Translating Psychedelic Epiphanies: Inside the Art of Integration
It’s one thing to talk about the modalities for psychedelic integration, which can range from journaling, meditation, and yoga, to artwork, time spent in nature, and more. But it’s another thing entirely to intuitively grasp how it feels to work with an integration specialist in the wake of a psychedelic experience.
If you’ve ever wondered what this type of relationship might entail, here’s your chance to find out. In this article, several practitioners and their clients weigh in on some of the benefits of finding a helping hand to navigate the psychedelic integration process.
VALIDATION, AFFIRMATION, AND SUPPORT
Although plant medicines are becoming increasingly de-stigmatized and de-mystified within mainstream society, not everyone knows how to talk about psychedelic experiences in a supportive and validating way. Jordan* found this to be the case.
“I found integration because I needed a therapist who took my psychedelic experiences seriously,” he said. “Previous methods of therapy brushed off profound and powerful experiences. I needed help navigating those experiences and the new ways of thought I discovered.”
The personalized support and spaciousness offered by a one-to-one integration session can yield profound benefits. Jordan’s sessions with an integration specialist turned out to be a “lifeline”, as he learned to process difficult experiences in a non-judgmental, confidential, and affirming environment. “I would definitely recommend integration,” he said. “Too often we’re left hearing two-minute stories in sharing circles, or left with no real sounding boards.”
UNCOVERING PERSONAL TRUTHS
Integration specialists can hold space for an individual’s post-journey processing because they, too, have been on that journey. Practitioners bring insights from their own experience to their work with clients, and provide support and accountability for those seeking to implement lasting changes.
Therapist Gerard Artesano, who is featured on the Mindleap platform, sums up the process of psychedelic integration like this: “It’s not so much that you have the experience. It’s what you do with it afterward. What changes are you going to make in your life to stabilize these insights? How do you assimilate them into something that’s not just an idea floating in the cosmos, but rather part of the truth of who you are?”
Amid the current global pandemic, the need for human connection is particularly acute. In the absence of in-person meetups, online platforms like Mindleap make it possible to receive professional support from the comfort and safety of your own home. Mindleap users can browse the profiles of over 40 integration specialists and attend appointments virtually.
FINDING SENSE AND MEANING IN THE EXPERIENCE
Integration specialists help people make sense of their psychedelic journey within the context of everyday reality. They may serve as the “bridge” or “translator” between the client’s direct experience of day-to-day life and their experiences with altered states of consciousness.
“Linear thinking gets challenged. Temporality gets challenged,” Gerard says of the psychedelic experience. “Integration therapy can continue challenging those rules of our regular reality, but do it in a way that’s much more grounded.”
Take the case of Richard*, a pastor who was undergoing an existential crisis and loss of faith when he turned to psilocybin as a healing modality. He connected deeply to his spirituality, as well as a sense of clarity and unity, during the psychedelic experience.
In Richard’s post-journey integration sessions, he learned to bring these feelings of clarity and unity to daily life, and to continue cultivating the sense of spirituality that had emerged (or rather, re-emerged) while under the influence of psilocybin. With the support of an integration specialist, Richard connected the spiritual insights from his journey back to the human realm.
CONNECTING TO WHOLENESS
Carol Benton, a hypnotherapist and transformational coach, sees integration as a way to “help people back to their holotropic nature and sense of wholeness.”
Integration sessions offer a soft landing for individuals to return to after an intense psychedelic journey. Clients are invited to unpack any memories, sensations, or feelings that may have arisen during the journey, and figure out how they wish to approach life moving forward. “Through integration, we see what we’re releasing and where we want to go,” Carol says. “How do we get there?”
For Thomas*, the support of an integration therapist was essential as he confronted the challenges of a new job, the relocation of his family, and the terminal illnesses of both his wife and father. “After what was the most intensely positive and, at the same time, unsettling experience in my life, Carol was able to help me make sense of it,” he said. “I came away with a much deeper understanding of who I am and who I can be as a person in the world.”
While the psychedelic experience is mostly non-verbal and non-linear, the integration process guides us to organize the experience into our verbal and linear reality. If we feel “stuck” or “lost in translation” following an ineffable psychedelic experience, speaking with an integration therapist can help us identify and reflect on the teachings of the journey. “As I parcel out the experience and just talk about it, there are epiphanies that happen and are remembered,” Carol explained.
Thomas attested to the long-term benefits of working with an integration specialist, saying, “Integration makes all the difference between having a slowly fading memorable experience and having an experience that, with the guidance of a quality integrator, one can truly understand, and make real and lasting change in your life.”
If you’re looking for integration guidance following a psychedelic journey, Mindleap can connect you with a range of specialists. For pre-journey preparation as well as integration support, you may also benefit from microdosing coaching.
*names changed for privacy reasons