As funding, research, and interest in psychedelic medicines' therapeutic effects continue to grow and the social stigma of psychedelic use is progressively replaced with curiosity and enthusiasm, more and more individuals seek to experience psychedelic medicines in a safe and therapeutic environment.
While recreational use has long been the primary way most individuals experience psychedelics, the current surge in interest is supported by psychedelic research that demonstrates the profound benefits of these medicines for mental health under professional care.
These days, more and more individuals seek to experience psychedelic medicines in a therapeutic and ceremonial container held by an experienced and trained facilitator. There are two main channels for accessing these types of experiences:
Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy in a clinical setting
Traditional Shamanic Ceremonies
While psychedelic-assisted therapists are trained and licensed to provide this service under strict clinical guidelines and regulations, traditional shamanic ceremonies remain underground and unregulated in the US. Even in countries where the practice is sanctioned by law, there are no regulations or licensing to protect the participants.
Although many shamanic facilitators are trained and experienced, there is a troubling trend of self-proclaimed facilitators and "shamans" with no extensive training or experience offering facilitation services in underground communities and in questionable retreat facilities overseas in countries where psychedelic medicines are not criminalized like Peru and Costa Rica.
It is important to note that although psychedelic-assisted therapies are highly effective in addressing individual mental health challenges in a direct and personal manner, they are costly, not widely available, not covered by insurance, and often not the appropriate approach for individuals seeking to experience psychedelic medicines for personal and spiritual growth and healing. Therefore, many seekers look for non-clinical and traditional facilitators for the experience.
While small doses of some psychedelics medicines like psilocybin and LSD can be safely self-administered in many cases, higher doses of these substances and more potent medicines like ayahuasca, iboga, and 5meo DMT can be quite disorienting and even dangerous if not facilitated by a trained and experienced professional.
If you've been seeking to experience psychedelic medicines in a non-clinical setting, proper due diligence is required to ensure a safe and beneficial experience. Here are the key factors to consider when choosing a facilitator/retreat center:
Is the facilitator trained in a traditional setting? What tradition? Who was their teacher? A properly trained facilitator will have no hesitation in answering these questions.
How long has the facilitator been practicing with medicines as a participant and as a facilitator both? Most traditions require a minimum of a decade of training before facilitation.
Was the facilitator given permission to practice by an elder? In traditional settings, an elder/teacher offers her/his blessing to a new facilitator. Length of practice does not qualify an individual to facilitate.
Is the facilitator walking the talk and living a life of integrity and alignment? The signs of an integrated facilitator are apparent in her/his values and lifestyle. Integrity, sustainability, humility, inclusivity, and approachability are some key characteristics to look for.
Is there a thorough interview process before sign up? Are you asked about your physical, mental, and spiritual health and history? Trained facilitators take great care and caution to ensure that the experience is a good fit for the participant.
How many people will be in attendance and how many support staff present? Large groups mean less capacity to tend to the participants' needs. A good facilitator/support staff to participant ratio is 1 to 7.
Will there be any resources made available to participants for integration after the experience? The true and lasting benefits of psychedelic experiences are in the integration process.
Are they going to serve multiple medicines at the gathering? If so, are these medicines traditionally served together? For example, ayahuasca and San Pedro are sometimes served on two consecutive days in alignment with some traditions, however, there are also troubling trends of experimental combining of substances like 5meo-DMT and ayahuasca in the US which can have extremely dangerous and lasting consequences.
Where will the gathering be held? Look for calm and natural settings. Avoid events in heavily populated urban areas.
How is the reputation of the retreat facility (if going to a retreat abroad)? The economic opportunity that psychedelic tourism provides to many impoverished communities has given rise to unsafe and unprofessional retreat facilities. Practice due diligence before choosing a facility to travel to.
Have there been any reports of sexual misconduct against the facilitator, co-facilitators, hosts, or support staff? Sexual misconduct reports are unfortunately common in many retreat facilities overseas.
Does the cost seem reasonable? If paying a premium price, are a portion of the proceeds allocated to support indigenous lands and communities, scholarships, or integration? While it costs time and resources to hold an event, it is important to have a clear perspective of how the funds are being used. It is absolutely reasonable to inquire.
How is the medicine harvested? As interest in psychedelic medicines grows, so do sustainability concerns. Ensure that you have a clear understanding that the medicine has been sourced in a conscious and sustainable manner.
As psychedelic enthusiasts and practitioners, you have an important role to play in protecting and rewarding ancient traditional practitioners, communities, and traditions. Your mindfulness in choosing an appropriate facilitator supports both your personal safety and the preservation of traditional and appropriately facilitated containers.
It is important to note that while many underground communities have been practicing psychedelic medicines for decades, psychedelics remain a Schedule I substance in the US and are subject to strict enforcement. You are encouraged to study your local rules and regulations and make an informed decision with all facts in perspective. Microdose Guru does not accept responsibility for its readers' personal choices.