Integration support and integration therapy are often used interchangeably, but mean different things. Join Cherie Felzer, LMFT as learn to navigate the differences.
In the world of psychedelics, the word “integration” has become somewhat of a buzzword over the years. And with all that buzz, some of what integration actually means has become confusing.
My hope is that by the end of reading this, we can have a shared understanding of the difference between psychedelic integration and integration support, and you can find your own manners of distinction to use in your communities.
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As a therapist who focuses solely on integration support, supporting individuals before and/or after a peak, psychedelic, medicine, or entheogenic experience, it’s astonishing the amount of calls, emails and referrals I receive for what is actually psychedelic assisted therapy (PAT), or ‘psychedelic integration’ as its been more recently called on listservs and websites.
In online listings that my name has found itself on (most without my permission), I am listed as an ‘integration therapist’, but the description of what that means does not typically follow. Some may actually state that I indeed offer PAT, although nothing in my bio suggests as such. I find this troublesome and problematic.
I do get tired of continually needing to explain the service I actually provide, when I’m pretty sure from the start that it’s not what someone is seeking. However, even in places where it does make a clear distinction that the integration is to support an individual before and/or after an experience, due to the legalities and underground nature of this work, sometimes people will still contact me to inquire if I guide sessions using psychedelics. This may be understandable; as a budding field, I am willing to do a certain amount of initial legwork, but with so many integration lists now popping up, the lists themselves are confusing in what their practitioners offer.
I believe this ambiguity clouds the field and devalues the importance that pre and post integration play, especially as so many are seeking peak experiences, and many would rather have those experiences repetitively, rather than doing the deeper work that is putting those experiences into practice into their lives.
Due to the legalities, ‘integration’ seems like somewhat of a hidden password, and may very well be the case for some practitioners. But there are many others, including myself, who do not provide guided experiences or referrals for guides, but are only there for preparation and post-integration support.
Let’s look a little more closely at what we’re talking about here.
What is Integration?
In looking at the definition of the word, ‘Integration’, we have “the act or process of uniting”. This is a pretty basic definition.
As more and more people are experimenting with using psychedelics for healing and entering non-ordinary states, there is a greater need for experienced practitioners to help them ‘unite’ or integrate their experience into their ordinary reality.
It seems the value of this type of integration is now being more widely understood. After such an expansive experience, the path towards true healing and change really depends on how well you can integrate the experiences from psychedelic and peak experiences into your daily lives; making meaning, applying and incorporating the teachings and lessons learned, embodying your experience so that you don’t need to go back into another experience with psychedelics (you may want to, but don’t need to) in order to access the self you discovered during that experience.
My interest in this topic comes from the fact that there are so many psychedelic offerings out there, but not enough helpers to truly integrate and support folks in doing it when the medicines are not available.
Up until recently, It seemed that ‘integration’ was synonymous with what has been named above.
In recent years, though, I’ve seen ‘integration’ come to mean something else.
Here’s where we come back full circle to where the inspiration behind this blog piece came from.
Psychedelic integration or psychedelic integration therapy can also be about integrating psychedelics into the therapy itself. It may also be called psychedelic assisted therapy. A session where the practitioner or therapist guides, facilitates or holds space for the client as they are working with psychedelics.
Here, the psychedelics are incorporated or ‘integrated’ or united directly into and with the therapy or session.
Here’s where the confusing part comes in. The same title/terms are being used for two different offerings. Of course, there is definitely overlap, but they are separate offerings, and often done by separate providers. Note the terms in Bold.
Some may see a psychedelic integration therapist or Provider as someone who helps unite a psychedelic experience into an individual’s life, meaning that the individual has already had a psychedelic experience, outside of the therapy room, mostly likely with another provider/individual, and they are seeking support in integrating that experience.
In clear terms, there are no psychedelics utilized within the session, and the experiences have typically occurred with a different provider or container of experience.
Others may see a psychedelic integration therapist or Provider as someone who unites psychedelics into therapy, meaning that the provider is bringing psychedelics into the room, guiding the individual through an experience in the moment, with the therapist or provider as the guide, facilitator, or sitter. In clear terms, there are psychedelics being used in the session with the provider.
The main difference is that one is happening BEFORE and/or AFTER and experience and the other is happening DURING AND WITH the medicines, psychedelics or entheogens.
The two offerings are both valuable in their own right, and as mentioned before, there may be some overlap, but overall are very separate and different offerings. Do you see the possible confusion here?
Why does it matter?
Integration support is important. The more it gets covered over by psychedelic experiences, the less that folks will understand it is a separate and valuable offering also.
If the guides, space holders and facilitators who are offering psychedelic experiences can provide this support, that may be ideal, but in my experience, those holding space often don’t have the capacity to be able to also support before and after. And it’s sometimes not appropriate for them to be the ones to support the integration, so having an outside provider or referral can be very helpful and important. Some do it all, and some have their own integration support provider for their community, but for the individuals who enter in the wild west of circles, and then come out needing support, let’s make sure they know where they can go.
Who’s with me?
Can we come up with a different word? Maybe just adding the word ‘support’ would help to clarify it? I’m going to try that. I’ll let you know how it goes.
I’d love to hear from you on how it’s going for you and any thoughts you have on the subject.
I have been providing integration support for over 10 years. I am also a therapist. I love this work, it inspires me every time, and truly feel that putting the time and energy into integration is what can help us to be the change that we wish to see in the world.