If you’ve been looking into psychedelic therapy to treat any number of conditions or for personal growth purposes, you are likely curious about how you can be sure of your safety during the therapeutic process.
Just like any form of treatment for mental and physical health, trained practitioners should take certain safety measures to ensure that you have the best possible experience.
Here are the most common ways psychedelic therapy providers offer safe treatments.
Any truly reputable practitioner will thoroughly screen participants before determining whether psychedelic therapy is a good option. Your practitioner may ask questions about your physical health, as psychedelics may impact bodily functions like heart rate and blood pressure.
Mental health considerations should also be taken into account. Anyone with a personal or family history of psychosis and/or manic episodes should proceed with extreme caution. Psychedelic therapies may trigger or exacerbate these symptoms. People prone to panic attacks and anxiety or those who need to do more work with their therapist to manage their responses when revisiting sources of trauma may need to hold off on psychedelic therapy until these symptoms are less of a concern.
Everyone is different, however, and there may be options suitable for you as an individual. You’ll need to work with a knowledgeable practitioner to discuss what is right for you. It’s also possible that future research will uncover substances and methods for safely treating certain conditions that aren’t currently considered eligible for psychedelic therapy.
If psychedelic therapy is a suitable option for you, there is still work to do before you have a psychedelic-assisted therapy experience. You and your practitioner should go through a preparation process to ensure that the psychedelic session is productive and safe.
One of the most important parts of preparation is developing, understanding, and being confident in setting your intention. Whether it entails healing from pain and trauma, examining your behaviors with honesty, compassion, and fresh perspective, or connecting with greater meaning in a way that will help you grow and move forward personally, your practitioner should help you develop a clear understanding of your intention before you engage in a psychedelic therapy session.
Preparation should also include coaching about what to expect in terms of mental and physical effects during the psychedelic session so that nothing comes as a surprise and causes unexpected discomfort and distraction. You may or may not experience all of the effects you discuss with your therapist, and while some of them may seem intimidating, remember that the purpose of disclosing every possibility is part of ensuring proper preparation for the psychedelic experience.
During the preparation process, don’t hesitate to ask as many questions as you need in order to feel that you fully understand what to expect.
Set and setting
Set and setting are crucial components for a safe psychedelic experience, and reputable practitioners will either provide or advise the best possible environment.
The safety and comfort of the surroundings are an important consideration. Furniture, decor, and lighting should all be adjusted to facilitate comfort. The space should be private and free from external influences such as strangers and unintentional noises. You and your practitioner may decide to involve someone you trust to accompany you, or select music that is appropriate and can be helpful in your journey.
Another factor that doesn’t have to do with your surroundings is your internal climate. Going into a psychedelic experience with a humble, open, confident, and calm mindset is something to strive for. Feeling a bit nervous is normal; however, if you are feeling very fearful and anxious, it’s important to communicate this state of mind to your therapist. A good therapist will welcome you to communicate whatever is present for you, whether that be joy, grief, anger, resentment, bitterness, or anything else.
The reason you should be open with your therapist about your mindset is that it can have an important impact on your psychedelic experience. If you don’t think you’re in the right space to undergo psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, have a conversation with your practitioner about potentially postponing your journey.
Guidance and support
Throughout a psychedelic experience, your practitioner (as well as other staff or medical professionals, if applicable) should be present to ensure your safety. This involves supervising your behavior and the physical effects of the substance.
Your practitioner will gently guide your personal reflections as you experience the effects of the substance, so as to facilitate the psychotherapeutic process. Many psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy modalities are guided by the medicine and the person’s own inner healing intelligence. The therapist’s influence should balance being supportive and present while also allowing your journey to unfold in a natural way. They should keep your intention and personal goals in mind when providing insight and guidance as needed.
In the event that your psychedelic experience becomes challenging, your practitioner is there to support you. As you go through the preparation process, notice if you feel comfortable opening up to them. It’s important that you can name any challenges that arise during a psychedelic session, even if you’re afraid it might bother, hurt or offend them. The more aware they are of how you are feeling and what you are experiencing, the better equipped they will be to offer the kind of support and reflection that will assist in your process.
Integration is the therapeutic follow-up to a psychedelic experience and helps you process any epiphanies, insights, or thoughts that may have been brought to light. This process ensures your long-term well-being after the psychedelic session by addressing any challenges you may have encountered and helping you make sense of them to avoid feeling confused or traumatized.
It’s also very possible that your experience was purely positive. Still, you’ll probably benefit from further discussing the session with your therapist. It will assist both of you in formulating a path forward that may involve changes that facilitate the personal growth you’ve discussed during the preparation process.
If you still have questions about safety before, during, and after a psychedelic therapy experience, be sure to share your concerns with the practitioner you have chosen. Many psychedelic providers enter the psychedelic field from a place of compassion and care for those who can truly benefit from this method of healing, and they will be happy to support you in any way that they can.