Psychedelic Integration Therapy: A Primer

Psychedelic integration therapy is a way to make meaning out of psychedelic experiences. Julian Royce, LPCC guides us through integration.
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Author: Julian Royce MA, LPCC
By Julian Royce MA, LPCC
November 1, 2021

Psychedelic integration therapy is a way to make meaning out of psychedelic experiences. Julian Royce, LPCC guides us through aspects of the integration experience and how to create the most wholeness through psychedelic journeys.


Defining Psychedelic Integration Therapy

Psychedelic, Greek psyche (life; spirit; soul; self, akin to psychein, which means to breathe) & delic (to make manifest, to reveal and make visible). The implication of this term is to make the psyche or mind manifest, visible, and real. As such, this term is rather neutral; one’s own mind/being could manifest in infinite possible ways – for better or worse!

Psychedelics are notoriously difficult to define scientifically; their effects can be so varied as to defy description. This includes the possibility of not having much noticeable affects at all (more on this below). One contemporary definition that I find particularly valuable is that psychedelics are non-specified experiential amplifiers.

Integration – the root word of which is entire – is defined as the restoration to wholeness; the process of renewal; the making up of a whole by combining the separate parts or elements. Also, we look to entire which means to make whole, to unite, including all essential parts; with no part excepted; not fatigued or worn; fresh; one and undivided.

People are using psychedelics in many different ways today. And contrary to the stereotypes from the so called ‘War on Drugs’, contemporary psychotherapy is discovering therapeutic potential when they are used in the right way, with the right dosage, with expert guidance and in a safe, protected space. This does not diminish the potential for misuse, but it is no longer scientifically credible to have a simplistic good/bad understanding of these medicines.

Psychedelic Integration Therapy: Preparation & Intention

As mentioned above, one definition of psychedelics is non-specified experiential amplifiers. This means that while the specific effects of any given substance at any given time for any given person are almost impossible to predict, at a sufficient dosage we do know something is going to happen. This points to both the promise and the perils of classic psychedelics. There is a potential for difficult, challenging material to arise and present itself to the psyche. Taking these profound substances in a chaotic or unsafe environment, without conscious intentionality and preparation and without a good guide and support around you, is potentially very dangerous for one’s psyche.

In other words, psychedelics deserve a great deal of care and respect. In fact, respect is something that these substances demand. One tragedy of the War on Drugs and colonialism has been the suppression of indigenous wisdom traditions that held and revered these substances and used them in ways that contributed to healing, growth and positive transformation.

I hope that our society will develop its own traditions so as to safe guard and respect the power and potential of psychedelics. A good analogy for classic psychedelic substances such as peyote, psilocybin and LSD is that it is a bit like strapping oneself to a rocket ship and blasting off. The question is, where are you heading? Creating a safe, conducive space with an experienced guide, setting positive intentions and invoking the sacred through ritual and meditation are all key ways to give yourself the best possible chances of heading towards your own deepest truths.

Making Ourselves More Whole with Psychedelic Integration Therapy

Psychedelic integration therapy is offered after someone has had a powerful experience with psychedelics. A similar integration process is highly recommended for those returning from a meditation retreat, a long fast or wilderness journey and other profound transformative experiences.

Psychedelic integration therapy sessions offer a chance to remember and honor the experiences, so that they are not forgotten, and for you to do the inner work so that they don’t become just another memory.’ The insights you had need to be recalled and worked with so that they can be integrated into your experience. The transformations that are calling to you, and which are often glimpsed through a psychedelic journey, can then become a lived part of your new reality.

There is an opportunity offered when one takes a profound journey. If you want to be more than a ‘psychedelic tourist’ and embody lasting transformation, then psychedelic integration therapy is for you. It is a powerful and supportive process that many find as rich and meaningful as the experience itself. The Hero’s Journey, which Joseph Campbell wrote about so beautifully, includes this phase of integration: the return home and the sharing of the wisdom gleamed.

Not much of an experience? There are some who go to psychedelic assisted therapy with ketamine at a clinic or in one of the scientific studies using MDMA and report not experiencing much, or at least not as much as they thought they would. This is a sign that one is dissociating, likely due to complex PTSD that one may not be consciously aware of. Rather than thinking there is something wrong with you or the experience, this is an indication that working with a skilled trauma informed therapist could be highly valuable, which can you learn more about here.

Psychedelic-assisted therapy is an exciting and emerging field that holds great promise. This is especially true for helping people overcome treatment-resistant depression and PTSD, and for deepening relationships, gaining insight, and experiencing radical shifts in consciousness. There is also encouraging research demonstrating their use in facilitating creativity as well as on how psychedelics enhance creativity.

Resources 

There are many wonderful resources out there from which to learn more. Here are a couple other links well worth your time:

  1. MAPS: The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies was founded in 1986 and has been at the forefront of efforts to study and to legalize psychedelic medicines.
  2. How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan – This book has likely been more responsible than any other single factor in bringing to popular consciousness the potential benefits of psychedelic medicines and in shifting our society’s perspectives away from the taboos which have dominated since the 1960’s and the so called ‘War on Drugs.’
  3. Find an integration therapist in our Psychedelic Support Network.

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Author: Julian Royce MA, LPCC
Julian Royce MA, LPCC
Julian Royce, MA, LPCC, is a psychotherapist based in Boulder, Colorado as well as a meditation teacher and workshop facilitator. He holds a Masters degree in Religious Studies as well as in Psychology. He is currently offering trauma informed psychotherapy with and without the use of legal psychedelic medicine and on online Psychedelic Integration Group. Learn more about him and his work in his Psychedelic Support provider profile and on his website A State of Mind Counseling.

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