An Introduction To Psychedelic Retreat Centers
Psychedelic retreats are an excellent option for those yearning to leave behind stressful routines for intense inward exploration.
More and more, people are choosing to attend psychedelic therapy retreats to gain a better understanding of themselves, resolve past issues, handle mood problems, and/or address a lack of direction in life. Psychedelic retreat goers want an opportunity to clear out the mental clutter from daily existence.
Life is busy, work is exhausting, and, time for self-reflection is scarce. Frustration accumulates with every overtime hour, parking ticket, and relationship complication, and the way we handle these life stressors and pressures is often by ignoring or concealing them. Without a consistent meditation or yoga practice, frequent escapes into nature to enjoy the silence and fresh air, and/or a regular stress-reducing exercise regimen, they build up.
Our minds, like any system, need both routine maintenance and the occasional tune-up. The former is a means of prevention, the latter a means of treatment after we’ve noticed we’re in trouble. Establishing consistent habits of investing in mental health preservation requires a comprehensive understanding of their benefits.
Not everyone, however, has the energy or the will put in the time required to adopt a mindset of mindfulness. Some of us need a little assistance.
Set, Setting, Intention
In psychedelic retreats, we immerse ourselves in a supportive, stress-free setting that caters to all our needs while challenging us to redefine ourselves. The process of expanding our comfort zone is padded with comfort and support from expert guides in the safest possible environment, usually surrounded by nature.
The other main advantage of psychedelic retreats is that the process of preparing for, and integrating the psychedelic experience are integral parts of the itinerary. Guests are advised on all matters involved with preparing the body and mind ready for healing. They are encouraged to open up and share their innermost thoughts and feelings about what they’re going through, and they’re counseled on how to deal with new insights and understandings.
During the retreat itself, guests are cared for by psychedelic therapy facilitators, shamans, or guides – and medical staff is often present in the rare event of an emergency.
The most important aspect of a psychedelic retreat is the introspection – to within and understand what you aim to achieve with psychedelic therapy.
Maybe a more general psychological reboot is in order?
Or is there some deeply rooted anxiety and psychological distress you wish to address?
There’s always the option that a natural reset in the form of a psilocybin retreat may be the answer.
Do you feel the need to return to the awareness of oneness of all that is and was? San Pedro may put you in touch with this ancestral feeling, and maybe ancestral spirits as well.
Perhaps there are self-destructive habits or addictions you need to kick? Consider an ibogaine retreat, and you stand a chance to release them, and then some.
Or, do you feel like you would benefit from a complete ego death, or support understanding and managing past trauma? An ayahuasca retreat can facilitate those experiences.
When your intention is clear to you, you can accurately approach choosing the kind of retreat suitable for your needs. Let’s dive a little deeper into each of the legally available alternatives.
For many, the first option that comes to mind when a psychedelic retreat is mentioned is an ayahuasca retreat. The association is almost immediate as these kinds of excursions have become part of 21st century pop culture, so much so that they are now being discussed in major media publications and mainstream talk shows.
Ayahuasca Retreat Centers in South America
The sacramental use of ayahuasca has been part of indigenous cultures in countries belonging to the Amazon basin for many generations, and today its use in the northern part of South America is completely legal. For this reason, many retreat centers have sprung up over the last few decades, most notably in Peru, but also in Ecuador, Colombia, and Brazil.
Some of the most well-established ayahuasca retreat centers in South America include:
- Gaia Sagrada is located in Cuenca, and is among the most renowned ayahuasca retreat centers.
Ayahuasca Retreat Centers in Costa Rica
This slice of Central American paradise is not only good for its beaches and the lush natural scenery. In Costa Rica, ayahuasca is made and distributed in a ceremonial context freely and legally.
Over the years numerous retreat centers have been constructed in order to facilitate sessions and cater to the demand of many who wish to experience the brew in a gorgeous tropical setting rather than in the (sometimes intense environment of the) Amazon jungle.
Some of the most well-established ayahuasca retreat centers in Costa Rica include:
- Soltara in Gigante, and Rythmia in Guanacaste. Both provide outstanding amenities, an expert team of healers and counselors, a strong supportive community, and plenty of activities to aid a mindful approach to the transformative experience they offer.
- 1heart organizes incredible retreats, but, unlike other centers, their focus is heavily grounded in empowering their clients and capacitating them to fulfill their leadership potential. Their program can be thought of as a “human accelerator,” and it is the best choice for those seeking intense personal growth in a stimulating environment full of adventurous and creative activities. 1heart Journeys is a partner of The Third Wave. If you choose to go on a retreat with 1heart, The Third Wave receives a small affiliate commission. This helps us to further our mission of changing the cultural conversation around psychedelics.
Ayahuasca Retreat Centers in Europe
Ayahuasca, and its intensely psychedelic sister, DMT, are both illegal in Europe, but given the sacramental nature of ayahuasca, international conventions leave it up to each country to determine their legal stance toward it.
For this reason, and the fact that most European countries haven’t had ayahuasca cases in their judicial system yet, regulations can be unclear and/or nonexistent. Such is the case for Italy, Spain, and Portuga.. Although these retreats aren’t technically illegal, they aren’t quite legal either, so we can’t fully endorse or recommend individual centers. Retreats in the Netherlands are fairly easy to come by as well, but be advised that ayahuasca was made illegal in this country in early 2018.
Around the world, the standard upheld by renowned retreat centers is at an all-time high, with safety, comfort, and support as the hallmark values upheld for each guest. These elements create a meaningful, reassuring complement to a psychedelic experience (set and setting).
However, although these centers provide excellent services from vetted maestros; thorough healing practice itineraries that include various cleansing rituals, integrative counseling, and traditional practices such as flower baths; comfortable accommodation and suitable nutrition, they do come at a price that not everyone can afford
Retreat rates are reasonable considering the investment that goes into providing such extensive service, and the potential spiritually transformative value they hold. That said, if the cost feels too high, searching for ayahuasca sessions independently in the Amazon is always an option. Smaller single-shaman or family-run centers are abundant and easy to find throughout Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, and Brazil.
A word of caution: On a self-organized journey like this, one must be careful when choosing whom to trust with administering such a powerful medicine. The ayahuasca tourism boom has influenced the indigenous communities immensely, and trustworthy shamans are unfortunately becoming harder to find. Not only are there many inexperienced so-called curanderos entering the market for financial gain, but there have been quite disturbing reports of various kinds of assault and abuse coming from the Amazon.
For these reasons, it is of paramount importance that you do your homework, particularly when setting out on your own. Ask around to verify the shaman’s legitimacy, talk to people who have participated in ceremonies previously, and, if possible, speak to the shamans directly to learn about their experience and the way they prepare the brew. Learning a bit of Spanish will go a long way here, and if you’re not 100% convinced, feel free to request to sit in on a ceremony sober.
If you’ve ever considered going on an ayahuasca retreat, but worried that it might be a bit too intense a place to start, you’ll be glad to know that legal options for psilocybin retreats are available.
Psilocybin, the active chemical in what’s commonly known as “magic mushrooms” is a catalyst for profound evolution of consciousness that is not so dissimilar from ayahuasca. In fact, psilocybin is molecularly quite similar to DMT.
In general, psilocybin is gentler than ayahuasca in the intensity of effects it induces. There is normally no purging (vomiting) involved in psilocybin trips, the visionary aspect is usually not as flabbergasting, and the journeys tend to feel more supportive and kind. Contrastly, ayahuasca has the occasional knack for forcing drinkers to face their deepest and darkest secrets with little choice, but to surrender to whatever the experience brings.
This is not to say that psilocybin does not get intense. Inward exploration always stretches the limits of consciousness in an uncomfortable way; still, it’s not as unpredictable as ayahuasca and, if done in a safe, nurturing setting, is likely to offer a pleasant, loving journey.
Joining a psilocybin retreat is not a time-demanding endeavor. Where ayahuasca retreats often last fourteen days or longer, psilocybin retreats are limited to a few days or a week at most, during which time up to five sessions take place. Led mostly by Western facilitators, these ceremonies have a firm grounding in the process of sharing and integration, and spaces for this work are embedded in the itinerary of most retreats.
Retreats with psilocybin mushrooms take place most readily in Jamaica and Mexico, and are facilitated using psilocybin truffles in the Netherlands.
Some of the most well-established psilocybin retreat centers include:
- In Jamaica, psilocybin has never been made illegal, and psychedelic therapy centers such as Atman offer safe, catered opportunities to delve deep into the psychedelic experience.
- In Mexico, psilocybin is officially illegal, but this law is not enforced if the context is that of sacramental or traditional use.
- The Buena Vida is a relatively new center in Playa del Carmen that facilitates retreats in collaboration with an indigenous shaman, and the feedback they have received so far has been fantastic.
- In the Netherlands, although psilocybin mushrooms were criminalized in 2008, the legal status of psilocybin truffles wasn’t changed. Similar in composition and effect to mushrooms, these clumps of mycelial strands are the choice of retreat facilitators in this liberal country. So, if a trip to the Netherlands seems like a good adventure, check out the Synthesis retreat center, which comes highly recommended due to its superb facilities and highly individualized approach to committed integrative work.
Synthesis is one of the few retreat centers that take the research into the therapeutic potential of psilocybin seriously; they collaborate with the Imperial College in London so the results of their retreats would further the scientific knowledge base about the healing value of this substance. Synthesis is also an official partner of The Third Wave. If you choose to go on a retreat with Synthesis, please let them know you heard about them here. The Third Wave will receive a small affiliate commission, which helps us to further our mission of changing the cultural conversation around psychedelics.
5-MeO-DMT is a highly potent psychedelic molecule that occurs naturally in the venom of the Bufo alvarius toad. Although it’s illegal pretty much everywhere (except in Mexico and, surprisingly, in Canada, where it’s unregulated and online ordering is available) there exist no specialized drug tests able to detect it, so it can be said that the enforcement of these laws is difficult.
Due to this amorphous legality, there aren’t that many retreat options available online, but, if one looks carefully, it should be possible to find local teachers offering sessions with this sacred medicine. A few options to check out online include:
Ibogaine is definitely not a psychedelic therapy choice for everyone. This naturally occurring indole alkaloid has an intense, long-lasting, surreal waking-dream-like effect that extends into an even longer contemplative period. It induces quite a serious trip with a reality-shattering reverberation that gives space to a heightened state of introspection in which profound life evaluation can take place.
Iboga has gained popularity as an efficient tool for releasing addiction. Due to these findings, and the drug’s relatively hazy international legal status treatment centers have started appearing around the world. Here are a few options:
- Crossroads Treatment Center– Bahamas, Caribbean
- Clear Skies Recovery– Cancun, Mexico
- Experience Treatment Center– Rosarito, Mexico
- Holistic Hope House– Rosarito, Mexico
- Envision– Costa Rica
San Pedro Retreat
San Pedro, or Huachuma, is a psychedelic cactus that induces wild, long-lasting trips that are rooted in the feelings of energetic transcendentalism and universal connectedness. San Pedro is often accompanied with synesthesia and a mystical awareness of the environment and the objects within it. It gives an intensely euphoric sensory experience with profound empathetic overtones and meaningful spiritual insights. Quite the psychedelic for a retreat, isn’t it?
San Pedro grows in dry highlands along the Andes in South America. Coincidentally, its distribution and use largely overlap with that of ayahuasca – it’s mostly consumed ritualistically in Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, and Bolivia. It can often be found bundled together with ayahuasca in a single retreat, during which San Pedro is taken during the day, and ayahuasca is taken at night.
As for centers that organize San Pedro retreats, here are a few reputable options:
- Blue Morpho– Iquitos, Peru
- The Healing Tree– Cusco, Peru
- Casa del Sol– Vilcabamba, Ecuador
- Eagle Condor Alliance– Medellín, Colombia
Although not yet available, MDMA definitely deserves an honorable mention. The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is currently facilitating Phase 3 clinical trials for MDMA assisted psychotherapy for the treatment of PTSD.
As a powerful empathogen, with euphoric and gentle effects, there is no doubt that MDMA has the potential for wide use in psychotherapy, primarily in repairing emotional and family dynamics, regaining confidence, and dealing with anxiety. Before long we’re likely to be seeing MDMA retreat centers opening up, pending substance legality.
Psychedelic therapy retreats are something to consider for anyone struggling to reduce stress or to explore the inner reaches of the self. International travel is becoming more convenient than ever, retreat centers are abundant, and their services and amenities are at ever high levels. All you need to do is reach within, understand your intention, and choose your tool and place of rebirth.
We hope that this article can get you started on the right path to healing.
Also, please drop us a line in the comments section below if you have attended a psychedelic retreat, and let us know how it went!