If you’ve spent any time in the psychedelic therapy world, you’ve likely heard the term “integration” used prolifically. But what exactly is integration, and why is it so important? Simply put, integration refers to making sense of a psychedelic experience and making changes in one’s life as a result. An essential part of psychedelic-assisted therapy, the integration process allows clients to gain insights from their psychedelic journeys and put these to use in service of healing, growth, and self-knowledge. Without proper integration, these insights may be lost and the client may continue to struggle with unresolved issues. As such, it is important for therapists to equip their clients with effective techniques and therapeutic support to make the most out of their psychedelic sessions.
What is Psychedelic Integration?
Integration provides a space for clients to gain clarity, perspective, and wisdom from their medicine sessions. This process takes place both during non-medicine integration sessions with the therapist and in the client’s own actions outside of their medicine journeys. By encouraging active engagement with the insights and emotional material revealed by the psychedelic experience, the transformational energy of the medicine is extended and deepened as a result. Integration also helps clients explore and process any obstacles, confusions, or questions that may arise during their journeys, accelerating the course of therapy and progress toward their treatment goals.
Psychedelic medicines create a neuroplastic window, which offers an opportunity for significant emotional and spiritual healing. Integration techniques, particularly when used during this period of enhanced cognitive flexibility, can help people to understand, contextualize, and make use of their experience in a meaningful and lasting way.
Integration also creates space for the client to reflect on how their intention may have shown up in their psychedelic experience and whether they have anything new or different they’d like to bring into their lives. Learning integration techniques can empower clients to heal themselves, and these techniques can become daily practices or tools they can use during challenging times.
PRATI believes that integration is an essential part of psychedelic medicine work, and we center integration techniques in our psychedelic-assisted therapy trainings. During our experiential training programs, participants gain firsthand knowledge of the medicine space through ketamine journeys and take part in a variety of integration practices. Dance and movement, art, nature-based experiences, group sharing, and ritual and ceremony are some of the integration activities we teach and demonstrate. Integration is at the heart of this work, and our mission is to teach people practices that can be used both in psychedelic therapy and in daily life to reconnect to themselves, their communities, and the more-than-human world.
The range of integration practices is wide and deep, and there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach. We encourage our trainees to explore the diverse realms of integration practices to identify the techniques that may work best for themselves and their clients. This unfolding process is a creative and collaborative exploration, guided by the intuitive wisdom of one’s inner healer. That said, it can be helpful for psychedelic therapists and guides to be familiar with some common, practical methods and structures to support effective integration. Here are some useful techniques to incorporate into your practice and share with your clients:
Integration questions you might ask include:
- What new insights occurred during your journey?
- What did you feel in your body during the experience? Did you gain any somatic information?
- Do you view your life or problems faced in your life differently after your experience?
- Did any images, people, animals, places, or emotions come up during your journey?
- What do you feel motivated to change or explore after this experience?
Journaling is one of the most common forms of integration for psychedelic therapy and has a variety of benefits. Writing about experiences helps to store memories in a more concrete way, which makes them easier to recall later on. It also allows the client to process what happened from different angles as they explore different perspectives, meanings, and associations.
Journaling also provides a unique opportunity for staying curious about one’s psychedelic experience. In this way, it can provide a mirror of self-reflection upon which powerful insights, intuitions, and inner wisdom can surface and come into clarity. Psychedelic experiences can be confusing, chaotic or mystifying, eluding simple explanation or meaning-making. A written record of these experiences exploring the images, emotions, and somatic information that arose can provide a rich resource for clients to look back on after their journeys. Additionally, journaling can help reconnect them with the moment-to-moment unfolding of their experiences for continued access to the non-linear space where inner healing resides.
Writing can also be a useful tool to set intentions prior to the medicine session; afterward, it can be used to reflect on how that intention was present during the experience and whether any new intentions to explore arose within the journey.
Using art as an integration technique is a great way to capture the feelings and emotions associated with a psychedelic experience in a creative, visual medium. Art can help express abstract concepts, ineffable content, and unique epiphanies that can be hard to translate into words.
Therapists can also support their clients by helping them explore the artwork they create after a psychedelic session, guiding them toward understanding how these pieces might relate to their journey.
Somatic integration techniques, such as yoga or breathwork, can help clients become more aware of their body’s subtle energy shifts during psychedelic therapy. This awareness allows them to observe how certain emotions or experiences manifest in physical sensations, enabling them to create a more conscious connection between mind and body. Somatic techniques can also help to ground the client and foster an understanding of the impacts of their psychedelic experience on their physical being, leading to further insight into their own healing process.
Movement, breath, and body-oriented practices move people out of their thinking minds and into the wisdom of their senses. While these techniques are accessible to nearly everyone, at times it can be helpful to direct clients to trained somatic practitioners who can work more closely with them and guide them in the process of using their bodies as a tool for healing.
Nature-based integration can be incredibly healing in its own right and also serves as an excellent complement to psychedelic therapy. Nature has powerful regenerative qualities that can allow clients to see themselves as connected to the more-than-human world on a deeper level while providing a safe and sacred container for healing.
Nature-based integration techniques may be as simple as taking a mindful walk in the woods or sitting in stillness by a body of water. Therapists can encourage clients to look for patterns in nature or incorporate elements such as plants, stones, water, and candles as grounding tools to deepen a psychedelic journey. Moreover, these aspects of the natural world remind clients of their interconnection with nature and can open a space of exploration to transpersonal material and messages. Nature-based integration can also be incorporated into the therapy practice, and sessions can be held outdoors or in gardens to further immerse the client in the earth’s healing energy.
Psychedelic experiences themselves can be held in natural settings. Some examples include traditional plant medicine ceremonies, shamanic journeying, animal and plant communication, and outdoor meditations. These activities can help to deepen the client’s connection with nature while also honing their intuition and understanding of self.
Additionally, integration groups or sessions with other people who have had similar experiences provide a powerful space for reflection, support, and connection. One of the touchstones of psychedelic medicine is its ability to restore a sense of interdependence and mutuality beyond the individual self. There is profound strength in community and working in groups can help achieve a level of connection and care that cannot be found elsewhere.
Group integration gives people an opportunity to put words to their experience as well as hear from others who have had similar experiences. Receiving acceptance and support from others in a safe space can be deeply validating and reassuring, helping people access meaningful personal transformation alongside interpersonal connection.
Therapist-Provided Integration Support
While integration approaches can be used by clients on their own, it is recommended that therapists provide support in this process via open-ended inquiry, suggestions of integration activities, and opportunities to practice these in session. In doing so, therapists can help their patients to process and integrate what they experienced during a psychedelic journey and maximize the healing potential of these medicines.
Creating a space of curiosity and self-reflection helps ensure clients are actively exploring the insights they gained and working toward personal growth in an intentional and supported manner. Integrating a psychedelic experience can be difficult, so it is important to have a compassionate and experienced therapist familiar with non-ordinary states of consciousness to help clients find their way through this sometimes tumultuous process.
Learn Integration Techniques
A common phrase in psychedelic therapy is “You get out of the experience what you put into it.” Rather than treating a psychedelic journey as a fleeting trip or inconsequential novelty, emphasizing integration as an essential part of the healing process reframes a psychedelic experience as a deeper commitment to self-knowledge and growth. Encouraging clients to view their experience through this lens assists them in applying the lessons learned through their journeys to achieve deeper healing and positive life changes.
PRATI holds this philosophy close, teaching our training participants that integration is a foundational element in psychedelic therapy. Moreover, we envision psychedelics as a catalyst for deeper relationship and connection to the sacred — modeling the wisdom of integration as an ongoing process of restoration and healing of our individual selves, our communities, and our planet.
We also take an ecological and spiritual approach to psychedelic therapy and uplift the importance of connecting to nature as part of the healing process. Psychedelic medicines have been shown to increase nature-relatedness as well as elicit mystical experiences. Both are ways of connecting to the sacred, and integration techniques can help clients carry this sense of connectedness with them into their daily lives. If you are interested in learning more about integration techniques, consider attending one of our workshops — and join our email list to get more information about our offerings!