How does psychedelic therapy work?

Psychedelic therapy has rapidly been gaining attention for its potential to treat mental health conditions such as depression, PTSD, and anxiety. This innovative therapeutic approach involves using psychedelic substances like psilocybin (found in magic mushrooms) and MDMA (commonly known as ecstasy) under controlled conditions to facilitate profound therapeutic experiences.

This blog will delve into how psychedelic therapy works and the role that set and setting plays to ensure its effectiveness.

Psychedelic therapy

How psychedelic therapy works

Psychedelic therapy utilises the mind-altering properties of psychedelic substances to create a unique therapeutic environment. Unlike traditional psychiatric medications that typically require daily usage and work by altering brain chemistry over time, psychedelic therapy involves just a few sessions that bring long-lasting effects.

Here’s a step-by-step look at how the process typically unfolds:

  1. Preparation: Before the actual therapy session, participants undergo thorough preparation. This includes building a trusting relationship with the therapist, understanding the goals of the therapy, and setting intentions for the experience. This stage is crucial for minimising anxiety and ensuring the participant feels safe and supported
  2. Dosing Session: During the dosing session, the participant consumes a controlled dose of the psychedelic substance in a safe and supervised setting. The therapist is present throughout to provide support and guidance. The experience can last anywhere from a few hours to an entire day, depending on the substance used.
  3. Psychedelic Experience: As the substance takes effect, the participant may experience a range of emotions, vivid visual and auditory hallucinations, and a profound sense of connection to their thoughts and surroundings. This altered state of consciousness allows for deep introspection and the processing of buried emotions and traumatic experiences.
  4. Integration: After the psychedelic experience, participants engage in integration sessions with their therapist. These sessions are designed to help make sense of the insights gained during the experience and incorporate them into everyday life. Integration is key to translating the often abstract and intense experiences into tangible therapeutic benefits.

The science behind psychedelic therapy

The effectiveness of psychedelic therapy is supported by emerging scientific evidence. Research suggests that psychedelics work by disrupting the default mode network (DMN) in the brain, a network responsible for self-referential thoughts and the maintenance of the ego. By temporarily “loosening” the rigid structures of the DMN, psychedelics allow for greater cognitive flexibility and the opportunity to rewire negative thought patterns.

Additionally, psychedelics have been shown to increase neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to form new neural connections. This can lead to lasting changes in behaviour and thought patterns, providing relief from symptoms of mental health conditions long after the psychedelic experience has ended.

The role of set and setting

One of the most important aspects of psychedelic therapy is the concept of “set and setting.” This refers to the mental and physical environment in which the psychedelic experience occurs.

Set (Mindset): This encompasses a person’s internal state, including their mood, expectations, and intentions going into the experience. A positive and open mindset is crucial for a beneficial experience. Therapists help participants prepare mentally by addressing any fears or anxieties and setting clear, positive intentions.

Setting (Environment): The physical and social environment plays an equally vital role. A safe, comfortable and familiar setting helps participants feel secure and relaxed. The presence of a supportive therapist and the absence of distractions are also critical components. The right setting can help participants navigate challenging emotions and experiences that may arise during the session.

Interested in expanding your understanding of psychedelics? How Plantific can help

Psychedelic therapy represents a promising frontier in mental health treatment. By harnessing the power of psychedelic substances in a controlled and supportive environment, this therapy offers profound healing potential. However, the effectiveness of psychedelic therapy hinges on careful attention to set and setting, ensuring that participants are mentally prepared and physically safe.

As research continues to unveil the benefits of psychedelics, the importance of these factors will remain central to the therapeutic process, guiding individuals toward lasting mental and emotional well-being.

At Plantific our Introduction to the Science of Psychedelics course provides an overview on the history, science and ethics of psychedelics.

Our course can provide you with all of the necessary knowledge to effectively navigate the complex galaxy of psychedelic medicines. The Introduction to the Science of Psychedelics course offers you a competitive edge in preparation for the challenges and opportunities in this rapidly-evolving field. Broadly speaking, the course focuses on the following concepts:

  • Historical summary
  • Substance overview
  • Medical applications
  • Clinical practice
  • Research
  • Ethics and bio-cultural sustainability

If you are interested in learning more about how Plantific can help you on your Psychedelic knowledge journey, explore the various courses we offer.

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