What Exactly is Psychedelic Integration Therapy?

As psychedelics grow in popularity, more and more therapists are offering psychedelic integration therapy. This is a good thing. There is an increased public demand for novel treatments for mental health problems or life issues that have not responded to traditional approaches. Recent research is confirming that under the right conditions of a safe and supportive setting, psychedelics seem to create profound, transformative experiences that are therapeutically beneficial.  

However, many people are confused about the term “psychedelic integration.” What is it? Why is important? How do I access it?

First, psychedelic integration is a general umbrella term referring to any practice, method, or action aimed at maximizing benefits from psychedelic sessions. It doesn’t have to be therapy. For example, integration may include drawing, writing, going on a hike, or calling a friend.

Psychedelic integration therapy refers to the use of a psychotherapy approach to achieve a similar aim. And just like there are many different therapies, there are many different forms that psychedelic integration therapy can take. But why is integration so important?

  1. Psychedelics can be challenging! Even when positive therapeutic experiences occur, there are often aspects of a psychedelic experience that can be difficult including feeling overwhelmed, scared, confused, or physically uncomfortable. People benefit from support around these challenges and any distress that remains unresolved after an experience is over.
  2. Change doesn’t happen automatically. Psychedelics can occasion powerful mystical or peak experiences that involve a sense of transcendence, increased insight about one’s life and priorities, or a sense of receiving wisdom from a source outside of oneself. However, change is hard, and these experiences don’t always automatically translate into an improved life without effort and intention.
  3. It’s easy to forget. When reading about some of the extraordinary experiences involved in psychedelics, it may seem impossible that such experiences could be forgotten. But human memory is unreliable and these experiences, just like any memory, can fade with time. Talking about them and other integration methods help sustain psychedelic experiences so that wisdom and insight can continue to provide benefit long into the future.
  4. Growth happens with other people. There is something inherently human and healing that can happen when sharing our private life with other people. Sharing a psychedelic experience with someone you trust can be a powerful way to learn more from it and process aspects of it that may remain unclear. It can helpful to have others who know you provide feedback about psychedelic experiences and how they may relate to your lives in ways that weren’t initially visible to you.

There is so much to say about integration, and so many books, podcasts, and other resources that are available. Readers interested in learning more about psychedelic should consider some of the resources on the Portland Integration Network website such as reading articles or books, attending groups to learn from others, or meeting with a psychedelic-friendly therapist or provider.

One final thought is that modern clinical research is confirming truths that have been around for thousands of years: that psychedelics should be treated with caution, humility, and respect, and that their effect depends on the context that they are used. Most older cultures that have used psychedelics in ceremonies and spiritual practices have had systems in place to help people use them safely and with the support of the community. Due to the psychedelic’s legal status and stigma in the US, it can be hard to find a similar degree of support and many people feel that they must keep their experiences private. Thankfully, there is an ever-growing psychedelic community that can provide a place to obtain support around healing and growth associated with psychedelic use and where integration can be practiced amongst people who understand and value them