Protocol for Psychedelic Therapy and Integration
By Sherree M. Godasi
The treatment protocol used in MDMA-assisted psychotherapy trials sponsored by MAPS spreads over a period of 3-4 months and a total of 20 meetings: 3 experiential MDMA therapy sessions spaced one month apart, and 17 sessions of preparation and integration (about 4 sessions before, between, and after each treatment).
I support the MAPS model for the most part; but believe that a set time frame of 6 months for psychedelic therapy is ideal and feasible. In this time, one starts by setting long-term goals (where do I want to be in 6 months?), have time to prepare for experiential sessions and process psychedelic material after the sessions. Additionally there is ample time to adopt new habits and induce real change in their lives.
As opposed to approaching psychedelic therapy work and taking it one session at a time, there is something about planning for 6 months with 3 experiential psychedelic therapy journeys that seems more fruitful. It sends a message to the psyche that you are serious about your healing and committing yourself not just to the long road but the destination of change and result. When making such a commitment, though there are virtually no guarantees with psychedelic healing and the process looks different for every person, the healing trajectory typically looks something like this:
One begins with a month of preparation sessions when they arrange their life to contain upcoming transformation, cultivate a rapport with their psychedelic guide/therapist (if using one), set goals and begin meditating on their healing.
The first journey tends to be an introduction to psychedelic space, meeting your Inner Healer, cultivating a sense of trust and forging a long-term working alliance. The integration period focuses on gaining momentum in setting a daily integration practice, increasing mindfulness activities and sharpening the antennas to witness how some elements of the journey (which for some people can be lighter than anticipated) are reciprocated in their daily life. Much psychic material tends to reveal itself during this integration phase as opposed to the experiential journey.
Second journey tends to be deep, full of insights that are sometimes served without sugar coating; the truth comes out (for better or better :)). The post-experience integration period can be longer, more demanding and confusing as reality sets in. This is when the stage of disintegration typically happens: before one integrates themselves into wholeness, they must break down maladaptive foundations, then rebuild themselves - and their lives - in ways that are more true, more aligned to who they wish to be, more solid and representing of their authentic selves. You start observing elements in your life that need to be changed. Lots of questions can come up in regards to how to instigate this change, along with painful grieving of the past and potential fear of the unknown. This is not the most comfortable period in psychedelic integration but nonetheless a crucial one, even necessary. This is where the pedal is put to the metal - the point of psychedelic therapy and healing.
Third psychedelic journey tends to clear up confusion and uncertainty; insights typically relate to moving forward with one’s life and provides solutions that can be implemented in real time to support this. It brings it all home and the person feels more well-equipped to proceed with new ways of being, a new life, a new them. What is left then is a commitment to long-term integration - daily practices that connect the dots between all the knowledge that were learned and put them into action. Now you’re getting the hang of this! Confidence in oneself and trust in the process are increased. In this active maintenance phase you create your new reality, every day, and maintain your hard-earned results.
Throughout these 6 months there should be an assessment and reassessment of your goals and intentions that were set in the beginning of the treatment. Keep measuring your progress, you might be surprised at the gravity of minor effects that instigated major rewards - and your evident transition. Magically at the end of 6 months you witness all the ways your goals have materialized.
This is how I have come to know psychedelic therapy and integration and is the program that my clients successfully follow to not just find bliss in the grit but achieve their purpose. I hope it serves you as you find yours, too.