Disclaimer: Psychedelics are largely illegal substances, and we do not encourage or condone their use where it is against the law. However, we accept that illicit drug use occurs and believe that offering responsible harm reduction information is imperative to keeping people safe. For that reason, this document is designed to enhance the safety of those who decide to use psychedelics.
The exploding field of psychedelic science shows a host of benefits in the therapeutic use of psychedelics, from reducing existential distress to combating addiction and depression. In altered states of consciousness, we can confront trauma with feelings of detached curiosity, experience a transpersonal sense of connection to all our fellow beings and the environment, and gain awareness of our coping strategies and defense mechanisms.
But psychedelics aren’t a silver bullet. In Dr. Katherine Coder’s words: “Visionary plant medicine opens the door to healing our traumas, but we have to walk through that door to move towards total resolution.” That “walk through the door” is the process of integration, the oft-missing piece following a psychedelic journey.
What a Psychedelic Integration Coach Does
Psychedelic integration is the process in which we take the insights and teachings from a visionary plant medicine experience and incorporate them into our daily life to make meaningful changes in our thought patterns and behaviors. An individual might be able to do this on their own if they’re committed to journaling, meditation, reflection, and other psycho-spiritual modalities.
However, an expert coach can deepen and accelerate the integration work. By meeting regularly with a client in a confidential space, a coach offers accountability as the individual works to make changes in their life. Moreover, with the coach’s greater experience, they can help clarify some of the more challenging aspects of the psychedelic journey and give suggestions for how these teachings might be incorporated in the client’s life. Finally, the coach can provide much-needed support as the client makes changes and possibly feels resistance from family, friends, or work.
Dr. Coder, a guest faculty in Third Wave’s Coaching Certification Program and author of After the Ceremony Ends: A Companion Guide to Help You Integrate Visionary Plant Medicine Experiences describes nine key ways in which integration happens.
The first is trauma release, which is the process of letting go of old wounds. The second includes psycho-spiritual practices, such as Passage Meditation, the Hoffman Quadrinity Process, Integral Transformative Practice, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, prayer, yoga, Transcendental Meditation, and qigong. The third entails reflection, inner listening, and creative expression. The fourth involves making meaning out of the psychedelic experience in order to gain deeper self-awareness. These meanings can shift and evolve over time.
Fifth, there’s an element of spaciousness and time that seems, perhaps, minor, but cannot be underestimated. We need space in our lives and time to not only make sense of a psychedelic experience but to also integrate its wisdom into our lives. Many people become attracted to ceremonies for the transcendental states they offer, but don’t put in the work to bring the lessons back into their day-to-day experience. This is called spiritual bypassing.
The sixth aspect of integration that Dr. Coder suggests is grounding and spending time in nature, whether that’s walking barefoot outside for 20 minutes or laying belly-down on the earth. Adequate physical care is the seventh component of integration, which cannot be overlooked. A knowledgeable integration coach can be especially useful here in recommending supplements and dietary changes to best nurture your healing and growth. Third Wave Wellness can also be a helpful resource here.
The eighth recommended integration practice is to cultivate virtues according to your belief system (though they tend to be similar across cultures). For example, the ten Buddhist virtues are generosity, morality, equanimity, renunciation, wisdom, effort, forbearance, truthfulness, loving-kindness, and determination. Likewise, Brené Brown offers ten secular virtues around living wholeheartedly: authenticity; self-compassion; resiliency of spirit; gratitude and joy; intuition and faith; creativity; play and rest; calm and stillness’ meaningful work; and laughter, song, and dance. Think about what virtues resonate with you and actively seek to cultivate them in your life through intentional practices and set-aside time.
Last but not least, Dr. Coder emphasizes how proper integration results in a “turning outward” to the world at large. Through the process of integration, we become more healed and whole individuals. This process of aligning with our Higher Selves should encourage us to ask, “What can I offer the world? How can I be of service while expressing my most loving, authentic self?” By properly integrating our psychedelic experience, we do not feel the need to leap into another ceremony when things get a bit difficult. Neither do we yearn for ceremony because that is the place where we feel the greatest connection to others. True integration means that we carry the wisdom and power from ceremony inside us always, even when we are not under the direct influence of the plants. With this sense of wholeness, we are ready and willing to contribute to our community in a meaningful way.
This is a beautiful vision, right? Surely, it’s one that an individual can attain alone; however, a knowledgeable and compassionate integration coach can provide invaluable support, guidance, and accountability along the way.
Who Can Benefit From a Psychedelic Integration Coach?
Anyone who has recently experienced (or plans to experience) a high-dose psychedelic journey or a non-ordinary state of consciousness would benefit from integration coaching. Many integration coaches also offer preparation coaching as well, which means they help you set an intention and get ready—both mentally and physically—for a macro experience. It’s ideal to have someone guiding you through every phase of the psychedelic experience, not just the ceremony itself, in order to maximize its transformative potential.
Perhaps you have decided to attend a psychedelic retreat. If so, it’s worth looking into whether the retreat center offers integration coaching as part of the experience. This might take the form of group integration circles or one-to-one integration sessions with an on-site integration specialist. If one of these options is not offered, it’s recommended that you find an integration coach to work with in-person or remotely when you return from the retreat. Third Wave’s Directory is a great resource for finding a coach.
Individuals seeking to optimize their microdosing experience would also benefit from integration support, which is offered by microdosing coaches. A coach will help you hone your dose and weekly schedule for consumption based on scientifically studied methods. Additionally, a coach will help you harness the power of microdosing by integrating new habits, beliefs, and mindsets into your daily life based on your goals.
There are some people who would benefit from greater therapeutic assistance than a coach is able to provide. Individuals suffering from trauma, depression, anxiety, OCD, addiction, or an eating disorder should seek out a licensed therapist who is sympathetic to plant medicine work. These therapists should be experts in harm reduction and can provide the clinical support necessary to manage and overcome acute issues.
If you are dealing with one of these issues and have chosen to undergo a high-dose ceremony with a guide, you might ask your guide for a referral to a licensed therapist. Ideally, however, individuals with one of the above diagnoses will have sought out a psychedelic therapist from the beginning who is a medically trained and legally certified provider of psychedelic-assisted therapy, which, as the name implies, involves both psychotherapy and psychedelic journeys. If you cannot find a psychedelic therapist in your area, you might try looking for a psychedelic clinic. Be sure to find a clinic, rather than a retreat, if you’re looking for support with mental health conditions. Due to the abundance of evidence from clinical trials, ketamine and MDMA are the most common psychedelic medicines used in these clinical settings, while psilocybin and ayahuasca—a DMT-containing brew—are most frequently found at retreats.
Sometimes, a “healthy normal” individual will undergo a psychedelic experience with a guide and discover a repressed trauma during the ceremony. In this case, it is also best to seek out a clinical therapist rather than working with a coach, unless that coach is trained in healing trauma through a reputable organization, such as Somatic Experiencing Training or the Hakomi Method.
Ways to Become a Coach
With the rising interest in psychedelic therapy, a growing number of programs are offering training for healthcare professionals and non-clinicians to work in this burgeoning field. However, few programs offer specific training in integration coaching.
One option, vetted by Third Wave and particularly relevant to mental health professionals, is The Fluence Postgraduate Certificate in Psychedelic Integration Therapy (PIT), which is a 150-hour program of study with a flexible, modular schedule. It includes an application for admission, five learning components, individual mentoring, monthly program meetings, and a review process prior to graduation. This Certificate Program is designed to prepare licensed clinicians to provide PIT in the course of their clinical practice. It should be noted that the Certificate is not a license or authorization to practice therapy in itself, but a course of study covering key elements and experiences, providing exposure to mentors and leaders in the field, and introducing participants to a peer group for ongoing professional support and development.
But what if you’re not a medical professional? For individuals in the transformational space who are looking to take a deep dive into integration coaching as well as training to prepare clients and hold space for macro ceremonies, Third Wave’s Coaching Certification Program might be right for you. The Coaching Certification Program is an intensive program with 13 weeks of classes (including a live retreat), followed by practice coaching, and a final assessment. Each week consists of a 90-minute teaching session with Third Wave Founder Paul F. Austin, online learning modules and assignments to ground theory into practice, two-hour, small-group facilitated integration sessions, plus workshops with world-class guest teachers. This is the gold-standard certification program if you’re looking to pursue a career as a psychedelic coach and help clients align with their highest purpose.
If you’re curious about the Coaching Certification Program and want to see if it’s a good fit for you, Third Wave offers a complimentary alignment session with Jared, an expert in both the coaching and psychedelic worlds.
Psychedelic Integration Coaches Vetted by Third Wave
Third Wave’s Directory is a valuable reference to connect you with vetted psychedelic integration coaches whose skills are supported by client testimonials.
From Ehren Cruz in North Carolina to Shelley DeMarco and Chess Edwards in Arizona, you’ll find a wide range of individuals offering coaching services to help support your unique needs on a journey of self-transformation and optimization. It should be noted that neither Third Wave nor these coaches condone illegal activity, and their mission is to educate individuals on psychedelic harm reduction and guide them to a state of optimal well-being.