To “integrate” means to “blend into a functioning or unified whole.”
Psychedelic integration is the process of drawing insight from an often enigmatic experience. It’s a practice of working with a professional to inform personal growth. Manifesting in a variety of ways, this can turn a crazy trip into a step forward.
The process of integration comes after a psychedelic experience. It processes the significance of your journey. It also affirms the major takeaways you want to put in place in your life.
Psychedelic journeys are like snowflakes: beautiful, unique, and often involve symmetrical patterns. Because they are unique, all advice is subjective to a certain degree. Some experiences are easy and ecstatic. Others are challenging and uncomfortable. But all journeys, experts argue, are improved by integrating the session after.
Think of it this way: If a scuba diver comes up from a deep-water dive too quickly, the drop in air pressure can cause bubbles in the blood. This leads to decompression sickness or “the bends.”
Similarly, if one attempts to return to their modus operandi too quickly after a psychedelic experience, he/she can experience a kind of whiplash. This may cause confusion, disappointment, or dissociation. Psychedelic integration acts as an incremental way of adjusting back to a new normal.
It’s important that you only attempt psychedelic integration from trained specialists. This may be a therapist, a coach, a shaman, or an experienced practitioner. Not your parents or a stranger at a bar.
Ideally, your integration guide is the same as the practitioner who administered the medicine. This may not always be workable. Make sure they are a trusted individual who makes you feel secure and understood.
It may be tough explaining why you knew that the tree you saw represented your grandmother. So it doesn’t help if you feel judged by your integration guide. Mystical experiences can be “ineffable” as William James refers to the difficulty of explaining the psychedelic journey and its takeaways.
The type of care you look for will dictate what type of integration specialist you seek. If you are working through past trauma or difficult emotions, you may want to consult a psychedelic therapist who is trained in more traditional therapeutic methods.
Actual integration therapy may vary between institutions. But in clinical trials, there is a general process that takes place.
First participants go through preparation sessions and talk about what they hope to gain from a psychedelic experience and ask questions. This is followed by dosing where participants are encouraged to focus on their inner healing. They should immerse themselves in the experience rather than to try to make sense of it right away.
The dosing session is followed by several integration sessions which look like familiar therapy sessions. The participant is encouraged to recount their experience, to describe their feelings during and after, and to talk through lingering questions.
The question of “when,” (like time itself, you may find) is subjective.
For clinical trials studying MDMA, the participant is asked to journal their thoughts in the days following the session. In some studies, the first 90-minute integration session occurs the following day. Two to three later integration sessions occur within the month. Participants should plan to integrate within the first week of the experience.
One thing that is important to note: It’s never too late to integrate a psychedelic experience. If a psychedelic experience wasn’t integrated properly you should seek a way to do so, even if it’s decades later.
In some ways, integration is a process that lasts a lifetime.
Psychedelic use without integration is like auditing a class instead of taking it. You will learn more and remember more with integration. Aside from the risk of disappointment or dissociation, proceeding without integration can increase the difficulty of implementing any real change into your life.
In some rare, upsetting cases, psychedelic experiences left unintegrated can cause lingering PTSD-like symptoms. The memory of psychedelic journeys can fade like a dream. But trained support and a structured, proven method of integrating your experience will embed its lessons into your life.
Finally, integration can be fun!
Consider: how many times can you discuss becoming a dragon with a trained mental health professional who, instead of judging you, totally understands how awesome that is.
Disclaimer: Nushama only offers legal ketamine services and many of the substances mentioned are in various states of legalization, decriminalization, and scientific study.
Our mission is to help people achieve mental wellness safely… so they can transcend their emotional pain, and live a free and fulfilling life. Book an appointment.