Posts

psilocybin magic truffles microdose scales

Taking drugs is widely considered a cool and badass thing to do. Wild, crazy, indulgent, rock’n’roll. Certainly not something that should be done in a nerdy way. But, (and thats a big ass but) I would like to tell you why taking drugs like a nerd is actually a very good, nay, a great, worthwhile, and even honourable thing to do.

I will present my argument in two parts:

  1. What it means to ‘Take Drugs Like a Nerd’
  2. Outcomes of Taking Drugs Like a Nerd

Los geht’s!

What It Means To Take Drugs Like A Nerd

In the simplest terms, it means honouring your inner research scientist. Donning a metaphorical lab coat and experimenting with your mind and experience through the means of first person large scale bioassay. 

Here is what it means in more concrete terms:

  • Taking them in a comfortable and controlled environment
    i.e. at home (as opposed to a party, club or festival), being very selective of company, wearing comfortable clothes.
  • Being well prepared
    Coming to the session fed, rested and generally in a good mood.
    E.g. having a healthy, light meal approx 2 hours before an MDMA roll.
    Having basic cosy-time-at-home supplies ready to hand.
    See: A Simple Checklist for Psychedelic Therapy Sessions At Home
  • Taking a well considered and accurately measured dose
    That means using a set of scales, rather than eye balling it. And choosing the dose based on what you are looking for from the experience.
  • Following a set procedure for ingestion
    AKA taking the drugs in a particular and conscious way
    E.g. putting on certain music and stating out loud your aim (much as toasting a “cheers” is a way of expressing good intentions before drinking)
  • Logging and tracking ingestions
    Making a note every time you consume, including substance, quantity, route of administration, and time of ingestion.
  • Taking notes on inner experience
    Occasionally writing down your thoughts and feelings as they come to you, with timestamps.
  • Not mixing with booze or continually boosting
    Not taking more doses to increase or extend the high through the night.
  • Having certain rules for the session
    Such as no breaking things or calling exes.
  • Doing a simple evaluation the next day
    To improve the future sessions. Evaluation on how the session was conducted rather than the introspective content. Can be done using a simple WWW-EBI-AN structure (what went well, even better if, additional notes).
  • Filing your records of experiences and evaluations
    This will be useful for integration work.

Outcomes of Taking Drugs Like A Nerd

A More Comfortable Experience

Drugs by their nature change the landscape of our reality. Via physiological and neurochemical manipulation, they change our perceptions, feelings, and ultimately our experience of being a human in the world. To varying degrees, depending on the substance and the dose,  they can trigger quite radical and rapid shifts.

At its best, this can be exciting and awe inspiring, but at its worst, overwhelming and extremely uncomfortable.

Taking drugs like a nerd helps to counter the possibility of negative outcomes that can sour an experience and make it not only less enjoyable, but even have long lasting negative consequences.

Increased Access To Insight

Ah insight, that juicy stuff that helps us gain deeper understanding. Deeper understanding of ourselves, others and the realities we live in. Why is insight a good thing? It can help us to navigate the journey of our lives, make better decisions, be better people, and have a deeper sense of appreciation for the richness and complexity of the great mystery of the universe.

Improving How You Take Drugs

The notes you’ve taken and evaluation will help you refine your protocol and how you use drugs. You’ll glean useful info on things like how long it takes the drugs to hit you and how different doses effect you. Over time you’ll also notice patterns on how your sessions vary with different kinds of music, company and activities.

Being Responsible

Taking care when taking drugs means taking responsibility for your own safety and wellbeing. Family and friends who know about your hobby don’t need to worry about your safety, and neither do you. By doing geeky things like time stamping ingestions, you won’t prematurely take a booster and end up overdosing. You also won’t end up in hospital and place extra strain on the health service of your country.

Minimise Damage and Disruption

Being nerdy and so controlled about taking drugs means that occurrences like knocking things like glasses or lamps over are less frequent. It could also be that someone is hyped up and decides it would be fun or somehow necessary to smash or destroy things. (I mean tbh, it is fun, but dealing with the consequences isn’t). If you think that sounds crazy, well, powerful mild altering substances are crazy. Tao Lin deciding to smash his laptop whilst on shrooms because he felt the evil of technology (documented in his book Trip) is a perfect example which springs to mind.

Geeky drug taking can also mean minimising disruption to your non-drug taking self. To illustrate, lets begin with a typical day-after scenario of a Saturday night MDMA sesh.

You wake up tired and groggy late in the day, still dressed in the now smelly clothes from the night before and in desperate need of a shower. You instinctively know that you’re not only running behind and missing one of your precious days off, but at a distance that you can’t make up. You also have the added bonus annoyance of figuring out how the hell you’re going to resync your sleep schedule so you don’t feel like total shit at work on Monday.

Let’s contrast this with the end of a nerdy session and the day after.

After having enjoyed the wonders and magic of your chosen substance, the effects begin to subside and you land gently, helping your body to recover with a nutritious meal that you’ve already prepared. You put on a JJ Cale album to listen to whilst you clear up your space and then run a nice warm bath. Finally, upon leaving the tub, you stick on a movie to snuggle down to as you drift off to sleep. Boom, you wake up the next day refreshed with a cheeky and knowing inner wink. You can enjoy a leisurely brunch and coffee in the sunshine whilst you consider your plans for the Sunday. Life is difficult as you have two equally good options of catching up with a friend or sticking on an episode of Midnight Gospel.

Depending on your substance, dosage and length of session, you may even be fit to go to work the next day. Imagine that, the joys of drugs on a weeknight with no negative consequences. It’s a beautiful thing 😉

Social Progress

Geeky drug taking is geared towards self betterment and becoming a more connected and healthier individual. And healthy not in spite of fact that you use drugs, but actually because you do.

By being a responsible consumer of drugs you are contributing to changing the cultural and public perception of a drug user. Through your example, friends and acquaintances’ image of a drug user will begin to shift from that of a reckless and unhealthy burden on society to that of a thoughtful and responsible, well-functioning individual . Through your example, you will gently tug at the thread of the negative and deeply ingrained culturally conditioned stereotype. Through your nerdiness, arguments for decriminalisation and legalisation become stronger and we will get closer to sensible drug policy. Legalisation would mean easy access to quality controlled drugs – yes, imagine that.

Take Drugs Like A Nerd… With Me!

I’ve been taking drugs like a nerd since 2011 and it is my no.1 tool for personal growth. I believe it could be the same for many others and enjoy sharing knowledge and offering guidance on how to best utilise these incredible tools.

If you’d like to receive coaching on the topic or arrange a private session with me, contact me to set up a call. If you’d like to join a group retreat, you can do so through New Moon Psychedelic Retreats.

Be safe, explore well!

trip home session checklist

The headphones/eye-mask direct-your-attention–inwards whilst–listening–to–a–playlist–of–music method for psilocybin sessions is the standard in psychedelic research but becoming increasingly popular outside of clinical studies too.

Looking for music for your next experience? See my post: 6 Music Playlists For Psilocybin Journeys
headphones eye mask psychedelic therapy equipment

Two key pieces of equipment for a standard therapeutic journey

Whilst this is certainly not the only way of having a fruitful psychedelic session, it is an excellent one and one that I myself use regularly. It is also the basis for how we conduct our psilocybin truffle ceremonies with New Moon Psychedelic Retreats in the Netherlands.

However, with COVID-19 bringing our retreats to a screeching halt, I’ve realised that if I’m to continue my mission of increasing access to psychedelic experiences, I need to get back to handing over the tools and techniques needed for them out to the world through that incredible medium whose potentialities and capabilities are now being rediscovered and ever expanded; the internet. So, expect a rekindling of this site and a growing database of resources coming your way whilst retreat work takes a back seat.

trip home session checklist

Today, I’ll share a simple checklist for things you’ll need to have ready for a psychedelic therapy session at home. I use this list myself every time I do a session, so you know it’s good to go 😉

If you’re new to psychedelics, Tripsafe’s How To Take Shrooms is worth your attention.

Use wisely, be safe, don’t break the law, and all the other usual disclaimers and warnings.

I wish you the best on your journey.

Simple Home Session Checklist

The material

Water (2x bottles)

Snacks (Fruits, nuts, chocolate)

Notepad & pen

Tissues / handkerchief

Headphones (charged if wireless and/or noise cancelling)

Charged music player with music/playlists downloaded offline and ready

Eye mask

Extra blankets/sleeping bag ready

☐ Vomit bucket

Food/meal for afterwards

.

Printable PDF version available for download here (Follow link then click download button towards the top right)

tips advice psychedelic integration providers

If you are a psychedelic integration coach, provider or just interested in becoming one, this piece is to highlight 5 key points when providing services and helping others with their integration process. 

If integration is a new term to you, start here:

Here are the contents, I’ll expand on each point below.

  1. Understand What You Are Practicing
  2. Manage Expectations
  3. Don’t Be The Arbiter Of Truth
  4. Don’t Assume (You’ve Had The Same Experience)
  5. Seek Continued Development

Credits

Before beginning, I’d like to acknowledge that this piece is pulled from my notes from workshops, webinars and presentations on the topic. Primarily, from an excellent webinar on integration hosted by MAPS last summer which featured two people I consider leaders in the field: Marc Aixalà, and Ingmar Gorman. Some is also taken from a workshop with Ingmar at Insight Conference in Berlin last year. You can find out more about them at the bottom of this post.

Alright, let’s get into it!

1. Understand What You Are Practicing

Integration is a broad term and will look very different depending on a person’s needs. One factor in determining a person’s needs is when you see them in relation to their psychedelic experience.

ingmar psychedelic integration scale

In this scale from Ingmar, we see that there is the post acute psychedelic effect on the left end, and long term psychotherapy on the right.

The post acute psychedelic effect on the far left would be the hours and days directly following an experience, sometimes known as the ‘afterglow’ period, where as on the far right it would be a long term and ongoing therapeutic relationship. 

Working on a psychedelic retreat where you are with people directly after their experience, for example, will be on the far left of the scale. If you are conducting a follow up call two weeks later, you will be closer to the middle. If you are working with someone in an ongoing process over many months and years, you will be on the right side. 

Another factor to consider is how a person is doing following the experience: did it bring difficulties or benefits?

marc psychedelic integration scale

On this scale from Marc, we see the different ideas of what could constitute integration, from dealing with undesired effects (e.g. emergence of repressed traumatic memories) to maximising benefits (e.g. greater sense of peace, connectedness, more mental clarity).

Working on the left end of the scale requires more specialisation and looks more like a clinical practice, whereas further to the right could look more like coaching.

Knowing where you are practicing on these scales should inform your approach and help you to know what you are capable of doing. For example, for a therapist, empathy alone is not sufficient; a capacity to recognise what is happening with transference and countertransference and how to respond to that, is also necessary.

Although they can be combined, integration and psychotherapy could be very different processes, so be clear about which you are doing. Acknowledge your level of expertise and limitations, and be ready to refer when helping someone effectively is outside of your scope.

2. Manage Expectations

Psychedelics are getting hyped. Retreats are the new trend. Trips are the latest ‘cure all’. Stories of seemingly overnight change in the media are backed by incredible results from clinical studies.

A desire for fast change is fed by our cultural leanings to quick fixes and instant gratification and the idea of a ‘magic bullet’ is very appealing and draws many people to psychedelics.

Coming back to reality after a ceremony or retreat, and the realistic pace of change, can bring a surprising realisation that there is continued work to be done. 

The non-linear rate of improvement after an experience can fall short of people’s expectations, and this can lead to disappointment and frustration.

non linear progress integration

Falling back into old ways, as often happens on a path of growth, can also bring a sense of failure.

Handling these challenges can be handled well by managing expectations and bringing them to a realistic level.

Of course, hope is an important factor in the process.

So how does one manage expectations whilst maintaining a sense of hope?

It is very useful to first try to understand, what is their expectation of the outcome?

If expectations are high, then balance bringing them to a more realistic level with keeping a sense of optimism and hope.

10 Years of Therapy Insight

It’s often heard that psychedelic sessions are ‘like 10 years of therapy’ or ’10 years of transformation’. Sat next to me at Ingmar’s workshop in Berlin, Marlene Rupp of the excellent Sapiensoup put it perfectly in more real terms: ’10 years of insight’.

See Marlene’s talk at Beyond Psychedelics here:
How To Start A Psychedelic Integration Circle

Insight isn’t worth much until it is realised and actualised in the world; when it is integrated. There is a big difference between understanding a profound truth and embodying it. We could all read a quote from a text or book, but getting to the place of living in accordance with that wisdom is something else. This takes time and effort, something useful to recall in managing expectations.

A useful way of putting it that Marc shared is:

You will have an experience.
That experience can be very useful,
if you do something with it.”

3. Don’t Be The Arbiter Of Truth

It can be the case that a repressed or traumatic memory is recovered during a psychedelic session. For example, abuse from a family member.

In this scenario, the person who has experienced or re-experienced the memory may ask you if it is true, if it really happened.

Even if they don’t say it in words, they may in one way or another be fishing for a confirmation on the validity of their memory.

When it comes to recovered memories, the advice is simple: if you are in any way asked about their validity, do not confirm one way or the other.

The only correct answer you can give is ‘I don’t know’. A false confirmation one way or the other can have seriously negative consequences.

Worth mentioning here is Elizabeth Loftus and her groundbreaking work on false memories, including recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse – very interesting stuff for those inclined.

 

In general, be very careful when interpreting others’ experiences. This leads us nicely on to…

4. Don’t Assume (You’ve Had The Same Experience)

Someone comes to you who has recently had deep and powerful mushroom trip. Perfect, you’ve had many deep and powerful mushroom trips so you know exactly what they’re going through.

Not so fast.

Just because you’ve consumed the same substance as someone else, be it ayahuasca, truffles, acid or any other, it doesn’t mean that you’ve had the same experience. It doesn’t mean they were even remotely similar.

No matter how many similarities there may be, you can’t assume you’ve had the same experience. The width and variety of psychedelic (and life) experience should never be underestimated.

four agreements don miguel ruiz assumptions

That Don Miguel was on to something

Now of course, there can be similarities (and if so, great, because then your experience and learnings will be more easily translated to the other person). But if there are, then try to uncover them with non-directive questioning and patient listening, rather than assuming them from the start and then reaching them skewed by confirmation bias.

When it comes to asking questions, I personally try to take the approach of a non-judgemental exploration characterised by curiosity – seeing the interaction as a means to explore the person’s inner world alongside them. Rather than knowing and leading, trying to go deeper and uncover more.

As an integration coach, it isn’t necessary to share about your own personal psychedelic experiences. After all, this isn’t about you. What is more important is that you let them know that you understand the challenges they are facing.

Be A Good Listener

On this point I think it’s useful to emphasize the importance of being a good listener. 

“There are three things you can do to help someone. The first is to listen. The second is to listen. The third is to listen some more.”

When you find yourself talking, WAIT.
That is, remember the acronym:
W. A. I. T.
Why Am I Talking?

wait acronym psychedelic therapy ingmar integration workshop

From Ingmar’s workshop at Insight Conference 2019

5. Seek Continued Development

Continued and sustained effort is fundamental to becoming great at anything. As Goenka would say; diligence, patience, and persistence.

dhamma dipa vipassana

As I’ve mentioned before, I believe the best way to learn comes from a combination of both study and practice, so read plenty, and seek practice where you can.

However, this final point is a more tricky one. As psychedelic integration is a nascent field, there aren’t really any obvious ways to go about further development. By contrast, if you want to become a psychotherapist, for example, there are some pretty clear roadmaps to do so. How to become an integration provider on the other hand, isn’t so clear.

Globally, our only long standing traditions around using psychedelics have survived through indigenous cultures – e.g. Native American Indians, Amazonian tribes – where practice has never been totally discontinued and knowledge around practices has been passed down through ancestral lineage.

Because of the preservation of practices in those cultures, experiences are naturally integrated in to their communities. For this reason, they don’t really have models for integration that are applicable to us in the West. Here, psychedelics have only recently begun to emerge as a tool for awareness, growth and therapeutic application, and as such are not integrated in our society.

Though we currently lack these systems, they are on the way. In the meantime, seek education and practice where you can; go to workshops, start a circle, learn in related areas e.g. breathwork, mindfulness, support group and community building. Marc gave a couple hints: become a good listener, and become a good therapist in whatever school you’re comfortable in.

You can find some useful and related resources in this post:

I’ll revisit this topic in the future so if you’d like to be kept up to date on future posts, follow me on facebook or twitter, (I am working on fixing the mailing list!).

If you have any further tips, resources, or ideas, feel free to get in contact, either by leaving a comment below or contacting me directly.

Thanks for reading and have a great day.

.

Resources & Credit:

As promised above, here is more information on Marc and Ingmar. I’ve been lucky enough to attend in person workshops with both, a tripsitting workshop in 2017 by Marc in Copenhagen and an integration one with Ingmar last year in my home city of Berlin. They both have a lot of experience in the field and I’d recommend both as good sources of information. 

Marc Aixalà is an engineer, psychologist, psychotherapist and certified Holotropic Breathwork facilitator, specialized in supporting people who face challenging situations after experiencing non-ordinary states of consciousness. He coordinates support and integration services at ICEERS. You can find out more about ICEERS here.

Ingmar Gorman is a psychologist who specializes in assisting populations who have had experiences with psychedelics and other psychoactive compounds. He is director of the Psychedelic Education and Continuing Care Program, and co-founder of Fluence.

buddha statue forest

What makes a good tripsitter? Is it being caring and kind? Or is it more important for a psychedelic guide to be knowledgable and trustworthy? Today I will introduce and look at others’ work on the topic, drawing from 6 resources, and finish with a few thoughts of my own. This will be a broad overview rather than an in depth exploration, and I hope that you’ll be stimulated and inspired to learn more.

John Hopkins Psilocybin Study

Two tripsitters and a journeyer in a research setting at Johns Hopkins.

The resources featured in this post:

1. Six Competencies Of A Psychedelic Therapist – Janis Phelps
2. Suggestions For The Guide – The Guild Of Guides
3. The Psychedelic Experience – Leary, Metzner, Alpert
4. Manual For Psychedelic Guides – Mark Haden
5. LSD Psychotherapy – Stanislav Grof
6. Tripsitting Workshop – Marc Aixala

Use Of Terms | Guide Vs. Facilitator Vs. Therapist
A small clarification before I begin. The title of this post uses the word guide and this term is often used interchangeably with facilitator, space holder, tripsitter and even therapist. With the field of psychedelic therapy growing, the word therapist is being used increasingly and there is dispute about how and when it can or should be used. While the role of a psychedelic facilitator can be very different to that of a clinical therapist, I’m not going to explore that difference today – that’s another post for another day. This piece is to stimulate ideas and develop discussion.

OK so let’s take a look.

Six Competencies Of A Psychedelic Therapist – Janis Phelps

Janis Phelps Psychedelic Therapist

Janis Phelps is a clinical psychologist and the founder and director of the Center for Psychedelic Therapies and Research at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS). In her paper Developing Guidelines and Competencies for the Training of Psychedelic Therapists (Journal Of Humanistic Psychology, 2017), Janis Phelps outlines six competencies:

1: Empathetic Abiding Presence
2: Trust Enhancement
3: Spiritual Intelligence
4: Knowledge of the Physical and Psychological Effects of Psychedelics
5: Therapist Self-Awareness and Ethical Integrity
6: Proficiency in Complementary Techniques

This paper is an excellent resource and must read for any psychedelic therapist in training. You can read the paper online here:
Developing Guidelines and Competencies for the Training of Psychedelic Therapists

Janis Phelps Psychedelic Therapist skills guide

You can also watch her talk on youtube:
Training The Next Generation Of Psychedelic Therapists

Suggestions For The Guide – The Guild Of Guides

Early on in James Fadiman’s classic book, The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide, there is a section attributed to The Guild Of Guides titled Suggestions For The Guide.

fadiman psychedelic explorers guide cover

It states the essential prerequisites are:

  • Compassion

  • Intuition

  • Loving kindness

In addition to those qualities, it is valuable to have basic knowledge in:

  • the range of possible effects
  • the basic principles of various spiritual traditions
  • a sense of how and when to share useful ideas and concepts

The importance of remaining centered is also highlighted.

Remaining Centered:

“The more centered you are as a guide, the more effective you will be. The more you know about yourself and whomever you are guiding, the more likely you are to be able to stay centered and tranquil throughout the session. When you yourself are more comfortable, it will be easier for the voyager to transition from one state of awareness to another. After reviewing hundreds of sessions in different settings, Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (Ram Dass) concluded, in most situations, that a voyager became distressed when the guide had become unsettled, uncertain or upset.”

The Psychedelic Experience – Leary, Metzner, Alpert

In their own classic, The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based On The Tibetan Book Of The Dead, Leary, Metzner and Alpert have a section on The Psychedelic Guide.Psychedelic Experience Tibetan Manual Leary Alpert Metzner

Here they mention a couple of key factors:

  • Ability to turn off own ego and social games; particularly to muffle his/her own power needs and fears.
  • Considerable experience in psychedelic sessions himself and in guiding others.

They even go on to say that it is unethical and dangerous to administer psychedelics without personal experience.

It is also stated that the guide should be;

  • Relaxed
  • Solid
  • Accepting
  • Secure

“The guide must remain passively sensitive and intuitively relaxed for several hours. maintaining a state of alert quietism in which he is poised with ready flexibility. The guide must never be bored, talkative, intellectualizing. He must remain calm during the long periods of swirling mindlessness.”

A useful analogy is also used, likening the guide to ground control.

ground control tower

“He is the ground control in the airport tower. Always there to receive messages and queries from high-flying aircraft. Always ready to help navigate their course, to help them reach their destination. An airport-tower operator who imposes his own personality, his own games upon the pilot is unheard of. The pilots have their own flight plan, their own goals, and ground control is there, ever waiting to be of service. The pilot is reassured to know that an expert who has guided thousands of flights is down there, available for help. But suppose the flier has reason to suspect that ground control is harboring his own motives and might be manipulating the plane toward selfish goals. The bond of security and confidence would crumble.”

Manual For Psychedelic Guides – Mark Haden

The Manual For Psychedelic Guides is a newer manual and the first draft surfaced online earlier this year. As a newer manual, it’s up to date and looks at important concepts in the field of psychedelic therapy such as inner healing intelligence and the non-directive approach. It references other works that have been mentioned here and is one of the best resources I’ve seen. There is a lot in there so I’ll just include a few things here.

psychedelic treatment guide mark Haden manual draft cover

Presence

“Your full presence is instrumental during preparatory meetings, on the day the participant ingests the medicine, during the integration follow-up meeting, and beyond the study sessions.”

Haden emphasizes the importance of being present and describes it as a skill that can be practiced, developed, and further cultivated. The section Skills Of Being A Psychedelic Guide is included to help the reader grow in their ability to be present through the range of experiences that both the guide and participant may encounter.

“When you are fully present, you consciously and compassionately share the present moment with another; and you believe in and affirm this person’s potential for wholeness, wherever they are in those moments.”

buddha statue forest

Qualities Of Guides

In the section Qualities of Guides, adapted from Karen Coopers’ Guide Manual, many qualities and types of knowledge are listed. 

A Knowledgable, Skilled and Wise guide:

  • Knows when not to intervene, and knows when and how to assist the process.
  • Has a full appreciation for being alive, lives a meaningful life, understands that we are all “wounded healers”, knows some of the agonies and ecstasies of human existence.
  • Has an understanding of the pharmacology and expected or possible effects of the medicine.
  • Trusts both the psychedelic medicine and the participant’s internal healer to find the process of healing for the participant.
  • Has the ability to stay relaxed and grounded in the presence of intense anxiety and other emotions that may be expressed emotionally or physically.

Experiential Knowledge:

  • Has appreciation for the mystery of their own being.
  • Has awareness of content beyond the ego.
  • Understands awe/respect toward transcendence.
  • Understands that encounters with transcendence can be meaningful, significant and life-transforming.
  • Maintains the ability to remain objective; uses discernment rather than judgment.
  • Is able to avoid using labels such as “psychosis” or “freaking out”, and is able to respond mindfully to observed behaviours and perceptions.
  • Has an ability to shift between mode of scientist and mode of poet and compassionate presence, drawing on each as appropriate.
  • Appreciates that sessions are like a piece of art created in collaboration with the participant.

The following are also included and have their own short sections:

  • Knowledge of the Human Mind When Seen Through the Lens of Psychedelics
  • Knowledge of the Power and Importance of Human Relationships
  • Appreciation for Human Suffering

An updated version of the manual will be published soon and I will update this post with a link as soon when it is. Until then you can find the draft online here.

LSD Psychotherapy – Stanislav Grof

Czech psychiatrist Stan Grof is one of the most influential figures in psychedelic therapy. In the chapter Critical Variables in LSD Therapy, Grof includes sections on pharmacological effects, the personality of the subject, and set and setting. There is also a section on the personality of the therapist or guide where he lists important factors in successful LSD therapy.

stan grof lsd psychotherapy cover

Important factors of the therapist:

  • Human and professional interest
  • Clinical experience and therapeutic skill
  • Personal security
  • Freedom from anxiety
  • Current physical and mental condition

It is also noted that it is absolutely essential, prior to the administration of LSD, that the therapist:

  • examine his or her own motivation and attitudes toward the subject
  • try to establish a good working relationship
  • clarify the transference / counter-transference situation

Transference / Countertransference

Having an awareness of transference and counter-transference and how to respond to that is a key part of a therapist’s job. You can find a useful introduction to these concepts in a post here:

Transference vs. Countertransference: What’s the big deal? – Therapist Development Center

Other important themes in Grof’s work:

Trust

“Probably the single most important element determining the nature of an LSD experience is the feeling of safety and trust on the part of the experient. This is […] critically dependent on the presence or absence of the guide, his or her personal characteristics, and the nature of the relationship between the subject and this person.”

He continues:

“Trust is essential to the participant letting go of their defenses and surrendering to the psychedelic process. The ability to establish trust is naturally an important attribute for a guide.”

Personal experience [with psychedelics] Is Imperative

lsd tabs acid psychedelic

‘[…] the therapist has to have special training that involves personal experiences with the drug. […] It is impossible for the future LSD therapist to acquire deeper understanding of the process without first hand exposure. Reading about psychedelic experiences, attending seminars and lectures, or even witnessing sessions of other people can only convey a superficial and inadequate knowledge”

Grof explains how personal sessions have another important function:

“… they offer an opportunity to work through one’s own areas of conflict and problems on various levels. Some of the crucial issues that a future LSD therapist has to confront remain essentially untouched in most forms of conventional therapy. Fear of death, total loss of control, and the specter of insanity can be mentioned here as salient examples.”

You can buy the book here.

Tripsitting Workshop – Marc Aixalà

In 2017, I attended a tripsitting workshop by Marc Aixalà, a health psychologist who coordinates support and integration services at ICEERS and who subsequently went on to provide training to the research team at Imperial College London.

As has been mentioned in many of the other guides, Marc emphasized that one’s approach as a caring and supportive human being is more important to the outcome of the experience than any techniques employed. Effective sitting requires:

  • Intuition

  • Compassion

  • Self-awareness

He is another who has highlighted the importance of presence. Marc also shared desirable attributes for a care giver during a session:

marc tripsitting attributes of caregiver

At the workshop, and also echoed in an article on integration on chacruna, Marc underlined the importance of facilitators having worked on their own power, money, and sex issues.

Final Thoughts

It is my belief that anyone aspiring to become a psychedelic guide should first look deeply at their motivations for wanting to do so. After that, I believe that for anyone wishing to carry out this meaningful work, a certain level of dedication to personal and professional development should be employed. When dealing with people in such sensitive and vulnerable states, I think this is work beyond that of a hobbyist or amateur.

Gaining Experience

I hope this post has been useful and has given some ideas for further reading.  In the end, however, knowledge should be coupled with practice and experience. Whilst I do believe that theoretical frameworks and certain specified knowledge provide a good foundation, they should be used as a ground for establishing a practice or course of applied learning. I mention this to say that I don’t believe it is enough to read all the resources here and listen to talks and then believe you can be a psychedelic facilitator. I encourage any hopeful facilitators to seek out development through a personal practice and relevant experience working with others where one can cultivate the qualities and characteristics mentioned in the works here. 

Meditation As A Practice

In my personal experience, I have found a meditation practice to have been a huge help in cultivating presence, calmness, patience and acceptance; attributes that seem to come up again and again as beneficial to have as a facilitator. The ability to remain calm yet attentive is something that has been directly applicable and useful in sitting for psychedelic sessions.

buddha statue shadow meditation

To finish, I’d like to share a relevant quote from psychedelic researcher and Buddhist practitioner Rick Strassman from his chapter in the excellent Zig Zag Zen.

“Supervising sessions is called “sitting,” usually believed to come from “baby-sitting” people in a highly dependent and, at times, confused and vulnerable state. But, in our minds, Buddhist practice is as relevant a source for the term. Our research nurse and I did our best to practice meditation while with our volunteers: watching the breath, being alert, eyes open, ready to respond, keeping a bright attitude, and getting out of the way of the volunteer’s experience. This method is very similar to what Freud called “evenly suspended attention,” performed by a trained psychoanalyst who provided support by a mostly silent but present sitting by one’s side. I experienced this type of listening and watching as similar to Zen meditation.”
Rick Strassman | Psychedelic Researcher | “DMT Dharma” – Zig Zag Zen.

Share Your Thoughts

What do you think makes a good psychedelic facilitator? What practices and experience do you think can help cultivate the qualities that make a good psychedelic guide? How much personal experience with psychedelics is necessary? Do you know of any other good resources on the topic that I missed? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.