If I were forced to choose just one way of taking psychedelics for the rest of my life, I would think that was quite a cruel and torturous predicament to put a person in. However, after coming to terms with the fact, I would most likely choose a psychedelic therapy style session.
What is a Psychedelic Therapy Style Session?
What I call a psychedelic therapy style session basically borrows the session format from psychedelic therapy.
The core components of a session are:
- Medium to high dose
- Comfortable and controlled indoor setting
- Preselected playlist of music that lasts the duration of the drug effect
- Headphones and eye mask worn by the journeyer to help direct attention to the inner experience
This is broadly the method used to conduct the sessions in pretty much all of the groundbreaking psychedelic studies that you’ve probably heard about. It originated in the 50s with the pioneers of psychedelic therapy and is shared in influential books such as The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide and The Secret Chief Revealed.
Differences Between Research Studies and Psychedelic Therapy Style Sessions
Taking psychedelics in this style is not the same as doing a course of psychedelic therapy. This is why I use the term psychedelic therapy style session to make the distinction. What differentiates a psychedelic therapy style session from psychedelic therapy is that the therapy-style session does not inherently include any type of therapy before or after the trip itself.
Though the actual session might look the same, the whole package it is not, because merely doing the session does not contain the reflective and introspective aspect of therapy. This includes exploring biographical content, much like traditional therapy, beforehand, and discussing the experience afterwards.
It also does not cover the extra preparation that is built into most of these studies. For example, the volunteers in them are given basic training in awareness through guided meditations in their lead-up to the session. They are also given some basic prep on the drug effects, including what to expect in terms of subjective effects, and guidelines for navigating the experience.
DIY psychonauts hoping to emulate the wonderful effects and benefits reported from the research may miss out on many of these extra aspects. They may simply create psychedelic therapy style sessions, but gloss over all the extra prep, integration, and interpersonal support that is included.
How can modern psychonauts build in these extra functions?
I have written a post on how to prepare which includes awareness training and exploring biographical content which you can read here. What is not mentioned there is:
- Researching the subjective effects of your chosen psychedelic
- Beginning a course of therapy, ideally with a psychedelic-friendly therapist
Psychedelic therapy sessions are always conducted with a trained guide or tripsitter, someone there to offer interpersonal support throughout for the journeyer. One can hire a tripsitter, or have a friend look after them. I would advise caution when tripsitting for friends though.
It is also possible to journey solo and without the support of a tripsitter. However, I would only recommend solo journeys to experienced explorers, and certainly not first timers. That said, I’ve had nearly all of my most transformational trips alone. You can read more about why in the post I am a psychonaut. If you are planning to go ahead alone, it can be beneficial to receive some coaching from an experienced explorer.
Having interpersonal support after a session can be especially important in navigating challenging emotions that may emerge, and implementing enduring positive changes. In lieu of a therapist, a counsellor, holistic practitioner, or integration coach can be helpful.
Having some kind of community or support group can be very beneficial in this process. This could be in the form of a psychedelic integration circle or other support group, it could also be a church; even just a good friend to talk to can make a big difference. What is important is to have this support in place before the session so they are there for you when you need them.
I organise and conduct psychedelic therapy style sessions for myself multiple times a year, and I would probably say it is the most useful resource in my toolbox for personal growth. Of course, they do not stand in isolation: they are deepened and enriched by others tools such as a regular meditation practice, participation in growth oriented courses, workshops, and retreats, and more recently, work with a holistic coach. That said, they are the turbo charger for other processes.
If like me, you are not going to sit around and wait for governments to base their policy on evidence and make rational drug laws, then do your homework, prep well, and journey in style!