Navigating the Psychedelic Journey: The Imperative of Qualified Integration Therapy

Navigating the Psychedelic Journey: The Imperative of Qualified Integration Therapy

By Keith Norris

The field of mental health treatment is evolving, and recent research highlights the significant benefits of psychedelic-assisted therapies. These therapies, which utilize psychedelic compounds, have shown promising results beyond their recreational use. As more individuals seek these benefits, there’s a growing demand for professional psychedelic support. However, alongside these advancements, there’s a rise in negative experiences. Many individuals feel confused, dysregulated, and abandoned post-therapy due to inadequate support or lack of proper education about the process. This discussion emphasizes the importance of understanding the crucial elements of psychedelic therapy, such as the ‘set’ (the mindset of the individual), ‘setting’ (the environment for the experience), and ‘integration’ (the process of assimilating the experience into one’s life). It also acknowledges the role of credible practitioners, both in traditional and underground settings, and advocates for a collaborative approach that involves clients, therapists, underground practitioners, and medical professionals in the therapy process.

Set and Setting: The Foundations of Psychedelic Therapy

Empirically supported psychedelic therapy is grounded in the principals of ‘set’ and ‘setting.’ The ‘set’ refers to the individual’s mental and emotional readiness, encompassing their intentions, past experiences, and emotional state. The ‘setting’ pertains to the physical and social environment in which the psychedelic experience takes place. Studies like those conducted by Griffiths et al. (2016) have shown that the careful management of these elements is vital for ensuring a safe and therapeutic outcome.

The Essential Role of Integration

Post-experience integration is a critical component of psychedelic therapy. This process, as outlined in the Yale Manual for Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy of Depression (Guss, Krause, & Sloshower, 2020), involves an in-depth analysis and understanding of the psychedelic experience and its implications for the individual’s life. The integration process includes debriefing sessions, reflective exercises, and the application of insights into everyday life, transforming ephemeral psychedelic experiences into catalysts for long-lasting change and growth. For example, a counselling therapist trained in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) can be beneficial as ACT’s core principles, that focus on mindfulness, acceptance, and committed action aligned with personal values – resonate with the introspective and transformative nature of psychedelic journeys (Clerkenwell Health, 2022).

A Collaborative Therapeutic Approach

With the gradual destigmatization of psychedelic therapies in medical and therapeutic circles, a new collaborative approach has become possible. This holistic method involves a synergistic relationship between the client, a counselling therapist, credible underground practitioners, and family doctors – who can support with pharmacological management. As psychedelic therapies gain acceptance within traditional medical paradigms, this collaborative approach ensures a comprehensive, multi-faceted support system. It combines professional medical advice, psychological support, and specialized guidance tailored to the unique needs of each individual.

Navigating the Underground Psychedelic Scene

The underground psychedelic scene, while home to very credible and experienced practitioners, requires careful navigation. Whitin the underground psychedelic scene is the presence of practitioners who are genuinely versed in indigenous and shamanic traditions. These practitioners often bring a wealth of knowledge about psychedelic substances, grounded in historical, cultural, and spiritual contexts. Their approach, informed by centuries-old traditions and anthropological understanding, can offer a unique and profound experience. However, it’s important to recognize that these practices, while valuable, exist outside regulated medical frameworks.

Potentially, practitioners with insufficient experience or mentorship may, even though well-intentioned, offer unrealistic promises of healing, environments that may provoke discomfort or pressure. Additionally, a well-intentioned practitioner may be unequipped to adequately support someone if difficulty should arise. Clients seeking therapy in these settings should be vigilant and thoroughly evaluate the credibility and ethics of the practitioners they choose to engage with.

Understanding the Impact of Psychedelics on the Brain

The scientific understanding of psychedelics’ impact on brain function is crucial for appreciating their therapeutic potential. As discussed by Carhart-Harris & Friston (2019), psychedelics can induce significant changes in brain activity, which are central to their therapeutic effects. Johnson et al. (2014) highlight the importance of a well-structured integration process to maximize these effects for lasting therapeutic benefits.


Psychedelic therapy, with its growing acceptance and potential for deep transformation, necessitates a comprehensive and nuanced approach. The collaborative model of therapy enhances the safety, efficacy, and transformative potential of psychedelic experiences. As we encourage this developing field, the advocacy for ethical, competent, and comprehensive therapeutic support remains crucial, emphasizing the need for careful consideration and professional guidance in the realm of psychedelic therapy.


Carhart-Harris, R. L., & Friston, K. J. (2019). REBUS and the Anarchic Brain: Toward a Unified Model of the Brain Action of Psychedelics. Pharmacological Reviews, 71(3), 316-344.

Clerkenwell Health. (2022). The Gold Standard for Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy? Retrieved from Clerkenwell Health

Griffiths, R. R., Johnson, M. W., Carducci, M. A., et al. (2016). Psilocybin produces substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer: A randomized double-blind trial. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 30(12), 1181-1197.

Guss, J. H., Krause, R., & Sloshower, J. (2020). The Yale Manual for Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy of Depression.

Johnson, M. W., Garcia-Romeu, A., Cosimano, M. P., et al. (2014). Pilot study of the 5-HT2AR agonist psilocybin in the treatment of tobacco addiction. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 28(11), 983-992.