Psychedelic compounds have a historic record of invoking powerful changes for healing, and their efficacy is being studied in clinical research for a variety of populations. Peak experiences brought about from psychotropic compounds or other non-substance catalysts (e.g., holotropic breathwork) provide avenues for us to understand ourselves and the world around us in new ways, with fresh perspectives. By disrupting our normal flow of consciousness, these experiences can lead to a great number of insights that can allow for significant change within our lives. In order to ensure that these brief insights lead to profound, lasting change, those indulging in peak experiences are able to use integration, which can be of critical importance, as this article will explain.
What is integration?
Peak experiences, psychedelic or otherwise, often produce a variety of insights, ranging from personal to worldly revelations. These insights can lead to the individual learning new perspectives or adopting new ideas about who they are, their purpose, their lifestyle and/or their relationships. Previously unexplored ideas and concepts can seem more real than ever and have a profound impact upon the user, but all these thoughts and ideas can fade if they are not further explored. As thinking is restored to the same neurological loops before a peak experience, the meaningful thoughts and experiences form a peak experience can erode To help ensure that potential for positive change and healing is actualized, integration comes into play.
Integration is the process of taking the states, feelings and thoughts from a psychedelic experience, connecting them with our normal states of consciousness and grounding them in our daily lives in the form of enduring, positive changes. “Integration is an active, intentional process, where an individual consciously reflects on their psychedelic experiences and what it means to them personally,” (Virdi, 2020). Think of psychedelic integration like physical travel: after a long vacation, you return home and it can feel like a major shock to the system, sometimes taking days or even weeks to readjust back to normal. The same can be true for psychedelic experiences in that they can take some time for us to readjust and get back to normal, after an experience. Additionally, after taking psychedelics, insights gained can quickly fade into a memory like that of a dream, resulting in a loss of these valuable thoughts and insights. Due to this, psychedelic integration takes this into account and aims at actively keeping these insights fresh in the mind after the fact and using these valuable experiences to help us heal and improve upon ourselves. The “normal” we return to can be informed by these profound insights as they are integrated into our lives and woven into the fabric of our typical selves. This also typically involves preparation beforehand in identifying the purpose(s) or intention(s) for taking psychedelics and a plan of action.
What does psychedelic integration preparation look like?
Preparation and pre-session purpose setting are crucial parts of integration. Once again, think about when you go on a big trip. Before you leave, you have to pack all of your things and plan how you’re going to get to the airport, which flight you will take and what hotel you will stay at. This preparation allows for you to have a pleasant and seamless trip. These same concepts can be applied for a peak experience. Being prepared for a psychedelic or other experience can provide a grounding anchor, helping guide the individual and give them a lens through which to process insights that arrive post-trip (Virdi, 2020). Everybody’s psychedelic experiences are unique, meaning that the preparation stage of psychedelic integration can be different for each individual depending on what their intentions are and where they are at with their life. One of the first places to start with preparation is to ask, “what is the goal?” This can be helpful to clearly identify the purpose and shape the experience around this purpose. Whether it be to overcome addiction, heal from trauma, deepen your relationships, spend time in nature or examine a specific aspect of one’s self, it is of critical importance to know what you’re aiming to achieve.
Another important factor to consider is set and setting. Set generally refers to one’s mindset before the psychedelic experience. Set can also refer to long-term hopes, fears and expectations about the session, as well as personal history and enduring personality traits. The more preparation that goes in, the more equipped an individual will be to get the most out of their session through integration. Setting refers to one’s surroundings such as the place they are located, the weather and the time of day in that place. Both set and setting can be significant factors in the outcome of a psychedelic experience and are worth careful consideration before taking psychedelics.
What about integration after a psychedelic experience?
The last crucial component to integration, aside from the preparation stage and the psychedelic experience itself, is what takes place after the experience. One could argue that the hours and days directly following a psychedelic experience are the most critical when it comes to integration. Generally, life goes by very quickly in the modern era, as we find ourselves constantly keeping ourselves busy with work, travel, family, social media and hobbies. If you’re taking psychedelics, it’s important to take the proper time to do so. One way to do this is to consider the psychedelic experience as a two or three day ordeal, with the trip being on the first day and the following day or two to allow for reflection and digestion of what occurred during the experience. It’s essential to keep space and time for one’s self to process the experience. It’s also generally advised to avoid making any major life changes in the weeks that follow an experience, and instead, take that time to rest, digest and debrief insights before starting any dramatic changes.
What are the potential benefits of integration?
- Increases preparedness for psychedelic experiences
- Helps us to decide and focus upon an intention
- Help to break down what has occurred during a peak experience
- Helps to implement these changes into day to day life
- Better equipped to make profound changes
- Greater understanding of peak experiences
What does psychedelic integration support look like?
Many practitioners support clients looking to integrate a psychedelic experience. Psychedelic integration therapy is an emerging therapy practice in which a trained professional helps patients to understand and integrate their psychedelic experience into their lives. In most of the U.S. and Canada, formal integration therapy is only accessible through research trials, since most psychotropic compounds are illegal in most jurisdictions. However, some practitioners offer coaching services, rather than therapy, geared to support clients in their integration journeys. Coaching provides an avenue to help clients clarify their goals, create a plan, and attain their goals, while emphasizing client strengths and holding clients accountable. On Mindleap, several specialists offer integration support through this framework to provide safe, structured support to individuals looking to integrate a peak experience. Specialists on the platform have demonstrated experience and credentials in human service fields and have completed a vetting process that ensures their legitimacy. As psychedelics in clinical settings gain further empirical validation, Psychedelic Integration Therapy will likely become more mainstream as a necessary means for achieving optimal health outcomes. If you’re interested in learning more, you can book a free intro session with a Psychedelic Integration Specialist on the Mindleap app to get help with your psychedelic experience.
The following material is provided for informational purposes only and is not designed to prescribe, diagnose, or treat any physical or mental illness. None of the information presented here should be treated as medical or professional advice. Mindleap does not condone the acquisition nor consumption of illicit psychotropic compounds.
Virdi, J. (2020, September 12). Everything you need to know about psychedelic integration. Retrieved April 07, 2021, from https://psychedelicstoday.com/2020/05/27/everything-you-need-to-know-about-psychedelic-integration/
This article was written by Riley Bunce, Jr. Producer at Mindleap.