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What is Psychedelic Integration Therapy?

psychedelic

The goal of psychedelic integration therapy is to help those who experienced an altered state of consciousness understand the experience. Experiencing an altered state of consciousness induced by a psychedelic or entheogenic substance can sometimes be a disintegrating process and individuals may need professional help to with re-integration, the psychological and somatic processing of the experience and successful assimilation of insights into one’s life for the purpose of growth, healing and well-being. the mind, body and spirit.

Whether you are looking to solidify insights from your journey into your daily life, or seeking support after a difficult psychedelic experience, professional care or community integration groups are ways to gain deeper meaning from your experiences and assistance in navigating your life’s path. You are not alone, and with a bit of thoughtful effort, you will eventually find someone who can help you on your journey towards healing and transformation.

Not to be confused with trip sitting, psychedelic integration therapy involves processing a psychedelic experience after the fact within a therapeutic context.  A guided psychedelic session, also known as trip sitting is when facilitator is present while the client is under the influence of the substance.   Please bear in mind that at the moment, the only way for clinicians to legally facilitate psychedelic experiences in the US with MDMA or psilocybin is in a clinical trial . Held at select universities, like Johns Hopkins, NYU, and others, the administration of each substance requires their own training by the different organizations that sponsor these trials.  For MDMA, Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) provides the training, and in regards to psilocybin, training is provided by either Compass Pathways or the Usona Institute.

Understanding Psychedelic Integration Therapy?

Psychedelic integration assists individuals gain insight and understanding from their experience with psychedelic, using them as tools for personal growth and mental wellness. Psychedelic integration includes activities like:

  • Yoga
  • Journaling
  • Meditation
  • Mindfulness techniques.

As the psychedelic psychotherapy becomes more accepted, proponents see a wide breadth of approaches available and therapists use each phase (preparation, psychedelic experience, and integration) of the typical approach to psychedelic therapy differently. Due to the Schedule 1 classification of psychedelics (psilocybin, LSD, DMT, ayahuasca, etc.) a large aspect of psychedelic based psychotherapy currently available is more akin to harm reduction rather than personal growth and wellness.

Finding a Psychedelic Integration Therapist

Finding the best fit in a therapist can be a daunting task, whether or not the work involves psychedelics.  The fundamental question asked by anyone seeking therapy should be “What type of therapist would be best for me?”  While we each answer this question quite differently, the fact remains that some therapists are more skilled than others in dealing with particular issues, and what really matters to you as as a prospective patient is answering the question of “What challenge are you looking to overcome?”  Answering this question involves a bit of personal insight and understanding in order to unpack your personal situation by drilling down with:

  • Would you like someone who is trained in treating trauma?
  • What about a specific type of trauma—like childhood abuse, military sexual assault, or serious car accidents?
  • Do you feel a male therapist would best help you examine your relationship to masculinity?
  • Do you need help you exploring your gender identity, expression, and relationship dynamics?

While these important questions are wrapped in nuance,  beyond identifying a specific area of specialty, most people select a therapist based on:

  • Your sense of trust in the therapist.
  • The therapist’s ability to hear and understand you.
  • Your hope in the therapeutic potential of working together.

At the end of this article, Frshminds provides you with a detailed checklist you can follow when looking for a therapist.

Understanding Mental Health Professional Degrees and Certifications

Psychological counselling professionals undergo training of various types and lengths in order to acquire their expertise. The alphabet soup following a health care professional’s name, abbreviations signifying credentials and education, is more self-serving and confusing than it is useful for the patient. In addition to the traditional forms of training, there are also specialized training programs in  psychedelic psychotherapy.  We provide an overview of the traditional psychology training you will find when interacting with therapists as well as some of the psychedelic psychotherapy training that therapists have done beyond their traditional training.

Traditional Psychological Training

Psychiatrist

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor (MD) who completes a residency in managing mental health conditions.   Becoming psychiatrist in Canada and the United States requires that people first earn a medical degree and then complete a four to five residency in psychiatry. Once finished formal schooling, psychiatrists require  a provincial/state license to practice and are eligible for board certification.  Working  from a medical model with a heavy emphasis on medication management, psychiatrists assess if a patient’s symptoms stem from physical or psychological imbalances.  What separates psychiatrists from most other mental health professionals is that psychiatrists are licensed to prescribe medications.

There are many subspecialties within this psychiatry that require additional training, such as child psychiatry or addiction psychiatry.

Clinical Psychologist

Registered Clinical Psychologists who provide clinical counselling services undergo extensive training (similar in length to MDs) to obtain a doctorate and state license and have either:

  • Doctorates of philosophy (PhDs) in clinical psychology, which involves training in both evidence-based clinical work and mental health research.
  • PsyD psychologists, whose focus primarily on clinical training.

It is important to note that the differences in degrees are generalizations, and individual training programs emphasize certain aspects of training more than others, regardless of the degree earned.  Psychologists work in clinical or research settings and engage in a range of activities:

  • Provide individual, couple, group, and family therapy.
  • Administration and interpretation of psychological assessments in clinical or academic settings.
  • Conducting psychological research.
  • Teaching college or graduate students.

In addition to attaining an advanced degree, they must complete many hours under supervision during and after their degree program to obtain a state license to practice. Many psychologists also complete fellowships to specialize further, for example in treating trauma, substance use, severe mental illness, or working in specific medical settings like primary care, palliative care/hospice, or pain management clinics; with the limited exception of psychologists practicing in Louisiana, New Mexico, Illinois, Iowa, and Idaho they do not prescribe medications.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Taking a systems approach, which means working with individuals in the context of their families and communities, licensed clinical social workers work in a variety of settings ranging from public schools to hospitals and rehabilitation facilities and more often than not hold a Master of Social Work degree (MSW).  After graduating with an MSW, most states/provinces require 2 – 3 years of supervised training to become licensed as an independent provider.  They provide several services  similar to other mental health professionals including:

  • Clinical intake evaluations
  • Specific interventions for mental health conditions.
  • Deliver therapy
  • Oversee case management and help connect their clients to appropriate agencies and services. .

Psychedelic Psychotherapy Training

Certificate in Psychedelic-assisted Psychotherapies and Research

Starting in 20015, the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) began a formal training program called the Certificate in Psychedelic-assisted Therapies and Research.   A 9-month course with rotating guest lecturers and a weeklong retreat is a hybrid residential, in-person and online curriculum.  Broad in focus, and intentionally interdisciplinary, the certificate covers classic psychedelic medicines like psilocybin, ayahuasca, peyote and LSD as well as  empathogens or entactogens like MDMA and ketamine.

MDMA Therapy Training Program

The MDMA Therapy Training Program,  by MAPS Public Benefit Corporation (MAPS PBC), offers in-depth training into the practice of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy, with curriculum based on decades of clinical experience of experienced practitioners . Starting with the theoretical approach of the modality, developed from the fundamental notion that every person has within them an incredible source of wisdom and an innate ability to heal.

Psychedelic Therapy Training Program

Salt City Psychedelic Therapy & Research’s Psychedelic Therapy Training Program is an 8-week program that serves as introduction to topics related to psychedelic and non-psychedelic therapies. Upon completion of the program, students  receive a SCPTR PTTP Certificate of Completion.  The program includes:

  • Direct training from SCPTR’s Scientists and Directors as well as guest experts.
  • Weekly process group to integrate the theoretical learning.
  • Experiential assignments and topic-related readings.

An internship in a Ketamine-assisted psychotherapy clinic is recommended during or prior to the program.

Frshminds’ Therapist Checklist

If you’re new to therapy, it can be hard to know where to start.  Below are some questions to reflect upon as you consider what you’re looking for in therapy and in a therapist as well as a number of ideas as to how best about screening therapists.

Questions to ask yourself

Before reaching out to a therapist, ask yourself the following questions:

  • With regards to psychedelic integration services:
    • What specific psychedelic substances have I used that I’d like to integrate?
    • Did I have a difficult psychedelic experience that I’m still struggling to make sense of?
    • Do I have strong beliefs about the psychological, spiritual or religious content of my experiences?
    • Does my therapist need to believe any of these same things, or is it okay for them simply to be knowledgeable about the full range of possible experiences and interpretations?
    • Do my needs for integration center around specific domains of my life—like my relationships, my work, my physical well being, my relationship with my body, or my spirituality?
    • Am I looking for legal, guided experiences?
      • Have I considered enrolling in a research study (if available) or traveling to another country?
      • Would ketamine-assisted psychotherapy possibly be a healing approach to my goals?
    • Am I looking for a provider with knowledge about what medications or medical conditions have additional risks for psychedelic users?
  • General therapist questions
    • Am I currently experiencing any physical and/or psychological symptoms?
    • How often do the symptoms occur and how much are these symptoms affecting my daily life?
    • Have I been previously diagnosed with a mental health condition or disorder?
    • Do I want to be assessed or re-evaluated?
    • What do I hope to get out of working with a mental health professional? What are my goals and intentions?
    • How do I want to work with mental health goals?
      • Do I only want to try out medications?
      • Do I want to focus on therapy first?
      • Do I want to try a combination?
    • Do I want to see a professional with special expertise or knowledge on specific topics?
    • If I had previous experiences with mental health professionals, how did it go?
      • What was helpful?
      • What didn’t work so well?
      • What might I look for that’s the same or different than in my previous experiences?
    • What is my budget?
      • What services will my insurance cover?
      • Am I willing to pay more for a specialized or trained provider?
    • How much time can I dedicate to therapy sessions?
    • Do I have a preference for in person or online telehealth sessions?
    • Do I have preferences for my therapist’s gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, or religious/spiritual background?

Screening a Prospective Therapist

When screening therapist, consider doing some or all of the following:

  • Look for:
    • education
    • state-specific licenses,
    • specialties,
    • types of sessions),
  • Review professional websites, and read online review
  • Look if the therapist has any publicly available material like:
    • Articles
    • Blogs,
    • Books
    • Talks
  • Ask friends and families for recommendations.
  • Ask for a phone or in-person consultation before you commit to working with a specific therapist.
    • What do you notice about their:
      • communication style
      • personality, and
      • knowledge?
  • Try a session or two, and if you aren’t feeling supported or safe, seek a different therapist.
  • When talking with a therapist remember to ask questions:
    • What are your areas of expertise?
    • What is your experience working with someone with my symptoms/therapeutic goals?
    • What is your therapeutic orientation? How do you approach psychedelic integration?
      • Have you ever had a psychedelic experience?
      • Are you familiar with contraindicated medications and conditions for psychedelic substances?
    • Are there specific skills or practices you recommend to your clients?
    • What are they, and why do you think they might be useful for me?

As with any large life decision, multiple factors go into selecting a therapist. When exploring psychedelic integration, understanding a practitioner’s therapeutic approach and knowledge base around psychedelics can increase the likelihood of working with someone who can significantly help you through the integration process.

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1 Comment

Velia
August 14, 2021 at 8:32 am

Thanks for the perspective. I wish my previous therapists/doctors knew about integration work.

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