The Three Phases of Effective Psychedelics-Assisted Psychotherapy

The Three Phases of Effective Psychedelics-Assisted Psychotherapy

In this article we have outlined the three-phase process of a medicinal/spiritual psychedelic experience as described by two of the pioneers of psychedelic use in western society, Timothy Leary, and James Fadiman. Both Leary and Fadiman’s frameworks encourage creating a well-structured session, one that constitutes an appropriate form of support and guidance, as well as a safe environment. A certain level of education and preparation regarding what to expect is necessary. Not one guideline fits all, and the intention of a trip should be a leading factor when deciding what constitutes an appropriate setting. Reasons for psychedelic use can vary from increased personal power, duty (help of others), fun, and transcendence (Leary, et. al 1964). Despite the manuals being of valuable contribution in all four cases, both researchers’ guidelines seek to promote spiritual rather than recreational use of entheogenic substances, and their ideal conditions for the success of such a trip happens over the course of three days. The suggested guidelines go as follows:

The first day should be dedicated to self-reflection and intention setting.
Researching other experiences and identifying ones goals and intentions of what one wishes to learn. Meditating and spending time in nature as well as discussing any fears and perceived boundaries issues with ones guides. Being supported by experienced individuals is very beneficial, specifically for being reminded to surrender and let go of all preexisting notions of the self and expectations about the experience.

The second day should be wholly devoted to the session.
One should begin the journey indoors, away from any external stimulus. Wearing clean clothes and having done the personal work of ridding oneself of stressors, responsibilities, or anything else that could cloud the mind while entering the experience. A comfortable environment sets you up for success. Both instrumental music and incense have long served as nonverbal supports and are recommended to be at hand. Using a blindfold and headphones can help create the quiet needed to internally focus on oneself and one’s experience. One needs to feel safe and supported and ideally, there should be the presence of both male and female guides. If compelled to follow Hofmann’s recommendation to “always take it in nature”, there could be an option to have access to an outside space to experience the added dimension of the connectedness with nature which can be powerful and integral to the session.

And lastly, it is important to keep in mind that despite taking all necessary steps, psychedelic experiences are incredibly unpredictable and will often give you what you need rather than what you expect or want. It is therefore critical that whatever presents itself during the experience, however dark and menacing, be fully accepted and embraced. The apparent lessons and insights registered. Surrendering is often the secret to elevation. Transcendence is often the result of the brave journeying into and through personal suffering; so often depicted myths of The Hero’s journey, such as with Joseph Campbell and Homer… The only thing left to do is relinquish control and surrender to what awaits.

The third day should be about integration.
Recording your adventures and reflecting upon the insights that stood out is a good way to help better process and digest the experience. Give yourself time to integrate your experience and prepare yourself to pay attention to shifting behaviours and mindsets in the coming weeks.

At we do not encourage the use of illegal psychedelic substances or legal ones without the supervision of professional facilitators. We hope this information provides insight into the respect one should have for a psychedelic journey and the value one can bring if treated correctly. The current stigma and legal barriers that exist around psychedelics are mostly caused by misunderstanding the substantiality of a large psychedelic experience.