Psychedelics, once associated with the hippie culture of the 1960s, are making a comeback. But this time, they’re not just appearing in music festivals, retreats, or on college campuses; they’re being openly discussed by researchers and mental health professionals.
In the 1960s, psychedelics like LSD and magic mushrooms became symbols of rebellion, spiritual exploration, and a means to expand the mind. This rapid rise in popularity came with its challenges. Without regulatory measures in place, misuse occurred. Stories of “bad trips” spread, and the drugs became associated with countercultural resistance, which didn’t sit well with many governments. As a result, they were widely banned, cutting off not just recreational use but valuable scientific research.
Flash forward a few decades, and the scene is changing. With a mental health crisis growing globally, scientists are searching for new ways to help. This has led them back to these once-demonized substances.
What to Expect from a Psychedelic Therapy Session
Psychedelic therapy is more than just ingesting a substance and seeing what happens. It’s a carefully planned experience. A typical therapy-assisted experience follows a specific format:
Preparation: Before anything happens, you’ll talk with your therapist over a few sessions. You’ll discuss your mental health, what you hope to achieve, and any fears or concerns. These meetings build trust and ensure that when you do take the psychedelic, you are well prepared and in the right headspace.
The Experience: This is where the magic (or science) happens. In a comfortable, controlled setting, under the guidance of your therapist, you’ll take the substance. You might lie down, wear eye shades, and listen to a specific playlist meant to enhance the experience. Throughout the journey, which can last several hours, your therapist remains present. They’re there as a reassuring presence, ensuring everything stays safe and supportive.
Integration: After the psychedelic effects wear off, you’ll discuss the experience with the therapist, delving into the emotions, memories, and insights that might have come up. Psychedelic experiences can be multifaceted and overwhelming. They might include vivid visions, intense emotional releases, or profound realizations about oneself and the universe. Without proper integration, these can remain as mere memories rather than transformative insights.
Integration isn’t always straightforward. Some experiences, especially those that touch on past traumas or deeply ingrained beliefs, can be challenging to process. There might be resistance, denial, or even a desire to forget what was uncovered. This is where the support of trained therapists becomes invaluable.
The Healing Power of Psychedelics
So what is it about psychedelics that can create such a healing and transformative experience?
- Brain Connectivity: Studies suggest psychedelics might boost brain connectivity. This doesn’t mean they add extra neurons, but they could help different parts of the brain talk to each other in new ways. For someone stuck in rigid patterns of thinking or behaviour this can be revolutionary.
- Dissolving Boundaries: Many people describe a feeling of oneness during their sessions—a sense that the boundaries between them and the world have dissolved. This can foster feelings of interconnectedness and love, combatting feelings of isolation or loneliness. Some people refer to this experience as the dissolution of the ego.
- Confronting Shadows: With the right guidance, a psychedelic session can help individuals face traumatic memories or deep-seated fears. It’s not always an easy journey, but it can be transformative.
Traditional Talk Therapy vs. Psychedelic Therapy
Choosing between regular therapy sessions and a psychedelic experience isn’t like picking between tea and coffee. Both have their merits, but the best choice depends on the individual.
Consistency vs. Intensity: Talk therapy typically involves steady, consistent sessions where issues are unpacked over time. It’s a gradual process. Psychedelic therapy, on the other hand, can offer deep insights in just a few intense sessions.
Evidence Based: Traditional therapy techniques like CBT or psychoanalysis have decades of research behind them. Psychedelic therapy, despite its ancient use in some cultures, is still in the early stages of scientific understanding in the modern world.
Personal Comfort: Some might be wary of the unpredictability of a psychedelic experience and prefer the familiarity of talk therapy. Others might be drawn to the profound potential of a guided trip.
A New Frontier in Mental Health
It’s an exciting time in the world of mental health. As the stigma around discussing psychological struggles decreases, the search for innovative treatments increases. Psychedelic therapy, with its blend of ancient wisdom and cutting-edge science, is one of the most exciting developments.
However, as with any treatment, it’s vital to approach with care. Psychedelics aren’t a magic cure, and they’re not for everyone. But for those who find healing in this method, the results can be nothing short of life-changing.
If you are interested in exploring psychedelic assisted therapy, the following resources may be helpful:
- “How to Change Your Mind” by Michael Pollan
- This book offers a deep dive into the history, science, and personal experiences of psychedelics. Pollan explores both the potential therapeutic benefits and the cultural and historical context of these substances.
- “The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide: Safe, Therapeutic, and Sacred Journeys” by James Fadiman
- Fadiman provides practical advice for those interested in psychedelic experiences, including how to prepare for, navigate, and integrate these experiences.
- MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies)
- A leading organization in psychedelic research, they offer a plethora of information on ongoing studies, recent findings, and therapeutic potentials.
- The Beckley Foundation
- A global think tank that focuses on reforming drug policies and accelerating research into psychoactive substances.
- Psychedelic Science
- This organization hosts conferences and disseminates information on the latest research in the field of psychedelics.
Websites & Online Platforms
- The Third Wave
- A comprehensive resource offering guidelines, course materials, and articles on safe and intentional psychedelic use.
- A member-supported organization providing reliable information about psychoactive plants and chemicals, including firsthand experience reports.
- Psychedelic Support
- This platform connects individuals with trained therapists, clinicians, and doctors who provide psychedelic-informed care.
- MAPS Integration List
- A list of therapists who help people integrate experiences from psychedelics into daily life.
- The Psychedelic Therapy Podcast
- Interviews with leaders in the field discussing the therapeutic potentials and challenges of psychedelics.
- Psychedelics Today
- A show discussing various aspects of the modern psychedelic renaissance.
Remember, while there is increasing evidence supporting the therapeutic potential of psychedelics, these substances are still illegal in many jurisdictions, and their effects can be profound and unpredictable. Always seek advice from a trained professional and do thorough research before making decisions.