cannabis assisted psychotherapy near me—here’s how. In this article, we’ll discuss cannabis in relation to psychedelics and healing, what cannabis assisted therapy actually is, what to look for in a practitioner, and what to expect from your session.

Cannabis as a Psychedelic

The word psychedelic is derived from Ancient Greek words that mean “to make visible, to reveal.” Modern translations leave us with psychedelic = mind manifesting. It’s the consciousness-expanding properties of psychedelics that welcome cannabis into this category. While many researchers would debate its inclusion, cannabis does fit some of the criteria. 

Psychedelics are psychoactive substances. They alter mood and perception and generally impact various cognitive processes. In certain conditions, cannabis can be considered a psychedelic. And it’s typically these conditions that are the goal of cannabis assisted psychotherapists. 

In fact, cannabis is one of the only legal psychedelics that can be used in psychotherapy. It requires neither research scientists nor a prescription. Unlike ketamine, it isn’t only for patients who’ve tried a range of other ineffective previous treatments. 

Cannabis’ effects are variable and depend on a variety of factors. They range from a euphoric and relaxing intoxication to anxiety and hallucinations. Most clients will experience increased body awareness and a feeling of being very present. This can lead to personal introspection which may contribute to finding a deeper connection with their sense of purpose and feeling more in control over their lives.

For millennia, cannabis has been used as a spiritual and healing tool in different cultures. In 2700 BC, cannabis was recommended in China to treat constipation, rheumatism, and menstruation pain—among others. 

In the beginning of the 19th century, a French psychiatrist used cannabis as a tool in treating mental disorders. Cannabis has had a bumpy ride since then, but it has recently emerged as a viable treatment—particularly with individuals who haven’t found success in traditional therapeutic interventions. 

What Does Cannabis Treat?

Cannabis can work to alleviate a range of symptoms from various conditions. It’s been demonstrated to help with psychiatric conditions like PTSD, OCD, and opioid use disorder

It has also been commonly used to address pain conditions like inflammation, arthritis, fibromyalgia, nerve conditions, chronic pain, and neuropathic pain for HIV-infected individuals. Cannabis has also been studied to address symptoms of neurological conditions like multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. 

Currently, around 90% of medical cannabis patients list chronic pain as one of the symptoms they use cannabis to alleviate. Many who begin using cannabis limit the use of their opioid medications or give it up altogether. 

In fact, most patients decrease their use of opioids by 40 to 60%, saying that they prefer cannabis much more. Cannabis has consistently demonstrated promise in achieving pain relief, without the need for sometimes-dangerous opioids. 

The percentage of people who use cannabis to supplement or completely replace other drugs is significant. In a 2017 survey, nearly half of respondents (46%) reported using cannabis as a substitute for other prescription drugs. While these were most commonly opioids, responders also reported that cannabis was a welcomed alternative to anxiety and depression medication.

While cannabis certainly works to combat feelings of depression and anxiety. cannabis assisted therapy aims to move beyond just producing euphoria and relaxing effects with cannabis; its goal is to uncover the roots of what is causing these symptoms. Cannabis serves as a tool allowing a client to connect to not only the deeper parts of their psyche but also do so with the help of another person. 

What is Cannabis Assisted Psychotherapy? 

Even if you’ve only smoked cannabis recreationally and have never considered its therapeutic potential, you’ve probably had moments of enhanced insight and emotional depth when you’ve been high. These “aha” moments are exactly what some psychotherapists are hoping to harness and utilize to contribute to long term growth. 

Cannabis joins many other mind-altering substances with the potential to produce insights that contribute to psychological healing—only this one’s legal. Unlike MDMA and psilocybin, which are expected to be included in a therapist’s legal toolbox in the future, cannabis assisted psychotherapy is available now. 

Though the medicinal properties are nothing short of scientific breakthroughs, it’s the psychedelic properties of cannabis that contribute to its psychotherapy potential. Like other mind-altering substances, cannabis can help a sufferer uncover and process difficult memories and emotions while usually putting the mind and body in a relaxed state. 

Bogged down by coping strategies and the requirements of daily life, experiencing some of these emotions or thoughts while consuming cannabis in the presence of a trained psychotherapist can contribute to an alleviation of symptoms and, in many ways, can become a pathway towards long-term healing.  

How to Find Cannabis Assisted Psychotherapy Near Me

With the legalization of cannabis, there are now more opportunities than ever to explore the plant in a healing, therapeutic capacity. Unlike with other types of psychedelic assisted therapy, you won’t have to participate in a clinical trial or look for underground guides—but you will still have to put in some legwork to find the right service.

Unlike a dentist or pediatrician, finding a cannabis assisted psychotherapist isn’t as simple as looking on the map or doing a quick Google search. This is a relatively new field and still evolving in many states. Also, while cannabis is legal in some capacity in the majority of states, there is unfortunately still some stigma around using it therapeutically. 

Looking for alternative psychotherapy or natural health practitioners may be a good start. Some of these practitioners either practice cannabis therapy themselves or would be able to provide recommendations about others who do. 

Attending a local cannabis or hemp conference or expo is another way to meet potential therapists. Not only would this be an opportunity to meet a possible therapist, but many expos also host discussion panels which would be a great way to learn more about how cannabis can be used therapeutically. 

Many states have also recently become home to conscious cannabis circles. While not a traditional form of cannabis assisted psychotherapy, these group meetings will generally use some of the same practices and sometimes integrate components of shamanic healing. These are typically more popular in states with legalized recreational marijuana where psychedelic communities have had more time to become more established. 

Although it isn’t a substitute for therapy, Psychedelic Passage offers cannabis guided healing sessions. These sessions are more rooted in shamanic healing and life coaching than traditional western therapy. If you’re interested in learning more about how we can help you find meaning and fulfillment in your life, schedule a discovery call with one of our psychedelic trip sitters. 

What to Look for in a Cannabis Psychotherapy Practitioner?

So, what makes the difference between a good cannabis psychotherapy practitioner and a bad one? Ultimately, this question can only be answered by you as your needs and requirements can be met by a variety of therapists in different ways. However, there are some general considerations you should make on your search. 

First, it’s important to discover what type of protocol the therapist is using. Are they using practices that have been developed for use in medical science? Therapists may use practices developed by researchers like those at MAPS. They may also use similar protocols to those who study MDMA or psilocybin assisted therapy. 

The practitioner you choose should also have experience with individuals like you. Their therapy background should include experience with trauma, anxiety, depression—whatever you’re using cannabis therapy to address (this is why determining a specific intention is so important). Practitioners may be trained with an array of other psychedelic therapies, or have experience with alternative therapies like art therapy, journaling, meditation, and psychedelic integration—to name just a few. 

It’s important to remember that people get involved in practicing cannabis therapy for a variety of reasons—not all of them good. While many cannabis psychotherapy practitioners do have the ultimate goal of helping people, some are only practicing as a way to boost their ego or make some extra money. Exercise caution on your search and try to find a therapist who has been recommended by a friend or colleague, or who has received many positive testimonials. 

What is the Process Like?

Prior to the cannabis session itself, the therapist will have one or several meetings with the client. Common with other types of psychedelic assisted therapy, these sessions will serve as an integration before the session with the substance. 

Not only will symptoms be discussed, but these meetings also serve as a way for a client to set an intention—to discuss any traumas or emotions they wish to process during the session. The therapist will also discuss what the experience with cannabis will be like, including what the client can expect and whether they’d like to choose a specific strain based on their desired outcome. 

Typically, cannabis will be inhaled instead of ingested during the session. Some therapists prefer a vaporizer which allows for better dosage management, a quicker onset, and a shorter duration. Other therapists prefer smoking cannabis flower so as to better control the combination of cannabis strains used to elicit a particular effect. This is obviously something that would be discussed in a meeting prior to the cannabis session, and the client would be encouraged to choose a method of administration that they’re comfortable with. 

A therapy session will, in many cases, only be available to those who have prior experience with cannabis—but don’t consume every day. It’s important to note that many times, these sessions will involve the consumption of a significant amount of cannabis. 

Increased dosages are understood to allow both the client and the therapist to “dive deep” and uncover buried emotions and thoughts. However, the client should remain aware of their own limitations and boundaries. Ultimately, it will be up to you to be responsible and not push your own limits. 

A cannabis session will generally last about two hours. The therapist will be present during the entire time the client is medicated. While these will vary between different practitioners, the session will involve a range of different practices and exercises. 

These include meditation, breathwork, and visualization. It may include the use of eye covers and either sitting in silence or listening to music. The specifics of the session will depend on the needs of the client and the experience of the therapist. They will most likely be determined in the preparation sessions that occur prior to the cannabis session. 

Following the session, it’s advised to coordinate a ride and have the rest of the day available to rest. You’ll want some time to come down. Additionally, it’s important to stay hydrated. Just as integration sessions were valuable before the session, they’re just as crucial after. 

Generally, the client will meet with the therapist at least one time afterward to discuss what feelings and thoughts came up during the cannabis session, and how to incorporate any new insights into daily life. 

Final Thoughts

Many people use cannabis for a variety of reasons. Some individuals use it for healing, whether from pain, addiction, or a range of other medical conditions. Cannabis has been successful in reducing symptoms for many people and by using it as a tool that can produce introspection and insight with the help of a therapist, its potential for healing is even greater. 

We also understand that some people prefer alternative healing practitioners instead of traditional western medicine trained therapists. That’s why we offer preparation, trip sitting, and integration services—all with the assistance of cannabis. To learn more, please schedule a discovery call with one of our psychedelic facilitators today.

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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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