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  • Writer's pictureSara Tookey

Psychedelic Integration Tools and Techniques

Written by Dr Sara Tookey


A True North Psychology Publication



Man standing at the foot of a mountain looking to the top of the mountain with a psychedelic aura and hues surrounding
Psychedelic Integration - protected image, created by True North Psychology, UK


This article will focus on offering practical guidance for integration practices to help translate psychedelic insights into positive life changes. We will offer tools and common suggested practices that may help to support integration, following a psychedelic-assisted therapy session.


Disclaimer:

The information provided below is for educational purposes only and does not substitute for professional mental health or medical advice. Please consult a trained integration specialist if you require integration support following an experience with non-ordinary states of consciousness and read full disclaimer statement below.

This article is supplemental to the three previous articles posted on psychedelic-assisted therapies in mental health.


 

Table of contents:


 


What is Psychedelic Integration?


Psychedelic Integration is a process of taking profound realisations from expanded states of consciousness and embedding them into daily life. The goal is to engrain fresh perspectives as lasting positive changes. 


Psychedelic- assisted therapy is not a panacea for mental illness, nor does it permanently rewire the brain. However, research indicates they may open neural pathways and windows of insight that can enable real, lasting change for those willing to strengthen new patterns of thinking and behaviour after a psychedelic experience. This integration work is essential; without concerted, continued effort to ingrain emerging perspectives, the mind will likely revert to previous state of being.


Rather than a fixed outcome, psychedelic integration is an ongoing process of renewal that sustains personal growth long after psychedelic sessions conclude. Skilled integration supports a person to translate these experiences into lasting changes into their life. 


Psychedelic Integration Tools and Techniques:


Psychedelic integration is an intentional unfolding process that involves revisiting, working through, and making sense of the material and content of experiences with psychedelic or altered states (Bathje et al., 2022).


Step 1: Rest and Self-Care:


As a therapist working on clinical trials the advice I give to participants immediately following a psychedelic session is similar to the advice I give regarding how they can prepare their mindset prior to the psychedelic session. 


A therapeutic psychedelic experience can take a lot out of a person and can leave one feeling exhausted, vulnerable, sensitive, confused or unsettled. It is therefore important to take time to rest and nurture yourself following a psychedelic experience.



 

person lying on the beach and relaxing


In the first 24 - 48 hours after a psychedelic-assisted therapy session it’s important to give yourself:


  • Time off from work- Allow at least one day off from work following your experience, to focus on caring for yourself and relaxation. And arrange childcare if possible or applicable

  • Calming self-care: like eating healthy meals, hydrating yourself, taking a bath, napping.

  • Relaxation: try massage, listening to relaxing music, spending time in nature.

  • Time to yourself: Try to reduce communication about the experience with others and allow time and space for solace and reflection.  

    • Limit exposure to busy or activating environments or experiences-  like busy places, social settings or experiences that are likely to activate your nervous system (like watching a horror film or the latest true crime docuseries!). Such experiences can easily overwhelm a sensitive nervous system following a psychedelic experience

  • Making space for feelings: Opening space for feelings that may come up following the session, and being with them, rather than analysing, making sense of them or avoiding them.

  • Self-integration practices: e.g. journal writing, artwork, singing, bodily movement, breathwork, meditation, etc.


It’s also recommended that a person does not make any major life decisions within the first 2 weeks of a psychedelic experience, so that they can allow the insights and learnings to settle in and enable an informed rather than reactive decision.




tag on bush with quote from Lao Tzu


Next Steps: Actions Taken to Integrate


The actions taken to integrate an experience will vary from person to person, from one experience to the next, and may include:


  1. Phenomenological enquiry: Exploring sensory, visual, temporal, and emotional experiences of a psychedelic session to gain insight one's past, present, and future and to explore meaning-making.

  2. Applying lessons or insights from a psychedelic experience to make positive changes in your everyday life.

  3. Managing any new perspectives on reality, the self, and relationships that may arise during a psychedelic experience.

  4. Learning to cope with the trauma that emerged from or as a result of challenging psychedelic experiences.

  5. Making sense of any particularly confusing aspects of the psychedelic experience.


There are different forms of integration support that can be applied in conjunction or on their own:


Self-led integration: An individual explores and processes their psychedelic experience independently, without professional or group guidance and engages in integration practices on their own.


Guided integration: A person engaging in guided or supported integration sessions will discuss their psychedelic experience with a therapist and may be invited to engage in activities, exercises or tasks between sessions to support their integration process.


Facilitated group integration: A group of individuals who have had psychedelic experiences meet regularly, facilitated by a therapist or integration guide, to share their experiences and support one another's integration processes.


Community integration: Individuals engage in online forums, gathering within a broader psychedelic community people with experiences of other non-ordinary states of consciousness - sharing experiences and supporting one another's integration journeys.



How to know if you need professional integration support?


Consider seeking professional support if you are experiencing prolonged challenges post-psychedelic experiences or having difficulty integrating your experiences. Professional guidance can help motivate and support you in your integration process. Seek advise or support from a mental health professional with specialist knowledge about expanded states of consciousness if you are experiencing the following:




How to know if you need community support?


Consider joining a community if you feel alone in your experience, are having difficulty integrating, or do not have someone to share your experiences with. Identifying relationships and communities that provide empathy, perspective and reassurance has been found to be immensely supportive to the integration process  (Cowley-Court, 2023). Community support can be found in integration circles, online forums, groups, or gatherings.




Person with hit holding a compass, looking out at a mountain


Integration Tools and Techniques:


“Integration can be supported by reviewing one’s original intentions for the psychedelic experience, determining which integration practices are most relevant, committing to regular integration practices, identifying relationships and communities that can support integration, carving out time for integration, and creating or finding physical spaces at home, public spaces, or in nature that support the ongoing unfolding of psychedelic experiences over time.”  (Bathje et al., 2022)

Psychedelic integration can be facilitated through a variety of methods, including self-reflection, journaling, art, therapy, and community engagement. The integration process often requires a combination of methods, tailored to an individual's specific needs and experiences. Below is a non-exhaustive list of tools and techniques that may support the ongoing integration process, whether self-led or in a guided integration process. 



  • Connecting with Community: Joining integration circles to share experiences can be one way of doing this. Sharing your story and hearing others’ experiences in a facilitated group setting can ease the integration process. Online forums or in-person circles led by experienced facilitators can offer perspective and empowerment post-journey. Connect with the TNP integration community HERE. Psychedelic Support and the UK-based Institute of Psychedelic Therapy list ours along with various other community integration circles you can connect with.



  • Journaling and Reflecting: Recording thoughts, emotions, wonderings and insights can help with the integration processes. A psychedelic integration journal is a personal way to process insights from your experience. The key is finding meaning that applies to your life. Once you identify key themes and revelations from your psychedelic session, revisit these lessons often. By regularly reflecting on these insights, you can begin applying them to your day-to-day life. Examples may include more traditional journaling, making voice notes, a dream journal, writing a letter to yourself or other, or using prompts from a pre-structured integration journal or workbook (there are lots out there-  look for one that aligns with intentions. See an examples from Psychedelics Today, MIND, and MAPS.


  • Creating a dedicated integration space: Creating a comfortable environment supportive of the integration process can enable focus and dedication to the practice of integration. Examples may include bringing physical comforts to your space, creating an altar/sanctuary, or creating a welcoming space in nature.


  • Existential/spiritual practice: Connecting with an existential or spiritual practice can help to deepen the integration process. Examples may include prayer,  meditation, mindfulness practice, mantra work, gratitude practice, tarot/spirit cards, astrology reflecting on values, or exploring philosophical questions surrounding life, death, meaning and the ‘givens’ of life



  • Mindfulness practice:Mindfulness involves paying attention to what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment. Research suggests, integrating insights gained during a psychedelic session into mindfulness practice can be highly beneficial (Holas and Kamińska, 2023; MIND, 2020).  Examples of mindfulness practices can include traditional mindfulness meditation, walking meditation, chanting, body scan, breathing techniques, breathwork, mundane activities done with mindful awareness.


  • Connecting with nature: Utilising nature and nature-based rituals or incorporating natural elements into mindfulness training and talk therapy can support the development of an internal and external connection with the self and the world around us (Sam Gandy et al, 2020). Examples may include: spending time in nature, engaging in horticulture, eco/in-nature therapy, equine therapy, Shinrin-Yoku practice.



  • Expressive and creative arts: Creative expression and exploration can be a supportive way to engage in the process of integration. There is no limit to creative expression.





  • Music:  Music can play a vital role in the psychedelic experience and integration. Listening to the music from a psychedelic session post-psychedelic session can cue memories and feelings to support integration and at times can bring about  an altered-states of consciousness akin one's psychedelic experience. This revisiting of the psychedelic experience through music can be greatly inspiring and refreshing, and can shed new light on insights and perspectives. However, this should be done in a safe and well-intentioned setting and with great caution where challenging psychedelic experiences are concerned - as it may trigger a re-living of the challenging experience. Other examples may include: listening to calming or meditative music, creating music, chanting, singing, drumming.



  • Somatic and body practices: Somatic practices that connect mind and body can integrate psychedelic insights. Listening to the wisdom of the body's senses makes embodied integration complementary to mental psychedelic journeys. Somatic practices empower integration by unifying body, mind, and spirit after expansive psychedelic experiences. Examples include: Expanding self-awareness through movement, dance, yoga, meditation, and breathwork helps ground profound experiences. 



  • Therapeutic Support: An integration therapist can work together with a person to help them make sense of their experience and can assist in processing challenging psychedelic experiences and prolonged negative effects that may arise following such an experience. A psychologist or appropriately qualified psychotherapist who has experience of working with non-ordinary states of consciousness and works as an integration therapist can also provide diagnoses and help treat mental health conditions.


The True North Psychology Integration Approach


Integration is vital after a psychedelic experience to process emotions, perspectives, and insights that can make for positive life changes. We provide integration support that meets each person's needs, whether they seek guidance or education for self-led practices or a more guided therapeutic approach. We are also networked with therapists, coaches and other support professional members of the Institute of Psychedelic Therapy and can provide onward referrals where necessary. 


Our therapists have worked in psychedelic research and community integration groups. We understand the need for ethical, compassionate and  skilled care before, during, and after psychedelic sessions helps people safely navigate expanded states of consciousness. This allows them to find meaning, implement insights into daily life and transform struggles into strengths.


We help people:


  • Find personal meaning from intense sessions with non-ordinary states of consciousness

  • Learn how to translate learnings from psychedelic experiences into lasting positive changes in their lives

  • Heal from traumatic experiences unearthed through psychedelics

  • Recover from difficult psychedelic experiences

  • Develop self-compassion practices for wellbeing

  • Prepare for psychedelic experiences from a harm reduction lens

  • Connect with supportive communities

  • Integrate psychedelic perspectives into talk therapy approaches



Contact Us to inquire about the integration services and psychedelic-informed therapy approaches that our therapists provide.




Conclusion & Summary


Psychedelic integration is the crucial process of translating profound insights from psychedelic experiences into lasting positive life changes. It involves various tools and techniques like journaling, mindfulness practices, creative expression, and connecting with supportive communities to effectively integrate lessons and perspectives gained during psychedelic journeys. Seeking professional guidance from skilled integration therapists is invaluable, especially when facing challenges or prolonged effects. Integration requires linking realisations into an expanded yet coherent self-understanding through an open-ended, lifelong practice of nurturing emerging growth over time. Regular habits and supportive communities help to facilitate the integration process and supports people in a movement toward lasting growth and enhanced wellbeing.



 

FREE Resources:


NEED IMMEDIATE SUPPORT FOR A CHALLENGING PSYCHEDELIC EXPERIENCE?

TNP does not offer crisis support.


Below are a list of additional resources and support services to support the integration process:


See further resources on our integration therapy page (scroll to the bottom). 



PsyCare: Offers information and support for integration


Psychedelic Support is a website that provides information about psychedelic-assisted therapy and FREE courses on integration. 


F.I.V.E, is an organisation providing necessary education for individuals to make informed decisions when considering taking 5-MeO-DMT, has provided key resources to learn more about red flags and what to look for in a safe facilitator and how to engage with the integration process.


 


Stay Connected


Are you curious about psychedelic experiences or wish to join a supportive community to integrate non-ordinary states of consciousness?


CONTACT US to learn more about preparing for, making sense of, integrating, and coping with the residual effects and impact of a psychedelic experiences.


Book a therapy consultation to explore preparation, integration, and psychedelic-informed therapy for yourself.


We welcome your thoughts and reflections on this article.


 


Need one to one support? Book a consultation below.




 

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Our TNP DISCLAIMER:

  • Our site provides information for educational purposes only, and is a platform to connect people with qualified therapists. It does not provide professional mental health or medical advice.

  • We do not offer psychedelic-assisted therapies or access to illegal substances. Requesting such services is prohibited.

  • We cannot help locate psychedelic-assisted therapy, guided sessions, or retreats.

  • We may provide publicly available information about eligible clinical research trials for research participation purposes only.

  • Our therapists provide support which adopts a harm reduction perspective and does not encourage illicit substance use.

  • We do not work with individuals experiencing active psychosis, although we can assist in making sense of past psychotic episodes for those under professional care.

  • We do not act as experts on psychedelics or altered states, nor provide advice on their use.

  • We are not liable for risks associated with using information from our site.



Mushroom on a stack of books
Psychedelic Science Resources and References- created by True North Psychology, protected image

References


References from research cited:

 

Acevedo, E. C., Uhler, S., White, K. P., & Al-Shawaf, L. (2024). What predicts beneficial outcomes in psychedelic use? A quantitative content analysis of psychedelic health outcomes. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs. https://doi.org/10.1080/02791072.2024.2314729


Barrett, F. S., Bradstreet, M. P., Leoutsakos, J. S., Johnson, M. W., & Griffiths, R. R. (2016). The Challenging Experience Questionnaire: Characterization of challenging experiences with psilocybin mushrooms. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 30(12), 1279–1295. https://doi.org/10.1177/0269881116678781


Bathje, G. J., Majeski, E., & Kudowor, M. (2022). Psychedelic integration: An analysis of the concept and its practice. Frontiers in Psychology, 13, 824077. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.824077


Carbonaro, T. M., Bradstreet, M. P., Barrett, F. S., MacLean, K. A., Jesse, R., Johnson, M. W., & Griffiths, R. R. (2016). Survey study of challenging experiences after ingesting psilocybin mushrooms: Acute and enduring positive and negative consequences. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 30(12), 1268–1278. https://doi.org/10.1177/0269881116662634


Carhart-Harris, R. L., & Friston, K. J. (2019). REBUS and the anarchic brain: Toward a unified model of the brain action of psychedelics. Pharmacological Reviews, 71(3), 316–344. https://doi.org/10.1124/pr.118.017160


Cowley-Court, T., Chenhall, R., Sarris, J., Bouso, J.C., Tófoli, L.F., Opaleye, E.S., Schubert, V., & Perkins, D. (2023). Life after Ayahuasca: A Qualitative Analysis of the Psychedelic Integration Experiences of 1630 Ayahuasca Drinkers from a Global Survey.

Evens, R., Schmidt, M. E., Majić, T., Schmidt, T. T. (2023). The psychedelic afterglow phenomenon: A systematic review of subacute effects of classic serotonergic psychedelics. Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology. https://doi.org/10.1177/20451253231172254


Gattuso, J. J., Perkins, D., Ruffell, S., Lawrence, A. J., Hoyer, D., Jacobson, L. H., Timmermann, C., Castle, D., Rossell, S. L., Downey, L. A., Pagni, B. A., Galvão-Coelho, N. L., Nutt, D., & Sarris, J. (2023). Default mode network modulation by psychedelics: A systematic review. The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, 26(3), 155–188. https://doi.org/10.1093/ijnp/pyac074


Griffiths, R.R., Richards, W.A., McCann, U., & Jesse, R. (2006). Psilocybin can occasion mystical-type experiences having substantial and sustained personal meaning and spiritual significance. Psychopharmacology, 187(3), 268–283. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-006-0457-5


Griffiths, R., Richards, W., Johnson, M., McCann, U., & Jesse, R. (2008). Mystical-type experiences occasioned by psilocybin mediate the attribution of personal meaning and spiritual significance 14 months later. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 22(6), 621–632. https://doi.org/10.1177/0269881108094300


Letheby, C., & Gerrans, P. (2017). Self unbound: Ego dissolution in psychedelic experience. Neuroscience of Consciousness, 2017(1), nix016. https://doi.org/10.1093/nc/nix016

Schenberg, E. E. (2018). Psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy: A paradigm shift in psychiatric research and development. Frontiers in Pharmacology, 9, 733. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2018.00733

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