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“What happens without integration? Most of the time, what may have seemed clear during the journey slowly fades like a dream as old habits and tendencies return.”

-- Francoise Bourzat

“If they don’t do the integration work afterwards, then a lot of times the things will fade.”

-- Rick Doblin

Phases of Psychedelic Integration

1 - The Return

2 - Identifying the Experience

3 - Creation & Application of Integration Practices

Phase 1: The Return

The return begins a few days after the journey has ended. The purpose of this stage is to recall the intention of the journey, bring awareness to the present moment, and to let the journeyer relay a narrative of the experience to the integration coach/facilitator

[1]

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Phase 2: Identifying the Experience

After “the return” the next step is to identify the experience. Solidifying the experience into words or images (or any other expression for that matter) can help the subject reconnect with the sensations and emotions of the journey. This will in turn help them deepen their healing or growth [1].

The integration specialist (guide, coach, etc.) should be carefully listening as the subject narrates their experience. The specialist should try to hone in on themes: was the journey physical in nature? Did it pertain to the earth or environment? Did repressed memories float to the surface? These themes can help inform the coach on the best integration practices to use in the future. 

Bayesian Analysis

There can be a lot of data that comes from a psychedelic experience. Sometimes so much so that it becomes overwhelming. That’s where Bayesian Analysis comes in. 

Bayesian Analysis is a process to chart wisdom, insights, downloads, etc. from your session. I’ve created a Google Doc linked here that outlines this process.

Here’s a video describing how to use the spreadsheet.

Credit goes to Jamie Wheal of the Flow Genome Project for this tactic.

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Phase 3: Creation/Application of Integration Practices

During this step of the process, the specialist works with the journeyer to determine the most impactful actions (integration practices)  to keep the healing/growth process alive.

Practices should be designed intelligently and be easy for the client to adhere to. They shouldn’t feel like a burden. The subject shouldn’t be afraid to start small then build up the practices after solidifying the habits. In other words; keep them practical & don’t go overboard.

The practices also should be aligned with the insights of your journey, for example, if you discover extreme mind/body dissociation use an integration practice like somatic experiencing to bridge the gap. If you unearth sexual abuse use the proper therapies that address it as opposed to an unrelated modality. Practices should be active but not overwhelming. 

Practices can morph — they can look radically different on day three compared to week three. 

It’s important to remember that the “after-glow” period of a journey can last for days, weeks, or even months after a journey. 

 

Examples of Integration Practices

 

Below is an exhaustive list of practices you can use during your integration process. The majority of these have been pulled from the book Consciousness Medicine [1]

  • Mindfully making & drinking tea
  • Highly active exercises like Ashtanga yoga, lifting weights, kickboxing, etc.
  • Breathwork
  • Ecstatic dance
  • Hike up a hill for a sweeping view
  • T’ai Chi
  • Bodywork
  • A hot bath with essential oils
  • Walk-in nature
  • Practice Ayurvedic eating
  • Massage therapy
  • Express yourself musically through singing, songwriting, or dancing
  • Engage in sound healing (tuning forks or Tibetan bowls)
  • Bring flowers into your home
  • Walking meditation
  • Express yourself artistically through drawing, painting, poetry, or other modalities
  • Conduct a detox cleanse
  • Writing a letter to an individual who abused you
  • Sauna
  • Cold exposure (Wim Hof Method)
  • Rolfing
  • Practice pranayama
  • Bathe in an outdoor body of water like a river or lake
  • Purchase new art for your home
  • Go to a local Dharma talk
  • Write a daily journal 
  • Read books that stimulate your brain
  • Walk-in nature
  • Read poetry
  • Make a collage or a flower arrangement
  • Write a letter to a loved one
  • Log a list of insights
  • List your aspirations or visions of a better life
  • Change your relationship to substance use (less alcohol or substances)
  • Read books on shame, addiction, or recovery
  • Go to talk therapy
  • EMDR
  • Release emotions through primal screaming
  • Join a drumming group (or musical group)
  • Write a letter of personal gratitude to yourself
  • Practice Metta (loving-kindness) meditation
  • Participate in a family constellations workshop
  • Write a letter to the suffering inner child
  • Go to a playground
  • Draw a timeline of both positive and negative experiences in one’s life
  • Draw or paint a visual of your journey
  • Volunteer
  • Join a new community
  • Try acro yoga 
  • Create an altar
  • Attend a sweat lodge
  • Visit a place of worship
  • Revisit the music played during your journey
  • Write your own eulogy
  • Serve in Hospice care
  • Develop a prayer ritual
  • Spend a day in silence
  • Abstain from electronic screens of any kind for 24 hours
  • Use a floatation tank
  • Use Gestalt therapy
  • Attend a workshop on Nonviolent Communication
  • Call an old friend
  • Reach out to a friend or family member that is struggling
  • Contribute to a charitable cause
  • Redecorate your home
  • Clean your room
  • Deepen your connection to the environment and nature

 

Visit our modalities page for specific resources for some of these practices. 

It’s important to remember: Our integration practices aren’t just for ourselves, they are also for the ones we love. The work we put in will radiate out to those closest in our lives.

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What Not to Do

There are practices you shouldn’t engage in after a psychedelic experience. They boil down to three general guidelines. Guidelines found from this medium article.

  1. “Don’t believe everything you think.” — Don’t take every insight/data point from your psychedelic experience as literal. Sometimes there’s just noise, not everything will be a signal.
  2. No immediate changes. Take time to process what just happened. Don’t make any drastic life changes immediately. This doesn’t mean you can’t make shifts, it just means give it time before changing: locations, jobs, relationships, etc.
  3. Tell everyone they should repeat what you did. Just because Ayahuasca changed your life doesn’t mean you should tell everyone else they should do it.

Citations

1: Bourzat, Franciouse (2019). Consciousness Medicine. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.