If you have been asking yourself what exactly is the purpose of psychedelic therapy in terms of healing and is this something I should consider, you are one of many. And with so much interest in the subject right now, you have valid reason to do so.
Psychedelic’s have become a huge conversation in spiritual, healing, personal development, technology and even medical circles. Clinical trials are taking place, reports are being published whose results are undeniable, grabbing the attention of all walks of people, even those who up until this point in time may have seen psychedelics as nothing more than something hippies, teenagers and escapists indulge in.
But the reports are out there, the results are staggering, the personal life changing stories are both inspiring and evoking. The psychologists, doctors and scientists fighting for their legalisation are significant. The pioneers dedicating their lives to making such substances legally and safely available to us can no longer escape our attention. Psychedelics are having a renaissance as a breakthrough for people suffering with PTSD, anxiety, depression, and addiction and also for those wanting to breakthrough the limits of their own minds.
SO WHAT IS PSYCHEDELIC THERAPY?
Psychedelic therapy refers to therapeutic practices that involve the ingestion of a psychedelic drug in a carefully prescribed and monitored setting. This induces an experience that is medically safe which may provoke profound, durable psychological and behavioural change. Such psychedelic’s include, psilocybin (also know as magic mushrooms and truffles), LSD, mescaline and ketamine among others. MDMA, although not a psychedelic is also used in therapy. With psilocybin being one of the more popular due to its safety, it’s legality in certain countries and of course its unity with nature.
The history of Psychedelic Therapy is as extensive as it is interesting revealing the inception of drugs such as LSD and MDMA, both notoriously illegal and synonymous with self-indulgence, as actual tools to psychotherapy. And whilst much of the discussion happening today could lead us to believe that psychedelic therapy is breaking news, this is not really the case. Much research has taken place over the past 70 or more years which has allowed for many different styles of psychedelic therapy to develop. The 2 most common and available approaches which I will talk about here are Psychedelic Therapy and Psycholytic Therapy.
Psychedelic Therapy focuses on the transformational power of one or many psychedelic experiences with a therapist. The therapist creates a safe setting conducive to the participants healing and acts as a guide and a comfort throughout the experience. While there will be contact from the therapist throughout the experience they act more of a support figure than a catalyst for breakthrough within the experience. Follow up sessions can be included at the request of the participant.
Psychiatrist and LSD researcher Dr. Stanislav Grof and later psychotherapist and author Dr. Friederike Meckel Fischer both reported huge success in using Psycholytic therapy with their patients. Psycholytic therapy involves using more moderate doses of a chosen psychedelic and merging this with therapeutic processes. In this form of psychedelic therapy the therapist will assist the participant to navigate through the journey when needed. They will also introduce therapeutic processes related to the participants ailment or intention, availing of the heightened state of consciousness the participant has access to along with the more hidden parts of the sub-conscious self, all which make the psychedelic experience such fertile ground for profound healing and change.
The other component of Psycholytic therapy is what Dr. Stanislav Grof called “The Corrective Experience”, also know as “The Missing Experience”. The Missing Experience is when a trauma arises from the patients past and the therapist becomes the support figure that was not there when the trauma occurred. The therapist will then help to meet the unmet needs which led to the overwhelm that caused the trauma. During Psychedelic therapy a patient can regress to the moment this trauma occurred and become the child or teen or adult he or she was at this time. The therapist will engage with the patient and the memory in real time offering the resolve of the incident which never got to occur. This lack of resolve is what left the person with the unsolved trauma, not the incident itself which is why the missing experience can be so incredibly powerful.
Psycholytic therapy often involves a preparatory stage where the therapist administers “substance free” psychotherapy in order to establish boundaries, client orientation and a healthy and trusting therapeutic relationship which can also continue for a period of time afterward the psychedelic therapy sessions too.
WHICH KIND IS MOST EFFECTIVE?
This really boils down to the individual. What is best suited to your personal needs, your location and ability to travel and your budget. There are many variations of these 2 types of therapies so it is important to understand your own needs so that you can find a therapist who can meet them. Some therapists will offer both styles and cater to meet your specific needs.
TO FIND OUT WHAT THESE NEEDS ARE, ASK YOURSELF THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS…
How much time to I have to commit to this? Will it be something I do once ver the course of a week or weekend or is this something I see myself engaging in over a longer period of time?
How much can I afford to spend on this? Will I save up for one experience? Is this something I can budget for to have ongoing integration therapy with it? Is that something I feel I would need? Or is cost not such an issue for me?
Do I want to create a relationship with the therapist first or am I happy with an online meeting to prepare?
How anxious or nervous do I feel about taking a psychedelic? Do I want to get completely lost in the experience or would a more moderate dose with more support feel better?
Do I feel more comfortable/safer knowing I have more therapeutic guidance and support within the experience? Or is it enough to know there is a therapist there to bring me back to my breath etc when needed?
Do I want to be lead more within the experience by a therapist, probed a little bit more to get closer to the root of my symptoms, or be assisted with staying focused towards my intention and avoid getting too distracted? Would I like to experience “The Missing Experience Therapy” if needed. Or do I feel more trusting or confident within myself and the substance?
Do I want or feel I will need ongoing support to understand and fully integrate the experience and also develop further within myself from there?
The most effective form of therapy is going to be different for each person. With so much interest and sometimes hype around this subject what is important to say is that Psychedelic Therapy is not a magic pill. Yes it can help dramatically, yes it can open doors that years of talk therapy or other approaches have been unable to touch. Yes there can be miraculous cures of people with life-threatening illness or depression or unhealthy behaviours. I personally have so so much to thank psychedelics for in their role in my journey of health, trauma recovery and personal development. However there is work to be done outside of the experience itself. The idea of a mystical experience is a wonderful one and can happen for many, changing lives, perspectives and patterns, however it is not standard and this is certainly not something we should romanticise about when speaking of psychedelics or expect for ourselves.
There can be so much unspeakable beauty in these experiences and similarly so much unspeakable pain as old wounds come to the surface. The aid of an experienced therapist in these moments can mean the difference between a bad trip and the most profound and healing experience of your life. And the support of a therapist afterwards, during the integration process can also be the difference between an interesting, mind-altering experience, versus a leap forward in your life. A shift from an old, stuck, hurting self, towards a re-found, new self on their way to a more authentic and fulfilling life.