What does psychedelic integration mean?

Psychedelic integration is a term that refers to a range of activities including therapy that are conducted to maximise therapeutic benefits and minimise harm from psychedelic experiences.

Psychedelic integration is a growing field.  In order to facilitate the lasting personal and habitual changes psychedelic therapy can provide, integration is an essential part of the process.

Within psychedelic integration there is often a multidisciplinary aspect which calls on things like meditation, sound therapy, music, art, movement/bodywork maybe in the form of Yoga, and immersing in nature.

By taking gained insights, emotions, or attitudes from the psychedelic experience, and to help process them into desired areas of the patient’s life. 

Integration as a general definition means “bringing parts together to make a whole.” 

After setting an intention, Psychedelic integration helps to achieve a sense of “wholeness” that clients seek.

Key benefits of integration

  • Increases preparedness for psychedelic experiences
  • Helps us to decide and focus upon an intention
  • Helps to implement these changes into day to day life
  • Help to break down what has occurred during a peak experience
  • Better equipped to make profound changes 
  • Greater understanding of peak experiences

Clinical Guidelines for Psychedelic Integration

 Psychedelic integration remains empirically understudied.

Integration scales may be one step further in the direction of psychedelics being used professionally and in a responsible and beneficial manner and (Fryman and Colleagues 2022) Designed a Psychedelic Integration scales:

Around the same time Bathje 2022,  did a conceptual analysis of the Concept and Practice of Psychedelic Integration.

Psychedelic integration should include:

● Making sense of confusing experiences
● Give meaning or generating useful narratives/stories
● Address lingering distress or symptoms
● Confirm insights or new perspectives
● Thoughtfully make changes based on new insights
● Resolve conflict between psychedelic experience and one’s prior belief systems
● Coping with fading of experience and returning to older habits and behaviours
● Addressing psychological content that emerges, such as trauma
● Adjusting back to normal life
● Building and increasing connections and social support
● Increase engagement with non-rational domains such as creativity, movement, art, dancing, nature, etc.

Why is Psychedelic Integration important?

Integrating spiritual, existential, religious, and theological (SERT) topics into psychedelic-assisted therapy (PAT) is crucial for several reasons:

1. Cultural Competence:

  • Psychedelic experiences can be deeply personal and touch upon core values and beliefs that vary widely across cultures and religions. Ignoring SERT aspects can lead to misunderstandings and misinterpretations, hindering rapport and trust between therapist and patient.
  • Culturally competent PAT acknowledges and respects the patient’s individual worldview and incorporates it into the therapeutic process, leading to more effective and meaningful support.

2. Reduced Risks:

  • SERT can be a powerful tool for navigating challenging or confusing psychedelic experiences, especially those that touch upon existential anxieties, spiritual crises, or religious questioning. Addressing these concerns openly and constructively can help prevent negative psychological reactions and promote therapeutic integration.
  • Ignoring SERT risks leaving patients feeling unsupported and alone with potentially overwhelming experiences, potentially undermining the overall safety and efficacy of PAT.

3. Enhanced Treatment Success:

  • Many patients seek PAT for reasons related to personal growth, meaning-making, and spiritual exploration. Integrating SERT allows therapists to tap into these powerful motivators and guide patients towards lasting positive changes aligned with their values and beliefs.
  • Neglecting SERT risks overlooking a key therapeutic avenue, potentially limiting the scope and depth of healing and transformation achievable through PAT.

Summary

The fluidity and multifaceted nature of psychedelic integration can definitely lead to confusion. It’s a complex process that doesn’t fit neatly into one definition or set of practices.

Some of the contributing factors that lead to confusion:

  • Variety of experiences: Psychedelic journeys can be vastly different for each individual, making it difficult to generalize about integration needs. What works for one person might not be helpful for another.
  • Diverse approaches: There are numerous approaches to integration, drawing from various fields like psychotherapy, art therapy, journaling, mindfulness practices, and spiritual traditions. This richness also adds to the challenge of pinning down a specific “best practice.”
  • Lack of formal guidelines: Psychedelic research and therapeutic use are still evolving, and there’s no established and universally accepted protocol for integration. This allows for flexibility and exploration, but it also leaves more room for individual interpretation and uncertainty.

Considerations for Psychedelics:

  • Recognise the potential for psychedelics to intensify and amplify SERT experiences, both positive and negative.
  • Develop specific strategies to address common SERT challenges arising from psychedelic journeys, such as existential anxieties, spiritual crises, and religious questioning.
  • Acknowledge the diverse range of spiritual and religious traditions and avoid imposing any particular framework or belief system onto patients.
  • Remain humble in the face of the profound and often ineffable nature of SERT experiences, focusing on facilitating exploration and meaning-making rather than offering quick answers or interpretations.

These are just some initial suggestions for objectives within SERT-PAT. The specific focus and methods will likely evolve as research and clinical practice in this area develop further. However, by prioritising safety, cultural competence, respect, and evidence-based practices, we can ensure that SERT-PAT becomes a valuable tool for personal growth, healing, and spiritual exploration within the broader context of psychedelic-assisted therapy.

Conclusion

Spiritual, existential, religious, and theological topics’ integration in psychedelic-assisted therapy is needed to ensure culturally competent, evidence-based treatment aligned with the highest standards of clinical care. Neglecting to address these topics can detract from cultural competence, contribute to risks for patients, and potentially undermine treatment success.

 

PsyNurse
Author: PsyNurse

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