Harm Reduction

Set & Setting For Psychedelics

Paul Austin · January 16th, 2023

This article has been medically reviewed by Katrina Oliveros, MSN-ED, BSN

Adapted From Chapter 19 of The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide by Jim Fadiman

If you have any familiarity with LSD use, you’ve probably heard the expression “Set and Setting.” It was coined by Norman Zinberg to describe the context for psychedelic drug experience and has become widely accepted by researchers in psychedelic therapy.

Unknown to most others, however, are four other S’s: substance, sitter, session, and situation. Although these four S’s do not play as primary a role as Set and Setting, they still affect the nature and value of a psychedelic experience.

In this article, I dive headfirst into descriptions for each S and why it is critical to keep every S in mind for a great psychedelic experience.



‘Set’ is short for the mindset during a trip.  It includes the preparation and expectations of the voyager and guide before embarking on a psychedelic experience.

Before a psychedelic experience, the Voyager (person taking the psychedelic) should make a number of preparations. First off, the Voyager needs to approach the psychedelic experience as a three-day experience, not a one day trip. On the first day, stay quiet and unhurried. Set aside time for self-reflection and spend part of the day in nature. On the second day, consume the psychedelic. On the third day, begin to integrate the experience and record your discoveries and insights.

During the first day, record your thoughts related to the experience:

  • What are your preconceptions about psychedelic experiences?
  • What do you expect to occur during the trip?
  • What do you hope to learn? Experience? Understand? Resolve?
  • What are your goals? Do you have spiritual goals? Psychological goals? Social goals?

Discuss these thoughts with your guide. They can clarify any concerns you may have, helping you to experience a deeper sense of calm in approaching a psychedelic experience.



The setting is the surrounding in which the trip occurs. It includes the physical environment and the space for the session.

There are two options for a physical setting when taking psychedelics:

  • An uncluttered, comfortable room with a couch or bed
  • A familiar outdoor setting

If you decide to take a psychedelic indoors, pick a clean, uncluttered place with a couch or bed, and access to a toilet. Make sure there is a variety of soft pillows and blankets and some sort of stereo system. Your goal is to create and maintain a simple environment that supports inner peace.

If taken outdoors, may create a more extroverted experience. Connecting to nature becomes an essential part of the experience. However, even if tripping outdoors, make sure there is a space to lie down. Bring a blanket and music along.

Many trips combine these two atmospheres. I’ve had many voyages where I begin my trip outside and retire to an indoor location later on. Alternatively, one can experience the most intense period of a psychedelic trip inside, and, then, explore nature.

In terms of atmosphere, music is critical for an enlightening entheogenic experience. In fact, according to the Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide: “Most cultures that use plants for healing, divination, or spiritual revivification use music to facilitate the transition from one level of awareness to another and to enhance the feeling of safety by providing nonverbal support.”

Either headphones or a stereo system will work. Focus on classical music. Specific recommendations include Hovhaness’s Mysterious Mountain, Faure’s Requiem, Gregorian chants, solo piano, piano with one or two other instruments, unaccompanied flute, ragas, and indigenous drum recordings.

Avoid anything with words after the first hour. It may be distracting.

When listening to music, closing your eyes will increase its impact. To enhance the experience, use an eyeshade, pillow, or soft cloth to create a sense of complete darkness.

Certain individuals who have truly profound experiences have no desire to try psychedelics again. This might happen to you.

Whenever you do try psychedelics again, control for all of the above variables.

And if you couldn’t find a sitter the first time, make an extra effort to do so for your second experience.



How much of the psychedelic are you taking?

If you want to improve your work productivity and creativity, then a microdose is best (10-20ug of LSD, 0.1-0.2g dried psilocybin mushrooms).

If you want to have a moderate entheogenic experience, then a moderate dose is best (100-150ug of LSD, 1-1.5g dried psilocybin mushrooms).

If you desire a full-on ‘heroic dose’, then 200-400ug of LSD (or 2-4g dried psilocybin mushrooms) will work. I do not recommend any dose higher than 400ug. Anything above might cause mental instability.

For more information on how much you should take, please look at this resource. It is a comprehensive guide on dose amount for a range of psychedelics.



Do you have a guide for the session? Someone to take care of you?

For any user of psychedelics (especially a new user), a guide for your trip is recommended. An ideal guide is someone who has extensive experience with psychedelics – both taking them and guiding others through psychedelic experiences. Guides must be sober.

The sitter acts as a reassuring figure in the midst of a disorientating experience. They take care of the physical setting, monitors the music, and, most importantly, acts as a sensitive pillar of support for the voyager.

If you cannot find an experienced sitter to guide you, do not let this deter you from trying psychedelics. I have used LSD well over 15 times and have never had a sitter. Yet, I consider my experiences with LSD to be some of the most transformative of my entire life.

If you do not have a sitter, you must manage the other 5 S’s. Also, as additional help, it may be a good idea to enlist the help of a friend, even if they have no experience with psychedelic use.



‘Session’ refers to the general time for a voyage (depends on the psychedelic – see all our substance guides for more information) and the particular aspects of a voyage. According to the Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide, there are six stages to a psychedelic session:

  • Ingesting the Psychedelic
  • Initial Onset
  • Opening and Letting Go
  • Plateau
  • The Gentle Glide
  • The End of the Formal Session

I go into further details about all six of these aspects in this article.



‘Situation’ refers to how the Voyager integrates the experience into his or her life. It begins with the end of the formal session and extends for weeks, or even months, into the future.

Make a pointed effort to sit down and figure out what matters most to you from your experience: Did you have any groundbreaking insights into your habits, daily actions, or thought processes? Are there any people in your life who you should reach out to? Or, alternatively, people who bring you down and you must leave behind?

Be patient with yourself when making these decisions. Do not make any major life changes for the first few weeks. Instead, give yourself time to integrate your experience. The exception would be to stop any toxic behaviors, like overconsumption of alcohol or drugs.

If you plan to talk to others about your experience, many may not understand due to a multitude of reasons such as stigma surrounding drug use. Psychedelic integration circles where like-minded folk come together to share their experiences may be helpful. Read more about psychedelic integration here.

Remember, your psychedelic trip is primarily an internal experience. Keep it internal. Grow from it. Use it to help you reach a higher level of self-awareness.



As with other positive experiences, you might have a desire to try it again. After taking LSD the first time, I went on to experiment with it an additional 5-6 times over the course of the next three months. I was 19 at the time and if I could go back, I’d approach my psychedelic experiences with more caution.

The rule of thumb for psychedelic experiences is the more profound the experience, the longer you should wait before doing it again. A comfortable time frame for most individuals is at least six months. It takes at least this long to integrate the learning and insights into your life.



Our substance guides will give you more information about the properties of specific psychedelics, and should inform you about the particular risks and benefits of certain substances.

If you’re interested in taking a psychedelic, but are apprehensive about taking a large dose – consider microdosing first. Our Microdosing Course offers an extensive amount of information to help you get started with psychedelics, and is the perfect introduction to the world of psychoactive substances for those who are psychedelic-naive.

Signing up to our course also gives you access to our exclusive members-only community, where you can ask questions to our team of experts, and other experienced community members.

Finally, subscribe to The Third Wave podcast for weekly interviews with influential figures in the psychedelic community, as well as people who have started to microdose to improve their daily lives.

Reader Interactions


  1. AvatarMarfakh says

    You are right about set and setting 100%, however many of the aspects you mention are quite subjective.. What if someone finds a certain indoor location “setting” comfortable that most other people don’t ? The same applies to music and such.. Thus, this is all subjective and adjustable depending on each person

    • Avatartommy cooper says

      this site does contain some useful info esp. regarding research chems. but it has too much of a namby pamby approach for scared newbies.
      started taking 400ug of strawberry fields lsd in the late 60’s every weekend always in pubs/clubs for many years, psychoactives are social drugs wasted sitting on your own.
      also have been microdosing with various mainstream drugs since before the term was even coined. microdosing is just a feel good boost, everyone should also experience the life changing outlook of a full on trip of some kind. never had a problem sourcing all the street drugs listed on the site, with really good purity.

  2. AvatarChris Elinchev says

    I’m tired of reading about all this. You make so many assumptions that LSD or Psilocybin is easy to find. Get me in touch with some lab grade LSD sources so I can have this experience. The rest will take of itself

  3. Avatarcliva says

    Thats so true…so hard to find good product that you can trust. How to experiment well when there so much crap out there…

  4. AvatarNutzCutter says

    That’s true. ’cause of it I decided to switch to shrooms. I can be sure what I grow myself, and I have no reason to contact any criminals to have my experience.

    • AvatarJe says

      Mushrooms can have an Immediate Dire (death) affect on your liver and kidneys if not the right one! Caution should be a Priority when ingesting mushrooms!

      How do you know when it’s too late? Just be careful.

  5. AvatarThea Schlichting says

    What is your recommendation on going on a trip alone or together with someone else? Not as a sitter but who also takes the drug to share the experience.

    • AvatarDbub says

      I never had sitters, i like being aloof anyway so im most comfortable alone. People make me nervous as fuck when i trip. Even buddies, i find it much more personal and insightful to trip alone. Just make sure theres no one coming home or b.s. in the middle of it. Listen to terrance McKenna, he always said alone, dark room ,silence, heroic dose.

    • AvatarMaitai says

      I had a heroic dose with my boyfriend some 6 months ago. The source was trustworthy but I had no idea it would be this strong. It was an insanely good experience, we were cuddling the whole time and for me it felt like he was guiding me with his voice (in fact he was completely silent), while he felt my smile was guiding him (it was pitch dark). It brought us a lot closer and resolved a number of relationship issues for us. I can only recommend couple trips!

      • AvatarT says

        Same!! I tried it for the very first time last year and it was definitely far more intense than I could’ve ever imagined, but in the best kind of way. I’ve only taken it twice thus far and both times were at EDM festivals, which just made the experiences that much more magical. I had lots of friends say to take it at home the first time because of how intense it is, but I’m glad I didn’t do it at home first time around. I do strongly encourage newbies to a) keep a buddy around to help keep them grounded in case their trip goes south and b) to take it at home or in a more low-key environment the first time around, esp. if they’ve never done psychedelics in general before. If they’ve tripped on mushrooms or taken MDMA in the past, then they may feel more inclined to take it somewhere outside of the home, but it’s all about knowing the limitations of your own body and how you react to taking psychedelics in general. I personally find it a bit boring and lonely to take psychedelics at home & by myself, I very much so enjoy the social aspect because it makes me come out of my shell more (I’m normally a super introverted/shy kind of person). In addition, part of what makes my journey so amazing is the live music component..and being at EDM festivals/raves is an all-encompassing experience to all the senses because of the vibes of the people, the music, the lights, the dancing, just everything about it. 🙂 Only downside is not always having a place to lie down and rest lol..but I still think the positives outweigh the negatives in that regard. ;P

  6. AvatarDbub says

    I never had sitters, i like being aloof anyway so im most comfortable alone. People make me nervous as fuck when i trip. Even buddies, i find it much more personal and insightful to trip alone. Just make sure theres no one coming home or b.s. in the middle of it. Listen to terrance McKenna, he always said alone, dark room ,silence, heroic dose. That said one of my best trips was 1 on 1. I think tgats much much better than sitter or group.

  7. Avataroldmanriver says

    Careful with the dosages on the mushrooms. There are local varieties that are twice as strong as the standard cubensis.

    • AvatarMyco says

      At least that. I have lots of experience with cubensis from several continents, but living in Seattle I found some cyanesens in my back yard and holy shit, it’s next level. I had read a lot about it so I kind of knew what I was getting into, but it still knocked my socks off. 1g of that would be heroic in my books and I’ve have upwards of 6g of cubensis after a few months abstinence from any psychedelics. Same goes for azzies or any other wood growing shroom.

  8. AvatarD says

    From everything I have read, I am lead to believe that salvia divinorum to be the most trusted and most consistent. I also have heard that you have to titrate the use, start off really small each setting and gradually increase the dose. For those who actually go beyond a certain level, they have a freakish nightmarish experience and will never try again. I have tried it multiple times but in low doses and haven’t even got to the point of going in through the tunnel. But I have come very close. I purchased some 50x because I do not like to inhale too much combustion thus a stronger strength would require less. I have not been able to try the 50x as of yet. I think I would also like to try just chewing the fresh leaves and growing it myself. I really enjoyed this book the most on the subject. http://a.co/faa0eTv Salvia Divinorum: Doorway to Thought-Free Awareness It is a one day read. He used s. divinorum for 10 years and recorded his most enlightening experiences.

  9. AvatarCasablanca says

    I could not agree more in regards to waiting based on how profound your trip was. The more profound the trip, the longer you should wait before taking the next. Almost ten years ago, I took mushrooms. I spoke to loved ones who had passed and was able to properly say my goodbyes. Since, I have hesitated to experiment with any psychedelics. My journey was so moving. Could anything ever compare? It was beautiful and still brings tears to my eyes. I have magic mushrooms to thank for giving me the closure I so desperately needed.

  10. AvatarJe says

    In my years of experience I’m in my 70’s now since the 1970’s through 2005 many every weekend for 5 years straight with my partner starting Saturday after work (a career person known worldwide as a professional) we stayed in set up things in advance, music, movies, food, champagne, chocolates, fruit, plenty water, dim lights, even a little pot to mellow out take the edge off for a bit, but always intense intimacy!

    Rested Sunday, sleep, enjoy the pool good food plenty liquids water, juices passion fruit, cheeses, friends, etc
    Enjoyed our tactile experience, ALWAYS BEAUTIFUL!

    Know your partner!

    Yes, agreed you MUST have a good source for the drug as it may.

  11. AvatarSirtakis says

    I’ve taken peyote, ayahuasca and 5 Meo DMT at several occasions. Maybe you to be surprised about my question, because I ought to have my own response, any case I’d like to know your experiences: ¿does these enteogenic experiences transformed your life? ¿are you a better human being? ¿which are the differences between a ‘normal person’ and a person with ‘enteogenic experience?. Thank you for your answers.

    • AvatarMark Valladares says

      I took many different forms of LSD starting at the age of 14 continued for 3 years the effects lasted years a kind of what they called ”burnt out ”the lethargic way. I now look back and attribute it to one foot in this realm and the other in the spirit world. I had one bad trip but not of death. My mother caught me sat and observed me and was afraid. I went outside to find my friends and couldn’t it was after midnight summers eve. I hurt my mother is what I concluded friends are gone I surmised her love is all that mattered all I need. And vowed that I was done tripping as it hurt her and me to see her distraught that way. I know I have had a profound intense relationship with my spiritual self from those many years. A mental growth and detachment that has served me through months of solitary confinement on numerous occasions as well as electrocution from a no, let go shock of over ten thousand volts. That was so painful I had to have released DMT from my pineal in order to think during the intense pain. Now I am alone in my way or a rare abnormality materially detached freak. But I never get depressed and can quite any drug like Ativan aka benzodiazepine cold turkey. Even water fast for long periods. How strange and beautifully unique a starseed I have become.

  12. AvatarClint rohdin says

    Bought 100 lot sheets from varying sources took one hit on friday after work repeat . starting at 16 till i was 22..all time favorite was ying and yang blotter still vividly remember tripping through huricane andrew watching it spiral off tv accross wall out window ..im 55 now have not tripped for 30 years and still respect and realize the implications of ying and yang in everything .my children are having children and i think its about time to score again ..reset

    • AvatarJoe Schmoe says

      I’m coming down from my fourth trip with acid. I may have just experienced the first of these said ying and yang implications…or maybe im just tripping 🙂 (probably the latter)

    • AvatarHaya says

      The reason why it is not advised is because weed makes you forget a lot of the insights you may have gained from your psilocybin experience, which makes integrating the experience more difficult

      • AvatarMicroD says

        I have found with microdosing psilocybin (twice a week) and combining with micro (one hit vape pen) and macro doses (bong rips and moderate dose cannabis edibles) enhances the wellness and creativity effects of both plants. My coder friends agree… By the way, Terrence McKenna medicated with cannabis daily.

  13. AvatarTHSH says

    This is a helpful brief guide, but anyone who is taking psychedelics as a spiritual seeker (only one of many reasons to take them!) will get much more insight about spiritual journeying with psychedelics out of reading the book “The Secret Chief Revealed”. Fadiman’s “Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide” book is good too, but I highly recommend the Secret Chief for spiritual seekers.

  14. AvatarV says

    Hi i am going test it for first time. Could you please tell about sex under mushrooms? is it possible? I mean if consume a little. My girl and I are expecting to eat it and have sex for a long time.
    Thank you.

  15. Avatarsunnydays says

    Trying LSD for the first time hopefully in the next two days. Super excited and I have researched almost everything there is to research. Going into it with the goal of trying to answer some personal questions,gain some wonderful new insights, and hopefully change my way of thinking for the better. A lot of sources online have explained time and time again that no one person should go into the experience with the idea of “I’m doing acid for fun, and because I’m bored.” I’m going into this with my best friend of 8 years, and I understand what this drug does, and I from the bottom of my heart respect it. Expect a trip report coming from me in this very comment section under the exact name. 🙂

    P.S I’m starting out with 100g for my first LSD experience ever. Have done shrooms before but I figured I can experiment after this, after all I have all the time in the world :)!


  16. AvatarPeregrine says

    The fear driven, alcohol desensitized conservanazi prohibitionists and greedheads that have taken us to endless wars, global warming, overpopulation, species extinction, resource depletion, pollution, poverty and other shit would benefit the most from psychedelics.

  17. AvatarVitrola says

    As some know, it is legal to buy the mushrooms, full or powdered in Brazil – which is a crazy fact, since the substance is not so probably due more to plain old stupid bureaucracy.

    Anyways, a good website and realiable store (needs to be translated with your browser) is the following: https://www.naturezasana.com.br/

    They have high quality products and perhaps they can speak english, so you would be able to get them to send via Fedex or something. I´m don´t think they have an export policy, but maybe they do send international.

    Best regards,

  18. AvatarMason says

    Two days ago, i tried acid for the first time, and two of my friend who were with me almost died, and i stayed up all night tweaking it rly fucked me up. It was just so unexpected and turned to a bad trip really fast.

  19. AvatarOni says

    Around a week or so ago I tried licking funny stamps for the first time and… I wound up writing a book…


    Well, a short one, but still… one hell of a drug! D:

    The sad thing is, I tried it the second day at double the dose (after reading about the tolerance buildup) and… nothing. I just got a very mild, unsatisfying high out of it. So then I tried to wait 2 days and tried a crazy high dose and… nothing.

    I figure next I’ll try waiting two weeks and then I’ll try and wait a month. There’s lots of chatter I’ve found regarding waiting long periods to maximize the psychonautic experience, but nothing in the way of clear cut guides, so that’s what I’m hoping to try and figure out.

  20. AvatarFarouk says

    Really surprised how you didn’t mention Pink Floyd in the music to listen to while tripping! For everyone out there wondering what to listen to and in what order, I recommend listening to some pop culture songs in the first 1 or 2 hours, along with some Queen (very effective to boost your confidence and overall happiness and energy)and Led Zeppelin (or other rock bands, just try to stay on a happy-ish, welcoming note). Then when you start feeling “things” do yourself a favor and put some Pink Floyd. I personally like to begin with Wish You Were Here, then move on to Animals, The Dark Side of The Moon and, if I’m feeling brave then I listen to Meddle (be careful here because ‘Echoes’ the last song of the album is quite powerful, but it is also very very rewarding).
    Of course everyone has different tastes and preferences but believe me, there isn’t a better guide than Pink Floyd in a psychedelic journey. Even if you are feeling weird somehow because this kind of music is new to you, keep in mind that you have to be trusting and everything will be okay and you will be able to fully enjoy your experience.
    If anyone has more questions about LSD or psychedelics in general, I’ll be more than happy to answer them. Stay safe guys! ☮️

  21. AvatarRichard P says

    It is possible to buy magic mushrooms online now. I recently bought from: getpsilocybin.ca
    Really amazing that magic mushrooms are somewhat available to Canadians. I’m excited every time I see a new research article on psilocybin. I really hope that the Canadian government moves swiftly to decriminalize/legalize magic mushrooms. The benefits that can be gained from even small doses is just awesome.

    • AvatarR Thiann says

      Yes Richard is very cool and easy to get some cubes online, in my country also is possible to buy magic mushies online. Recently I bought few grams in a local shop https://kosmickombi.com.br/ and the experience was amazing. I have collected some wild too but not too strong as indoor growed. I hope my country doesnt ban this sacred medicine here.

  22. AvatarWm. Bud Caudle says

    I’m so ready to try DMT. I do believe in the theorputical use of psychedelics. And that was a good story. Am I tripping? You did tell a story didn’t you? About a guy that needed to have search and rescue after taking a psychedelic? He had lost his mind. Yep, I went there.

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