Psychedelics can be profoundly meaningful and transformative experiences when approached with care and intention. If you’re considering trying them for the first time, it’s essential to prepare appropriately to have the safest, most enriching trip possible. In this beginner’s guide, I’ll walk through everything you need to know to plan and integrate a psychedelic journey.
With the right substance, set, and setting, psychedelics offer an unparalleled opportunity for self-discovery, creative thinking, and connection with something greater than yourself. Alternatively, a lack of preparation can lead to challenging experiences. By educating yourself beforehand and being mindful during your trip, you’ll be well on your way to getting the most out of your first psychedelic voyage.
Choosing Your Substance Wisely
With so many psychedelics, it can be tricky to select the right one for your first journey. Consider the following factors:
- Duration – Shorter trips like psilocybin mushrooms (4-6hrs) or 2C-B (3-4hrs) are ideal starting points before longer excursions with LSD (10-12hrs) or mescaline (12-16hrs). You want to be able to ease into and out of the psychedelic headspace.
- Dosage – Start with a microdose or threshold dose to test your reaction. For example, 1-2 grams of dried mushrooms or 50-75 micrograms of LSD. You can always take more next time but can’t undo taking too much.
- Synthetics vs. plant medicines – Many people report that mushrooms and ayahuasca provide a more grounded, spiritual experience. LSD and synthetic psyches like 2C-B tend to be more recreational and visual. Consider which effects interest you most.
- Legal status – While prohibited almost everywhere, psilocybin and ayahuasca have been decriminalized in some countries and states. Take legal risks into account when choosing your substance.
- Interactions – SSRIs, MAOIs, and other medications may impact effects. Research any contraindicated substances and possible adverse reactions.
- Allergies – In rare cases, people can be allergic to compounds like psilocybin. Start by microdosing to check your tolerance.
By carefully considering these variables, you can select a psychedelic well-suited for your needs and comfort level as a first-timer. Trust your intuition; don’t feel pressured to overdo it in your first session. The psychedelic path is a marathon, not a sprint.
It’s also critical to verify your substances are pure and unadulterated. Test kits are available online to identify psychedelic compounds and screen out dangerous contaminants like fentanyl. Buying from trusted sources and starting small are other good harm-reduction practices.
The psychedelic path is a marathon, not a sprint.
Picking the Right Set and Setting
Set refers to your mindset going into the experience, and setting is your physical environment. Both dramatically impact the course of your trip. Beforehand, reflect on your intentions and make sure you’re in a stable emotional space. An experienced guide (coach, sitter, shaman, or facilitator) can provide support if you feel anxious.
Nature, your home, or a quiet room with soft lighting are ideal settings. You’ll want a safe, familiar space without disruptions where you can relax into any effects. Turn off your phone, clear your schedule, and remove potential stressors.
Having trusted friends, music, art supplies, and nature nearby can help steer the trip in a positive direction if needed. However, don’t overload your environment. The psychedelic experience is inward-focused.
Preparing your mindset and environment is as crucial as choosing a suitable psychedelic substance. Your internal “set” and external “setting” fundamentally shape the trajectory of your trip, so take time to curate both.
When preparing your mindset, reflect deeply on your intentions for the experience. Are you seeking healing, creativity, or spiritual connection? Hold focused questions in mind while staying open to whatever arises. Building a regular mindfulness practice beforehand promotes equanimity during your trip.
If you’re struggling with anxiety, depression or trauma, have supports in place or consider waiting for a better headspace. A clear set and intentions crystallize the lessons you’ll take away.
Your setting is your container for the experience. Pillows, eye shades, and headphones in a calm room are ideal for inner journeys. For more interactive trips, create a safe space with loved ones, music, art, and nature.
You may wish to journey outdoors in a serene natural setting. Whether indoors or outdoors, make sure your setting is secure and free from disruptions. Set up your space beforehand with everything you’ll need so you can relax into the experience. Ask a sober guide to hold space for you if possible.
Curating your set and setting ahead of time shows respect for the power of psychedelics. Putting care into the prep work ensures your first journey is enriching, safe, and aligned with your intentions. The psychedelic tide amplifies whatever energy you bring into the experience, so choose your set and setting wisely.
The psychedelic tide amplifies whatever energy you bring into the experience.
Integrating the Psychedelic Experience
The integration period after the trip is as important as the preparation beforehand. Be sure to give yourself 1-2 days with minimal responsibilities afterwards to reflect on your insights. Keeping a journal during the trip and re-reading it later can help you synthesize any lessons learned.
Discussing the experience with your trip sitters can provide perspective and reinforce breakthroughs. At FLO coaching, we always offer integration sessions as we consider these key to long-term positive outcomes. However, psychedelic realizations don’t always translate directly into sober reality. Take time to meditate (this can be a ‘formal’ sit down, or things like journalling and discussing the experience with a friend) on integrating your learnings into daily life.
Feeling somewhat drained or emotionally sensitive for a few days is common as your brain recalibrates. Eat healthy, get lots of rest, and don’t make big decisions immediately. Stay grounded with mindfulness practices.
Don’t make life-changing decisions immediately.
If you encounter any difficulties during your trip, don’t hesitate to seek professional support to process the experience. Psychedelic coaching is becoming more available.
While not risk-free, psychedelics can be gateways to self-discovery when approached responsibly. Weigh the benefits and risks carefully as you plan your first session. With the right preparation and intention, you’ll embark on a profound awakening and healing journey.