Psychedelic Therapy at IIT is a 4-phase process, consisting of Assessment, Preparation, Treatment & Integration.
Integration is arguably the most important part of the psychedelic experience. During integration, we aim to water the seeds that were planted in the psychedelic journey. integration is about answering the question,“Now, what do I do with this experience?”
At IIT, we tell all of our clients that the psychedelic journey truly begins AFTER their medicine session. Most people think of the psychedelic as the most important part of their healing process. It is but a catalyst. It’s the intentional actions and self-reflections in the days, weeks, months, and years following their experience that really matters. It is how we integrate the past into our present that leads to lasting change; and eventually transformation.That is not to say that the encounter with psychedelic isn’t important or profound- it very frequently is.
A defining characteristic of the psychedelic experience is its ineffability, meaning that human language/words cannot come close to describing the journey. Hence why people often describe it as “mind blowing” or “beyond words”. Psychedelic journey often explore our personal history, identity, place in the cosmos, as well as touch on the spiritual, transpersonal, or ontological. And for those who resonate with the term,“religious” experiences are not uncommon.
It is actually because of this very fact, the “mind blowing” occurrence, that integration becomes so important. Because psychedelic experiences are so far from normal waking consciousness, we can often struggle to figure out how their impact can be brought into the day-to-day . This is the heart of integration. As one of our teachers once said, integration is the process of, “weaving the mystical with the practical.” When the profound is felt as separate from “normal” reality we occupy, it can start to fade away; like a forgotten dream.
Psychedelic Therapy is an active, not passive, process. We don’t just experience it, and our lives are changed. Instead, psychedelic medicines provide an opportunity, or an opening, for new ways of being to emerge. This takes work, and a focus on the incremental steps towards change. What psychedelics can do is shake things up, allowing content from the unconscious to emerge, so that it can be experienced, processed and integrated in our day-to-day consciousness.
Importantly, psychedelics trigger what’s called “neuroplasticity”, which is a technical word describing the brain’s ability to form new connections by enlivening neurons (brain cells). Dr. Doss uses ametaphor to help capture neuroplasticity- imagine networks of brain cells like trees. When someone’s brain is awash with stress hormones, and associated with anxiety, depression and trauma, these networks might look something like a leafless tree in Minnesota, in the dead of winter - they become atrophied. When neuroplasticity is triggered, these same trees begin to look more like a tree in the middle of spring - blossoming, alive, and active.
During preparation, we explore barriers, obstacles, dreams, intentions and values, and collaboratively co-create a process unique to the individual. We also look at which unhelpful “narratives” someone experiences (“I am not good enough”, “I am unlovable”, “I am broken”) and explore how psychedelic therapy might be able to help with changing the way we relate to such limiting stories.
All of this informs how we go into the psychedelic journey,as well as how we frame the integration process. Importantly, psychedelic therapy is not about feeling better. It’s about movement towards wholeness and about living a life that is meaningful. In integration, we look at what incremental behaviors lead us to increased contact with our deepest values. We tune into the smallest units of change, and how they can be practiced, exercised and strengthened over time.
In integration, we work together to develop a process and practice for each individual, to help develop strategies for keeping this experience and the insights gained present in the forefront of the mind. This looks different for each individual and is typically tied directly to the intentions they’ve set forth during the preparation phase. We ask, “how would you like your life to look?”
With integration, psychedelic medicines can help us to become co-creators with our own mind, and to redefine the path we are on. Thisis challenging work, but very rewarding. Along the way, we recognize thatthere’s an inner guide within us, and a source of wisdom for navigating our own experiences. Psychedelics can help us reconnect to this wisdom, and the work we do in integration is about learning how to hear its voice.
It is in integration where the journey truly begins. The preparation and psychedelic medicine can create a context for us to thrive within, but it is up to us to integrate those experiences into our day to day lives. It is how we answer the question “Now, what do I do with this experience?” that is most important for us to become who we are meant to be.