Psychedelic Therapy: The Complete Guide (Updated 2021)

April 12, 2021
Blog quotes
This is some text inside of a div block.
Blog quotes

Our global mental health epidemic.


You may have noticed, many of us are not doing so well. According to pre-COVID statistics from Our World in Data [1], between 1 in 7 and 1 in 8 people globally are suffering from a mental illness.


https://ourworldindata.org/global-mental-health

Here’s the breakdown for each mental health disorder and addictive disorders:


  • Depression - 264m
  • Anxiety - 284m
  • Bipolar - 46m
  • Eating disorders - 16m
  • Schizophrenia - 20m
  • Alcohol use disorder - 107m
  • Drug use disorder - 71m

It is also estimated that an additional 3.5% of the global population suffers from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Interestingly, mental health challenges are most acute in wealthier, western countries, for example the USA, Canada, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.

Clearly, mental illness is a massive burden on human flourishing and productivity.

And while we have a staggering array of treatments and modalities across cultures and continents, the statistics continue to move in the wrong direction. Looking at depression, conventional antidepressants disappoint as many as they help, to the extent that we’ve now even coined such terms as “treatment resistant depression”.

If we are to address the global mental disorder and the alarming statistics, it’s evident that we need more effective tools to improve mental health outcomes. 

“If you always do what you’ve always done, and you’ll always get what you’ve always got” - Henry Ford


A new hope: the science and benefits of psychedelics

Psychedelic research is exploding. Following a two-decade hiatus between 1970 and 1990, psychedelic research has grown exponentially over the past 20 years, with the number of psychedelic study now numbering over 700 per year [2].

Psychedelic medicine is now exploring a broad variety of psychedelic drugs: Ketamine, MDMA, LSD, psilocybin, and psychoactive / psychedelic plant medicines such as cannabis and ayahuasca.

Research has shown these powerful medicines to be effective in treating a broad variety of mental health disorders[3]:

Proven effective in the treatment of mental health challenges:


  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar
  • OCD
  • PTSD
  • Addictive disorders (smoking, alcohol, drug dependency)

Proven to improve overall quality of life:

  • Cognition & creativity
  • Consciousness
  • Relationship to self and others
  • Sense of purpose and belonging
  • Mood & behavior
  • Life satisfaction 


Results from treatment are commonly referred to as “10 years of therapy” in one psychedelic session. Unfortunately, there remains a significant gap between science and policy. 


Classic psychedelics such as psilocybin and LSD are still broadly illegal, Ketamine is legal in many jurisdictions, and MDMA assisted psychotherapy has entered stage 3 clinical trials in the USA for treatment of PTSD, led by Rick Doblin and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS)[4].


The psychedelic renaissance is fueling significant injection of new capital, decriminalization and legalization, psychedelic drug and service innovation, and inspiring novel career paths such as the psychedelic researcher at leading academic institutions. 


“Psychedelics, used responsibly and with proper caution, would be for psychiatry what the microscope is for biology and medicine and the telescope is for astronomy” - Dr. Stanislav Grof



What is psychedelic therapy?

Psychedelic therapy, or psychedelic assisted therapy [5] is the administration of a psychedelic substance by a psychedelic therapist to a patient. A psychedelic treatment takes place in a controlled, therapeutic environment where the patients safety, security, and care are the absolute priority.


The motivations of patients to participate in psychedelic therapy are typically to heal, to grow, and/or to deepen their spirituality.

Common psychedelic therapies include:

  • Psilocybin therapy (synthetic or with psilocybin mushrooms)
  • MDMA therapy
  • Ketamine assisted psychotherapy

While the drug Ketamine and the drug MDMA have been increasingly ‘lumped in’ to be considered a psychedelic compound over the past few years, for the purpose of explaining how psychedelic therapy works, we will focus on psilocybin assisted psychotherapy.

How psychedelic therapy works


The process for psychedelic psychotherapy generally follows three stages - intake & preparation, the psychedelic experience, and psychedelic integration.


Intake & preparation: The process for psilocybin assisted therapy treatment begins as would any normal therapy session. A patient is asked questions about their life, identity, challenges, and mental and emotional state. As part of the screening process, patients provide detailed medical and psychological information to ensure psilocybin treatment will be safe for them. 


Psychedelic experience: During the therapy session, the psychedelic medicine, in this case psilocybin, is administered to the patient in a relaxed and comfortable setting. The patient typically reclines on a couch or bed, dons eye shades to black out the light, puts on headphones for music, and commences their journey within. 


During a psychedelic experience, it is common to revisit memories from earlier in life, experience visuals, heightened emotions, insights, synaesthesia, mystical experiences. Through these experiences, we can establish a deeper connection with ourselves, improved relationships, and a greater sense of health, happiness, and interconnectivity.


A psychedelic session typically is between 3-6 hours, depending upon the treatment, modalities, medicine, and dosage used. 


Psychedelic integration: Following the psychedelic session begins the integration process. The focus of the integration process is to unpack the experience, lessons, and insights from the therapy, and to integrate the experience to improve thought-patterns, beliefs, and behaviors and thereby improve quality of everyday life.

A note about ayahuasca treatment / retreats

Given the gap between science and policy, tens of thousands are travelling to Costa Rica, Mexico, Netherlands, or Peru for a legal psychedelic experiences, for example an ayahuasca retreat or a psilocybin retreat.

In western medicine, our scientific method lends preference to being able to control for variables in compounds and dosage. As a result, powerful plant medicine like ayahuasca, which has up to 463 compounds, is often overlooked. 

The good news is that the science is picking up, and demonstrating ayahuasca to be potentially even more effective than the classic psychedelics like Ketamine, MDMA, LSD, and psilocybin. Science is ongoing and proving the benefits for cancer patients, auto-immune disorders, and a range of other mental, emotional, and physical health challenges. 

We recommend anyone considering an ayahuasca or psilocybin treatment to do extensive research of their own, consult with their doctor, and reach their own conclusions.

What’s critical as and when we travel to seek out these healing and growth experiences with ayahuasca “outside” of the frame of western medicine, that we do take the necessary precautions to ensure our safety, and that protocols for harm reduction are in place.

Wrap-up

Approached correctly, psychedelic assisted psychotherapy and plant medicine retreats are proven to hold incredible potential to improve our overall health and well-being.

If you would like to further explore this path and are interested in a safe, legal, and life-changing experience, book a consultation with one of our consultants today.


Sources:

  1. Global mental health statistics: https://ourworldindata.org/global-mental-health
  2. Number of published psychedelic research papers - 1950-2020: https://www.frontiersin.org/files/Articles/544203/fpsyg-11-01681-HTML/image_m/fpsyg-11-01681-g001.jpg
  3. Johns Hopkins Psychedelic Research https://hopkinspsychedelic.org/
  4. Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies - https://maps.org/ 
  5. Psychedelic therapy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychedelic_therapy


Other blogs

Join our community.


Keep up to date with the latest research and transformational experiences available through Behold. Sign up now.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.