It might seem strange to hear of a hypnotherapist talking about psychedelic therapy and integration but I make no secret of the fact of my previous use of LSD and psilocybin mushrooms back in my 20s.
My psychedelic experiences remain some of the most profound in my life. But things can and do go wrong. If you’ve ever experienced a bad trip or still have flashbacks about it or if you need help integrating the whole experience into your everyday life, I can help you.
If you’re curious about psychedelics this is what we’ll be looking at on this page…
- What are psychedelics? We’ll explore the main ones
- Are psychedelics safe? What you need to know
- The latest scientific research into the use of psychedelics to treat mental health problems
- What is psychedelic therapy and integration?
- Psychedelic-induced mystical experiences: are they valid experiences?
- Are psychedelics suitable for everyone? Should YOU take psychedelics?
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: The plants and substances mentioned in this article are illegal in most countries throughout the world. Even possession can carry severe criminal penalties. Nothing in this article constitutes medical advice. Nor should it be construed as a recommendation to use psychedelics. Using psychedelics involves legal, psychological, and physical risks. Psychedelics are not for everyone; they can exacerbate certain emotional problems and there have been, in very rare cases, fatalities.
- Why do people take psychedelics?
- My personal use of psychedelics
- What are psychedelic drugs?
- What does ‘psychedelic’ mean?
- What are the effects of psychedelic drugs?
- Are psychedelics illegal?
- Psychedelic truffles in the Netherlands
- Obtaining psychedelics on the black market
- The latest psychedelic research findings
- Psychedelic therapy and integration
- Positive outcomes in psychedelic therapy
- Psychedelics and the REM state
- Why use psychedelics? Isn’t therapy enough?
- Psychedelics and the mystical state
- Bringing the gold back home
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Why do people take psychedelics?
Throughout history humanity has explored consciousness in one way or another. Fasting, breathing techniques, yoga, dancing, drumming, singing and chanting, meditation; all have an effect on our state of consciousness.
Ingesting certain foods and substances is another way.
Mushrooms and cacti have been eaten for thousands of years and if Terrence McKenna’s theories are right, it was humanity’s early experiences with such foods that gave rise to religious ideas.
In the 1950s, psychiatrist Humphry Osmond (1) pioneered the use of LSD to treat mental illness and alcohol dependency. Results looked promising – people were getting better – but come the early 60s LSD leaked out of the lab and into the mainstream.
When Timothy Leary advised us all to ‘Turn on, tune in, drop out’ the Hippie culture was born and chaos soon ensued. The media highlighted stories of people jumping out of windows thinking they could fly and LSD was eventually banned. All that promising research came to a grinding halt.
But it didn’t stop people experimenting on the sly, including myself…
My personal use of psychedelics
Back in the 1990s, rather than prance about at raves like many of my friends, I would make methodical notes during my psychedelic experiences. I still have some of these notes today.
During a 6-year period, from the age of 22 to 28 I experimented on myself, like the scientists of old. I saw psychedelics as a way of helping me explore my psyche; to figure out who I was and what part I should play in this great cosmic dance.
The experiences gave me powerful insights into myself as an individual but more than this: they gave me direct encounters with a larger consciousness that enabled me to see things from a much wider perspective.
I believe now that the use of psychedelics helped me develop my Observing Self – the part of us that can step out of limiting trances such as fear and anxiety – and see the bigger picture.
What are psychedelic drugs?
But what are psychedelic drugs exactly? What type of drugs are we talking about?
Psychedelics are a class of drugs that trigger ‘non-ordinary states of consciousness’ (2). Many of them occur in nature: in mushrooms, cacti, tree bark, certain seeds and flowers.
In 1943 Albert Hoffman synthesised LSD from ergot fungus. Like all scientists at the time, he used himself as subject and object and started wildly tripping as he rode home on his bicycle. In psychedelic circles this is now celebrated every year and known as ‘Bicycle Day’ (3).
So, when we speak about ‘psychedelics’ we are referring to both naturally occurring plants and those that have been produced synthetically (such as LSD, ketamine, and MDMA).
But what do we mean by the word ‘psychedelic’?
What does ‘psychedelic’ mean?
The word psychedelic can be broken into two parts – psyche and ‘delic’ or ‘delia’ (as in psychedelia).
Psyche refers to the soul – the inner-most part of one’s being which has often been mistaken for the mind (4). But I like to differentiate mind and soul.
To me, mind is mostly ego-based conditioning; all those old ideas and beliefs that we learned decades ago. It is more left-brained and operates in the world of linearity and time.
Soul, on the other hand is something deeper, something more essential, more your True-Self. It is unconditioned, pure, able to see a bigger reality. It is right-brained, timeless and eternal.
The word ‘delic’ or ‘delia’ refers to manifestation or ‘to make visible, to reveal’. Thus, the word ‘psychedelic’ refers to the process of ‘manifesting your soul’ – the ground of your being, that part of you beyond ego conditioning.
Doing so connects you to a larger reality – commonly known as God, the Universe, the Tao, Great Spirit, All That Is et al.
What are the effects of psychedelic drugs?
So why have people consumed these mind-altering substances for millennia – and continue to do so?
The words of Aldous Huxley can explain this more succinctly than me…
“To be shaken out of the ruts of ordinary perception, to be shown for a few timeless hours the outer and the inner world, not as they appear to an animal obsessed with survival or to a human being obsessed with words and notions, but as they are apprehended, directly and unconditionally, by Mind at Large – this is an experience of inestimable value to everyone and especially to the intellectual.” (5)
To be shaken out of the ruts of ordinary perception…
Psychedelics certainly do this. I knew – even during my first LSD trip at age 22 – that I wouldn’t be the same afterwards. It stirred awake something new in me. There was no going back to the man (or boy) I’d been before. The world appeared different.
Watch this footage of a live LSD session…
That’s why people ultimately take psychedelics: to wake up from the confines of ego conditioning, to break free from old patterns and feel more alive to themselves, others and a bigger reality or, to use Huxley’s term, Mind at Large.
Are psychedelics illegal?
Even though psychedelics can have the most profound effects on your life, they remain illegal in just about every country in the world.
However, in some countries, the tide is turning…
On 1st July 2023 Australia approved the use of MDMA and psilocybin to treat PTSD and depression, respectively. Psychiatrists will now be able to prescribe the drugs to patients, as reported in this BBC news article.
Canada has also made it legal for some people to use psychedelics to treat depression (6).
In the UK, the government is considering changing the law to allow the use of psilocybin to treat certain mental health conditions (7).
Things are also changing in the U.S., driven largely by the ground-breaking work of Roland Griffiths at Johns Hopkins University (8).
But here’s the thing…
Unless you’re part of a research project or have been prescribed psychedelic treatment in a country or state that allows it, then your use of psychedelics is in breach of the law and could result in a hefty fine or even imprisonment.
Psychedelic truffles in the Netherlands
Psychedelics are still classified as Class A/ Category 1 drugs in most countries/states. Possession means big trouble, even if that means you’ve picked just a single magic mushroom (in the UK, at least) (9).
However, there is a loophole…
In the Netherlands, you can attend group psychedelic sessions and ingest truffles, which are not regulated by the law, like mushrooms are.
Truffle therapy is big business in the Netherlands but there is concern that it is ‘running ahead of the science’ (10).
If we’re not careful, the chaotic euphoria of the 60s will be repeated.
We need to keep a level head, much as contemporary writer Michael Pollen stated in his best-selling book How to Change Your Mind (originally subtitled: what the science of psychedelics teaches us about consciousness, dying, addiction, depression, and transcendence).
Obtaining psychedelics on the black market
Even with the banning of psychedelics in the late 60s and early 70s, you could still easily get hold of LSD on the black market.
Come the early 90s, me and my friends found it easy to get acid tabs from a pub in our home town. And it was ubiquitous at raves – the ‘Ecstasy culture’ where everyone fell in love with everyone else…and the entire universe.
I never tried Ecstasy (MDMA) as I was more than satisfied with what LSD was doing for me. I had touched the hand of God on acid and that was enough!
But times have changed since those more innocent days. The purity of black market psychedelics is questionable; no one really knows what they are buying these days (11).
Perhaps that’s why I found Liberty Cap Mushrooms more appealing?
The latest psychedelic research findings
Over the last few years an accumulated body of scientific research has reported promising outcomes in the treatment of certain mental health conditions with psychedelics, such as depression, PTSD, generalised anxiety disorder, and addictions.
In the November 2017 edition of New Scientist magazine the front cover read: ‘Psychedelic Medicine: how mind-benders became mind-menders’.
Imperial College in London have reported significant improvements in cases of depression treated with ‘magic mushrooms’ (12) .
And you know when something’s becoming mainstream when magazines like ‘Saga’ (geared toward the over 50s) feature a 3-page article about the ‘high hopes’ of psychedelic drugs.
So, what’s my take on this?
Having used psychedelics myself (and having previously guided other people’s sessions) I have seen first hand the positive effects of these ‘medicines’.
But there is a caveat, for sure…
It’s not just a case of popping a pill or chomping on a few mushrooms when you’re feeling down in the dumps. Without the right guidance, someone with depression or PTSD could end up feeling even worse by using psychedelics. Used incorrectly, the drug could simply amplify low moods and increase anxiety.
These drugs are certainly not for everyone, especially if you’ve got a history of mental ill-health (such as a personality disorder, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia/psychosis and the like). Speaking to your GP should always be your first port of call if you’re suffering from any of these conditions.
Psychedelic therapy and integration
This is why I feel it’s important to be guided by a trained and experienced therapist if you’re considering using psychedelics.
N.B. Let’s just get clear on something here: because psychedelics remain illegal in the UK and most parts of the world, I’m not condoning the use of psychedelics. However, we know that thousands of people all over the world use (or misuse) psychedelics on a regular basis. I’m simply stating that if you’re going to use such substances they should be used correctly and that it is beneficial to get the right help/guidance for your ‘trip’ (or help to integrate the experience afterwards).
What do I mean by the words ‘used correctly’?
To my way of thinking, psychedelics are a sacred medicine. They need to be revered and treated as such. They provide the key that opens the door to your soul and a meeting with The Great Mystery (call it God, The Source, All That Is).
In scientific language – and the research backs this up – psychedelics help you escape the confines of your brain’s ‘default network’ so that you’re able to make new neural connections, helping you feel and think differently about things.
Thus, conducted in the right way – with the right therapeutic approach – psychedelic therapy could have the most profound effect on your life.
With a qualified therapist whom you trust (preferably someone who has also experienced personal use of psychedelics) the ‘medicine’ could serve as the ‘magic bullet’ that helps you finally break free from addiction, trauma, and depression.
Certainly, the latest research is bearing this out. (See the notes section below for a growing body of evidence).
Positive outcomes in psychedelic therapy
There are several factors that influence the outcome of psychedelic therapy…
- Like all therapy, the quality of the therapeutic relationship is paramount: you must trust your therapist/guide
- The right therapeutic approach: you don’t want to spend hours trawling through your history like in a purely psychodynamic or Freudian therapy session, looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. Good therapy establishes goals at the start. So set an intention for your psychedelic session(s)
- Pre-psychedelic counselling sessions help you mentally prepare for what’s to come and can address any traumas (and help you and your therapist assess whether you are actually suitable for psychedelic therapy: not everyone is)
- Set and setting needs to be right: an open, receptive mind-set in yourself, trust in the guide, and a safe, nurturing environment (the setting) for the session
- Integration sessions: after the main psychedelic session you should have at least one counselling session to help integrate what you experienced. Bringing back the ‘boon’ and applying it in your everyday life is the real aim of psychedelic therapy sessions. Your guide can help you do to this.
So, if psychedelics are the golden key that opens the ‘doors of perception’, that change the way you see yourself and the world, how do they do it? What’s going on exactly?
Psychedelics and the REM state
Psychedelics such as LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca, ketamine and MDMA all expand our consciousness. They get us out of our brain’s ‘default network’ – the mental ruts we traverse all too often – and into a different state of awareness.
What we’re really accessing on psychedelics is the REM state – nature’s most powerful programming state. It is the same state we enter with hypnosis, meditation, day and night dreaming, and at any other time when our minds become absorbed in something.
By accessing the REM state we are able to ‘re-program’ old memory patterns and establish new templates and more positive expectations for the future. By accessing different parts of the brain – beyond the default network – we are able to see things more holistically, from a much larger viewpoint.
These are the very things I help people to do with hypnotherapy.
But if changes can already be made without the use of psychedelics why would psychiatrists, scientists, and therapists be interested in using them? What’s the big deal with psychedelics?
Why use psychedelics? Isn’t therapy enough?
The argument is that psychedelics can be ‘cost effective’…
They can produce a profound change, often after only one session, compared to months or even years of talking therapy. (Though it is recommended you have follow-up counselling sessions to help integrate the psychedelic experience; it’s not a ‘one-session wonder’).
However, there is no doubt that psychedelics give you a more intense experience than counselling or even hypnotherapy.
Remember, psychedelics alter your consciousness; when you step out of your normal mental processes and touch base with a bigger reality, something shifts within you. You no longer operate from the ego (the mental and behavioural patterns conditioned by your history) but instead function from what can only be described as your ‘centre of awareness’, often called the soul.
By accessing the REM state (whether through hypnosis, meditation, or more profoundly through the use of psychedelics) you create a ‘gap’ in the psyche – a window of opportunity – where something deeper within yourself can re-emerge.
This is how I believe psychedelics are creating profound changes in research participants. With skilled and supported use, these medicines can serve as an extra ‘ingredient’ to therapy that help people shift long-standing, previously intractable problems.
But it goes one step further than this…
Psychedelics and the mystical state
It’s not just about treating depression, anxiety, addiction and PTSD (as if that wasn’t enough).
As Pollen’s book informs us, psychedelics also lead to transcendence. Not only can we get out of our everyday modus operandi and into soul consciousness, but we can have a direct experience of something much larger than ourselves (13).
More than once under the influence of LSD or psilocybin I felt connected to All That Is. Subject (me) and object (everything else) merged into oneness. No separation, no duality. I AM THAT.
Terrence McKenna argued that it was these types of experiences – under the influence of certain fungi – that gave rise to religious ideas (14).
Fungi first – religion second.
In other words, religion was born out of man’s need for meaning. How otherwise were our ancient ancestors to make sense of these other-worldly experiences? Man created God it would seem (or, at least became aware of the idea of God, a Bigger Reality beyond himself).
Bringing the gold back home
However, there is no doubt in my mind that some ‘Other’ larger consciousness exists.
Indeed, it might well be that used in the right way, psychedelics are the most reliable (and fastest) way to fully awaken to this larger consciousness.
But then the challenge is integration…
How do we bring what we experience in the psychedelic session back into everyday reality? How do we contextualise it into day to day existence? Just like when the protagonist returns from the hero’s journey, what must we do with the knowledge and insights gained?
If the first quest of the psychedelic journey is to awaken your soul, the second is to bring the gold back home to the everyday world.
To live the transformation and serve as a beacon to others.
This is the promise of psychedelic therapy. As the research continues, only time will tell. Let’s hope that this time around we avoid the hype and hysteria.
What are your thoughts on all this? Have you ever used psychedelics? Would you consider doing so in the future?
Do you suffer flashbacks or have you been traumatised from previous psychedelic use? Have you had a psychedelic experience but not integrated it fully?
Leave a comment in the section below or contact me confidentially by email. I’d love to hear your story.
Check out these links and references for more info and to find out what the science is saying…
Notes and references:
(1) Humphry Osmond and his treatment of alcoholism using LSD https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC381240/
(3) The story of LSD and Albert Hoffman’s bicycle ride https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/tripping-in-lsds-birthplace-a-story-for-e2809cbicycle-daye2809d/
(4) For the etymology of the word psyche visit https://www.etymonline.com/word/psyche
(5) For more quotes from Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception visit https://psilocybinstories.com/2020/07/22/33-essential-quotes-from-aldous-huxleys-doors-of-perception/
(6) Canada’s changing laws to the use of psychedelics https://www.news18.com/news/buzz/canada-makes-consumption-of-psychedelic-mushrooms-legal-for-people-with-depression-3096260.html
(7) UK government considering changing law on psilocybin https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-58980382
(8) For more on the psychedelic research at Johns Hopkins in the US https://hopkinspsychedelic.org/griffiths
(9) for the current laws on the picking and use of magic mushrooms in the UK check out https://nectarmedicalvapes.com/blog/are-magic-mushrooms-legal-in-the-uk/
(10) The use of psychedelic truffles in the Netherlands https://open-foundation.org/truffle-therapy-in-the-netherlands-is-running-ahead-of-the-science/
(11) Black market psychedelics https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/features/new-black-market-designer-drugs-why-now.
(12) The psychedelic research and the treatment of depression at Imperial College, London https://www.imperial.ac.uk/psychedelic-research-centre/
(13) Psilocybin induced mystical experiences linked to lasting positive psychological effects https://www.psypost.org/2022/06/psilocybin-induced-mystical-experiences-linked-to-lasting-positive-psychological-effects-63316
(14) Terrence McKenna – psychonaut and author of Food of the Gods