mushrooms high doses psychedelics

As I begin to get feedback from readers about what they would like to explore next on their psychedelic journey, one thing I’ve noticed is that quite a few people want to take higher doses. People are interested in experiences of ego dissolution or oneness. I understand this perspective because it’s something I would like to explore myself more too. Something myself and my readers have in common 🙂 

One of the problems with exploring high doses is that the experiences can be very intense and difficult to handle. This can make people apprehensive about doing it, especially on their own, which they might feel comfortable doing on lower doses. In this post I’d like to look at possible solutions to this problem.

Start low and go slow

One possible solution, which is a common piece of advice, is to start on low doses and slowly work your way up, increasing the dose that you take on each subsequent session.

This is a generally good tact, however, many of us don’t have the time or the inclination to be doing sessions that often to steadily work our way up. Maybe we only have the time to do a single high dose session once within the next year, and we want to be sure that one counts.

If that’s the case, and we only have one session planned, this isn’t much of a solution. In which case, there are a couple of other options.

Attend a retreat

One option is to attend a psychedelic retreat. Psychedelic retreats are typically run by experienced guides and offer a held space for people to explore higher doses and more intense experiences that they would not otherwise feel comfortable doing. I am a co-founder of one such retreat company, and I think it’s an excellent place for newcomers to have their first high dose psychedelic experience.

The context provides a structured container, a safe space and built-in preparation and integration. The level of support and information is as good as it’s going to get, and I would say it’s the best way for someone to have their first psychedelic experience; on site, with professionals. It’s also an excellent way for a beginner to learn about taking psychedelics.

For other, experienced users, it can be nice to try psychedelics in a different setting, and a group retreat context can add a different dimension to the experience for those who have mostly used psychedelics alone or with friends. Many people report that the group dimension is one of the most beneficial and healing aspects of the entire experience.

However, retreats are not always the most attractive, or especially these days, convenient option. Our retreat company has not actually been able to facilitate any retreats since the start of Corona, though we do hope to return next year. Retreats are also a more expensive option because of all the costs that go into organising and running them.

If you’ve already been on a retreat, you may want to explore psychedelic trips outside of that context, and without all the extra travel costs and logistical concerns involved. It may also be that you’ve not been on a retreat but already have some psychedelic experiences yourself and retreats don’t appeal to you right now. In this case, you may consider organising your own session.

Self-organised session

Journeying outside of a retreat setting will, likewise, be a different experience. Your own home or apartment might well be the most psychologically safe space for you, which would make it an excellent choice to go on a deep exploration. Other people may also like to explore tripping in natural environments. The most important thing when exploring high doses is to have a safe, comfortable and controlled environment, where journeyers are able to lie down.

The benefits of a sitter

If organising your own high dose session, it can be very beneficial to have a tripsitter or facilitator. Having a tripsitter can be reassuring and help ease feelings of anxiety and nervousness. Having one can help one approach the session feeling more comfortable, as they know someone will be there to watch over them and ensure their physical safety, and offer reassurance for them in any challenging moments. That kind of support can go a long way in a session. It might be as simple as a reminder that they are safe and what they are going through is a temporary experience. That though it may be challenging, it will pass.

Finding a sitter

The question is then about finding a tripsitter. With the current legal status of psychedelics, that is of course very difficult as you cannot just search people openly online and hire someone. In this case your options would be to see if there’s anyone you know who could do it. If going this route, the ideal candidate would be someone who has their own experience with plant medicines, and is generally able to hold space and has the attributes of a good sitter.

It might be a friend who already has some experience with psychedelics or a member of a local community. The most important thing is that you are able to trust them. If deciding to work with someone for the first time I would recommend that you spend at least a few hours talking with that person beforehand so you have some familiarity and basic level of relationship with them. You should feel open to sharing with them and its important for the sitter to have a non-judgemental stance. You also want to talk about more logistical things such as music, setting, and what kind of role the tripsitter will have. You might also want to come to some agreements, which can also be not as ground rules, for the session.

Exploring options

If a high dose experience is something you know that you would like to explore but are currently unable to, ask yourself what would it take for you to be able to do that. What would you need to do to accommodate that?

This might mean opening up to someone close to you about your intention, with an honest request for help in your endeavor. You needn’t necessarily ask someone to sit you as a favor, as that would be quite a big favor to ask. You might ask if they would consider it, and explain that you could do something for them in return. You could explain that it’s something you would really like to do and that you’d really appreciate it if they would consider doing that for you.

Do you know anyone who might be a possible person that you could talk to? What might you be able to do for them that would make it a win-win deal? You might even ask your friend that very question. Of course you can explain that there is no pressure and that you are just exploring your options, and if it doesn’t work out then no worries. 

Physical safety 

Unless you are using mushrooms, or have tested your substance, I would caution against going for high doses, just for the fact that you don’t know exactly what you are taking. Pure LSD is non toxic, meaning that you can’t physically overdose, but unless you have drug tested it, you can’t be sure. The same is true of ketamine and 2cb. If wanting to go for higher doses with them the only reasonable thing to do would be to make sure it is tested well for purity.

Ideally, you’d grow your own mushrooms, then you can be sure of their source. Then on higher doses, even if you think you’re dissolving or dying (a not uncommon experience), you can be reassured that you are not, and can go ahead and allow yourself to dissolve and surrender into that experience of (ego) death.

Private session in the Netherlands

If lack of a reliable source is a problem, an option that you might consider is traveling to the Netherlands. Psilocybin truffles are legal there, and easily bought in shops. If you take care of most of the logistics such as accommodation and food, you could hire a tripsitter privately. If traveling there for this kind of experience, you might decide to go for two sessions in a row stepping up your dose, going from a low dose on the first day to familiarize yourself with effects, and stepping up to a high dose on the second day. Personally I think this is a pretty solid approach for someone who doesn’t have any psychedelic experience but would like to try a high dose. 

Final thoughts

Last year I had one of my highest doses with psilocybin truffles. It was an incredible experience, and I was fortunate to be able to have a friend tripsit for me. I’m grateful that I was able to have that experience, but it’s not always so easy. I would like to have another high-dose experience but to be honest tripsitters are not so easy to come by and it’s not always that easy to just ask a friend to take out the whole day to look after you.

Until we have decriminalization or legalization, organising high dose sessions will continue to be a problem. If you have any solutions or things that you have found to help with this issue, I would love to hear from you. And otherwise I wish you best of luck, safe and wondrous journeys.

psychedelic psychotherapy book tripsitting guidelines

Good day, welcome to 4th PSYJuly! Today we have a post coming from my good friend Ekaterine Kobaladze. Me and Kat first met at a meditation circle a few years now and I’m pleased to share her piece on a topic which a couple of readers have recently told me that they’d like to learn more about: tripsitting. Here’s Kat…

Chapter Summary from Psychedelic Psychotherapy by R. Coleman

As a psychology student and an aspiring sitter, I found the book Psychedelic Psychotherapy by R. Coleman to be extremely informative and helpful. The book is packed with lots of practical advice for those who would like to offer tripsitting or have a psychedelic experience of their own.

In this post, I will be focusing on the specific chapter which offers important guidelines for prospective sitters. Below are the notes I have collected and organised from Chapter 6. 

Chapter 6: Guidelines for The Sitter

psychedelic psychotherapy book tripsitting guidelines

Keeping it safe

Your most important role as a sitter is to make sure the journeyer doesn’t hurt himself or damage anything within the setting. Be prepared to encounter possible anger release, for which you might need to provide props such as pillows or even a punching bag. In some cases, you may notice suicidal or injury-producing behavior such as hitting oneself or pulling one’s hair. You can prevent further self-harm by compassionately commenting something like, “you’ve been hurt already. Please don’t hurt yourself.” Reminding them to breathe deeply is always a good idea. 

Sexual boundaries

NEVER ALLOW ANYTHING SEXUAL TO HAPPEN BETWEEN THE JOURNEYER AND THE SITTER. 

It could be that the journeyer starts to act out their past sexual trauma. They might try to seduce you into participating in their sexual healing, however, make sure you don’t engage and gently remind them about the rule against any sexual interaction. You can point out their best qualities such as intelligence and courage in order to assure them that they are valued beyond their sexuality. You may say, “I admire these traits in you and hope you will come to see how valuable you are because of them.” 

On the other hand, appropriate and non-sexual touch such as holding a hand or hugging can be really beneficial to the journeyer. Make sure to always ask their permission before proceeding with any physical contact. In addition, beware that the initiated physical touch does not stem from your own needs. You must agree in advance that if the touch no longer feels comfortable to the journeyer you will stop it or modify it.  

Despite the strict sexual boundaries between you, the journeyer should feel safe exploring their own sexuality in a non-shaming and confidential setting. It should be welcomed to openly talk about sex and express one’s fantasies, even if they’re shameful. Getting naked, feeling one’s own genitals, and even masturbation should be accepted, as long as the latter falls within mutually agreed-upon boundaries. If you prefer, you may offer them a blanket to cover themselves, leave the room, or simply turn your back. It is also important for you to distinguish when the journeyer is masturbating in order to heal and not trying to avoid difficult feelings. In addition, refrain from expressing your own sexual beliefs or judgments. 

Presence

You will need to give your undivided attention and emotional support to the journeyer whose feelings and thoughts were neglected in childhood. You also need to be authentic and genuine, as the journeyer can notice false comments and dishonest behavior right away. Honor the times when the journeyer asks for privacy and space until they need you back. 

Focusing Coach

As a sitter, you need to be on the lookout to direct the journeyer away from intellectualizing, spacing out, or avoiding uncomfortable feelings. Beginner journeyers might need to be frequently reminded to let go of their intellectual need to know. They need to keep in mind that analyzing can be done after the journey has ended. Remind them that feeling, not thinking is the true guide on the journey. 

If the journeyer has a hard time surrendering to the experience and becomes fearful, you may offer them reassuring words such as “It’s okay, you’re safe. I’m here holding your hand.” Difficult parts of the journey will require you to remind the journeyer to breathe fully either by verbal reminders or by breathing out loud yourself. If you notice that the journeyer is spacing out, you can try to ground them by a form of physical contact such as a massage or bodywork. If the journeyer isn’t ready for physical touch, you can coach them to stretch, rub their hands and feet, or make any other movement that encourages the feeling of being in their body. If the journeyer starts to shake, thrash about, or spasm during a difficult part, you might want to reassure them that they are releasing negative stuff from their bodies. When guiding the journeyer, make sure you communicate with reminders and suggestions rather than commands.

Re-Parenting

The journeyers who were emotionally or physically neglected in childhood by their parents may spontaneously age-regress. Your embrace such as gentle back/belly rubs, hugs, and a foot massage can be very healing. However, remember to always ask the journeyer permission before initiating any of these forms of contact. In addition, having props such as a teddy bear, baby bottle, or a pacifier on hand might also be helpful in soothing such states. Offering reassuring comments such as “That must’ve really hurt.” “I’m so sad that happened to you. You didn’t deserve that” can also be very helpful.

Witness/Record Keeper

A sitter should try to record anything important that takes place. These include substances, dosages, and times when they are taken. Try to document your observations of significant activities, body movements, words, and anything else that may seem important. This information can help the journeyer make sense of their experience after the journey and draw meaningful insights from it. 

Deejay

Music has the power to encourage relaxation and induce emotions. It is recommended that the music playlist consists of mostly instrumental, ambient, and non-intrusive pieces. It can also include soft chanting, Kirtan, and trance-inducing drumming. It is good to discuss musical options beforehand as it could be that the journeyer prefers silence. 

Outside Contact

It is never a good idea to allow the journeyer to make a call, text, or go see someone in the middle of their journey. Try to talk them out of such behavior until they have reached the end of the experience. However, if there is a private backyard, natural settings, or isolated nature available, they can definitely benefit from exploring them. 

Primitive Behavior

Be prepared for some primitive behavior to come up such as screaming, thrashing, throwing up, unleashing rage, animalistic behavior, etc. The journeyers can easily detect if you’re freaked out and will perceive their behavior as something wrong. Show acceptance if something like that happens. 

Magnified Transference

Journeyer’s repressed memories can sometimes show up as transference hallucinations and be projected onto the sitter. They might believe that the sitter is judgmental, is angry with them, or doesn’t care about them. As a sitter, you should encourage sharing of these feelings and respond kindly. If the transference hallucinations take place, make sure you NEVER play the role of a perpetrator.  

Patience

Being a sitter is fascinating work but it can also be draining or boring. You will have to be present and attentive to the journeyer for 6-8 hours. You will need to listen, be attentive, and responsive. You might have to witness the journeyer’s emotional release, repetitive phrases, or silence. Be sure to remain compassionate and not interfere prematurely to try to induce something in the journeyer’s experience. 

Silence is Golden

As a sitter, you should avoid excessive talking. Your comments should be short and expressed in simple language. Refrain from, analyzing/interpreting or preaching. When in doubt, don’t say anything. 

The Sitter’s Pre-journey Briefing

To avoid unnecessary complications, it’s a good idea for the sitter to discuss rules and guidelines before the experience with the new journeyer. The following is the summary of the author’s sample directive:

  1. Every journey is different and there is no right way to do it. 
  2. Most profound healing happens beyond thoughts and words.
  3. Everyone has a unique healing path and I can not offer the universal treatment plan to you.
  4. It’s important you share it with me when I’m being too talkative, directive, or silent. 
  5. Unaddressed tension between us can really get in the way of a successful journey and it’s crucial you let me know if something I do or say annoys you or makes you feel uncomfortable.
  6. You do not need to report everything to me as talking might remove you from the experience. We can talk about important points after the session.
  7. Breathing plays a big role in the healing process so I will be persistent with returning your attention back to your breath.
  8. I will take care of your comfort needs as long as you let me know if you’re thirsty, too cold, too hot, etc.
  9. If the chosen music isn’t working for you let me know so I can change it or turn it off. 
  10. Boundaries on appropriate behavior:

Touch – I will never initiate a touch without asking first. Feel free to ask if you need to hold my hand. If you feel discomfort with my touch at any moment, let me know.

Sex – dealing with sexual feelings and matter is honorable but nothing sexual will ever be allowed between us. 

Anger – my boundaries include that you are not allowed to harm me or my stuff. Nevertheless, this is a safe space to release anger by screaming, punching a pillow, etc.

11. Sitter’s needs: I will need to eat, use the bathroom, or stretch at some point. I will be with you the entire time unless you need some time alone.

12.Whatever happens and is being said will be confidential.

13. On a high dose of psilocybin, you could sometimes feel like you’re going crazy or dying. Rest assured that this is a safe, transformational, and temporary process.

Conclusion

Holding space as a sitter can be very exciting but also nerve-racking when you’re just starting out. You might feel worried that you’re too incompetent or fear that you can’t manage to keep things under control. These concerns are completely valid and it is natural to feel anxious before offering your very first sitting. However, I believe that studying great books such as Psychedelic Psychotherapy can equip you with necessary practical knowledge for successfully navigating your first experience. Although the notes above can be very helpful, I highly recommend reading the chapter itself (and the entire book, if possible). It can be particularly useful for the sitters who want to learn more about dealing with the journeyers who have a history of trauma and abuse. 

tripsitting buddha

As psychedelics continue to gain popularity, there are more and more people beginning to offer their services as a tripsitter. At this point in history we are in a transitional phase where lots of people are using psychedelics, but there aren’t really any established structures and training programmes around to support safe use. 

As it stands, fully licensed, legally practising trip sitters are extremely rare. Outside of clinical research, on the whole, psychedelics are still illegal in most parts of the world. In the few cases where they are legal, there are no licences or recognised authorities to hand out qualifications in the country.

This means that almost anyone working as a tripsitter is unlicensed, and if they are not operating in a country or state where it is legal, underground. I have previously worked underground, and now fall into the category of an unlicensed tripsitter, though my tripsitting work takes place in the Netherlands, so it is legal. There are many people working in this same category of unlicensed but legal, and organisations like The Guild Of Guides are working to take care of this area. However, they will still not cover underground guides. 

Underground Guides

I know there are people currently practising underground who probably will continue to do so for a good few years to come. I have made my share of mistakes on my learning curve as a guide and I would like to share what I’ve found to be best practices. This article will cover some practices that I think all practising tripsitters should follow, but I especially hope that they will be of use to underground sitters. I believe this area of practice to be a larger cause for concern at this point in time due to the inherent isolation and secrecy of their work, which tends to result in a lack of accountability and open channels for feedback and critique.

Recommendations for Best Practices

Acquire Knowledge & Experience

The first thing is to learn, and gain both knowledge and experience, on two levels: firstly, personal experience, secondly, as a tripsitter.

Knowledge may come through reading books, taking courses, or finding a coach. Be studious. Do your research. Personal experience may come in many forms: organising sessions with friends, going on a retreat, working with a professional facilitator or psychedelic coach.

This is really about developing your own practice and learning about how to use psychedelics through first hand experience. Imagine you were seeking a ski instructor, if they didn’t have any knowledge and experience of skiing themselves, would you want them as your guide?

When it comes to tripsitting, again seek knowledge where you can. Read books (see recommendations at the bottom of this post) and become well versed in practices in different traditions and cultures of using psychedelics. You then might start by facilitating sessions for friends and family members. After that, you might volunteer at a retreat centre. 

The path I have followed has been along these lines. I had my own journeys, and began reading books on the topic, whilst slowly incorporating what I was reading into my practice. Along the way I organised sessions with friends, which developed into tripsitting people close to me, before reaching out and working at Myco Meditations in Jamaica. I first went there as a volunteer, eager to gain experience, and in due course I was offered a paid position. I continued to organise sessions with friends, and this expanded to tripsitting people in my community, before I decided to set up New Moon Psychedelic Retreats and took on a role as a lead facilitator. This dual approach of seeking knowledge and experience, exploring and experimenting, and steadily evolving my practice is the approach that I still use to this day. Most recently, pre-corona, I worked as a tripsitter on a Truffles Therapy retreat in late 2019, and in 2020 I underwent a course of psilocybin therapy as part of a replica of a study at Johns Hopkins.

Screen

A basic level of screening is the first step to sitting someone. Information that you should gather before moving forward includes: 

  • personal past or present mental health conditions (including depression, anxiety, psychosis, bipolar disorder, substance abuse, behavioural addictions, eating disorders and PTSD)
  • personal or family history of schizophrenia, psychosis, bipolar disorder, or any other psychotic disorder.
  • current medications 
  • the person’s history and experience with psychedelics and other psychoactive drugs.

Personal and family histories of mental health issues should be carefully considered when deciding who to tripsit for. Those with psychotic disorders are at an increased risk of a psychotic break triggered by psychedelics so do your research on this. In terms of medication, one must make sure there are no contraindications between their medication and the substance that the journeyer will be taking. Understanding a person’s personal history with substances will help to assess their readiness and calibrate dosage.

Acknowledge Your Limitations

When it comes to deciding who you will tripsit for and who you won’t, it is important to understand the limits of your training, experience and knowledge. For example, if you are not a medical professional, do not recommend someone to taper off their medication. They should consult with the doctor about this and make their plans clear.

Acknowledge your limitations and refer out as appropriate. 

If you are truly passionate about your path as a facilitator, then you should consider what knowledge, experience and qualifications you need to move forward and be able to competently tripsit for those people you want to, but aren’t yet fully equipped to do so. Professional qualifications are emerging fast within the psychedelic space, so there are plenty of opportunities for learning and improving your skills.

Until then, don’t accept dubious cases. If you aren’t sure, err on the side of caution. If you want to help that person move forward on their path, you can recommend them to work towards a state of readiness in the meantime. This could be directing them towards trying breathwork, attending a meditation retreat or course of meditation, partaking in a vision quest, or attending some other kind of spiritual or wellness retreat. Otherwise, you might refer them on to a more experienced practitioner.

Consent, Confidentiality, Follow Up

These are the three pillars for clinicians in the field, and due to the psychologically dismantling effects of psychedelics and the sensitivity of the human mind in these states, are just as important in informal practice.

Consent

The journeyer must understand and know that anything that happens within the session will be 100% consensual. This creates a safe space and enables them to engage more fully with the experience. Conversations and agreements about what happens in the session, the type and level of interaction between the sitter and tripper should be covered in the preparation stage. 

Confidentiality

Confidentiality is important to create a safe space for the session. Allowing the person to feel safe will mean that they are more able to let go during the experience and allow whatever needs to come up to come up. This is then going to enable them to have a more beneficial experience. 

This is something that is very easy to forget as an amateur practitioner. For this reason, it is very important to state to the person you are tripsitting that everything that they tell you and what happens within the session, as well as the preparation and follow up meetings, remains strictly confidential. Do not make exceptions to this rule. This should be stated explicitly at the first preparation meeting. Such a clear declaration will help to reinforce this to yourself too.

Even with friends or more casual acquaintances, I think confidentiality is an important principle to follow, and is a basic sign of respect for those you are serving. 

Follow Up

Because of the potential of psychedelics to dismantle psychological boundaries, they can be destabilizing and also increase the emotional sensitivity of participants in the days and weeks, and potentially even months afterwards. For this reason, checking in with people after their experience is important. Some people may require extra support, and again, may need referring to specialists in some cases. The MAPS list and psychedelic.support are two options for finding an integration provider.

If the person is a healthy functioning individual, the need for personalised follow-up may be reduced by making sure that the person has sufficient support in the event of some kind of emerging personal crisis. This should also be checked in the preparation phase. A useful question to ask someone is: if you had an emergency who would you go to help for? If you had to show up on someone’s doorstep in the middle of the night, who would that be?

A check should also be made about which other people know the person is undertaking the psychedelic trip. If you are the only person who knows, then it’s very possible that you are the only person that they feel comfortable speaking to about their experience and what is coming up afterwards. Ideally, they should already have a therapist, friends or community of people that know what they are doing. A psychedelic-friendly therapist is a great person for them to speak to and have the designated time and space to talk about and process their experience. Where this is not the case, an assessment should be made as to how much useful support they will be able to receive from their own network. With this in mind, you should consider what you will provide yourself.

Final Thoughts

When sitting for others the focus should be on care. This comes naturally when sitting for close friends or family members. It is essential, however, to maintain the same attitude if deciding to move into paid work. For this reason, I would recommend you to develop your practice slowly by moving outwards from self, to family, friends, community, and finally, paying journeyers. 

If deciding to pursue tripsitting as a professional vocation, one should avoid the tension between the legitimate need to earn a living, and the duty of care. For more on this see the talk linked at the end of the article.

For me it comes back to respecting the substances for the power that they hold. I believe a patient and grounded approach is the wisest course of action when it comes to working with psychedelics, both as a practitioner and a tripsitter. Move forward with caution and care.

Best wishes on your journey.

.

Recommended Books For the Aspiring Tripsitter:

Psychedelic Psychotherapy – R. Coleman | Goodreads
The Secret Chief Revealed – Myron Stolaroff | Goodreads
The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide – Jim Fadiman | Goodreads

Recommended Talk:
Charging Money For Ceremony – Jerónimo Mazarrasa | Beyond Psychedelics 2018

 

Read more on Maps of the Mind:

My approach as a psychedelic facilitator really depends on the person I am working with and our relationship.

I don’t have any kind of preset formula in terms of what I will do or how I will interact with the journeyer. What each person needs is different and totally depends on their circumstance and where they are at on their journey. I try to meet everyone where they are, and in this way, every session or ceremony is a co-creation between myself and the person I am with.

At a tripsitting workshop I went to a few years ago, I got introduced to the concept of Maai from martial art aikido, which is maintaining the correct distance from your opponent, and also called the ‘engagement distance’. This is something which is very relevant when tripsitting; with some people I will be very close, and with others I will leave a lot of space. My actions are based on what I feel that person needs.

It may be that it is called for me to hold someone whilst they cry, hold their hand, or maintain their gaze for a time during the session. During one session, I held the journeyers’ hand throughout the entire journey (they even asked me to accompany them to the bathroom — I respectfully averted my eyes, of course).

In other situations, it may be that what is called for is simply a stable and steady presence in the room and to give the journeyer space. I have been a facilitator in group ceremonies where I’ve had basically zero interaction, not even looking at the group. In this situation I am there to hold space. During what can be at times a wild, crazy, and frightening experience, a strong, still presence can offer a sense of reassurance and, on a subtle level, an understanding that everything is under control. A still and grounded presence can be of great support and a lot can be said for a calm presence.

Of course, it is not one way or the other. Close, intimate interaction can change throughout the session and can give way to distance and space when needed. Sometimes I will simply sit beside someone. Sometimes I might place a hand on their shoulder to reassure them or to help bring them back to a somatic experience of their body.

At times, it may be that I speak with the journeyer for varying purposes. It may be to reassure them and help them feel safe, or it may be using the interaction as a means to explore their world with them. This could be by asking questions to help direct their attention in certain ways to help them go deeper into their experience, or to offer a different angle.

Though sessions can look very different, one thing that is consistent and that I do every time is to meditate on loving kindness. This helps me to stay connected to those feelings and for my actions to come from that place.

The session itself and the relationship between myself and the journeyer is a continually evolving and living thing. I will always speak with the journeyer beforehand about our interaction and the level of touch they are comfortable with, but I also make it clear that this is not fixed. In therapy, often the biggest part of the healing process is that of the relationship between the therapist and the patient, and likewise this can be said of that between the journeyer and the guide.

During the session, if someone then feels like they actually would like a hand to hold or a hug, then of course I am there. Conversely, they may feel like they would prefer to be left alone and would like some space. I will always honor them and their needs. This type of ongoing communication is a key aspect, and requires me to stay malleable and open to whatever may arise. Indeed, someone asking for help and receiving it, or setting a boundary and having it respected, can be a very empowering and healing thing itself within the session.

Intuition plays such a large role in tripsitting and effective facilitation is truly an art. Though certain knowledge is useful, it is not something that could be written up as a set of rules like: sit quietly and still, hold a hand if they start breathing heavily, hug them if they start crying.

I try to assess the needs of the session by feeling and intuiting on a moment-to-moment basis. Presence is important in this aspect and this is why a key part of my ongoing development as a facilitator is my meditation practice. As well as a training to develop my presence, another part of my meditation practice is to go into feelings. I find that this part helps to evolve how I tap into intuition. In other words, to get out of my own way and out of my head. There may be times when the voice of the ego or doubt comes up and this is where discernment is needed, to see what is needed to be done rather than what I want to do. This is certainly not something I have mastered by any means; I am a continuing student in this process. Indeed, the more that I learn, the more I realise there is to learn.

Working with people as a facilitator is an honour and of all the things that I do, it requires the most of me. A session or ceremony for me is like a cup final. I feel that I need to be as close as I can to my A game and in the best condition I can be. Nothing else I do requires the same level of care or presence. It is humbling to have such trust placed in me and of all my work, sitting is the thing I take most seriously. It is the moments that I have the most direct impact on people’s lives.

The psychedelic experience is an inherently wild entity and it is useful in to have a strong and steady container to contain such a thing. Having certain strict confines for a session can help to promote feelings of safety and security. This in turn will help a journeyer to relax more deeply and navigate their journey more effectively.

Part of a container can be the structure, and part of this can be agreements between journeyers and guides. Agreements may differ depending on the intention of the session and who you are doing it with. For example, if you are doing a group journey with friends, agreements will probably be more relaxed than those of a 1-1 session with a hired guide.

Leo Zeff’s Agreements

Leo Zeff was a pioneer of psychedelic therapy and the subject of the book The Secret Chief Revealed. In this book, he shares five agreements that he had with all of his patients:

1. They will not leave the house where we’re having the trip at any time during the trip without prior clearance from me.

 

2. They agree that there will be no physical harm or violence to themselves or to me or to anything else in the house.

 

3. Reiteration of the security requirement. They agree they will not reveal to anybody else where and with whom they had this trip without prior clearance from me, ever.

 

4. I ask them to agree—now if this is a woman or somebody gay—I ask them to agree that there will be no sex taking place between us. I’ll explain the background for these agreements in a minute.

 

5. The last one I ask them to agree is that at any time during the trip if anything is going on and I tell them to stop it, stop doing it, and I make clear, “This is under structure; it’s not just a recommendation or suggestion,” they agree that they will stop it. Or if I tell them to do something and I make clear it’s under structure they agree that they will do it.”

You might also have other agreements or rules in place to contain the experience, such as the journeyer turning their phone off and handing it to you for safekeeping until the day after.

It can be good to say them out loud and have an express verbal agreement before the start of the session, or in certain circumstances it may be appropriate to have certain agreements written down on a piece of paper and signed.

If you are working as a guide, it is good practice to have agreements in place so that your journeyer can rest assured that certain boundaries will not be crossed, helping to create an emotionally safe space for the session.

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You can The Secret Chief Revealed available as a pdf on the MAPS website here and read more about the agreements and Zeff. Tam Integration also wrote a piece about Zeff’s agreements you can find here.