Psychedelic Intentions: How to Get the Most from Your Psychedelic Journey 

Setting a clear psychedelic intention can help shape your experience. Maximize insights and transformations with effective intention-setting.
Psychedelic Intention. Image is of a female-presenting person sitting on the grass facing away from the camera, overlooking a river out of focus. They are wearing white clothes, and their hair is tied up in a ponytail, and appears to be brown, They are surrounded by soft sunset colours, and there is a graphic of a sun in front of them, framing their head. The sun is two layers of the same sun pattern in in flat-colours - the outer, larger one in soft yellow, and the smaller, inner one in soft orange.
Author: Peter Addy, PhD
By Peter Addy, PhD
October 27, 2023(Updated: May 21, 2024)

Why Setting an Intention is Crucial for Psychedelic Trips

You’ve decided to have a psychedelic experience. It may be your first time with psychedelics or you might be a seasoned traveler looking to go deeper. Either way, learning how to set intentions for a journey is one of the most important steps you can take to ensure you get the most out of your psychedelic trip.

What is a Psychedelic Intention?

Your intention is the purpose you set for your psychedelic experience. It’s your conscious reason for taking this profound inner journey in the first place. A psychedelic intention provides a focus point to guide your thoughts, emotions, and visions during the experience.

How Intentions Shape the Psychedelic Experience

Recent research has demonstrated just how important intention is in determining the effects of a psychedelic trip. 

A recent review paper examined 37 previous articles on why people use psychedelics like LSD, psilocybin, and ayahuasca. From all the articles covering over 11,000 people, the most common reasons for using psychedelics were [1]:

  • Expansion motive: Expand awareness, gain self-knowledge, and alter sensory perception.
  • Coping motive: Reduce negative emotions and cope with problems. 
  • Enhancement motive: Increase pleasure and make experiences more interesting.

Intentions Lead to More Meaningful Experiences

In a prospective survey study, researchers collected data from 654 individuals. These were people planning to embark on a psychedelic journey, primarily using LSD and psilocybin [3]. Participants completed surveys both before and after their experiences. The study found:

  • People with clear intentions before the trip had more mystical experiences and perceptual alterations.
  • People who set an intention for spiritual connection, nature connection, or personal growth were more likely to have increased well-being after the psychedelic trip.
  • An intention for recreation or socializing decreased the chance of a challenging experience, perhaps because it reflected positive expectations. However, these trips were less likely to provide enduring benefits to well-being compared to spiritual or therapeutic intentions. 

How Intentions Guide Neuroplasticity

Psychedelics promote neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to rewire itself structurally [4]. Intentions provide a focus for this plasticity, steering the psychedelic experience toward personally meaningful insights and transformations aligned with your values. 

Additionally, psychedelics dramatically alter consciousness by increasing connections between parts of the brain that don’t normally communicate. This makes you highly suggestible to new perspectives. In this opened-up state, an intention helps anchor your trip toward desired outcomes by priming your mind.

Psychedelic Intention. Image is a close up of a person's right eye which is golden brown and their eyebrow. Surrounding the  iris of the eye is a graphic of a sun in a soft orange. 
Two graphics of the same sun circle the initial one, each increasingly larger, and more opaque.

Set the Stage for a Meaningful Journey

Intention-setting is a key part of the psychological ‘set’—intentions set before a trip prime your mind to have related realizations. Your intentions provide focus and structure to the expanded state of consciousness induced by psychedelics [2].

Feeling comfortable in your physical and social ‘setting’ can also positively influence your trip and promote lasting benefits [3]. Proper set and setting optimize the conditions for a meaningful psychedelic journey guided by your intentions.

What Happens Without Intention?

While you can have meaningful realizations without formal intention setting, research shows the trip is more likely to become unfocused. The novel sensations may carry you along without much deeper reflection. 

According to Haijen et al.’s study, you are less likely to have a mystical or visually interesting psychedelic experience without a clear intention.

It’s empowering to recognize that within your mind, you have some control over where this trip goes. An intention gently steers the psychedelic ship toward your desired destination. 

Key Questions to Consider Before Your Journey

As you prepare for your psychedelic experience, here are some important questions to ponder.

What Do You Hope to Achieve? 

Reflect on your life’s challenges, questions, or areas where you seek growth. What specific goals or insights do you want to gain from your journey? 

How Can You Prepare?

Consider factors such as the setting, mindset, and the people you’ll be with. How can you optimize these elements to align with your intention? Proper preparation can minimize risks.

How Will You Integrate Your Experience?

Think about how you will apply the lessons and insights from your journey into everyday life. Having an integration plan helps maximize the benefits.

Trust in Your Intention

Remember that the power of psychedelics comes from within you. Your intention connects you to that power, acting as the compass for your journey into the landscape of the mind. Let go of expectations, and let the trip carry you where you need to go.

Safe travels!

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  1. Basedow, L. A., & Kuitunen‐Paul, S. (2022). Motives for the use of serotonergic psychedelics: A systematic review. Drug and Alcohol Review, 41(6), 1391-1403.
  2. Carhart-Harris, R. L., Roseman, L., Haijen, E., Erritzoe, D., Watts, R., Branchi, I., & Kaelen, M. (2018). Psychedelics and the essential importance of context. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 32(7), 725-731.
  3. Haijen, E. C., Kaelen, M., Roseman, L., Timmermann, C., Kettner, H., Russ, S., … & Carhart-Harris, R. L. (2018). Predicting responses to psychedelics: a prospective study. Frontiers in pharmacology, 897.
  4. Ly, C., Greb, A. C., Cameron, L. P., Wong, J. M., Barragan, E. V., Wilson, P. C., … & Olson, D. E. (2018). Psychedelics promote structural and functional neural plasticity. Cell reports, 23(11), 3170-3182.
The content provided is for educational and informational purposes only and should be a substitute for medical or other professional advice. Articles are based on personal opinions, research, and experiences of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Psychedelic Support.

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Author: Peter Addy, PhD
Peter Addy, PhD
I help intentional psychedelic explorers prepare mindfully for transformative psychedelic sessions by providing tools for focused preparation. I've spent over a decade conducting psychedelic research, helping therapy clients, and training new therapists and psilocybin facilitators.

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