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psychedelic therapy

After the popularity of my previous post, 6 Music Playlists for Psilocybin Journeys, I’ve decided to write a follow up with some tips on using these playlists in a psychedelic session. Below that, I’ve also included links and info for six more playlists from two creators.

How To Set Up Music for Psychedelic Sessions (+ 6 More Playlists for Psilocybin)

psychedelic therapy

Prepare to be Offline

Download the playlist so it is available for offline use. Then for the session, put your phone on flight mode.

If using your computer to play the tracks, close all applications other than the music player. If you need to leave anything open, make sure there are no applications other than the audio player that can make a noise (like dings from messages received or calls coming in. Like with a phone, I suggest downloading the playlist offline and then disconnecting from the wifi. If you have a mac, make sure your Facetime is disconnected and there won’t be any calls coming through.

I also recommend downloading 1-3 hours of pre/post session music so you have something to put on before/after and can be offline for the entire day. I have found it is nice to put on some music beforehand whilst preparing the space, to set the mood and begin the process of entering. It can be helpful to have a short period of silent meditation between setup and dosing to centre before the journey begins. Once everything is ready and you’ve checked in, you can start the playlist and take your dose. 

Sound Set up

Check and set your sound levels before the start of the session so it is ready to go. Check both loud and quiet sections of the playlist. Ideally the music should be at a comfortably loud volume at the loudest sections. It should not be overbearing or too strong, but loud enough to be immersive.

I would recommend high quality over ear headphones for immersion in the experience, especially if you are in a location where there might be background noise or distracting sounds. You might consider noise cancelling headphones.

If possible, have the music playing simultaneously through headphones and speakers from the same signal. This is a tip I picked up from Mendel Kaelen back in 2017 and still use to this day.  This allows for continuity of experience if/when the headphones are taken off and also allows the opportunity to remove the headphones if one prefers. 

Group Sessions

When in groups or with friends, decide the playlist together beforehand. For a group session, I advise having a quiet room. This means that if anyone has a very strong aversion to a track, they can leave the room for a bit. If you don’t have the possibility of a second room, you might all use your own pair headphones. Another option if using speakers would be making an agreement beforehand that anyone can veto any track at any time and it will be skipped forward without discussion. 

In the case of someone having a feeling of aversion to a track, I would suggest that they try to sit with it for a short time before leaving the room or requesting a skip. They can look at and explore the feeling of discomfort inside themselves that the track is provoking, and see if there is anything to learn from it. If the feeling persists and the track is unbearable, they can leave the room or use their veto.

Spotify Settings (or other audio player)

Make sure your play queue is cleared. 

Make sure the tracks will play in order and not on shuffle.

Check your audio player settings for how the tracks will transition. Decide if you want a fade between songs or a standard transition with one track fully ending before the next one beginning. On spotify you can find this in settings > playback.

If doing a manual sync with two or more devices, make sure the playback settings are the same on each device.

6 More Playlists For Psilocybin Sessions

Here are links to 6 more playlists for use with psilocybin with some info on them and their creators below.

1. Music For Mushrooms– East Forest
2. Inner Peace – Tommi
3. Trust – Tommi
4. Gratitude – Tommi
5. Release – Tommi
6. Opening – Tommi

East Forest

  • Music For Mushrooms: A Soundtrack for the Psychedelic Practitioner: Spotify

East Forest is an American musician who created this album live in underground ceremonies across the US. It’s a kinda neo ambient vibe with influences and instruments from world indigenous music. What I like about this as a soundtrack is its cohesion. Because this playlist is an album by one musician, it has the added bonus of it being curated as such and put together as an album specifically for mushrooms.

Its compositional shape guides, and is guided by, the arch of the experience.”
– East Forest

In this article, East Forest talks about how he feels the other therapy playlists out there miss the mark as they are compilations of lots of shorter tracks. By comparison, this album is just 13 tracks. Incidentally, East Forest is now one of the musicians working with Wavepaths, an organisation founded by Mendel Kaelen that is focused on creating music for psychedelic sessions.

I personally had a very beneficial session using this playlist for a medium dose journey last year. During the journey I was taken through people in my life, shown what I needed to say to them, able to appreciate recent personal achievements, and then given a directive on what I needed to do in my life (spoiler; it was clearing).

You can hear East Forest on the Psychedelics Today podcast here.

And, as an extra aside, Ram Dass was East Forest’s guru, and East Forest has used samples of his talks on his album, ‘Ram Dass’.

Tommi

Mysterious spotify user Tommi has created 5 playlists on different themes: gratitude, opening, release, trust, and inner peace.

They are generally a mix of styles and include ambient, neo classical, and classical music as well as more tribal and traditional music from distant cultures. 

Use of Silence

One thing that I really like about these playlists that is missing from the others is that Tommi has put short periods of silence into the playlists. I find these are good moments to re-centre and breathe during the journey, acting as ‘pit stops’. Interestingly, Mendel Kaelen inserted silence into the playlists on the original psilocybin studies at Imperial. Rather than Spotify playlists, they were actually mixed as one master audio file, with some tracks even faded out or mixed in to each other. These nuances and sections of silence were lost when it was converted to a Spotify playlist. So it is nice to see that Tommi has found a way to create a playlist with silence built in.

My Experience

I have tried Opening, Release and Trust and my sessions to these playlists have been very helpful.

I journeyed to Trust on the third and final psilocybin session of a 15 week course last year that was a study replica of a John Hopkins clinical study with psilocybin. The session was a beautiful rounding out to what turned out to be a somehow cohesive trilogy, and was one of the best psychedelic experiments I’ve ever done. During this final session I was able to grieve and cry in the first half, and as the cleansing section ended I was given a refreshed clarity and renewed inspiration, and a clear path forward. 

Tommi has also created banks of music based on different themes, so you can put together your own playlist too. You can find these on his Spotify user profile.

 





Do you know of any more good playlists for psychedelic journeys? If so, please get in contact!

Safe Journeys!

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headphones eye mask psychedelic therapy equipment

Music can play a huge role in psychedelic sessions and knowing how to use sound to shape and influence an experience is extremely valuable. If you’re looking for pre-made music playlists for a therapeutic psilocybin journey geared towards introspection and personal growth, welcome, you’re in the right place.

headphones eye mask psychedelic therapy equipment

Two key pieces of equipment for a standard therapeutic journey

This post has links to six playlists that have been made specifically for use with psilocybin (magic truffles or magic mushrooms) with a little info on each of them and their creators. 

Playlists:

1. Psychedelic Therapy Playlist 1 – Mendel Kaelen
2. Psychedelic Therapy Playlist 2 – Mendel Kaelen
3. Sacred Knowledge – Bill Richards
4. A Playlist For Psilocybin – Kelan Thomas
5. Psilocybin2 – Kelan Thomas
6. A Playlist For Psilocybin – Matthew Baldwin

About These Playlists

Phases

These playlists are specially designed so their the lengths are matched to that of a psilocybin journey and take into account the various stages of a trip such as onset, ascent, peak, return. There are variations on this depending on the creator of the playlist.

psychedelic music playlists phases journey baldwin therapy psilocybin beyond prague presentations

The phases of a psychedelic trip according to Bonny & Pahnke, the length of LSD is compressed 33% for psilocybin

Playlists are extremely useful in that you can press play after eating/drinking/ingesting your magical fungi and then not have to think about selecting music for the rest of the session – you just let it play out and ride the journey. Although exploring different types of music intuitively and in the moment can be great on psychedelics, having to get up and try to find suitable music can be very difficult on higher doses and detract from the experience.

Check out our recent article: How To Set Up Music for Psychedelic Sessions (+ 6 More Playlists)

Language

These playlists all contain music without words in English (bar a couple of reasoned exceptions); this is the general standard in psychedelic therapeutic work to avoid ‘hermeneutic contamination’, to use Matthew Baldwin’s phrase; ‘to discourage the rational mind from following the content of the words’, as Bill Richards puts it. There seems to be a general consensus in the field that understandable lyrics can be distracting and limit the experience.

Without further ado, let’s get into them.

Mendel Kaelen

Mendel Kaelen is probably the biggest name in the world when it comes to created playlists for psychedelic work (admittedly not the largest field, but still). A neuroscientist and music nerd, Kaelen created these playlists, which contain ambient and neo-classical music, for the groundbreaking psilocybin for depression study at Imperial College London.

mendel kaelen psychedelic science music

Kaelen presented at Psychedelic Science

Though they were created for the depression study, they can also work magic for non-depressed people too; I and many I know have journeyed to these amazing playlists, powerful stuff. The second one is an excellent playlist and would be my first recommendation.

You can read more about how he created these playlists in an article on Vice here.

Psychedelic Therapy Playlist 1 – Mendel Kaelen

Psychedelic Therapy Playlist 2 – Mendel Kaelen

Bill Richards

Bill Richards is a founding member of the Johns Hopkins psychedelic research team in the US and one of the most prominent names in the world when it comes to psilocybin research. His psychedelic psychotherapy research is wide ranging, from treating addiction to inducing mystical experiences, and Richards values music as a way to support a person’s experience.

“I make the best musical choices I can, trying to separate the ‘very good’ and the ‘excellent’ on the basis of years of experience with many different people”
Richards on compiling the playlist

There’s a lot of classical music in this playlist (Bach, Mozart, Vivaldi, Brahms) and a few tracks that I have to say are just inspired choices towards the end.

You can read more about Richard’s choices and how he compiled the playlist here.

Kelan Thomas

  • A Playlist For PsilocybinSpotify | Youtube (make sure there are no ads if listening through youtube)
  • Psilocybin2Spotify

I first heard of Kelan Thomas in an article about his first playlist and was excited to see Mogwai (awesome Scottish post rock) and Dirty Three (violin, guitar and drums together in rumbling, flowing rock) on there – familiar names I didn’t expect to see, as well as some other stuff that falls somewhere between ambient and post rock; one of my all time favourite genres that I’ve long wanted to make a psychedelic playlist to, feeling its epic and instrumental style would lend itself perfectly to cosmic journeys.

music concert

I tried the first playlist to a classic therapeutic style journey (setting intention beforehand, using eye mask and headphones, with a sitter) and had a beautiful journey, finding peace, contentment and joy on the journey and in the musical choices. I was moved in that I wanted to thank all the musicians who made the music on that playlist, and to Kelan himself for creating the playlist.

As it happened, a couple months later, whilst setting up a room at Insight conference in Berlin, I noticed the name tag on an early comer in the room – it was Kelan Thomas! I  told him I’d used his playlist and was able to thank him personally for putting it together before chatting a little about it and his choices; interestingly he described it as a ‘decolonising’ playlist in the world of psychedelic therapy.

He also told me he had made a second playlist which I could find on his spotify. I tried it recently and had one of my most beautifully expressive journeys to date. 

A Playlist For Psilocybin


Psilocybin 2

Matthew Baldwin

Matthew was a fellow student of Kelan Thomas in the Certificate in Psychedelic Therapies and Research Program at CIIS in San Francisco, and is clearly a scholar on the topic. He presented one of the talks I found most interesting at Beyond Psychedelics last year which you can watch here:
The Art Of Creating Musical Playlists For Psychedelic Work

music playlists psychedelic

Matthew presenting at Beyond Psychedelics 2018

Myself and co-retreat maker Tuk tried this playlist out during research for our retreats with New Moon and I was very surprised by a lot of the choices, this is certainly the most divergent of the playlist here on this list. This playlist emphasizes organic (instead of sequenced electronic) types of music.

Safe And Wondrous Journeys!

The relationship between music and how it affects consciousness and mood is something I find super interesting and consider creating playlists to be an art.  Do you have any tips? Personal preferences? Favourite music to use for a session? Would love to hear others thoughts on this. If you know of any playlists I’ve missed or have your own to contribute, leave a comment below.

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