By Pamela Peters, MFT Intern
While we at Road to Growth Counseling do not provide or condone the use of illegal substances, we understand that some people will ingest psychedelics outside of therapy and come away with “big” experiences that they would like support with, after the fact. Following are some thoughts on incorporating these experiences into your everyday life.
So you’ve had a transformative journey using psychedelics (psilocybin, iboga, MDMA, LSD, ayahuasca, mescaline, or DMT). Perhaps you traveled to Peru and drank ayahuasca with a shaman, or took LSD at a concert, or just had a nice afternoon with friends while ingesting some psilocybin mushrooms, or took a holotropic breathwork workshop. Now what? Some of these powerful substances have been around for millennia, yet many of us are just now discovering the power of these tools. Psychedelic journeys can be seen as major life transformations. They can be amazing, powerful, frightening, subtle, full of visuals, portals into new universes—and sometimes are all of the above.
Usually, the actual experience is only the beginning of a larger process. Once you’ve landed back on the ground, you might be confused or even frightened by what happened and looking to make some meaning of the journey. In order for the experience to not just fade away into the realm of forgotten dreams, you’ll want to take action in order to integrate the lessons of your journey into your daily life—this is called psychedelic integration.
A psychedelic experience can offer you deep wisdom that you didn’t know existed within you. Yet you may have a difficult time articulating in common language what that wisdom and those lessons are. Without doing some internal work during this integration phase to incorporate your newfound wisdom, you are at risk of bypassing and missing out on the good stuff that the experience brought up.
It might even be said that the integration phase of any psychedelic experience is the most important phase, because it helps you learn from, process, and heal from the experience while bringing the lessons into your daily life. Following are some ideas for integrating your psychedelic experience.
Writing down what happened, and what you think it means as close after experience as possible is a good way to attempt to capture the trip. Even if words seem inadequate to describe what you saw, felt, heard, smelled, and tasted, it is a common and powerful way to process the journey. It can make sense to write about the experience again after a few days and again after a few weeks just to see what else has come up over time.
Creating art can help you process your experience in a different way from language-confined journaling. Using color, form, texture, light and whatever medium you have on hand (crayons, paints, sharpies, clay, markers, and so on) can be an expansive and playful method to discover and process some of your experience. You can even combine the journaling with artwork to combine both processing techniques. Be as free and expressive as possible to get to the feelings and emotions that arose during the psychedelic experience. Some explorers even like to create art during a non-ordinary state. Looking back on that creation while in an ordinary state can give you clues about your unique lessons as well.
Use your favorite play list to inspire some movement-based somatic processing like dancing or yoga. Allow your body to interpret the event and any memory it has of the journey. Our bodies remember and process differently than our brains, so this type of integration may have you remembering totally different parts of the experience from any other written- and spoken-word integration.
Integration Support Group
Gathering with a small group of people who wish to work through their journeys together can be a supportive and helpful mode of integration. Although everyone’s experience will be different, finding the commonalities can help group participants feel more accepted and less anxious about any challenging aspects of their trip. It can also feel really good to connect and support others in their own journeys. Search online to find local or virtual support groups.
First it is important to state that psychedelic integration therapy does not involve ingesting legal or illegal psychedelic substances during a therapy session. That said, it can be supportive to sit with a therapist in a safe space to work through and explore this non-ordinary state with an eye to helping you incorporate the lessons.
The right therapist will be open-minded, have some direct experience with psychedelics as well as a curiosity for learning from your own inner healer, alongside of you—the client. If some of your experience was frightening, it can be especially helpful to have a trained expert by your side supporting you to experience your feelings and then let them go. For some reason you chose to experience your own psychedelic journey and even that intention can offer you insight into the actual journey and lessons learned. New experiences that come from psychedelic journeys may help you expand your perspective and make sense of the world in a new way.
Contact Road to Growth for a consult. If the relationship is a fit, we can help you with psychedelic integration therapy.