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Exploring The Many Hats of Psychedelic Support

in this article
  • Introduction
  • Terms: Guide, Tripsitter, Therapist, Shaman, Spaceholder, Facilitator
  • Guide
  • Tripsitter
  • Shaman
  • Therapist
  • Space holder
  • Facilitator
  • Final Thoughts

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Chemical Collective or any associated parties.

Introduction

As interest in psychedelics continues to grow, more and more people are seeking experiences facilitated by these substances.

Consequently, more people are seeking some form of support for their journeys.

Medical treatments are being rolled out as legalisation has started sweeping the US, but with private sessions costing upwards of $1000, these experiences are not accessible for many.

So many people are looking for more financially accessible alternatives.

One of these alternatives is for people, friends, family members, colleagues and communities to sit for each other. To facilitate experiences for each other.

But what does this look like?

What does a person do when they are sitting for a friend?

Do they play shaman?

Do they guide the experience?
Or do they sit back?

There are many roles that facilitating can take, and today I’d like to open up your thoughts on this topic by looking at a few terms and their definitions.

In this article, I’ll look at six different titles, or roles, commonly used in the world of psychedelic facilitation, and give their definitions. I’ll give a few thoughts on each and how they might apply to psychedelic experiences. I believe that looking at these terms can help us explore different ways of facilitating psychedelic experiences.

My aim is to give you ideas about facilitation and hopefully expand your thinking on the topic. This article is meant as an exploration, rather than giving any conclusive answers about how you should facilitate or what type of role you should take if stepping into this role.

As always, my intention is to help you improve your ability to safely and effectively work with psychedelics for insight, healing, and growth.

Let’s get started!

Terms: Guide, Tripsitter, Therapist, Shaman, Spaceholder, Facilitator

If you are interested in facilitating others experiences, I invite you, as you read, to see which of these terms resonate with you.

These terms were not originally coined or used when considering psychedelic experiences, so it will require some active thinking from you to consider how they might apply.

Guide

psychedelic support

 1 a person who shows the way to others, especially one employed to show tourists around places of interest: a tour guide, a mountain guide.

 2 a person who advises others, especially in matters of behaviour or belief: his spiritual guide

verb – direct or influence the behaviour or development of: his life was guided by his religious beliefs.

The idea of guide suggests a somewhat active approach to facilitating a psychedelic experience.  During a session guiding a journeyer might be by way of their attention. This could mean guiding their attention back to their breathing, the sensations in their body, or their intention. It could also be to external materials, like a plant, certain pre-selected photos, or an image in a mirror.

The idea of advising others is also very applicable in the preparation and integration phases. A guide with a lot of psychedelic experience may help advise on maters of intention, dose, preparation exercises and other factors like setting and music.

Tripsitter

psychedelic support

Tripsitter comes about from two other words which I’ll look at here:

Babysitter

 1 a person who looks after a child or children while the parents are out.

Housesitter

1 a person who lives in and looks after a house while its owner is away.

2 a person who occupies a dwelling to provide security and maintenance while the tenant is away.

Babysitter brings to mind the idea of care and caring for someone who is unable to properly care for themselves. This can include basic functions, and someone may need help walking, going to the bathroom, and making sure they remain hydrated. Psychedelics can make us more childlike in many ways so I think it’s a useful way of looking at facilitation.

For housesitter, if the person is journeying in other dimensions, then it could mean that they are ‘out’. In this case, a tripsitter would make sure to care for the house. This would include responsibilities like keeping the space (setting) conducive to the intended unfolding experience. This could include keeping it clean, getting food and drinks when needed, getting more blankets or pillows, handling tech, and answering the door and dealing with any visitors.

I also like the analogy ofthe human body being a person’s ‘house’. So, when the person is ‘away’, travelling in other dimensions, the tripsitter looks after the house, their body, making sure it is safe, comfortable and warm enough. This means keeping watch, and making sure it comes to no physical harm.

Shaman

1 a person regarded as having access to, and influence in, the world of good and evil spirits. Typically such people enter a trance state during a ritual, and practise divination and healing.

Synonyms: medicine man, medicine woman, healer, witch doctor, kahuna.

Shaman is a term that may harder to reconcile with Western practitioners, depending on their cultural and ethnic background. That is because it denotes a spiritual worldview that doesn’t easily slide into a Western mindset that is largely materialistic.

I hold an openness to shamanic practitioners and respect for the term, but personally I do not use it when talking about my own facilitation practice as it doesn’t match my experience. However, I wanted to include it here for brevity.

Therapist

1 a person skilled in a particular kind of therapy: a certified massage therapist
2 a person who treats psychological problems; a psychotherapist: cost is one factor keeping them from the therapist’s couch.

Psychedelic experiences are often described as ‘therapeutic’. They can be cathartic, release and process emotions, and give way to personal insights. So the overlap with therapy is an obvious one, and there is a clear line to the word therapist for someone who helps facilitate these experiences.

Another link is in listening. A talk therapist is often someone there who will listen to you. When we consider using psychedelics for healing, the ability for a facilitator is to listen is of paramount importance.

The most powerful way to heal someone is to listen. Don’t think or judge. Just listen. People start to heal the moment they feel heard. You can’t be a healer if you refuse to step outside of your own emotions and view things entirely from the perspective of the other person.

Space holder

1 “Holding space” means being physically, mentally, and emotionally present for someone. To listen, with full attention and focus, without judgment.
2 Being a witness, creating an energetic container, allowing another person to be in their experience, without impacting that experience.

There wasn’t a dicitonary definition for space holder, so this is a definition I created whilst diving into what I found written online on this topic.

For me the key theme here is that of non-judgemental presence. It also hints helping to create and maintain a conducive set and setting, as the ‘energetic container. This term sits somewhat counter to the term ‘guide’, as it suggests a more receptive, passive approach.

Facilitator

1 a person or thing that makes an action or process easy or easier: a true educator acts as a facilitator of learning | a programme run by trained facilitators.

2 someone or something that facilitates something especially : someone who helps to bring about an outcome (such as learning, productivity, or communication) by providing indirect or unobtrusive assistance, guidance, or supervision 

The word facilitator derives from the Latin facilis meaning ‘easy’. In it’s essence it means making the process for someone’s psychedelic experience easier, so this could entail all manner of things.

This could range from helping them to safely source mushrooms, to finding a place, to advising on a tripsitter, to preparation exercises, space holding, and integration. I personally like to use the term facilitator as I see it as very broad and flexible as it can encompass a wide range of roles and responsibilities.

Final Thoughts

So there we have it, six terms for psychedelic facilitators.

From guides and therapists to shamans and space holders, the terms we use can carry nuanced differences that shape the experiences we offer or seek. I hope that understanding these roles can help to engage more deeply with the principles of care, guidance, and support that should underpin any psychedelic journey.

As you venture further into the world of psychedelic facilitation, consider what each term evokes for you.

Which resonates with your personal ethos? 

Which align with your strengths?

Which align with the experiences you wish to offer or undergo? 

Whether you’re a seasoned guide or a curious newcomer, I hope this exploration serves as a catalyst for deeper understanding and a more fulfilling practice.

Stay safe, journey well.

John Robertson | Community Blogger at Chemical Collective | mapsofthemind.com

John is one of our community bloggers here at Chemical Collective. If you’re interested in joining our blogging team and getting paid to write about subjects you’re passionate about, please reach out to David via email at blog@chemical-collective.com

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Petr Halík
2 months ago

Good one

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