Integrating Psychedelic Experiences

It’s easy to quickly get caught up in the flow of regular life again after a profound experience, allowing the deep insights to be replaced with to-do lists and schedules. Coming back to reality can be shocking as well. Here you are, having had this profound experience, yet the people around you may have no idea. How do you process what you learned and discovered on your trip and incorporate it into your everyday life? This is where integration comes in. Alex Theberge, a therapist who specializes in plant medicines and psychedelic experiences, describes integration as: “the process by which the experiences that occurred during ceremony, or during a psychedelic experience, translate into actual changes in your life”. The Psychedelic Times says that “Integration is arguably the single most important factor in what gives a psychedelic experience lasting therapeutic and personal growth value, rather than being a wild ride that sweeps you up for a few hours before fading away into memory”. This blog has some suggestions for how you can begin to integrate your psychedelic experience into your life.

Before your trip:

Consider your Set and Setting

The terms “set and setting” refer to the mindset and environment that you are in before taking psychedelics. Be mindful if you are emotionally distressed or in an unsafe environment, and consider whether waiting for a better set and setting would be best for you.

Schedule time for integration and set your intention.

There isn’t one universal technique for integration, since it is as unique as the individual. Everyone has their own reasons for using psychedelics, such as: exploring their consciousness, spiritual awakening, personal growth and learning, or simply having a good time. Considering your intention before beginning your psychedelic journey will help decide what integration will look like after you’ve returned.

“A psychedelic experience can be a major life event—some participants in psychedelic studies have reported it to be one of the “top five most spiritually significant experiences” in their life. And like any major life event it can provoke complex thoughts and feelings, some beautiful, some scary, and all worth analyzing. It’s only by delving into these feelings that we can maximize the therapeutic potential of the experience. Otherwise, the revelations fade away and the pull of day-to-day life finds us settling back into old habits and patterns.” -Psychedelic Times

After your trip:

A psychedelic journey doesn’t simply end when the substance has worn off…

Depending on the person, and the nature of their experience, integration could be a process which takes place over several months, years or even throughout their lifetime.

“Integration is the process of digesting that change and manifesting its fullest expression.” -Alex Theberge

Set aside time after your trip to reflect on the experience.

Some things to reflect on might include:

  • What messages or guidance did you receive?
  • What lessons did you learn?
  • What do you want to remember going forward?
  • What changes do you want to make?
  • What do these new ideas mean for your life?
  • How will you put your experience into practice in your everyday life?

Take some time for yourself.
Spend some time alone, reflecting on your experience. If you try to explain your experience to someone else before you’ve had a chance to process it, you may alter how you view and understand it. If you can spend some time alone you can give yourself a chance to come to terms with the experience, and allow more insights to emerge. You may choose to meditate, journal, draw, or just relax with yourself. Thank yourself for going on the journey, and being open to whatever may come.

Express yourself through creative reflection.

Some people find it difficult to express the range of emotions, thoughts, and experiences they had on their psychedelic journey through words alone. Try using creative expression to work through your experience, whether it be through poetry, visual art, journalling, music, dance, or any other art form. Some people find

themselves creatively inspired after a psychedelic experience, and enjoy new forms of expression.

Listen to your body.

Sometimes during intense psychedelic journeys we may neglect the needs of our physical bodies for a time. Take the time to scan your body and see if anything needs your attention. Rehydrate. Eat a big meal. Take a nap. Have a shower. Stretch.

Welcome positive changes.

Some people experience changes to how they think, feel, eat, use substances, and engage with others. You may realize you don’t feel like smoking cigarettes anymore. You may feel more connected and open to other people. You may have a new appreciation (or revulsion) of certain foods. Try not to judge these new feelings, or your past self, and instead embrace your ability to change. Check in with yourself and decide what it is you really want.

Get out into nature.
If possible, spend some time outdoors allowing yourself to exist in the natural world around you. Nature can be both grounding and humbling, helping us put our new teachings into perspective.

Talk it out with a friend.

Sharing our experience with a trusted friend can help us verbally process what happened. Try and find someone who wants to listen non-judgmentally and can provide emotional support should you need it (people who have also had an intense psychedelic experience are usually better able to understand your experience).

Start new habits now.

If you discovered a change you want to make, don’t put it off for some distant future. Decide what you can do today, right now to start working towards that goal. After a psychedelic experience, but before your mind has returned to regular life mode, is the best time to institute life changes, since your mind is open to new ideas.

Throw away old negative habits.

During your journey you may come up against old thought patterns or habits, which you realize no longer serve you. It is okay, (and beneficial!) to let go of these past ways of being, so we can make room for what matters.

Ask for help if you need it

Psychedelic integration isn’t easy, and it can be turbulent, disorienting, frightening or confusing. There is no shame in seeking help from a therapist, doctor, healer, or spiritual teacher to cope with the aftereffects of your experience. Many people find sharing with like minded people helps their integration. TRIP and other groups like the Toronto Psychedelic Society hold Psychedelic Storytelling events. Search online for psychedelic integration/ sharing circles in your area. You don’t have to work through it alone.

While there can be many positive impacts from your psychedelic experience, you should also take caution after your trip. Avoid immediately making dramatic or permanent decisions as you may feel differently about them later. Be cautious about believing something that doesn’t sit well in your gut, or taking visions literally. While this may have been a profound experience for you, don’t tell everyone you meet that they HAVE to try psychedelics. Psychedelic experiences are not for everyone, but be open to being a trip sitter for a friend if they decide to experience it as well.