You may have intentionally tried or simply stumbled upon psychedelics recently, and it has opened a door you’d like to explore. Perhaps you’ve heard about some of the benefits in the news. Maybe you’ve just finished Michael Pollan’s book, How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence.
Whatever the reason, we’re happy that psychedelics have piqued your curiosity and you’re ready to explore. Used properly and respectfully, psychedelics are like a key to the door of our psyche. As such, they can be used to navigate who we are, how we think, and what we feel. Psychedelic experiences shouldn’t be taken lightly—nor should the potential benefits they may have on our lives.
There are many questions that arise both before and after an encounter with psychedelics. Support in the form of psychedelic integration can help you get to the bottom of these questions and reveal how you can use them to turn newfound knowledge and insights into long-term change.
What is Psychedelic Integration?
Is there an expression that goes beyond “life-changing?” If there was, it would be appropriate for many people to describe their experience with psychedelics. Just one encounter with psychedelics has the potential to change someone’s life.
The psychedelic experience can uncover repressed thoughts and emotions. It can reveal hidden feelings and shed light on unconscious attitudes, beliefs, and memories. While the experience might unveil these important aspects of the psyche, it would be limiting to think the psychedelic experience alone can create sustainable life changes.
Psychedelics provide a temporary pause in ordinary reality. Altered states of consciousness like these can profoundly change someone—perhaps in ways that they aren’t aware of until in-depth investigation takes place.
By way of example, let’s say you participate in a psilocybin ceremony over the weekend and have this beautiful, mind-blowing spiritual experience. Perhaps you experienced God, connected with a loved one who’s crossed over, or healed some deep emotional trauma.
As a result, you’re a different person. You’ve changed, but you may not even know how. The experience itself was powerful, but you show up to work on Monday realizing you have no idea what to do with the experience you just had. So what do you do with this perspective shift, and how do you integrate it into our daily lives?
This is the definition of psychedelic integration: Doing the work that’s required to preserve the lessons offered through a psychedelic journey and make use of them in daily life. Examination and implementation of what took place during the experience—be it sights, thoughts, sounds, feelings, epiphanies, and realizations—makes the difference between a mystifying one-off experience and a long-lasting and meaningful shift in one’s entire life.
Working with a psychedelic integration specialist allows you to fully unwrap the gift that is a psychedelic experience. The altered states of consciousness reached during a psychedelic journey have an impact on many aspects of human life. Integration is best facilitated by a qualified individual who uses their experience in a non-judgmental space to help address any changes to emotional, spiritual, physical, and mental awareness.
Integration sessions can take place both before and after the experience. You can choose a practitioner that uses either a Western medicine or shamanic framework. In either case, the practitioner will follow a harm reduction model and will create a comfortable and safe space for sharing any thoughts, feelings, and emotions that arises before, during, or after the psychedelic experience.
Integration before or after the use of psychedelics is a crucial component of the journey, and really contributes to some of psychedelics’ sustained benefits for mental health. Imagine having one of the most profound experiences of your life, but not being able to make sense of it? Or worse, not having anyone to talk with about it?
A psychedelic integration specialist can help you uncover the thoughts and emotions that you experienced during your encounter with psychedelics. An integration coach gives you the support you need to step into a new way of being. That’s what we do and we’re here to help you. If you’re interested in learning more about our integration and coaching services, book a call with us today and get started on this life-changing journey!
Does it Involve Consuming Psychedelics with a Practitioner Present?
No, integration does not include consuming psychedelic substances with a practitioner present. In both therapeutic and ceremonial settings, the practitioners job is to hold space for the participant—not to fully guide or control their experience. It’s important for the experience to unfold naturally, to let the experience itself serve as the guide.
The aim of psychedelic integration is to provide a non-judgmental space in which thoughtful processing of a psychedelic experience can take place—and it happens either before and/or long after the psychoactive effects of a drug have worn off. While mainstream recreational culture has generally recognized the value of psychedelic drugs, many overlook the integration process, which is equally as important.
Does Integration Take Place Before or After the Psychedelic Experience?
Both. A psychedelic event requires the user to be fully present to the entire experience. Therefore, integration never takes place during the psychedelic experience. However, there is massive value in integration practices both before and after the trip.
It is our belief that the psychedelic journey actually begins once you commit to having the experience, which could be weeks or months before the actual trip. Integration prior to the experience involves intention setting, learning harm reduction practices, and developing a framework to work through the psychedelic experience with more grace.
When you make this mental commitment, the challenging aspects of your life, personality, and identity may come to the surface. Working with an integration specialist before the trip can help you transform these difficult issues into thoughtful intentions to anchor your psychedelic experience. Set and setting play a key role in not only the environment in which the substance is consumed, but also the mindset and intention of the psychonaut.
And once the psychedelic event is over, an integration specialist can help you organize, process, and understand your experience so it can be transformed into actionable steps to improve your life. Reflection is equally as important following the experience. You may be feeling overwhelmed or confounded, but making the effort to unpack the confusion will produce the most positive changes.
A psychedelic integration coach will understand the difficulties you might face both before and after the experience, and they’ll help to facilitate effective discussion to work through any issues. It’s easy to consider psychedelics a ‘magic bullet’ in terms of their potential to transform and heal, but psychedelic use without integration practices diminishes their potential for positive change. Integration work involves both adequate preparation before the journey, as well as incorporation of what was gained during the experience—and we’re here to help you do that work.
Why Should I Talk to Someone About My Psychedelic Experience?
Psychedelics have been consumed for ceremonial, medicinal, and divination purposes by indigenous people for millennia. There’s indication that the integration process has a history that is nearly as long, dating back hundreds of years to tribes who consumed ayahuasca in search of enlightenment.
Though specific practices will be unique to different indigenous cultures, historical use of psychedelics in ceremonial settings involved a great deal of preparation for the experience. Many times, it involved (and still does) a predefined intention—an appeal for guidance or healing, or even an answer or resolution to a specific process. This is all a crucial part of the psychedelic experience, and what integration will include prior to the trip.
There’s no doubt that the psychedelic experience itself is a profound one. Many times, users are left with new perspectives, uncovered emotions, and a wealth of information after the drug has worn off. For those of us who are unable to experience psychedelics in a retreat setting where there is structured time, space, and guidance to reflect upon our learnings and discover how to incorporate them into daily life, the benefits of psychedelics are diminished.
Would we expect an individual to return to a busy 40+ hour work week after a Friday night spiritual journey to an alternate state of consciousness and act “normal”? That’s a lot of pressure considering that the psychedelic experience can be intense and bewildering. One could easily feel overwhelmed or even upset by the feelings and ideas that arise during the experience. This is why integrating on your own is difficult.
Psychedelics can also sometimes produce a “bad trip” that shatters one’s sense of sanity or identity. While these “bad trips” can leave you feeling temporarily vulnerable or unstable, these episodes, though very difficult and challenging to endure, can actually become the source of some of the most beneficial and life changing lessons obtained during the experience. Proper integration can help you make the most out of that process.
Though not everyone experiences a “bad trip”. Even if you had a favorable psychedelic experience and feel the positive effects of an afterglow for days or weeks after, those too will eventually wear off if integration doesn’t take place. If you want to increase the likelihood of experiencing the long-lasting and positive effects of psychedelics, talking to an integration specialist is the best way.
How Will Psychedelic Integration Help?
While the United States is still navigating a shift towards the potential legalization of psychedelics for therapy (cannabis and ketamine have made significant headway lately), psychedelic integration specialists are stepping in to assist in the meantime.
Not everyone is able to participate in clinical trials, access psychedelic assisted therapy [LINK], or travel internationally to participate in a legal psychedelic retreat. This lack of resources makes psychedelic integration one of the most important and accessible options for anyone seeking to enhance the benefits obtained from an experience with psychedelics.
Though psychedelic integration is not always facilitated by a licensed therapist or psychiatrist, psychedelic integration involves exploration of the mind, psyche, and behavioral patterns. Therefore, many of the mental health benefits overlap.
Integration or therapy before and after an experience with ketamine has been shown to sustain its antidepressant effects. Similarly, the integration process before and after an experience with psilocybin demonstrated enhanced benefits for addressing anxiety and treatment resistant depression.
Psychedelics have been used as a medicine for millennia. Western science is starting to catch on—and for good reason. Clinical trials have produced very promising results when it comes to psychedelics treating a range of mental illnesses, including anxiety and depression. Recently, more and more people have been able to access psychedelic assisted therapy with either ketamine or cannabis.
But what if the options do not suit your needs? Or maybe you’re intrigued by a different psychedelic substance? Psychedelic coaching, including integration services, can help you maximize your outcomes while reducing risk and potential for harm. If you’re ready to embark on your own psychedelic journey with the support of a mentor, book a call with one of our coaches today.
The stigma behind psychedelics is continuously fading and they are starting to receive more attention—especially with regard to their capacity to heal. Similarly, psychedelic integration has begun to earn a place in medicine.
Accessing an integration specialist, and the benefits that come with them, is easier than ever. If you consider psychedelics as the key that unlocks the gate between suffering and healing, an integration specialist can help you open that gate, walk through it, and step forward towards a better life.