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  • Writer's pictureDenise Rue

Some Thoughts on Preparing for a Psychedelic Journey

Just as you would not plant a seed on rocky, untilled soul, so you should not enter a medicine session without adequate preparation. Pre-ceremony preparation and post-dose integration are equally important aspects of the overall experience and should be entered into with intention. There is no one prescribed template for every voyager but here are a few areas of exploration you should consider before taking any psychedelic:

What are your hopes and expectations?

How did you come by these? Reading, social media, personal accounts from family and friends? Are these expectations realistic? For example, if you hope to have a mystical experience, what have you done (meditation, prayer, reading spiritual literature, spending time in nature) to lay the ground for that to arise? Making sure your expectations are realistic is one way to avoid possible disappointment.

If you have been treated for mental health challenges through traditional means, how has this impacted you?

Do you ascribe to the biomedical model of mental health? (ex. Believe that depression is purely a glitch in brain chemistry.) If you have taken psychotropic medications with the belief that a pill will cure you, do you expect the same from a psychedelic? Do you feel you have experienced trauma from your mental health treatment? Have you been made to feel that you’re broken, beyond repair, or somehow to blame for not getting better? These belief systems may impact how you enter into your psychedelic session and are thus important to discuss with your therapist before your journey.

If you’ve worked with a therapist, has it been helpful?

There are certain therapeutic modalities that are better suited to preparing you for a psychedelic journey. Has your treatment focused solely on talking about your issues and your thoughts (CBT) or have you explored such modalities as IFS (Internal Family Systems,) EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing,) Somatic Experiencing, or Hypnosis? Many of us exist primarily in our heads, but trauma is stored in our bodies. If you don’t have experience dropping into the body, then it would be wise to work with some of the above modalities prior to psychedelic work. This is especially true if you have experienced significant childhood trauma.

What do you know about intergenerational trauma?

Many people intuit that the symptoms they carry cannot be explained solely by their post-natal biography. Through the study of epigenetics, we know that trauma experienced by our ancestors affect genetic expression and this is passed down to their progeny. It is not uncommon in a psychedelic session to have the sense that you are working through trauma experienced by a parent or grandparent. If you think this may apply to you, I highly recommend you read It Didn’t Start with You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle by Mark Wolynn.

Do you consider yourself highly controlling and analytical?

Unlike psychotropic medications, which are often described as taking the edge off, psychedelics will bring us into our bodies and to the core of our issues. This experience requires you to surrender control. Surrendering is not a passive experience; rather, it is an act of courage. If you have a tendency to control, there is an underlying reason for that. Possibly, aspects of your family of origin were out of control and asserting order upon the chaos was your only source of stability in childhood. Your need to control can be worked with prior to your session so you are better able to gracefully surrender to the healing power of the medicine.

How comfortable are you with being uncomfortable?

A psychedelic experience can be among the most joyous and blissful of one’s life. Yet it can also be quite challenging, even terrifying. Often a single session holds both realities and we are called to excavate painful terrain in our psychic underworld before we can ascend to the heights. If you are not prepared to sit with potential discomfort, both physically and psychically, you may not be ready to embark on a psychedelic journey. I recommend working with a therapist until you have developed the requisite distress tolerance and coping skills to weather any storms that may arise during the session.


I firmly believe people come to this medicine when it is the right time. Don’t rush. Working with psychedelic medicines, whether in a clinical trial, on a retreat, or with a professional guide, is a decision not to be made lightly. It may take years of preparation through therapy, body work, meditation, and introspection. Please prepare the ground of your psyche with intention and patience so your psychedelic session may reap the greatest benefits.

This post is for educational and harm reduction purposes only. Psychedelics are currently illegal in most states. I cannot procure psychedelic medicines for you, nor facilitate your journey. I can help you process your reasons for wanting to use psychedelics and I can help you integrate the cognitive insights, emotional breakthroughs, and mystical experiences you may have had following your journey. Thank you.

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