art themed psychedelic sessions

When people contact me about taking psychedelics, most commonly its in the context of a therapy style session. When it comes introspection and personal growth, I do think this is the best approach.

However, as tools, psychedelics are versatile. They have many applications and there are many ways to use them. Another style of session in which they can be used is what I call a themed session.

What is a themed session?

A themed session is a psychedelically-fuelled exploration of a specific subject. 

The theme, or subject, is chosen in advance. The session is then directed, guided towards, and held on that theme, rather than being completely open ended.

The session is a deep dive into the chosen topic. By utilising the psychedelic states of mind that certain plants and substances allow us access to, the chosen topics can be explored in new ways.

Which substances can you use?

Themed psychedelic sessions can be used with both classic psychedelics, such as LSD or psilocybin, and non classics, such as MDMA, ketamine, and marijuana. Dosage is important, as always. Bear in mind that on higher doses, it can be hard to keep the train on the tracks of your chosen theme.

What themes can you use?

A theme could really be any topic or subject. This can include emotions, concepts, philosophies, ideas, or cultures.

The themes chosen might be related to something you are currently experiencing in your life and would like to gain a deeper understanding of. Or an interest of yours that you’d like to explore more deeply.

Some examples of themes:

  • jealousy, joy, anger
  • revenge, rejection, loneliness
  • family, creativity, revolution

As you can see, anything could potentially be a theme.

How to do a themed session

There is no strict definition to what a themed session is, and so there are infinite ways a one could be done. Be creative and create your own styles!

Here are some ideas and examples to get you started.

Preparing the setting

The preparation can be as complex or simple as you like. It can be done over the course of days, or set up quickly before the session.

To prepare for a themed session, you can gather materials related to your chosen topic. These can include wikipedia articles, pieces of visual art, quotes or poems, music, videos and films. For relevant materials from the internet, you can print them off or just have them easily accessible on your laptop. You might also include magazine cutouts or postcards, and you can also include personal possessions, such as souvenirs, gifts, or photos. 

Once you have your items, you can place them around the space as you like. This can be like creating a little museum, privately curated by yourself. Pretty fun. If you want to go next level, you could also decorate the room in some special way.

Preparing the Set

You might also read some articles or books on the theme in the lead up to the session. You could also listen to podcasts or watch related films. The more the topic has been turned over in your mind beforehand, the richer your exploration is likely to be.

Music

Once you have a topic in mind that you’d like to explore in a themed session, you can create a new playlist and add songs to it as you think of them. You can also search online or ask friends for suggestions. The music can be linked by its energy or vibe, or by its lyrical content. During the session itself you can read along to lyrics as you hear them. I find this a really fun way to enter into the artists’ world.

Explore

During the session, embody the explorer! Practice curiosity as you traverse the worlds of your chosen theme.

Investigate, inquire, examine. Be open to new interpretations. Follow trails where they lead.

You might explore thoughts that come up by brainstorming or talking out loud. You can explore emotions by feeling them in your body and giving them expression in some way. This could be by way of movement, sound or other means (e.g. dance, singing, doodling).

You can also set intentions based on the flavour you’d like your exploration to take e.g. playful, deep, light, joyful.

My Experience

Some examples of themed sessions I’ve done include ‘the loner’, revolution, and revenge.

For the revenge session, I was trying to understand my impulses for vengeance in a situation where I felt I’d been wronged. It helped to assuage difficult feelings and I also just found it really interesting. For the loner session, I was merging an exploration with a creative project. I was working on a song on the theme and used the session as a means of inspiration. I’ve found this way of combining exploring with creativity to be highly enjoyable. The exploration helps to dig in to a topic, and then the creative expression acts as a channel for whatever comes up. 

One themed session I would still like to do is ‘The Beatles Trip’. My idea is to journey through their story by listening to the all of their studio albums back to back in chronological order. I’d like to time it so the effects of a psychedelic are kicking in at the point in their discography when they are beginning their own psychedelic explorations, around the mark of Revolver, and peaking with Sgt Peppers and Magical Mystery Tour. Some weed should probably be smoked with Got To Get You Into My Life, Paul’s ode to the plant, and the day might be rounded off by snuggling down to watch a film or documentary about the fab four, such as Anthology. It might also be fun to dress up in Sgt Peppers style outfits. This is definitely one to do with friends 🙂

But what about you?

What subject would you like to dive in to?

I wish you a wonderful exploration!

psychedelic therapy style sessions

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.

psychedelic therapy style sessions

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 Explorers

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?

Preparation

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

Session

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.

Integration

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.

Final Thoughts

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!