Ketamine 101
April 18, 2024

Your Guide to Understanding Psychedelic Integration

Your psychedelic journey with ketamine doesn’t end when the session is over. Integration is an important part of the process. It often means the difference between a profound experience changing your life for the better and letting it become just another memory. Processing your experiences is particularly valuable when receiving ketamine therapy online because it will help you bring your new insights into your daily life.

Think of integration like a tapestry. As Dr. Katherine MacLean, a researcher at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, explains, integration is like weaving the thread from a psychedelic experience into the tapestry of your life. By itself, one thread can’t do much. But when you combine it with others, they create a pattern: a beautiful work of art.

A ketamine session can be profound, bringing up thoughts, emotions, memories and parts of ourselves we’ve buried over the years. Particularly when using ketamine for anxiety or depression, these painful experiences, traumas, and grief can be confusing and overwhelming to sort through. You’ll need time and space to make sense of what came up. This is where integration can help.

There are many options when exploring integration. It can be done in a group setting with peers, guided by a trained practitioner, done with a trusted friend or mentor, with a professional therapist or coach, or even on your own.

The Differences Between Integration Therapy, Coaching, and Groups

With so many options available, there’s no one right way to approach integration. It all depends on your needs as an individual because the process can be different for everyone. Each person is on their own unique journey. When you can find what works best for you, the transformation in your life will be undeniable. Even when only using ketamine for pain, you may find the experiences start touching on other areas of your life you didn’t realize needed attention.

Some prefer working with groups, listening to another’s experience and receiving feedback about their own. Others want one-on-one support and attention from a trained professional. If you’re using ketamine for depression, PTSD, OCD, anxiety or other diagnosable conditions, you may find professional help the best option.

Let’s explore some of the options further.

Integration Therapy

Whether an integration specialist is a therapist or coach depends on their responsibilities, training, and practice. Let’s consider therapy first.

Psychedelic integration therapy focuses on unraveling your psychedelic experience so you can bring the insights you learned into your life. Since a therapist is trained and licensed, he or she has the option to use a variety of therapeutic techniques. These may include somatic therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), cognitive-behavioral therapy, and others.

You can work with a therapist short term or long term, whatever you find most effective and helpful. Through support from a therapist, you can integrate your new wisdom into your everyday life, changing behavioral and central nervous system patterns.

Integration Coaching

When it comes to integration, the techniques used by a therapist and a coach might look similar on the surface, but there are a few main differences. A coach cannot diagnose or treat mental health conditions nor are they licensed to use techniques like those mentioned above (EMDR, cognitive-behavioral therapy, etc.). However, they can connect you to information, resources, and other support systems, and they are an objective person with a goal to help you with the integration process.

Whereas therapy is designed to look at how past experiences have impacted your current behaviors, coaching focuses more on the present and the future. A coach will work with you to create specific, measurable, and attainable goals so you can process, even embrace, your psychedelic experience, digesting your insights to improve what comes next in your life.

Therapy vs. Coaching: A Deeper Look

A key difference between the two is this: coaches create goal-oriented, specific plans with your input, while a therapist may focus on open-ended, exploratory questions to look at the psychological aspect of things. Therapists also rely more on diagnostic tools. A coach trades clinical intervention for your own intuition. For a coach, the biggest expert on how to change your life is you. After all, you’re the expert. 

When working with a coach, you’re treated as an equal. There is no hierarchy. Coaches prefer a humanistic lens and may disclose personal details about their own life and story. Therapy models usually avoid self disclosure, which can impact the client-therapist relationship.

At Better U, our coaches strive to be your teammate and confidant on your ketamine journey. Every one of our coaches goes through trauma informed training so he or she understands how to work effectively and ethically with you.

Integration Groups

If individual therapy or coaching isn’t right for you, you may find you prefer group work. Groups can be immensely supportive spaces where you can share and integrate your insights. Listening to another person's story and hearing their own strategies for creating a fulfilling, vibrant life can provide as much value, if not more, as only sharing your story. In a group, collective wisdom can be powerful. You can become part of a beautiful web of experiences, stories, personal growth, and emotions.

Strategies to Integrate a Psychedelic Experience Into Your Life

Integration is a part of your own unique experience. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. After each session, you may need to process physical, emotional, spiritual or mental insights, and the techniques you choose may depend on what needs to be processed and how many sessions you’ve gone through.

Here are some strategies you may use for integration:

As you integrate, try not to judge. Simply observe and pay attention to the feelings, thoughts, and urges that arise in the days following a session. Accept what is present in your life instead of trying to react to it or change it. Also, keep a notebook handy, especially next to your bed. Dreams may be especially revealing after a ketamine session as new messages come up from your unconscious mind.

Keep this flow in mind as you examine your behaviors with compassion: 

  1. You experience a ketamine session
  2. Insights and experiences arise during treatment
  3. Afterwards, you take time to journal and integrate - digesting, healing, and learning.
  4. Take action to integrate the new wisdom into your life
  5. Let your life evolve and grow

Remember, the psychedelic experience is only one aspect of your inward journey. Each session is only a stepping stone. You need to take time to reflect on the material and then take meaningful steps toward the life you want.

Here are some prompts you may find beneficial for your ketamine integration journey:

Once you reflect, it’s good to turn your focus to the future and consider how your ketamine experience can be applied to your life. Consider the following:

A ketamine session can put you more in touch with nature, so some people like to go outside and interact with natural environments as part of their integration. Mindfulness training has also proven to be highly effective when used in combination with psychedelic integration. It has been shown by research to increase feelings of mental health and well-being. 

Finally, a psychedelic experience can create a state of ‘ego-dissolution’, or a feeling like you’re ‘one with the universe’. On the shadow side, it can also make someone feel utterly alone. Where your experience lies on that spectrum can depend a lot on your state of mind going into each session. Integration can help you prepare for each new session so you have the experience you hope for.

Integration is an amazing opportunity to harness the neuroplasticity that can happen after a ketamine session. You can use these new foundations and connections in both your body and mind. Integration is a self-motivated and self-driven experience, so the method you choose ultimately comes down to your unique preferences and needs. It’s a lot to take in on your own. Working with a community, a trusted friend, a therapist, or a coach can support your journey and the process so you get the most out of your ketamine therapy.

Author: Derek Du Chesne