In recent years there’s been a popular buzz about the decriminalization and clinical research into psychedelics as a pharmacological treatment option. Psilocybin being principle among those most heavily reported. And while we as a country are still a long way from normalized prescription and clinical use, the repercussions of that imminent future bear consideration and scrutiny now. As we develop the routines, protocols, and practices that will dictate this new age of medicine, how do we… as the Jungs’, Perls’, Seligmans’, and Ellises’ of the future… ensure that this sparkling gem of clinical promise doesn’t end with the same infamy that has marred so much of the field’s history.
The answer lays in a consideration and inclusion of more traditional techniques that have proven, through centuries of application, to be the most effective protocol for plant medicine.
In modern practice, we are generally taught that spiritual concepts and personal revelation (UPG) have no clinical relevance outside of their psychological effect on the individual. We are taught to discard such things and distance ourselves from any serious inclusion within “ethical” practice. At best, we are taught that spiritual experiences are nothing more than definable biochemical reactions in the brain and, at worst, that anything outside of this unwavering “scientific reality” is the basis of psychosis.
In traditional initiation, however, it is taught that this disconnect from personal experience, this reliance on physical tangibility is – itself – a form and basis of psychosis. That this disconnection from Spirit is the core cause of modern ailments… especially those of the mind. And that healing must be achieved through a re-connection with our natural, inborn understanding of the intangible… which ultimately forms the foundation of all conscious experience.
It is this reconciliation with the intangible that is most commonly reported after psychedelic experiences. And it is that journey which is, in fact, the holy grail of entheogenic therapies. The healing power of these plants lays in their ability to provide the sense of grounded interconnection that we so desperately lack in our daily lives.
So, knowing that 60% of your clients can be expected to report “complete mystical experiences” that create the “intuitive belief that the experience is a source of objective truth about the nature of reality” (Griffiths, et al 2006, 2008, 2011). That these personal revelations about reality are likely to fundamentally change the way these clients view and approach life, with specific regard to spirituality (Lerner & Lyvers 2006), and that emerging shift in belief is documented to increase deeper value of life, overall wellbeing and have at least tangential positive impacts on coping and quality of life (Moro, et al 2011), what protocols will you adopt for handling the deep mystical experience?
What are your protocols for spontaneous regression? What are your protocols for inter-dimensional experiences? How about astral travel? What are your protocols for dark energy? Energetic attachments or ailments? Demons? What are you protocols for sincerely experienced extra-terrestrial encounters? How will you handle these things when they are occurring in your office, and under your care? Are you able to offer “integration” after such an event? What does that look like?
Any and all of these things can and do (frequently) present in the course of psychedelic trance. And your response to them in the midst of that experience WILL have a major impact on the tone, direction, and efficacy of the session/treatment. How you as the clinician validate and integrate the experience will make or break the treatment as a whole. Responding to a mystical experience with detached neutrality or, worse still, having no reliable response at all is doing your clients a disservice. Thus, I encourage you to consider the clinical value and efficacy of “mystical” techniques AS a clinical protocol for and response to mystical experiences. Integrating proven shamanic techniques with grounded evidence-based methods, empowers you to meet your clients in the peak and aftermath of mystical experience and maintain the integrity and efficacy of the therapeutic relationship.
Plant medicine and Ceremony have had a relationship for thousands of year, one must ask if reducing it to a clinical room with head phones, and a black-out eye covering is the correct way to ‘prove” the clinical efficacy. This is not to say the research should all be thrown out. This is not a black and white issue, however psilocybin is just the tip of the ice-burg in regards to mushrooms.
Each species of mushroom just like cannabis has several components that produce a “desired effect”. Each species does just a lil something different. Now, do I believe that psilocybin treats depression, anxiety and PTSD sure I do, its been used for thousands of year by many indigenous tribes.
But psilocybin alone is not the whole plant and just like with cannabis not every strain does equally or exactly the same thing. WHOLE PLANT extracts, tinctures, infusions, oxymel, provide a variety ways to provide “living oils and essences” of each plant. So what happens when psilocybin alone does not work the same as the ‘whole” mushrooms, then what?
It is only through integrating a grounded understanding and practice of respectful clinical AND spiritual practices that we can wholly serve and support the populations for whom these mystical experiences hold deeply curative and stabilizing properties. Just as hypnosis, regression, forest therapy and psychiatry itself have slowly moved from the fringes of metaphysical pseudoscience to mainstays of solid clinical treatment, so too must we grow and expand in our knowledge and use of traditional healing techniques to better serve our clients. And, just as isolation, trepanation, and malarial therapy were once highly regarded treatments that now live in abashed infamy, so too must we surrender the eye masks and headphones for a more holistic integrative approach to the administration of connective, curative medicines that rely on our interaction with mystical world.
What seems like a life time ago I was a clinical research coordinator for a hospital. I understand the need for research but I also understand the limitations. There is no way to adjust to each nuance of each person and each drug or plant, while maintaining the “control” of what the government allows and what it does not. As we bridge ceremony, spiritually, and plant medicine together we should be more than idly detached trip-sitters with a note pad, and our patients should be more than sacrificial lambs on the altars of “science”.