Psychedelic Integration and Harm Reduction
Psychedelic Harm Reduction
Despite the fact that the majority of psychedelics are currently illegal for personal or medical use, research published in 2013 reports that an estimated 32 million people living in the United States had used psychedelics at some point in their lifetime. This aging data is likely to underestimate the current figures on psychedelic use and one might speculate that those statistics will continue to increase as more research continues on therapeutic applications. The National Harm Reduction Coalition contends that substance use is a part of the world we live in and working toward minimizing harmful effects, rather than ignoring or condemning them, is a more effective approach for both individuals and communities.
As more people explore psychedelics, whether in the context of spiritual practices, psychological healing and trauma resolution, problem solving, fostering creativity, or recreational and social use, very few will do so with medical or therapeutic supervision. An essential component of psychedelic harm reduction is exploring the very real dangers related to the use of psychedelics. Meeting clients where they are, with non-judgment and unconditional positive regard, is realistic, empowering, and demonstrates respect and compassion. Harm reduction encompasses issues such as sourcing, adverse effects, dosing, emergency planning, set and setting, the potential for psychedelic crises, spiritual emergencies, a range of difficult types of experiences, and explores the the range of consumption: from abstinence, to managing use, to supporting an improved quality of life and well-being.
For those who have already had a psychedelic experience, challenging encounters may have resulted in trauma or psychological distress. Even encounters perceived as positive may very well benefit from further exploration so that hidden gems of growth and insight might be incorporated into practical actions for enhancing daily life. This is the process of psychedelic integration.
Psychedelic integration and harm reduction therapy is incorporated into the treatment plan for those clients participating in Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy or Cannabis Assisted Psychedelic Therapy, but is also offered to those who have independently engaged in the use of psychedelic substances. Ideally, integration incorporates the process of preparation and the psychedelic experience itself. Individuals seeking legal and safe options to engage in psychedelic work may have considered investigating Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy or Cannabis Assisted Psychedelic Therapy. (Please read the disclaimer on the FAQ page.) Preparation includes both educational and practical components such as discussions on what to expect, considerations for set and setting, cultivating skill sets and resources, and intention setting.
Nearly all of the psychedelic gifts of healing, growth, and transformation are a result of the work of integration following the experience rather than that of the experience itself. The process of integration can incorporate a number of different strategies and processes depending upon the individual, the intention for the experience, the substance used, specifics of the context of the experience, and of each respective psychedelic experience. Recollections of the details of the experience, including physical sensations, emotional states or release, memories, insights, visions, transpersonal or spiritual phenomena are best documented as soon after the experience as possible, because the ability to remember certain aspects may be short-lived. Processing the experience can precipitate new understandings and insights, and allow for a shift in perception that may not have been possible before the experience. Often this leads to recognizing detrimental habits, relationships, or beliefs, and considerations for making necessary changes. Change can consist of things to be eliminated as well as incorporated. A plan for introducing new habits should interface all dimensions of the individual’s life: physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, financial, social, environmental, and occupational. Integrative practices encompass a range of activities such as creative endeavors, mindfulness practices, movement, reflection, ritual, and therapy.
Krebs, T. S., & Johansen, P. Ø. (2013). Over 30 million psychedelic users in the United States. F1000Research, 2, 98. https://doi.org/10.12688/f1000research.2-98.v1