Aftercare & Integration

If you’ve had an intense or challenging psychedelic or substance-induced experience, this page is designed to offer guidance on paths you can follow. It will point you towards useful resources where you can get further support and outline different ways of exploring the experience you had.

It’s common to feel exposed, raw and vulnerable after receiving support. No matter how fantastic, messy or challenging your experience was, it can offer a valuable opening to get to know parts of yourself. It can be unsettling to connect with parts of yourself you might not be familiar or comfortable with.

Psychedelics open up very raw experiences and it is common to feel ‘thrown’ or initially overwhelmed by this.  Some psychedelic experiences can point towards challenging life experiences or emotions from the past that you may not have had time or space to process and understand.

There are groups and therapists that focus on integrating psychedelic experiences; which means helping us process and understand them better.

Integrating such experiences into a clear story and fitting them into everyday life can be a gradual and challenging process but has the potential to open deeper connections with yourself and other people.

Two massively helpful qualities that support the process of integrating psychedelic experiences are:

  • Compassion towards yourself
  • Open curiosity about the experience and what it could mean to you.

It can be hard to know what to ‘do with’ your intense physical & psychological experience afterwards

Here are a few suggestions to follow:

  • There’s an invitation from us to take things very gently and continue some of the care you received from us, towards yourself.
  • Take some time to reflect on what you need. It might be tempting to jump back into the experience, equally you might want to take things at a much slower pace. 
  • After the experience, make some space to rest and relax. Now is the time to look after yourself. Adequate rest, nutrition and exercise will help you ground during this time. Give your body the resources it needs to digest the experience. 
  • It can be jarring to go straight back to work or another intense environment. Perhaps you can make some extra space for yourself by taking some time off or rescheduling things?
  • What support can you put in place for yourself during the coming weeks? Perhaps there are people you can meet with, or activities that you know help you to feel balanced.
  • Treat this experience as a part of your wider journey. Life and inner self are both wonderfully complex; there is always more work to do. This process is a powerful way to deepen your relationship with yourself.
Practices:

Now is the time to lean on things that help you feel connected with your body:

Exercise: running, gym, walking, meditation, etc. Exercise helps you reconnect with your body and feel grounded: which means feeling firmly in your body and connected to the ground underneath you. 

During and after a psychedelic experience it’s possible to feel detached from your body or to be confronted with very powerful bodily sensations. Engaging in gentle exercise can make you feel connected to your body in a way you’re familiar with and help to release tension and anxiety.

Writing: It can also be incredibly helpful to write about your psychedelic experience in as much detail as you recall. This is valuable both in exploring and being curious about what happened and starting to explore what came up for you. Journaling, or writing what’s on your mind can also provide a release.

Being in nature: taking the time for a walk in nature can offer a space of calm reflection. In the festival setting and through psychedelic experiences people can feel a strong connection with nature that can feel abruptly interrupted when you’re back home – particularly if you’re in a city.

Meditation: in particular ‘mindful breathing’ or ‘body scan’ meditations (many available on Youtube) can help to bring you back into contact with your body and can help bring the body ‘down a few gears’ if you’re feeling anxious or have lots of energy.

You may not feel able to engage in these activities, that’s perfectly okay.

Safe non-judgemental spaces where you can talk about what has happened 

It can feel isolating after an intense psychedelic experience and it can often bring things up that are too much for one person alone to keep to experience and make sense of, this can lead to feelings of shame. 

Friends: 

Take care with your experience. Don’t rush to put it into words or frame it while it is still finding its right place within you. 

Once you feel ready to discuss your experience with others it will be helpful to do so for your integration process. When you decide to do so, honour your experience by opening it up in respectful, open and supportive spaces and relationships.

It’s great if you’re able to talk to close friends about your experience, but there are other options if you don’t feel comfortable doing so, or you feel they wouldn’t understand.

Psychedelic integration groups:

There are a number of open support groups that run every month. They are welcoming non-judgemental spaces run by experienced therapists. In the group you can share your experiences and hear other peoples’. It’s perfectly fine if you don’t want to share and would prefer to just listen to other peoples’ experiences. People often find it freeing to be able to connect with what other people have been through and to share their stories, if it feels right to do so.  These groups can help people feel more connected and can be useful in finding a way to talk about things that you might not have talked about before.

Integration groups are a low cost option (typically around £10 – £15).

Because drugs and psychedelics remain illegal; yet widely used, there is a lot more silence, confusion and taboo around talking about psychedelic experiences than there should be, these groups a space for open shar.

Here is a list of currently active psychedelic integration groups:

Individual psychedelic integration therapy:

Another option is individual therapy with a therapist who understands and is experienced with psychedelics.  Together with a therapist you can be curious about the parts of yourself that were uncovered by the psychedelic experience. You can be supported to reflect on what the experience was like for you and gradually explore any deeper, underlying levels of meaning and significance the experience may have included. 

By exploring such experiences in depth, it is possible to build a greater level of awareness that can enable a deeper connection with yourself, more meaningful relationships with others, and inform change in your life.

Here is a searchable database of therapists:

https://instituteofpsychedelictherapy.org/psychedelic-integration-database/

Please note that it may take a few emails or calls to find a therapist with availability. 

The first step would be setting up an ‘initial consultation’ in which you have an introductory session to see if they feel like a good fit for you.

Urgent response needs

If you feel you need to speak to someone urgently you can call:

The Samaritans on: 116 123 (24 hours a day) 

NHS on 111 If you have an urgent, but not life-threatening health problem.