Psychedelic Therapy’s Healing Potential
We are experiencing a psychedelic renaissance. After 40+ years of being forced into the underground, fruiting bodies have emerged into the light. Striking scientific studies, decriminalization efforts, conferences and best selling books like “How to Change Your Mind” by Michal Pollan are now receiving an abundance of attention. MDMA and psilocybin are on the cusp of FDA approval for the treatment of conditions like PTSD and depression and ketamine clinics are sprouting seemingly everywhere.
Psychedelics have the powerful ability to unearth unseen, unintegrated and traumatic material from our bodies and minds. Psychedelic assisted therapy creates potent opportunities to meet that material in supportive and healing ways.
Our neuroplasticity amplifies with psychedelics onboard, and so does our capacity to rewire our nervous systems for greater degrees of intimacy, vitality and embodied pleasure.
In the face of such power and potential the importance of preparation becomes all the more essential.
Preparing for Psychedelic Therapy
As a psychedelic somatic therapy practitioner I, Lorina, hold that medicine assisted therapy is not for every body. Our bodies and nervous systems need to know how to do certain things if we are going to deep dive into these realms in integrate-able ways.
Making sure the following pieces are in place is not unlike making sure the rest of the house is basically organized before you tackle that messy closet. A house already in disarray will feel all the more overwhelming if you pull out all those forgotten items. It helps to make sure you have the following 3 capacities in place before you tackle that scary closet.
First, our nervous systems need to know how to take in positive and pleasurable resources; real and imaginary things, people, experiences and capacities that soothe our nervous system. This embodied skill is called Resourcing. It might look like taking in a beautiful sunset with a deep sigh and a felt sense of expansion in your heart. Resourcing might feel like being able to relax into the sweetness of the touch of a warm and trustworthy person.
In the absence of an ability to resource, our systems will not know how to land in embodied experiences of well-being. Without accessible islands of well-being we can easily flail in tumultuous, scary waters with no ground in sight. Resourcing keeps us sane.
Secondly, our nervous system needs to know how to trust our practitioner. This trust is best earned over time and through grounded (and non-medicine assisted) experiences. It is highly tempting to develop fantasies about people and approaches, especially after years of unmet needs and painful realities. “Psychedelics will save me.” “My practioner will make my pain go away.” Idealization is not grounded trust. Such “trust” lacks a certain resilience and durability. A healing dive with psychedelics can easily bring to the surface old relationship wounds that can get projected into the therapeutic relationship.
Unless our nervous systems has repeatedly experienced empathy, warmth and attunement with our practitioner, that relational ground of trust will be hard to access when we are being confronted with old relationship wounds in an altered space. The corrective experience of a loving presence holding us will help us transmute old heart wounds. Such relational safety needs time to be truly cultivated. With a solid ground of trust we can then more easily access that felt sense of trust in times of need during challenging altered states.
Thirdly, you need the embodied capacity to say 'No'. This skill can be learned with practice if you haven’t acquired that capacity yet. Active addictions are a sign that one’s ability to set boundaries is not fully developed. If you are constantly entering re-traumatizing relationships and situations due to an inability to say “No”, then it will be unlikely that you will have enough stability in your life to gracefully navigate the breakdown/breakthrough waves of psychedelic therapy.
The ability to say “No” in a relationship extends itself to the therapeutic relationship with your practitioner. This point is an elaboration of the call to develop grounded trust with your practitioner. In order to feel truly safe in a relationship we need to have an embodied experience of being able to share our boundaries and viscerally know that the care and respect of our practitioner will still be there.
Traumas were created when our Noes were overwhelmed. Trusting that our boundaries will be honored is essential if we are to consciously and consensually enter the overwhelming states where trauma is stored. The ability to enter those overwhelming states with a trusted ally by your side will help you reclaim the life force required to contain those trauma states. Your vital life force can be liberated when we can trust the therapeutic container to honor our boundaries.
Is your body ready?
Given that I hold that the above 3 somatic skills are needed to safely enter a psychedelic assisted healing container I chose not work with every body with medicine on board. Some of the painful challenges people hold are simply beyond my scope of practice. In these cases, I am happy to refer.
Some nervous systems need time to be truly ready. The length of time required to get prepared to enter psychedelic states varies from person to person. It is my policy to not make a blanket invitation to do psychedelic assisted therapy with me. I will assess levels of readiness on a case by case basis.
I will only offer medicine assisted sessions (using legally available medicine such as cannabis and ketamine) to clients that have invested the time and energy to acquire all the above somatic skills 1) the ability to resource, 2) trust our relationship and 3) the ability to say no.
Medicine Assisted Sessions Availability
This psychedelic assisted therapy is only one of the many tools I have acquired in the two decades I have been a professional healing arts practitioner. While psychedelic sessions do have a new and sexier tone to them I am committed to only using this tool in a context that is attuned to those in my care. Frequently the more intense medicine assisted sessions will be held between non-medicine sessions that help people prepare, integrate and resource in a variety of ways.
I will open my practice to those interested in cannabis assisted somatic therapy using the PSI model (www.psychedelicsomatic.org) starting in July 2022. If you are interested, please reach out to me for a complimentary 30 min discovery session to explore the possibility of working together.