Portland psychedelic integration Therapist Annie Dolle has been supporting peoples exploration of their psychedelic expeirences for over 12 years. Frshminds had a chance to learn about about her perspectives on psychedelic integration after a decade of work in the space.
What got you interested in providing psychedelic integration to your patients?
If people feel deeply impacted and changed by something, I want to know more about it. Community, movement, therapy, travel, meditation, breath work, music, dreams, nature, art, children, animals, spirituality, and education are just a few of the experiences that offer healing and connection. For many, psychedelic experiences offer this. I welcome all ways. I have been supporting people in processing and exploring their personal psychedelic experiences since 2008 when I found myself assisting several clients who brought these experiences into our therapy sessions. Together we were doing integration work before I even knew it was a “thing”. The changes in perception and mood allowed people to become curious about themselves and they wanted to talk about it. They were deeply moved to question the ways that they had always seen things. This enriched our process and I became excited about the utility of psychedelics for inner healing. I have been continuing to participate in these conversations since that time, and keenly following this movement. My clients have definitely been my best teachers.
What makes your practice special?
My practice is special because I am special and you are special. We all are. What makes my practice a good place for healing is that I work in a relational and authentic way. I hold the space for clients to feel safe for self exploration. We show up authentically together to investigate with curiosity whatever comes up. I travel with clients in their psyche and we bounce around their neurochemistry in service to integration. This is brain with body, right brain to left brain, person to person, adult to child, experience to self, self to spirit and beyond. We do this together in the sober light of day. Clients are welcome to bring any experience they wish to process, including psychedelic ones. Nothing is off limits so long as it is respectful, safe and in service to healing. This process is guided by my clients and I am tracking them closely to guide, support and inquire. I work as creatively as they wish and when possible incorporate movement, psycho-drama, mindful exploration, and relational work. I believe in everyones tendency towards being ok, with the right support.
How do you see psychedelic therapy evolving in the future?
I am carefully watching to see how psychedelic therapy will evolve. I think this is such an exciting and hopeful time of research and practice. The psychedelic healing community is growing exponentially, and online connection and trainings are emerging that allow for the sharing of ideas and best current practices. With each study we learn more about the efficacy of use for targeted healing, along with risks and benefits. At this moment I am very interested in psychedelic-assisted experiences using MDMA and psilocybin and can see how a facilitator during medicinal settings will be beneficial. The safety and connection of this model seems to be where therapy can really team directly with the medicine for meaningful and lasting change.
What’s the one piece of advice you would offer to patients considering psychedelic integration to help them manage their mental health?
I have never encouraged people to do anything for healing and growth that they are not intrinsically called to do. Here in Oregon substances have been decriminalized for personal use, and interest around psilocybin and other psychedelic medicines is huge. I support the choices made by clients and am always available to prepare and process their experiences. I am most hopeful that therapists, coaches and guides have the appropriate training and knowledge that will come from the sound scientific research and there are excellent programs, existing and emerging to share this with providers. I believe that people interested in this exploration should have the support to be as safe and informed as possible, knowing the benefits and risks beforehand. We have learned a lot about how to prepare people for optimal experiences and set/setting best practices although I still have the upmost concern for people for whom these medicines may be contraindicated. I also know that not all psychedelic experiences are easy to experience or “good” and people should be adequately prepared and supported for this possibility.
What are the most remarkable changes you have seen in patients who have leveraged psychedelic integration to manage their mental wellness?
Some of the most profound experiences I have observed in people who have benefitted from psychedelics include the experience of love. In this warm receptive state the observer-self is strengthened, allowing for the possibility of re-scripting of old narratives. I love when people connect with internal compassion and reunite with new or lost resources. I am also most humbled when people reconnect with lost memories and experiences of themselves in what had been harmful or traumatic experiences. Having painful neural networks wake up through direct experience allows for the possibility of adding in something new, and hopefully this is something important or good. Supportive care makes all the difference in assuring that experiences are sorted, sifted, and understood in the most beneficial way. When this has occurred most optimally, outcomes can be profound. I cannot deny that some of these medicines seem to have their own healing profiles that are beyond mystical.
What challenges do you see for further integration of psychedelic based therapies into more mainstream health care?
The challenges of mainstreaming into health care settings seems to be significant but doable. As substances like psilocybin and MDMA await FDA approval for the treatment of certain mental health disorders, and others like ketamine are already used in clinic settings, we continue to learn about best practices and trainings for optimal delivery. While underground work has been happening for a long time, educating mainstream providers will be a huge step in this process. It will also be important for the health care industry to have plans for how to best accommodate all types of experiences, including challenging ones. We must anticipate the need for safe and secure spaces and the longer time frames required for each experience. How will patients be assured the excellent pre-care preparation and and after care integration? Will insurance providers cover the costs of sessions? What about those who are uninsured, marginalized or without meeting official diagnostic criteria? What are the screening barriers that exclude those who are contraindicated for this care? How will harm reduction work into this process? Will challenging trips be viewed as “successful” therapeutic experiences? These are just a few of the many questions that come up in my mind. However, we are aided by the quickening of everyones processes around psychedelics, as well as guidance from places like Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Sciences and others, who will no doubt show us the way.