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How to Find Support for Integrating Psychedelic Experiences

integrate psychedelic experiences
in this article
  • Introduction
  • Finding a Suitable Therapist
  • Psychedelic Integration Circles
  • Seek Support Far and Wide
  • 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 Chemical Collective or any associated parties.

Introduction

There are many strategies that individuals employ during the process of psychedelic integration, which we can briefly define as making sense of one’s psychedelic experience(s) and/or turning those altered states into altered traits (applying the experience – and insights and wisdom contained therein – to one’s everyday reality). 

Psychedelic integration, however, might be framed as a purely individual pursuit: the idea that it is up to the individual, and them alone, to make the most of their ventures into psychedelic territory. Yet sometimes support is needed. And even if you don’t feel an urge or obvious reason to seek out the perspectives of others, doing so can be surprisingly illuminating and helpful.

So whether you feel you need to be supported after a psychedelic session or not, you may be wondering how and where you can find such support. After all, in most of the world, psychedelic compounds remain illegal (they sit in the most strictly controlled category of drugs), and stigma (while diminishing) still exists, which can make having open conversations about these experiences difficult. Furthermore, psychedelic integration is still a niche area of expertise among therapists, so finding a mental health professional who is both trained and non-judgemental with respect to psychedelics can be tricky as well. 

Nonetheless, there are multiple ways to find empathic support after a psychedelic experience, which can be useful if you’ve had an ambiguous, confusing, strange, or challenging experience, or if you largely had a glowing experience that you want to make sure carries over into the rest of your life.

Finding a Suitable Therapist

therapist interview

There is currently a psychedelic specialist therapist bottleneck, and for multiple reasons: there are not enough therapists in general; there are not enough therapists interested in psychedelics; and there is a lack of opportunities for therapists who are interested to gain and develop skills related to psychedelics (for instance, integration training itself has not been standardised and may not always be fit-for-purpose because integration itself is not clearly defined, and understanding what helps people after their trips is still a new area of research). 

In short, it may be challenging to find a therapist who is knowledgeable and adequately skilled in dealing with psychological material after profound psychedelic sessions. But this doesn’t mean suitable therapists aren’t out there, and if you know where to look, you may not have to spend too long finding someone who works for you. 

Firstly, a transpersonal therapist may be suitable because they are specifically trained to deal with integrating the spiritual and transcendent aspects of human experience, which are precisely the kinds of experiences one may have during a psychedelic journey. Transpersonal psychology is a humanistic approach to therapy, developed by American psychologist Abraham Maslow, which values wholeness – that is, the formation of an integrated self that brings together different aspects of our being (spiritual, social, intellectual, emotional, physical, and creative). 

Transpersonal psychologists and therapists have always respected the value of transcendent experiences, such as awe, because they take the individual beyond the ego and help meet the individual’s need for freedom, unity, and life fulfilment. Stanislav Grof is an example of a transpersonal psychologist who valued the potential of psychedelic experiences to help an individual achieve wholeness and overcome their personal issues and mental distress.

Because of the value placed on spiritual, ego-transcending experiences by transpersonal therapists, seeking out such a therapist after a psychedelic experience might be ideal. Nevertheless, you should be aware that just because a therapist is trained in transpersonal psychotherapy this does not guarantee that they will have an open attitude towards psychedelic experiences, given the fear and stigma surrounding these substances. You may actually find a therapist who adopts other psychotherapeutic approaches having a more non-judgemental attitude towards psychedelics. From the outset, before agreeing to start therapy with a particular practitioner, state clearly that you intend to discuss your personal experience with psychedelics and based on their response, you will know whether sessions with them will be suitable.

You may have better luck choosing a therapist or coach who specialises in psychedelic experiences and integration. Fortunately, there are now multiple directories that exist that can help you find an integration therapist (if you can’t find one who is local to you, often therapists will be able to have sessions with you over video call). 

Here are some resources to check out:

One of the main barriers to using a therapist or coach to help with psychedelic integration is cost, as you may require multiple sessions, in which case costs can really add up and prove to be unaffordable. But there are more cost-effective or free solutions, including integration circles.

Psychedelic Integration Circles

integration circle

An integration circle is a welcoming space in which individuals can share their experiences in a group setting. These integration groups may be peer-led, meaning the person facilitating the group is another psychedelic user but not a mental health professional or psychedelic guide or coach; but in other cases, the groups may indeed be led by the latter. For example, I have attended an integration circle run by the Maudsley Psychedelic Society, founded in 2015 by Dr Oliver Bashford and Dr James Rucker, the latter of whom leads the Psychoactive Trials Group at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London (KCL). 

Those who facilitate these integration meetings are therapists involved in KCL’s psychedelic trials, including Liam (Nadav) Modlin, Carolina Maggio, and Amy Durden. I found these meetings very helpful, but they are in-person only, and based only in one location (in south London). 

However, you can find psychedelic integration circles running (in-person and online) by searching ‘psychedelic integration’ on sites like Eventbrite and Meetup, as well as on Facebook, where some groups may organise such events. While not all of these groups will be led by trained therapists who have experience working in successful psychedelic trials, some are still facilitated by mental health professionals or psychedelic guides/coaches. Peer-led circles can also be just as helpful if the facilitator creates a space that is warm, welcoming, non-judgemental, and confidential. What matters most in an integration circle is not so much the training of the facilitator but the personal qualities they possess, the kind of environment they create, and the attitude that both you and others bring to the integration circle. 

You should be aware that while some of these integration circles are free to attend, others charge a fee or may be based on donations. In addition, it may be difficult to find an integration circle that you can attend on a regular basis (they might run monthly, for example). If you can’t find an integration circle that meets your needs, there is always the option of setting one up yourself or with others; you can do so on Meetup, Eventbrite, Facebook, or WhatsApp. Creating a group of like-minded individuals who are willing to support each other can be a way to ensure you have ongoing psychological help and empathic connection at a time (post-psychedelic session) when you feel you need it most.

Seek Support Far and Wide

friends and family

As well as finding an integration therapist/coach or psychedelic integration circle, another option is to simply open up to people close to you: family members, your partner, or your friends. It’s normal and understandable to be hesitant about doing so, however, because of psychedelic stigma and not wanting to have your experiences (which may be highly personal, meaningful, strange, and difficult to communicate) being misunderstood, judged, dismissed, or not properly heard. In the days following an intense psychedelic journey, you may be in a more sensitive state, and if you’re basking in the glow of a positive trip, or struggling after a distressing or even traumatic experience, receiving a negative response from someone about your experience will be the last thing you need. 

It’s important to only share your experience with others who you trust – certainly, this should be someone who is aware and accepting of your psychedelic use and, ideally, this person has had personal experience with psychedelics, which means they can be more empathetic about the things you’re talking about. Unfortunately, not everyone knows someone close to them who has an open-minded attitude about psychedelics or who has used them. Some psychonauts also live in communities or cultures that have very closed-minded and fearful opinions about what psychedelics are and what they do. 

Fortunately, though, there are plenty of online communities where you can find like-minded psychonauts, including many subreddits and forums like Bluelight, Shroomery, and DMT Nexus. And for those living in cities, it can be easier to find or create psychedelic-related groups, which can involve in-person and online meetups, giving you and others the space and freedom to talk about psychedelic experiences in a trusting and supportive atmosphere. Creating or joining a psychedelic-related WhatsApp group can be another opportunity to benefit from ongoing support after a psychedelic experience. 

Final Thoughts

integrate psychedelic experiences

As we have seen, barriers to finding support for psychedelic integration include supply, cost, stigma, and a lack of supportive connections. Some of these obstacles can be very difficult to overcome. But you can still try to ‘find the others’ – to quote Timothy Leary, meaning to seek out the seekers: those interested in experiencing life deeply and meaningfully) – and encounter people who can relate to your psychedelic experiences and your way of thinking. 

This isn’t to say that you will connect with every person who is into alternative living, spirituality, and psychedelics; in fact, many such people can feel completely unrelatable and out of step with your attitudes and beliefs. But by continuing to step out of your comfort zone and open up conversations about psychedelics, even if tactfully at first, you may end up meeting others who are easy to connect with and genuinely supportive. 

Sam Woolfe | Community Blogger at Chemical Collective | www.samwoolfe.com

Sam 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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Amit
5 months ago

I bet in most parts of the world substances are frowned upon and judged harshly, but change is happening.

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