How to Start a Career in the Field of Psychedelic Integration
With the recent legalization of psilocybin-assisted therapy in Oregon, and the move to decriminalize certain psychedelics in Washington D.C. and elsewhere, the door is opening to therapists and coaches interested in providing psychedelic integration support.
Beginning in 2023 at the earliest, individuals over the age of 21 will be able to receive legal psilocybin therapy sessions at licensed facilities in Oregon. Mental health practitioners will be required to undergo an intensive training program, the criteria of which will be determined by the Oregon Health Authority. As psychedelic medicines become more accepted and widespread—in Oregon and beyond—this increased access to psychedelic experiences must be met by high-quality integration support.
Integration specialists provide a safe space for people to process their experiences with consciousness-altering medicines, such as psilocybin, MDMA, ketamine, ayahuasca, and more. In other words, they offer a “soft landing” in the aftermath of an intense psychedelic journey. Online platforms like Mindleap make it possible for integration specialists to connect with people seeking their support. Mental health practitioners who list their services through this platform can reach a broad audience of potential clients.
While the psychedelic experience itself may last anywhere between a few minutes to several hours, the integration process spans the days, weeks, months, and even years afterward. Integration is the hard work of translating altered states of consciousness into long-lasting traits. For those who feel called to support others in their process, there are a couple of different paths toward becoming a psychedelic integration specialist.
BECOME A THERAPIST
One way to support others is to become a therapist. This profession requires a master’s degree in psychotherapy or mental health counseling. Upon completing a graduate school program—which includes both an academic component and supervised clinical experience—and fulfilling a certain number of post-graduate training hours, you can apply for a license as a certified therapist or counselor. The exact requirements for professional licensure vary from state to state, so it’s important to consider which state you would like to practice in if you pursue this path.
There are hundreds of master’s degree programs for counseling across the United States, each with its own academic niche and philosophy of care. Certain programs are particularly well-suited for aspiring psychedelic therapists. For instance, the field of transpersonal psychology addresses the spiritual well-being of the individual (in addition to mental, emotional, and physical health), and acknowledges the role of mystical and transcendent experiences in transforming human consciousness.
The language of transpersonal psychology (e.g., spirit, soul, ego, etc.) tends to resonate with the modern-day psychedelic community, as it provides a framework in which non-ordinary states of consciousness can be processed in a meaningful way. One way to begin a professional career in psychedelic integration therapy is to enroll in a master’s degree program with an emphasis on transpersonal counseling, such as at the California Institute of Integral Studies, Naropa University, or Sofia University.
BECOME A COACH
Another way to serve others is to become trained as an integration coach. Coaches work in a slightly different capacity than therapists, but both types of practitioners ultimately hold space for individuals to process their experiences through a non-judgmental lens. (To learn more about the differences between coaches and therapists, check out this article.)
Coaching prerequisites are typically less costly and time-intensive than a master’s degree program for psychotherapy or counseling. Unlike therapists, who generally can only offer their services in the state/s where they hold licensure, coaches have the freedom to work across state lines and internationally—a significant benefit in the age of telehealth and virtual meet-ups.
There are several training institutes for individuals seeking to provide psychedelic integration support. For instance, Being True to You educates aspiring coaches on the effects of psychedelic medicines (including ayahuasca, iboga, and more), and shares techniques to help clients heal, grow, and achieve personal goals in the aftermath of a psychedelic journey.
Additionally, the Synthesis Institute will be offering a nine-month Psychedelic Practitioner Training program beginning in April 2021. The program will touch on “the importance and opportunity of the integration phase”, among other elements of the psychedelic experience, and train practitioners to support others in their healing process.
Other institutes that offer training and events regarding psychedelic integration include Center for Optimal Living, COMPASS Pathways, and MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies).
As the psychedelic renaissance continues apace, new and exciting opportunities in the field continue to emerge. Those considering a career in psychedelic integration have a critical role to play in helping to shift perceptions, allay fears, and create the space to change hearts and minds.