What is psychedelic integration and why does it matter?
Psychedelic, as you may know, comes from the Greek psyche (life; spirit; soul; self, akin to psychein which means to breathe) and delic (to make manifest, to reveal and make visible). Thus psychedelics manifest soul, they make spirit visible, they reveal life itself.
Integration (the root word of which is entire), is defined as the restoration to wholeness; the process of renewal; the making up of a whole by combining the separate parts or elements. Also, we look to entire which means to make whole, to unite, including all essential parts; with no part excepted; not fatigued or worn; fresh; one and undivided. (Source: Oxford Oversized Dictionary at the Allen Ginsberg Library of Naropa University)
The Center for Medicinal Mindfulness defines psychedelic integration as the process one goes through in the days, weeks, and months after a psychedelic therapy or intentional psychedelic experience. During this time, we are making sense of the content of our experience, processing the profound insights that came up, as well as any significant or challenging memories and emotions that surfaced. We are resolving things on the somatic (body) level and working to bring our external lives into even deeper alignment with our inner psyches and spirits. Integration periods ask the questions: So what? What does this all mean? And now what? Who am I really? Think of it as if during a psychedelic experience, some seeds were planted. Integration is the process of nurturing those seeds, every step of the way from seed through to harvest.
WHY IS PSYCHEDELIC INTEGRATION IMPORTANT?
Psychedelics can be inherently dysregulating and disruptive to the homeostasis of our lives. And that’s the point! They rearrange us inside. In intentional and therapeutic settings this is why they work. This is a great process if and only if our inner world is prepared for these changes, and if and only if our external world can support major transformation and keep us safe throughout the process. We do not support unsafe medicine practices, and we strongly caution our clients against “just trying something out” and hoping for the best. These medicines are incredibly powerful and need to be treated with the utmost respect.
Many people have eye-opening, initiatory, and mind-expanding experiences using psychedelics. Not everyone can integrate these new awarenesses, uncovered memories, previously hidden traumas, and previously hidden treasures deep within the psyche without professional support and thus many of the gifts from these experiences can be forgotten or lost completely. It is in the integration process that we turn lead into gold.
WHAT KIND OF PSYCHEDELIC INTEGRATION THERAPY DOES THE CENTER FOR MEDICINAL MINDFULNESS OFFER?
Our team of psychedelic integration specialists provides non-medicine integration sessions for clients in the days and weeks shortly after each of their Cannabis-Assisted or Ketamine-Assisted Psychedelic Therapy sessions with us. This is a necessary and deeply meaningful step in the psychedelic therapy protocols we have developed. These 60-minute sessions are an opportunity to discuss the themes of the sessions, process the emotions and memories that were stirred up by the experience, and to make meaning out of it all. This time is also used to explore concrete goals and intentions related to meaningful life changes inspired by the overall process.
Our psychedelic integration specialists also offer ongoing therapeutic support and harm reduction counseling to clients who have used psychedelics in non-clinical settings outside of our center. We support clients in discerning between cannabis and/or psychedelic use and misuse and in developing healthier relationships with the medicinal tools they choose to work with. We also teach therapeutic skill sets which can be applied to their own exploratory experiences.
ART-BASED PSYCHEDELIC INTEGRATION
There aren’t always words for our inner experiences, and it can be challenging at times to translate our feelings into words. Verbal processing isn’t the only way to express something and move through it. Art materials, along with the Art Therapist relationship, help us make contact with internal emotions and experiences and translate them into external form. Art-Based Psychedelic Integration is especially useful when what we explore or uncover in a psychedelic state is beyond words, confusing, profound, or difficult to remember or make sense of. Art materials offer an opportunity to, gradually and with support, uncover deep insights and make meaningful connections related to our psychospiritual process. Learn more about Art Therapy here.
Download the Psychedelic Integration Guidebook by Alison McQueen
Alison K. McQueen, MA, LPC, ATR is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Registered Art Therapist, and Psychedelic Therapist as well as the Clinical Director and Co-Founder of the Center for Medicinal Mindfulness. Trained in MDMA-Assisted, Cannabis-Assisted, and Ketamine-Assisted Psychedelic Therapies, Alison also specializes in art therapy, somatic (body-centered) trauma work, harm reduction and psychedelic integration. Her clinical work focuses on mindfulness-based trauma and depth work, conscious parenting and women’s issues.