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July 31, 2021

Before the Trip: Preparing for Psychedelic Sessions

Preparing for psychedelic sessions can profoundly influence the healing journey. Communication, set and setting, digital therapeutics: these are essential factors to promoting successful psychedelic therapeutic outcomes

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When it comes to the use of psychedelics in therapy, it’s the job of everyone involved — patients, clinicians, and support — to reduce harm. You wouldn’t start using heavy machinery before reading an instruction manual, or go on vacation without packing the essentials.

Preparation with psychedelics and, more importantly, psychedelic therapy is just like that. An agreement you have with yourself, your trip sitter, counselor, and clinician to understand and prepare for your mental health journey.

The trip itself is only 5% of the journey; the real healing comes from the groundwork you put in place before embarking and the techniques you use long after the trip.

Here, we’ll talk about what preparation is, what it could look like, and how it optimizes psychedelic-assisted therapy sessions. 

What Does it Mean to Prepare for Psychedelic Therapy?

Preparation in psychedelic therapy involves specific language, intentional actions, and a willingness to be open. Understanding these factors helps both patients and practitioners get the most out of the psychedelic therapy experience. Below are just a few of the many actional items that individuals can add to the prep list to help foster a transcendent, safe, and empowering experience.

How to Prepare for Psychedelic Therapy Sessions

Keep in Touch

It’s important when preparing for a session to keep your clinician in the loop on any physical or mental changes that have occurred between booking the appointment and undergoing the session. Topics worth noting include increases or decreases in anxiety or depression levels, suicidal ideation, and/or shifts in heart rate or blood pressure levels. 

Of course, it’s not exactly easy to recognize these factors in ourselves (especially the internal, biometric data). The abilities to monitor and make sense of such changes are skills reserved for the psychiatric experts and technologies we rely on in therapy. 

Discussing with your clinician the broad range of psychological effects that you could experience is also extremely important to help establish context, understanding, and trust between you and the psychedelic substances.

Ask the Important Questions

Besides asking outward questions to your clinicians, it's important to ask yourself some questions too. The psychedelic experience is a very personal journey. Asking yourself why you are pursuing this path and what you hope to gain (or overcome) from the experience are just a few ways to help you prepare for psychedelic experiences. 

Establish Intentions

Intentions are crucial to the psychedelic experience. An intention is defined as “a simple statement that articulates the way you would like to show up for the session, the themes in your life you would like to address, or states of being you wish to embody.”

This is accomplished through language and sentiment processing and recording actions, which can be done by writing them down or repeating phrases to oneself. In yoga and mediation, this is called a mantra. During a psychedelic therapy session, a guide may encourage clients to phrase their intentions as requests, such as, “Show me how to love myself” or “Teach me how to be patient.”  Writing your intentions down is important to fully invest in them and the experience.

While intentions are necessary, it’s important to understand that they differ from expectations. Where intentions or goals can put an individual on the right track for their experience, expectations can hinder it. 

Prioritize Set and Setting

During the first clinical trials of the '50s and '60s, Timothy Leary, one of the founding fathers of psychedelic research, catalyzed the terms set and setting, helping to define the experience. 

Set is the individual mindset with which one enters the experience. Being calm, trusting, and receptive allows the psychedelics to work their magic on your mind. Clearing house is a term that describes clearing the mind by completing all the tasks (like those dirty dishes, or those emails you keep putting off) that could take you away from your intention. Think, "mindset." To help create a positive set, research recommends:

  • Getting restful sleep
  • Practicing meditation
  • Asking any remaining questions

Setting refers to the physical environment that houses the psychedelic session. Psychedelic experts use a number of practices when preparing the setting for a psychedelic session:

  • Dimming the lights to turn the focus inward
  • Recommending comfortable, loose clothing
  • Providing familiar and comforting supports, like scents or sounds that help create a calm environment

How Does Preparation Optimize Therapeutic Outcomes?

All of this preparatory work helps you to trust, let go, and be open — tenets of a successful psychedelic experience as practiced by the Zendo Project, an organization sponsored by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). This project focuses on psychedelic harm reduction. Working under the knowledge that people often experience psychedelics outside of a supervised medical context like psychedelic-assisted therapy, their work is to ensure that people have the knowledge to trip as safely as possible. 

As each person is different, so are the ways they heal (and trip!). That means personalized supports are incredibly important for mental health patients, but more specifically, for psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy patients. In preparing for psychedelic therapy, patients can get the most out of their healing experience, with a focus on harm reduction and sustained outcomes. In order to effectively prepare, MINDCURE focuses on building resources that optimize communication between clinicians and their patients.

MINDCURE’s iSTRYM app provides the tools and functionalities to empower patients to prepare for their first and subsequent psychedelic-assisted therapy sessions. iSTRYM brings new meaning to psychedelic healing by optimizing the Cleanse and Integration stages in psychotherapy. 

Built with preparation practices to prime the patient for their medical sessions, the app is ideal in setting the stage for healing. These practices include exclusive SOMA Breath breathwork courses, journaling through Speak Ai language processing, yoga, meditation, and more. iSTRYM also enables patients to stay in touch with their clinician, building trust into therapeutic relationships with data and chat tools. With iSTRYM, clinicians access a platform to monitor mood, weather, and biometric data, such as heart rate. These factors help clinicians understand how patients are interacting with protocols. 

Check out our website to learn more about how MINDCURE technology can help individuals prepare for psychedelic-assisted journeys.

Written by

Hayley Kirsh