Elena Schmidt · October 19th, 2020
A psychedelic voyage can be transformative. Or it can be another exhilarating experience your mind stows away along with the memory of your first rollercoaster ride. The difference lies in your ability to integrate the experience into your daily life. But this can be challenging, especially if you’re new to the realm of mystical journeying. That’s why it’s vital to consider psychedelic coaching or therapy to help intentionally transform your reality to match the internal shift.
What is psychedelic integration?
Psychedelic integration involves strengthening the new neural connections your brain created during the journey through intentional, repetitive practices. Practices such as meditation and journaling invite you to embody an intangible experience as a tool for healing. Whether you are looking to achieve more balance in life or seeking relief from depression, psychedelic integration helps you cultivate lasting change.
Why do I need psychedelic integration therapy?
Consider this scenario: You just went on a mythical journey through the depths of your unconscious mind. You surrendered to your spirit and felt connected to the universe. When you came back, you were ready to forgive yourself for past mistakes and stop reacting to your emotional triggers. But when you returned to your family, work, or school, you found no one could relate. As a result, you questioned the validity of your experience and ultimately reverted to the habits from which you sought to break free.
That scenario is an unfortunate reality for many journeyers who do not integrate the experience with a coach or therapist. Psychedelic integration therapy is so vital because it connects you to a professional who understands your encounter at a physiological and mystical level. And that person can help guide you through incorporating new insights into your behavior until they become permanent traits.
Listen to our podcast episode with Kenneth Tupper talking about: Could Psychedelics Become A Crucial Part Of Our Education? or Click here to read the transcript
What are the top three benefits of psychedelic integration?
1. Integrating the shadow
Not every trip is a vacation. According to Françoise Bourzat, MA in Somatic Psychology and author of Consciousness Medicine, some journeys may cause disorientation. In these cases, your expanded consciousness may reveal darker aspects of your psyche or memories you’ve suppressed. You may even experience nightmares or find yourself more anxious. Facing these demons may seem like a negative experience when you lack the support to integrate them into your life. But when you receive psychedelic coaching, you’ll have someone to help make sense of the lessons that the plant revealed to you.
2. Personal growth
Psychedelic experiences can be profound tools for self-actualization. In fact, there are a wide array of retreats centered on the notion that plant medicine can make you kinder, more balanced, and effective while remaining true to your inner self. Journeying toward higher consciousness is a noble path, but change is hard for everyone. That’s why it is crucial to integrate the experience with a psychedelic coach who can help you define your goals before, during, and after the trip, while creating a plan of action to solidify the change you seek.
3. Mental health
Psychedelic journeys can also change your relationship to past traumas and even heal mental illness. Doctors are already administering ketamine to treat depression. Moreover, phase 2 and 3 clinical trials are underway for MDMA and LSD, along with promising observational studies that support ibogaine for addiction. These results are great news for mainstream medicine, but some experts say without integration, even psychedelics can become just another pharmaceutical you take that eventually stops working.
“Unlike SSRIs, psychedelics like ketamine are rewiring the brain to hold new thought processes. The integration that follows makes lasting change so people can get off the pills and even out of therapy altogether,” says Dr. Mark Braunstein, Child Adolescent, and Adult Psychiatrist, and Founder & CEO of Reconscious Medical.
When you look at the mounting research, study after study confirms Dr. Braunsteins’s theory that psychedelic integration therapy can be more effective and faster than current neurochemical “quick fixes.” In fact, the Journal of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics showed that cognitive behavior therapy as a tool for ketamine integration could successfully prevent relapse in patients with treatment-resistant depression.
What are examples of psychedelic integration practices?
According to Dr. Braunstein, “We have to remember, lasting effects from psychedelic journeys come not only from biological change but also from changes in the thought pattern. So work on the thinking. That’s where the meditation and other integration modalities come in. It’s tying the visions you had to what you experienced and bringing them into conscious memory by practicing daily.”
Meditation is the most common integration tool and perhaps the most effective. But it’s not the only one. Your integrative practices should align with what feels right and approachable for your lifestyle. Beyond meditation, that might mean music, journaling, drawing, yoga, nature walks, or dancing. You may also choose to share your experience with others, or perhaps even confront a person who caused you pain (although you may want to speak with a coach or therapist, and bring along someone to support you in these cases). Cognitive behavioral therapy has also been shown effective in driving lasting change.
How long should the psychedelic integration phase last?
The answer is different for everyone. Formal psychedelic integration therapy should begin immediately after your journey and can last days, weeks, months, or years as you work through the lessons you learned. But even after formal integration coaching ends, daily practice is your work for a lifetime.
Who can I go to for psychedelic therapy?
Due in part to the illicit status of most psychedelic drugs, you may have trouble finding a coach or therapist in your area. But as plant medicine continues to help more people worldwide, collective awareness and support are growing. Fortunately, forward-thinking organizations like the Synthesis Institute exist and are spearheading training for professionals who want to facilitate more meaningful breakthroughs. MAPS, an institute dedicated to psychedelic studies, also offers a list of integration therapists worldwide. If you want to go more ‘virtual’, you can also check out the Mindleap app, which features profiles of 40+ trained integration specialists from recognized institutions such as CIIS, Fluence, MAPS, and Psychedelic Support.
The bottom line
As a human, you are vulnerable to your habits and thought patterns. Often those pulls can be stronger than your desire to transcend. So even though you may have journeyed to a realm where you felt limitless possibilities, you need support to transform your breakthroughs into lasting change. Psychedelic coaching or therapy helps you embody the journey every day so that you can honor its teachings for a lifetime.