February 2, 2022

August 6, 2021

Integrating Psychedelic Healing Past the Clinical Setting

Aside from the trip in psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, the other 95% of the healing journey includes integration practices into everyday life. Change isn't easy, but certain digital health tools can support!

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It’s believed by many that psychedelic-assisted therapy will provide a patient with a panacea, a solution or remedy for all difficulties or diseases - often emphasizing the psychedelic part. 

In truth, the real work and breakthroughs occur long after the trip has subsided, during, what is known as integration. Integration in psychotherapy can often be overlooked, but it’s a crucial step in the mental health journey. As psychotherapist Jane Garnett puts it, integration is the way in which we “metabolize the supranormal phenomena.”

As the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) website puts it, the last 10 years of psychedelic research have been astounding, with numerous clinical trials being conducted. Leading universities like Johns Hopkins have created dedicated research facilities with MDMA and psilocybin that are on the precipice of approvals as mainstream medicines. With that, researchers and practitioners are adamant that, while psychedelics are powerful substances with incredible healing potential for various indications, including addiction, pain, depression, anxiety, and more, they aren’t exactly a one-stop shop for betterment. It takes a process, tools, and professional supports to drive real clinical results. A large part of that process is integration.

Integrating Psychedelic Healing into Everyday Life

Psychedelic-assisted therapy is reentering the public eye as a powerful tool to help patients deal with anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other treatment-resistant disorders. But the trip alone is only 5% of the work, according to Dr. Dan Engle, a primary investigator with MINDCURE. 

By not following up a psychedelic experience with integration processes or just experiencing psychedelics outside of clinical settings, people often face difficulties reentering their day-to-day lives, having no one to share the experience with and no resources to help understand and digest the intricacies of the trip.

In an earlier article, we discussed the importance of preparing for your psychedelic session by determining set and setting, plotting out intentions, and building a strong rapport with your clinician. Your approach to psychedelics should essentially be a holistic one, one that looks at the whole picture: preparation, session, and integration as a single act towards transcendence and bettering yourself.

Read on to learn more about post-trip psychedelic integration, an integral part of ensuring what you see, feel, and experience is digested into your conscious being. 

What is Integration

Entheogenic Research Integration & Education (ERIE) defines integration as “the process by which the material accessed and insights gained in a psychedelic experience are incorporated over time into one’s life in a way that benefits the individual and their community.” It’s about creating intentional space to make meaning of the feelings, sensations, and ideas that arise so that a patient can inform their day-to-day lives with actionable steps to heal. 

The Unfolding Process in Psychedelic Integration

The unfolding process, defined here, is a great example of integrating techniques and one that is crucial to successful integration. The concept is borrowed from humanistic psychology and, like our understanding of integration, “signals the continuous unraveling of insights about oneself and one’s relationship after a psychedelic experience.”  

There are two types of unfolding processes: horizontal and vertical.

Horizontal unfolding is when new personal meanings are developed progressively over time, each building on the previous one.

Vertical unfolding is when new, radical meanings emerge randomly, along with an increased depth of reality.

Integration can be one of the most difficult stages of the therapeutic process because the intensity of symptoms can fluctuate, and patients may experience increased feelings of vulnerability, sadness, and anger. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing either, according to a survey of nearly 2,000 individuals who had an adverse experience with psilocybin, with one-third describing it as “one of the most challenging events of their lifetime.” Despite this, 84% reported positive, long-term outcomes.

Why Do We Need to Integrate Psychedelic Experiences?

There is a huge gap that exists between the psychedelic experience and everyday life, and without the proper resources in place, both externally and internally, it can be a struggle to reconcile these differences.

Psychedelics can trick you into thinking that when you come down from the mind-altering process you are automatically and profoundly changed. But if you rely on psychedelics to give you a “reset” without putting any work in, there’s not much keeping you from falling back into the same old patterns once you come down from those euphoric heights. 

According to Chacruna, the term integration was first used in psychology with the treatment of PTSD or DID. It stressed the importance of unifying compartmentalized aspects of a patient’s personality developed under intense traumatic conditions. Integration in this framework allowed patients to develop internal communication channels and revise internal dialogue. Psychedelic integration works in much of the same way, helping individuals develop a higher tolerance for ambiguity and uncertainty, increase self-compassion, and face the past without becoming overwhelmed with it.

Integration requires an ongoing commitment to continued mindful processing to help digest and contextualize the experiences of non-ordinary reality. By weaving the psychedelic experience into one’s ordinary life, sense of self, understanding of the world, and one’s place in it, we’re able to rewire our consciousness around challenges. They give us the starting point we need to begin healing. Then, integrative practices keep us on the right path.

What Can Integration Look Like:

Just as the psychedelic journey is an individual experience, so is integration. What works for one person might not work for the other. When beginning your integration journey, it’s important to remember that healing isn’t linear. Integration can be a lifetime commitment towards taking the learnings you experienced during your trip and applying them to your day-to-day life.

In an article on Medium, Garnett discusses planning for integration even before starting the journey. To her, there are three important categories to consider: set, setting, and support.

Set: How are you showing up to your practice? Time and time again, the emphasis on having a positive intention (not expectation) and clearing mental house can be helpful to orient your trip.

Setting: Where will you physically be experiencing the psychedelic session and with whom? In The Psychedelic Experience by Timothy Leary, individuals are encouraged to set aside up to three days to process their insights, so there’s “sufficient time for reflection and meditation.” Leary says that returning to work too hastily can “blur the clarity of the vision and reduce the potential for learning.” Setting can include the space, people, and tools used to create a safe, supportive environment. This can include music, furniture, lighting, and more.

Support: Trust is a key component in a successful psychedelic-therapy session. Psychedelic clinicians know to take the time to build a rapport with their clients. For this reason, digital health tools like iSTRYM make building therapeutic relationships easier. That way, your healing process isn’t interrupted once you leave the clinic. Professional support can make all the difference in successful integration as it helps you to derive insights from your psychedelic experience, ground your thoughts, and encourage healthy coping skills.

Psychedelic Support shares this great list of other areas that can help during integration:

  • Examining the meaning of visual and/or somatic experiences that arose
  • Exploring the emotional impact of the psychedelic experience
  • Contextualizing the “story” of the journey
  • Grounding insights into meaningful behavior change
  • Understanding a “bad trip” or difficult experience
  • Exploring how to live from a newly recognized truth
  • Examining how to share your experience with others
  • Managing cravings or desires to continue psychedelic exploration
  • Setting intentions for further journeys based on what arose

Integrating Psychedelic Healing with iSTRYM

One of the best ways to integrate a psychedelic healing into everyday life is with a fully immersive digital health tool. MINDCURE’s iSTRYM technology provides clinicians with a platform and their clients with an app, making integration accessible, efficient, and part of a daily routine. 

After a session, the app allows patients to stay in contact with their clinician, helping to foster a trusting relationship and scheduling future sessions. With iSTRYM, clinicians also have access to a platform that monitors mood, weather, and biometric data, such as heart rate. These factors help clinicians understand how patients are interacting with the psychedelics and therapy. 

The app also provides patients with interactive integrative practices, including SOMA Breath breathwork courses, journaling with Speak Ai language processing, LUDIC music, meditation, and more — key factors for successful integration. 

Check out our website to learn more about how MINDCURE technology can help you bridge the gap between the psychedelic-assisted journey and  everyday self.

Written by

Hayley Kirsh