Whether you’re a seasoned psychonaut or fairly new to psychedelics, entheogens, and plant medicines, chances are you’ve heard the term psychedelic integration kicking around your circles (or at least the internet) for a while now. While psychedelics are finally starting to have a moment (YES TO THIS, Y’ALL), this absolutely crucial piece of the psychedelic healing toolkit is too often misunderstood, ignored, or avoided. Why? Because it requires a commitment to traversing the often difficult waters of our own shadow side in order to unpack and heal the real issues that are holding us back, keeping us small, and causing us to suffer.
What is Psychedelic Integration?
Psychedelic Integration is the process of exploring, understanding, and embodying the psychedelic or mystical medicine experience, and taking action to bring yourself and your life into alignment with your new perspective and awareness. It is a commitment to going deeper within yourself to address areas within your consciousness that are needing your attention, care, and unconditional love.
Integration is a very personal, non-linear, often lifelong process, and looks completely different for every individual. It can look like a shift in priorities, focus, and intention on both a small and large scale. It can be as simple as feeling called to change daily habits and take better care of yourself, and it can be an intense pull to face and heal deep wounds or trauma.
For some people, integration includes a calling to fulfill a purpose, an igniting of a passion, or the acceptance that a job, relationship, or previous way of life is no longer possible or desirable. So often we integrate using discernment of what we don’t want in our lives, releasing that which no longer serves us. It is the space we create for our Selves to transform, grow, and change.
Above all, psychedelic integration is the expansion of awareness, a higher vibrational attunement that enables us to feel more connected to ourselves, to others, and to the universal consciousness.
Why Isn't Psychedelic Integration More of a Priority?
The way Western society is currently experiencing psychedelic medicines is very disjointed and disconnected. It has become a solitary, non-communal process for many people, and the pressure of trying to integrate after a profound spiritual experience or plant medicine retreat on your own can be confusing and scary, especially if you had a difficult or painful experience, so it just isn’t happening. Frankly, we are spiritual babies over here compared to the ancient, indigenous cultures with lineage and wisdom of working with sacred plant teachers. We are just starting to understand the power, importance, and necessity of creating space for healing after the ceremonies end.
While psychedelic integration coaches, integration circles, therapists, and spiritually focused healing practitioners are beginning to offer support, resources, and integration services, it can be hard to know where to start, find something that works and is affordable, and that’s available in your area.
Many people initially find their way to psychedelics through recreational means, so in these cases, the intentional, purposeful pieces needed for deep healing are already missing from the start. While some plant medicine retreats offer spiritual counseling, psychedelic integration therapy, transformational coaching, or continued aftercare, most do not. For the most part, it’s up to each person to decide how to include psychedelic integration into their own life, often without much support or community. Most of the West is lacking a cultural or traditional connection to the plant teachers, and finding psychedelic communities that are active and spiritually focused can feel impossible outside certain cities and states.
Also, psychedelics are still illegal in the US, so there’s that.
Despite the growing evidence of the power of psychedelics to heal addiction, PTSD, depression, anxiety, and a myriad of other physical and mental health issues, many people are forced to build their relationship with these medicines in secret, for fear of being fired, arrested, or found out. America very much has a psychedelic closet, and seeking out integration support feels tender, vulnerable, and hard.
The good news is, things are changing, and we are growing. Anderson Cooper is talking about psychedelics on 60 Minutes, y’all. But, we’ve still got a ways to go before the psychedelic movement reaches critical mass.
Is Integration Really Necessary?
Embarking on a path of using psychedelic medicines without a safety, preparation, and integration plan is sort of like letting a teenager drive your brand new car through your neighborhood when they don’t even have a learner’s permit. What could go wrong? It might be fine? I mean, she could miraculously go for a spin and return the car and herself totally intact. *Fingers crossed* Most likely, the kid’s gonna crash hard or at least have a fender bender and make a bit of a mess of someone’s yard, the car, maybe herself, maybe even someone else.
These medicines and substances are sacred, powerful tools that can be used to heal, enlighten, understand, and evolve. They can also cause irreparable harm when used without the proper preparation, understanding, and respect. Psychedelics are not for everyone, nor are they a magic bullet that will heal you overnight. Ayahuasca in particular has a bit of a media reputation for being a miracle worker that can cure chronic or terminal illness in one sitting. While these medicines are deeply capable of doing astounding things for people who are truly suffering, perpetuating the expectation that you can do a ceremony or go on a journey and that’s the end of it is dangerous and can cause disappointment, frustration, and serious harm.
“A spiritual experience does not by itself make a spiritual life. Integration is essential to making sense of the experience, whether in or out of the medical context. Or else it remains just a drug experience.”
Michael Pollan, paraphrasing religious scholar Huston Smith
Psychedelic medicines are tools that teach us how to heal ourselves. It is our responsibility to listen, learn, believe, and take action to bring the changes we want to see in ourselves to life. And the way we do this is through psychedelic integration. Working with medicines without doing the work to understand, integrate, and embody the experience means missing out on the most important component – truly changing your life.