Jeff Guenther on Jul 28, 2019
I think I want to try psychedelic assisted therapy but I have my reservations. Psychedelic assisted therapy is when a practitioner sits with a client while they ingest a psychedelic substance. The client often takes the substance while laying on a couch, sometimes with a blindfold on, and music playing. The practitioner is there to meet their needs as they go on their journey but is usually very hands off. The therapist will typically conduct a session before and after the experience in order to integrate what they experienced.
DISCLAIMER: As of this writing, it is illegal for a therapist to provide psychedelic substances to clients. I am not encouraging anyone to do anything illegal.
I’ve been thinking of using psilocybin (magic mushrooms) or LSD in a deliberate and guided therapeutic way in order to get in touch with parts of my self and the universe that I can’t get in contact with on my own. Currently, Psilocybin, LSD, MDMA and other psychedelic substances are being rigorously studied in FDA approved research projects across the country. In fact, I just released an episode on my podcast, Say More About That, where I interview Dr. Peter Addy about his research on psychedelic assisted therapy. He and I have a really interesting conversation about why someone would want to do it, what people can get out of it, what exactly is going on during a psychedelic journey and so much more. Psychedelic assisted therapy could be an important part of the future of psychology and I encourage everyone to listen to the interview. Click play below or listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.
Along with all the research taking place right now, Micheal Pollan has recently written a book about psychedelic assisted therapy titled, How to Change Your Mind. His book is popular within the mental health community and with the general population. The book has motivated a lot of people to seek out guides and therapists to help them on their psychedelic journey. Peter and I talk about Michael Pollan briefly in the podcast and how some advocates of psychedelic assisted therapy now view him as a somewhat controversial guy.
Side note: Some therapists, like Dr. Peter Addy, provide psychedelic integration therapy, not psychedelic assisted therapy. Psychedelic integration therapy helps clients integrate their psychedelic journeys into narratives and experiences that help them learn about themselves while growing and evolving. Psychedelic integration therapists, like Dr. Addy, DO NOT provide clients with drugs. Therapists that provide psychedelic integration therapy can be filtered for on TherapyDen.com. If you provide psychedelic integration therapy, please consider signing up for a profile on TherapyDen so that more clients can find you.
Personally I’m on the fence about whether I’ll try psychedelic assisted therapy myself. Here are my reasons for and against.
I’ve been reading a ton about people’s psychedelic journey’s and the most consistent thing I hear is that folks who do it grow and change and have profound insights that they feel they wouldn’t be able to connect with unless they went on the journey. Who doesn’t want to experience that? As a self help junkie who is constantly trying to evolve, this just seems like a no brainer for me. It almost seems like I get to skip ahead on my development if I have a good trip. That might not be true. But it could be.
As some of you know, I’m a believer in spirit world. I think there is an afterlife and I personally can’t wait to experience it. I tell my wife all the time how stoked I am to see what happens after I die. While I understand how concerned my wife can feel when I say stuff like that, it’s 100% true. And people that have psychedelic journeys often report how they feel as though they tap into a spirit world and actually experience what that reality is like. So sign me up! If I don’t have to die in order to experience spirit world, then what am I waiting for?
Honestly, when you read reports of psychedelic assisted therapy (some of which date back to the 40’s), it really does seem like psychology of the future. In fact, one of the most well respected pioneers in the field, Stanislav Grof, wrote a book on LSD therapy called Psychology of the Future. If research continues on the effects of this type of therapy, then I can’t see how it wouldn’t take over the world. Personally, I like to be on the cutting edge of new interventions and this seems very cutting edge.
The ego, or human personality, or whatever you want to call it, is fraught with mental health issues, annoying habits, intrusive thoughts, limiting belief systems and can be just all around super annoying to deal with. My ego, and probably yours, is afraid to die. Reports from people that have gone on therapeutic psychedelic journeys often describe a full detachment from the ego and a true peace. They get the sweet relief of not being locked into a thought system that has been conditioned by the traumas of a lifetime. They also experience the revelation that death of the ego does not mean death of consciousness, or the end of your existence.
It is also reported that many people get in touch with their true meaning and purpose. While I think I kinda know what my meaning is, I wouldn’t mind having it validated by a few of my spirit guides who really know what’s going on. Or from God herself. And if I’m off base on what my meaning and purpose is, then it would be great for a spirit or my true self to point that out to me. Am I right?
As I noted at the top, it’s illegal and what if I get in trouble? Could I get my license taken away if someone finds out? And the only way to find a practitioner that will guide me on this journey is to find someone that is operating “underground.” I have no idea how to find them! And if I do, can I trust them? Do they have references? Seriously, I am totally stumped on how to proceed. I think I’d be cool with an underground practitioner, but I don’t know how to find a reputable one. If you know of anyone in the pacific northwest or bay area email me! I promise I’m not a narc ;)
I’m a big baby when I do drugs. I get super anxious and paranoid if I smoke weed. I don’t even like drinking too much. I have done LSD and Mushrooms when I was 17 and I had horrible trips. So I am afraid that I’ll have a major freakout. I’m comforted by the fact that I’d have a guide there with me in case I lose my mind. But I’m still worried that I’ll be trapped for what feels like forever in an experience that makes me feel like I have completely lost touch with reality. In my podcast interview with Peter, he mentioned that Stanislav Grof would probably encourage me to go on another journey in order to have a corrective experience because there may be some unfinished business. That makes sense. But I’m still nervous.
One of the scariest things about my bad trips is that I felt like I had gone crazy. What if I go on this journey and something snaps and I can never ground myself in reality again? Is that a thing? Can that happen? I feel like that could happen to me. But I’m probably going to be fine. Right?
What if the whole journey goes super well? Which it probably would. And what if I get some really clear insights into changes I should make in my life? Like I realize that I should change careers, or I should treat people differently, or I should heal my relationship with my worst nemesis? I hate my worst nemesis and I really enjoy hating them. They are the absolute worst I promise you. What if I don’t make any of these healing changes and I just keep things status quo? I’d have a hard time knowing I should make a change but not being courageous enough to do anything about it.
I have tried a number of things to get in touch with something deeper or experience my consciousness at a different level and everything I have done either has no effect or doesn’t really do much for me. That’s one of the reasons psychedelic assisted therapy is so intriguing. The drug may be strong enough to create a breakthrough. But what if it isn’t? I’m now out a bunch of money and I’m bummed that I’ll have to add this to the long list of things that didn’t get me where I wanted it to.
I wish I had already gone on this journey so I could tell you how it all went. If it does happen, I’ll be sure to write a blog and make a podcast about my experience. In the meantime, if you’re a therapist that provides psychedelic integration therapy, I encourage you to create a profile of TherapyDen. People are looking for therapists to process their psychedelic experiences with and TherapyDen wants to give those folks quality referrals. Sign up today and get your first 6 months free. Cancel anytime. Safe travels!
Jeff Guenther, LPC, is a therapist in Portland, OR. He has been in private practice since 2005. Jeff is the creator and owner of Portland Therapy Center, a highly ranked therapist directory. Jeff, and his team, have launched a new progressive therapist directory, TherapyDen.