What is Psychedelic Integration?

Dec 18 / Amánda & Sascha
In the ever-evolving landscape of mental health and personal growth, the role of psychedelic integration is currently gaining prominence, and rightfully so. It plays a crucial role in ensuring the enduring impact of psychedelic therapy by facilitating lasting personal and behavioral changes. 

10 minutes to read

Together we will explore the definition of integration, shed light on the various dimensions of integration, delve into how to explore the psychedelic experience, and discuss the crucial research done on the topic as well as ethical considerations surrounding psychedelic therapy.

This article is tailored for mental health professionals, coaches, facilitators of altered state experiences, and other practitioners or curious individuals providing a comprehensive guide to understanding and implementing psychedelic integration within their personal and client experiences with altered states of consciousness.

Definition of Integration

The term “integration” has been utilized to describe the period following a psychedelic experience, be it substance-induced through the administration of substances such as MDMA, LSD,  Ketamine, or Psilocybin, or non-substance-induced through practices such as breathwork, meditation, and hypnosis. Integration is the intentional capturing and translation of the insights gained from a peak experience and bringing them into your daily life to make decisions and form new habits that result in collective impact and lasting change.
To grasp the concept better, consider the integration process as a bridge between the psychedelic experience and everyday life. It involves conscious efforts to understand, embody, and apply the lessons learned during a psychedelic journey. This transformative journey isn't just a momentary event but a lifelong process of personal growth and self-discovery.
Integration requires preparation, conscious exploration, and post-experience reflection.

"Consider the integration process as a bridge between the psychedelic experience and everyday life."

4 dimensions of Integration

Integration extends the window of opportunity for transformation via the following dimensions:

Physical Integration

Also called “somatic integration”, this dimension emphasizes the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle surrounding such experiences, including the appropriate diet and physical activity to support integration. Because psychedelics can have profound somatic effects, such as the release of trauma-induced tensions, this dimension also emphasizes the importance of connecting to our bodies and understanding the embodied transformations after an experience. For example, in an experience where trauma-associated tensions in the body are released, it could be beneficial to integrate these shifts through techniques such as somatic awareness, or nervous system work that re-establishes a feeling of safety and being “grounded” in the body.

Cognitive Integration

Psychedelics enhance neuroplasticity and neurogenesis, improving learning and creativity. They reduce activity in the DMN, aiding flexibility in thought, especially beneficial for mental disorders. This dimension is about using integration to harness the power of our minds, reshape our thought patterns, and foster a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world around us. For instance, in cases where previous life experiences have left a person feeling stuck within repetitive self-narratives, such as “I'm not good enough”, or “the world is an unsafe place”, cognitive integration tools such as journalling and speaking with an experienced integration professional can support the identification of these fixed thought patters and set strategies in place to consciously shift them towards more constructive and flexible narratives, based more on current reality than previous experience.

Emotional Integration

This dimension focuses on enhancing emotional awareness and acceptance during integration. It's about locating emotions within ourselves and observing them without attachment or judgment, as well as learning to appropriately express or reprocess emotions when beneficial to the integration process. It is common, for example, for people to experience deep emotional release during an experience, and having tools at hand to help elaborate these emotions, such as expressive art activities or somatic focusing techniques, can be crucial in determining how constructively the emotion will be integrated into a person's story and their intentional commitments moving beyond the experience.

Transpersonal Integration

The final dimension is about exploring the potential of spiritual or mystical connections through integration. Here we can deepen our understanding of our life purpose that goes beyond the individual to encompass wider aspects of the human experience. This can mean connecting us to the seen and the unseen, to the cosmos, and the mysteries of existence. It is important to note that whilst integrating at the transpersonal level, a person's worldview and values should always be respected - for example, two people may experience a connection with “god” through their experiences, but the meaning-making of such an experience and implication for their personal life can be markedly different if one person is integrating within a pantheist worldview and the other within a postmodern constructionist worldview.

How to Integrate a Psychedelic Experience?

Existing Models of Integration

Drawing from psychotherapeutic models, several frameworks guide individuals through the integration process. Examples include:

  • The ACER Model, ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy)
  • IFS (Internal Family Systems)
  • Narrative Therapy
  • Transpersonal Psychology
  • PEMS Model,
  • Gestalt Therapy.

These models offer diverse approaches to understanding and integrating psychedelic experiences.
For example, if we dig into the ACER Model. It stands for Accept, Connect, Embody, and Relate. It was developed by Dr. Rosalind Watts. The ACER Model is a four-step process that helps individuals integrate their psychedelic experiences by accepting their emotions, connecting with their values, embodying the changes they want to see, and relating to others more authentically.
New methods and models are constantly created by passionate experts. In 2022, combining a wide range of scientific knowledge and original wisdom, we created the RECÍPROCO Method. It embraces a diverse range of professionals and champions an open-ended approach. Rather than prescribing a singular path to integration or dictating one correct way for interpreting complex transformations, we aim to heighten awareness of the potential of integration and educate from a multidisciplinary and integrative perspective. Our method serves as a flexible framework to understand the essence of integration, steering clear of rigid dogmas. Find out more about the Recíproco method in the Free Psychedelic Integration Guide.

How long does Psychedelic Integration take?

The duration of psychedelic integration varies widely among individuals. While some may experience immediate shifts, for others, the process may unfold gradually over weeks, months, or even years. Patience, self-reflection, and a commitment to the integration journey are key factors in achieving lasting transformation.

5 Psychedelic Integration Tips

Although there is no singular way to integrate altered-states experiences, here we offer 5 guidelines for making the most out of your integration journey:

Tip 1: Rest

After an altered state experience, it’s important to take time to rest your body and your mind. Though it may be tempting to immediately step into reflection, sense-making, and action post-experience, we encourage you to give yourself time away from your day-to-day routines, especially for the first 24 hours after your journey.

Tip 2: Write

Writing can be a powerful integration tool with the right “set & setting.” Before doing any active reflection, analysis, or goal setting in the immediate aftermath of a journey, we recommend you just free-write what happened during your experience without trying to make sense of it. You can then refer to your free-writing as a reference, only after you’ve given your body and mind sufficient rest.

Tip 3: Move

Move your body in whatever way feels good for you. It could be a simple walk outside. Or, something slow and easy like intentional stretching, yin yoga, or QiGong. On the other hand, your body may be asking for something more intensive, like vigorous dance or somatic release. All these can help your body process and express stored emotions associated with your journey.

Tip 4: Share

Sharing your experiences with others can be profoundly healing, help you make sense of your integration process, and help you stay accountable for any changes you want to make. But not all sharing is created equal. Be mindful of how, to whom, and why you share your experiences with others. What you share with your therapist may be different from what you share with your colleagues. Knowing your boundaries, and those of others is as important as realizing that you don’t ever have to share until you feel ready to.

Tip 5: Create

True integration is how we experience our daily life outside of the container of the experience itself. Integration is designing how and why we live our lives with the insights we receive and what we do with them to create sustainable changes in our habits, behaviors, relationships, and the world around us. Creating a blueprint for this next phase of the journey, which is often considered the most important one, is necessary to ensure integration lasts long after the experience. Creating can therefore mean setting lasting intentions, or, using your creative energy to further transform your insights.

Why Psychedelic Integration is crucial?

Psychedelic integration is important for maximizing the therapeutic benefits of psychedelic experiences. It enhances self-awareness, supports navigating challenging experiences, and facilitates lasting positive change. The integration process transforms a singular event into a catalyst for continuous personal and collective growth and well-being.

The current state of research on Psychedelic Integration

The field of neuroscience has been exploring the profound effects and potential benefits of psychedelics. Current research indicates that the process of integrating psychedelic experiences is vital, though methods for doing so vary widely. Tools like the Integration Engagement Scale (IES) and the Experienced Integration Scale (EIS) help measure and understand the integration process. While psychedelics show promise as antidepressants, their influence on brain networks and social behavior, especially within the context of challenging experiences, underscores the need for supportive environments and resources during integration. It's also crucial for therapists and professionals to be aware of the ethical and legal considerations surrounding psychedelic therapies, to ensure a safe and harm-free process.

Key Ethics Considerations regarding Integration

Ethical psychedelic integration, as guided by the RECÍPROCO Method code of ethics, prioritizes safety, respect, autonomy, and holistic well-being. Practitioners must adhere to moral principles to provide safe, informed, and client-centered care with an emphasis on harm reduction. However, it should be noted that aside from our ethical standards, practitioners must consider the specific codes of ethics they are committed to upholding in light of their training and experience. For example, Clinical Psychologists will follow a code of ethics specific to their Psychological specialization and country of registry, which will be different from the medical code of ethics of a Psychiatrist.
Therapists should be aware of legal risks in Harm Reduction and Integration Therapy (HRIT) and prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion. Self-reflection and understanding motivations are essential.
The research paper [Practical and Ethical Considerations for Psychedelic Therapy and Integration Practices]
(https://www.journalofpsychedelicpsychiatry.org/_files/ugd/e07c59_9d1ed08605ce49dfa19fc97d39f3f646.pdf) conducted by Ismail Lourido Ali, J.D., Geoff Bathje, Ph.D., Roxanne R. Hallisey, B.S., Leslie Booher, J.D., M.B.A., Brooke Novick, L.M.F.T., Allison Feduccia, Ph.D. is a key resource to understand its importance.
Overall, within a harm-reduction and person-centered framework, ethical integration should prioritize the individual's needs and values, aiming to support their growth, healing, and personal development responsibly and ethically.

Join Psychedelic Integration Online Course

We invite professionals to strengthen their capacity to support integration with their clients with our 6-weekPsychedelic Integration Training. The course is an experiential dive into the world of integration, indicated for aspiring professionals and curious individuals wishing to deepen their understanding and tools within the field. 

During this course, we will deepen your theoretical knowledge and explore practical applications of psychedelic integration practices. You will also gain key resources bridging sacred traditions with contemporary integration philosophy, empowering you to incorporate integration into your practice. Check out the curriculum and start your course online!
Amánda Argot Efthimiou is a psychedelic wellness educator, coach, and facilitator bridging neuroscience with sacred traditions. She founded INTEGRA to design altered-state integration programs & training for professionals. She has extensive experience through her non-profit work facilitating bio-culture preservation of indigenous medicines in the Amazon basin. She received her MSc in Neuroscience and Psychology of Mental Health where she focused on the integrative effects of plant-based medicines with traditional psychotherapy.
Sascha Anna Vriend is a certified Clinical Psychologist also trained in Body Psychotherapy (Bioenergetics, Biosynthesis, Vegetotherapy, breath work, expressive art therapy, and Integrative Massage), as well as altered states of consciousness. She's worked extensively supporting people with Trauma, chronic illness, and other emotionally challenging conditions within one-to-one, group, and community settings. She believes in being of service within an inside-out philosophy, where transformation starts within the individual and emanates to their relationships, community, and wider ecosystem.
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