Week 1-8: weekly preparation sessions including assessment, verbal and non-verbal therapies, intention setting, examining our narrative, trauma-informed yoga therapy and implementation of tools and strategies for the process. Importantly, this preparatory period helps establish a trusting relationship, consistency and a safe space.
Week 9: day-long psychedelic experience including preparatory yoga, nature immersion, creative arts therapies, Hero’s Journey walkabout and individually curated music playlists. The journey is facilitated indoors with eyeshades.
Week 9-16: weekly integration sessions in order to extract the most meaning and insight from the process and connect it to daily life. Verbal and non-verbal, creative processing and re-storying.
Some of us have had memories emerge during a challenging psychedelic experience, memories that weren’t there before. Often these are traumatic memories. What happened? Has something been unlocked? Is it fabrication?
There is no one size fits all approach to this problem. One important part of my approach is to address all feeling states as real – because they are – and to allow the actual memory material to slowly unfold, if it needs to.
Trauma is a physiological experience. If there is a trauma response to a memory experience when using psychedelics, that is an indication that there is unprocessed trauma stored in our body. The content of the imagery or memory material is not essential for healing. It is actually not necessary to ascertain the veracity of a memory in order to recognise trauma and to heal.
Psychedelic integration therapy is one avenue to healing. In this process, I use verbal and non-verbal therapies, such as trauma-informed yoga, movement and creative processing, to process material and to work toward integration.
Contact Melissa to book a session by clicking here
People who come into therapy have often (arguably always) been traumatised. This may be an overt traumatic incident or more subtle and complex traumas over a period of time. Often, the trauma is in childhood and possibly outside of our ability to recall or consciously work with. Sometimes, we repress traumatic memories, even in adulthood. Trauma blocks our connection with ourselves by disrupting the connection between our minds and bodies and disallowing connection between various parts of ourselves. This means fragmentation is always around the corner and estrangement from one’s own self may become a familiar experience.
The body is where we begin. The body holds an immense amount of knowledge and tries to communicate with us all the time. However, we are frequently so shut off to our body’s intelligence, that we live in a conceptual, intellectual, ego-consciousness state of being. As if everything that exists and is of import in our journey is upward of the neck. This is untrue.
Our bodies hold vast wisdom and memory, storing information from nourishing and meaningful events but also storing trauma, holding it for us until we can look at it. Until we are able to bring our mind and body together – to engage the trauma on a bodily level – trauma held in the body may manifest all kinds of symptoms such as diagnosable illness, inexplicable symptoms, depression, anxiety, rage, fear, tight muscles, postural difficulties, sexual problems, addictions, loss of confidence and more. So many people coming into body-based therapy cannot feel their bodies, and definitely cannot feel their feelings in their bodies.
This is a slow process of learning to reclaim the body, to become aware of it’s existence, what it actually is, and to form a relationship with it. To learn to listen to it and allow the inner dialogue between mind and body to continue unimpeded by blocks.
For individuals who have suffered trauma, the body can be a frightening place. A place to escape from – not to. The body may have let us down or even turned against us, and coming into relationship with it may be overwhelming. However, verbal dialogue without the complement of coming into one’s own body can stay simply conceptual. However, verbal psychotherapy with body-based, non-verbal therapies can also be of great assistance to those are are trying to come home to their bodies and take control – a way to conceptually and emotionally process the increasing awareness of the body.
Breathing, trauma-informed yoga, cold water therapy and similar practices, when facilitated professionally, are non-invasive yet powerful ways of coming into the body.
The body is where we begin. If you are interested in body-based therapy or body-based therapy complementing psychotherapy – a brilliant combination of processing styles – please click here.
A bad trip can leave one extremely traumatised and/or re-open traumatic experiences from one’s past. It can appear as if no meaning whatsoever can be made from such a horrific and challenging experience, and after the fact one may want to push it as far way from consciousness as possible. In fact, the opposite is true.
The so-called ‘bad trip’ is a doorway to another experience of consciousness that may be extremely painful but offers just as much – if not more – raw and deep psychological and spiritual material to harness for personal growth and for awakening to a fuller consciousness.
Often individuals who have experienced a terror-trip are left feeling as if they have lost their minds. They may feel that the world is unsafe and innocuous things scare or re-traumatise them. They may have disturbing flashbacks or hallucinations. Speaking to an integrative therapist or a practitioner who is skilled in the nature of plant medicine and the human mind and soul can not only alleviate the difficulty, but bring light and meaning into what can be a very dark and lonely place.
Skilfully integrating the emotions, bodily sensations, memories and the imagery elicited during the trip is an effective way to work with trauma. A bad trip can allow direct and cathartic access to repressed traumas without necessarily needing to remember the content. Processing these emotions is essential for reparative work and healing, and it often allows access to previously inaccessible childhood traumas or losses. Further repression may only exacerbate the underlying pain and difficulties.
Integrative psychedelic therapy can also shed light on transgenerational patterns that are in play in the family system. The individual may gain a glimpse of just how much she or he is holding for the family, as well as the nature of this systemically repressed content.
As bad as your trip may be, there is always an opportunity for growth and new life in it. Imagery containing decay, evil and malevolent themes may bring one into a startled, stunted feeling of death-like consciousness. With this comes the call to awaken again, re-birth oneself and better understand your place and power in the world.
Ideally, you would be fortunate enough to begin an integrative process before your journey. However, if not, working in integration as soon as possible afterward, i.e. the next day or two and consistently over a period of weeks (if not months) is extremely helpful. Complementary, somatic therapies such as yoga are highly recommended and assist in grounding and re-entering the new phase of life. Joining a retreat program in Cape Town for a few weeks is another excellent way to process and recover, heal and energise.
For post-trip integrative psychotherapy please click here.