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Psychedelic Therapy: What Is It Anyway?

Updated: Dec 8, 2022

* Imagine taking a medicine that alters your mind and facilitates the generation of new thoughts and new ways of looking at the world

* Imagine taking a medicine that facilitates solving problems of life, be they personal or professional

* Imagine taking a medicine for the purpose of spiritual prophylaxis, the cleansing of the spirit that has been clogged by life experiences, pain, or trauma

Psychedelic Medicine is becoming a standard of care in the treatment of many mental disorders including addiction, anxiety, depression and trauma/PTSD. Psychedelic medicines like LSD, psilocybin/mushrooms, MDMA, ayahuasca/DMT, mescaline/peyote, ketamine, and cannabis are being studied currently with positive results for treating the big problems of depression and anxiety in American culture. Psychedelic Therapy is an emerging field answering the growing need for trained therapists with professional experience in mental health, psychotherapy, clinical psychology and addiction coaching. It has become a growing need in our society to help prepare clients for these deeply personal experiential journeys that catalyze emotional experiences and for post-journey integration of the ideas, messages and themes presented during those journeys.

In preparing my clients for an upcoming journey there are several key areas of life that need attention in advance of a deep dive into the unconscious that these journeys elicit.

Factors That Affect the Psychedelic Experience:

1) Preparation-The significance of preparation is to maximize the opportunities and benefits, mitigate risks and disappointments and open oneself up to do the work. When working with clients this is about helping them prepare for whatever change, growth, and level of transformation they are ready for or what is to come. This can include both inner and outer work. Before your experience, make yourself aware of the benefits, risks and contraindications, and do your own research on type of psychedelic. Intention setting, psychotherapy, meditation, Holotropic Breathwork, and journaling can all help in preparing one mentally, emotionally, and physically. Areas of preparation---Physical prep, Spiritual prep, Homelife, Relationships, Lifestyle, and Integration prep.

2) Safety/Knowledge of the Medicine- Understanding the dose, how to consume, and response time of the chosen psychedelic. A journey can last 4-8 hours depending on the dose and your sensitivity.

3) Set-Your mindset, mental state and intention can affect your journey. Grounding your thoughts and mood can improve your experience of an altered state of consciousness.

4) Setting- Choose the physical and social environment for your experience. Consider safety, support, and physical accommodations for basic needs and comfort.

5) Integration/Continuum of Care- Reflection and Introspection are an important part of post-ceremony integration. Some clients choose to work with an integration therapist individually or in groups to apply/integrate insights and wisdom received during psychedelic journeys, to establish a new daily practice or mastery of new skills and/or lifestyle changes. A supportive container around transformational experiences includes consistent, compassion, guidance, and accountability over a period of time.

6) Community- A social support network of people to share your experiences with who have a similar mindset and are open to discussing non-ordinary states of consciousness. This element of emotional safety is so important so staying connected through zoom or other online communities is essential as you return to your social groups, family and work life.

Psychedelics as trauma therapist 

Psychedelics (like ayahuasca or psilocybin) have a profound capacity to illuminate the issues underlying depression, anxiety, and addiction. Often what is revealed is the unprocessed trauma lying at the root of these. By having more direct experiences with the source of the trauma, deep healing can occur--- releasing memories and emotions previously trapped in unconscious memories by bringing them into the light of awareness.

Working with clients to unpack the gifts received from these experience is a co-creative process of unveiling and associative awareness of how the medicine engages the unconscious mind through metaphor. The medicine interacts synergistically with body, mind, and spirit in ways that are unique to each individual. These interactions serve to galvanize the instantiation of new tributaries of meaning and new modes of being in the world.

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