You’ve had a psychedelic experience. What comes next? Psychedelics can shift your view of the world or yourself, often in a profound way. Psychedelic integration is a process that helps you make sense of any insights, thoughts, challenges, or questions you may have after a psychedelic experience.
Research shows that people can have positive, long-lasting changes after taking psychedelics. Being intentional about integration increases the odds that you’ll see those long-term benefits. It encourages you to reflect on your experience and use it to create lasting change in your life.
This article defines psychedelic integration and talks about its benefits, how it works, and how you can use it to have a more positive psychedelic experience.
What Is Psychedelic Integration?
Psychedelic integration (sometimes called psychedelic integration therapy) involves reflecting on your psychedelic experience in a structured way. It can include asking yourself questions, noting major thoughts or feelings you had during your trip, writing down or talking about your experience, and making a plan to incorporate your new perspective into your daily life.
Integration happens after your psychedelic experience. Psychedelics increase mental flexibility and openness, so it’s best to do integration within a few days of your trip, when the experience is fresh in your mind and you’re more open to self-reflection and change.
You may also benefit from doing integration several times in the weeks and months after you take a psychedelic. Psychedelic experiences can be quite rich and may provide a lot of insight for you to consider and integrate into your life.
Keep in mind that there is no dosing during the integration process—it’s a reflection and interpretation of an experience that already happened.
Why Is Psychedelic Integration Important?
Psychedelic experiences often change your perspective and sense of self. They may give you a new view of your thoughts, behaviors, past, or other aspects of your life.
Integration helps you take advantage of those shifts in thinking, cementing them into lasting positive change.
For example, you may feel an amplified sense of aimlessness during a psychedelic trip. You might feel that your lack of purpose comes with intense sadness. Reflecting on those feelings may help you realize you wish you had more meaningful pursuits in your life, and an integration process can help you connect those feelings to action.
You may also realize that you find satisfaction in certain activities and people and that you’d like to include them in your life more. Perhaps you also see, with great clarity, that other activities you do, while they feel gratifying in the moment, are actually making you unhappy.
After you finish your psychedelic trip, integration helps cement those insights. You may ask yourself questions like:
- What actionable steps can I take to create more meaning in my life?
- What do I get from those unhealthy behaviors? Is there something I can replace them with that’s more deeply gratifying?
- What other changes can I make that will bring me a greater sense of purpose?
These kinds of integration questions, coupled with the increased openness and mental flexibility that psychedelics provide, can help you turn a thought-provoking psychedelic experience into tangible, positive change in your life that lasts for years to come.
Benefits of Psychedelic Integration
For many people, taking psychedelics is a transformative experience, especially when combined with some kind of guided integration process. For example:
- A 2019 review found that 87% of people who take psychedelics find an increased sense of meaning in their life afterward and that a single psychedelic experience, paired with therapy, relieved depression long-term in about 60% of participants. 1
- People grieving the loss of a loved one were able to feel difficult emotions and find acceptance faster after an Ayahuasca ceremony paired with self-reflection. 2
- In a survey of more than 1250 people who took LSD, 73% said that they derived a sense of purpose or insight from the experience that improved their life long-term, and 77% said that taking LSD was one of the five most meaningful things they’d ever done. 3
- Research suggests that MDMA-assisted therapy can help people with PTSD process and resolve traumatic memories more quickly. 4
- In a 2017 study, smokers did two sessions of psilocybin (mushrooms) paired with talk therapy. At a 16-month follow-up, 60% of them had successfully quit smoking because of realizations they’d had while on psilocybin. 5
In each of these cases, people combined psychedelics with some kind of integrative practice, whether it was formal therapy or simple self-reflection about their experience. The specifics, however, vary—how integration affects you depends on your thoughts, feelings, and life experiences.
How to Do Psychedelic Integration
Psychedelic integration can take several forms, ranging from formal psychotherapy sessions to simple self-reflection. Types of psychedelic integration include:
- Therapy sessions
- Narrative review
A therapist can talk you through your psychedelic experience and help you make sense of any thoughts, feelings, or insights you had.
Your therapist may ask questions or encourage you to consider certain aspects of your experience more deeply. Different therapists specialize in different fields—for example, if you realize during your trip that you want to stop smoking, a behavioral therapist can help; they specialize in supporting you as you change negative behaviors.
Alternatively, if, while on psychedelics, you feel a sense of resolution or another emotional shift over a traumatic experience in your past, you may want to seek out a therapist who specializes in treating posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Keep in mind that psychedelics are currently illegal in the United States, and that your therapist cannot help you obtain psychedelics or give you therapy while you’re under the influence of psychedelics.
However, if you experienced psychedelic effects, a therapist can help you make sense of your experience after it’s over, and an increasing number of therapists are familiar with psychedelic therapy, the effects of psychedelics, and their potential benefits.
There also may be open clinical trials on psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. Currently, taking part in psychedelic research is the only legal form of psychedelic use in the United States. As psychedelic-assisted therapy and psychedelic medicine become more common, however, the legal status of psychedelic therapy could change.
You can apply to open clinical trials through the US government’s clinical trials website. Just search for the psychedelic drug you’d like to take (e.g. psilocybin, LSD, DMT, Ayahuasca).
Self-inquiry involves asking yourself questions after a psychedelic trip. These questions are meant to help you understand your experience, solidify any insights you’ve had, and use them to change your thoughts or behavior moving forward.
Self-inquiry questions are usually open-ended—they allow you to explore your experience and make sense of it on your own terms.
Here’s a helpful set of questions based on the Psychological Insight Scale (PIS), an inventory that researchers use to help people make sense of their psychedelic experiences: 6
- Have you had any insights into how past events have influenced your current mental health and behavior?
- Have you learned new ways of thinking about your “self” and your problems?
- Have you had any insights about how you would like to change aspects of yourself or your lifestyle?
- Have you become more conscious of aspects of your past that you used to ignore or not be fully aware of?
- Have you become more conscious of aspects of your “self” that you used to ignore or not be fully aware of?
- Have you become more conscious of aspects of your lifestyle that you used to ignore or not be fully aware of?
- Are there ways you can make positive changes to your lifestyle or behavior, based on insights you ’ve gained from your psychedelic experience?
These questions are a solid framework for self-inquiry-based psychedelic integration. You can also ask yourself other questions that feel helpful; keep an open mind, maintain non-judgmental curiosity about your psychedelic experience, and see where your thoughts take you.
A narrative review of your trip involves going through your psychedelic experience from start to finish and sharing it as if you were telling a story.
Because humans think in narrative terms, storytelling is a valuable way to make sense of your trip. A 2021 study found that when people talked about their psychedelic session as if it were a story, they were able to find greater positive meaning in it—even when the psychedelic experience was challenging or unpleasant. 7
You can simply tell the story of your psychedelic trip out loud to yourself, or you can tell it to a trusted friend, loved one, or therapist.
However you do it, frame yourself as the hero of your story, as if you’re telling a story from a book. Did you go through challenges? Did you have realizations about yourself? Are you struggling through something difficult, but prepared to move forward and overcome it? What lessons have you learned, or are you learning? What kind of growth do you want to make, and how are you going to make it?
This kind of narrative framework is a valuable tool for psychedelic integration.
If you prefer to write your thoughts down, journaling may help you integrate after a psychedelic experience.
You can use the strategies above—writing down responses to self-inquiry questions or writing about your experience in narrative storytelling form—or you can try another approach, like stream of consciousness journaling (writing freely without thinking about a specific aspect of your trip).
Whichever integration strategy you use, your goal is to consider your psychedelic trip more deeply, take tangible lessons from it, and think about how you can use them to improve yourself or your lifestyle as you move forward with your life.
How Psychedelic Integration Can Help with Bad Trips
Some people worry about having a negative experience while on psychedelics (colloquially called a”bad trip”). A negative psychedelic experience may include anxiety, fear, unpleasant thoughts, or losing your sense of self in a way that causes panic or discomfort.
However, research suggests that bad trips often turn out to be valuable long-term, especially when users did some kind of integration after a difficult experience. Bad trips, while unpleasant, often provide insight into difficult thoughts and feelings, and because psychedelics increase mental flexibility, many people find that they can process those negative thoughts or emotions and resolve them.
In a 2021 study, researchers interviewed people who had had a bad psychedelic trip. When the participants talked about their unpleasant experiences, they were able to find positive meaning in them. After integration, almost all the participants said that bad trips ended up improving their long-term mental health. 7
Another study of over 2000 people found similar results: 84% of participants said that their bad trips ended up being positive in the long term, once they’d had a chance to process the experience and incorporate lessons from it. 8
Integration may help turn a negative psychedelic experience into a positive one.
If you’re taking psychedelics for self-improvement or therapeutic reasons, you may want to include some form of integration after your trip.
Psychedelic integration is a valuable tool, especially if you want to get more therapeutic benefit out of your psychedelic session. It helps you make sense of your experience and synthesize lessons that you can take forward into your life.
You may also want to do several integration sessions after your trip; as time passes and you continue to mentally unpack your psychedelic experience, you could uncover new insights into yourself.
2. González D, Cantillo J, Pérez I, et al. Therapeutic potential of ayahuasca in grief: a prospective, observational study. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2020;237(4):1171-1182. doi:10.1007/s00213-019-05446-2
3. Griffiths RR, Hurwitz ES, Davis AK, Johnson MW, Jesse R. Survey of subjective “God encounter experiences”: Comparisons among naturally occurring experiences and those occasioned by the classic psychedelics psilocybin, LSD, ayahuasca, or DMT. PLoS ONE. 2019;14(4):e0214377. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0214377
4. Mithoefer MC, Feduccia AA, Jerome L, et al. MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for treatment of PTSD: study design and rationale for phase 3 trials based on pooled analysis of six phase 2 randomized controlled trials. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2019;236(9):2735-2745. doi:10.1007/s00213-019-05249-5
6. Peill JM, Trinci KE, Kettner H, et al. Validation of the Psychological Insight Scale: A new scale to assess psychological insight following a psychedelic experience. J Psychopharmacol (Oxford). 2022;36(1):31-45. doi:10.1177/02698811211066709
7. Gashi L, Sandberg S, Pedersen W. Making “bad trips” good: How users of psychedelics narratively transform challenging trips into valuable experiences. Int J Drug Policy. 2021;87:102997. doi:10.1016/j.drugpo.2020.102997
8. Carbonaro TM, Bradstreet MP, Barrett FS, et al. Survey study of challenging experiences after ingesting psilocybin mushrooms: Acute and enduring positive and negative consequences. J Psychopharmacol (Oxford). 2016;30(12):1268-1278. doi:10.1177/0269881116662634