The Ultimate Guide to Preparing for Your First Psychedelic Therapy Session

Preparing for your first psychedelic session can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. To get the full benefits from the therapeutic, coaching, or personal use of psychedelics, it’s essential to understand the history, benefits, risks, and considerations involved.

This guide will help you navigate the mental, emotional, and physical preparation required for a successful experience.

Key Takeaways

  • Understand the history and background of psychedelic therapy to have a better context for your session.
  • Set clear intentions before the session to guide your experience and focus your mind.
  • Conduct a mental health assessment with a qualified professional to ensure you are prepared for the therapy.
  • Practice integration techniques post-session to incorporate the insights gained into your daily life.
  • Follow dietary guidelines, prioritize sleep and rest, and create a comfortable physical environment to enhance the therapeutic effects of psychedelics.

Understanding Psychedelic Therapy

History of Psychedelic Therapy

Psychedelic therapy has a rich and complex history, tracing back to ancient times when indigenous cultures used natural psychedelics for spiritual and healing purposes. Modern psychedelic therapy emerged in the mid-20th century, with researchers exploring the therapeutic potential of substances like LSD and psilocybin.

The resurgence of interest in the 21st century has led to a renaissance in psychedelic research, with studies focusing on treatment-resistant conditions.

  • 1950s: Discovery of LSD’s psychoactive effects
  • 1960s: Initial wave of research and therapeutic use
  • 1970s: Legal restrictions halt clinical studies
  • 2000s: Revival of research into therapeutic applications

This timeline highlights the ebb and flow of psychedelic therapy’s acceptance and the shifting perspectives on its place in mental health treatment.

Expanded History of Psychedelic Therapy

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Benefits of Psychedelic Therapy

Psychedelic therapy has been associated with a range of potential benefits that extend beyond traditional treatment methods. Enhanced self-awareness and emotional release are often reported by participants, which can lead to significant therapeutic breakthroughs.

  • Improved mental health: Many individuals experience reductions in symptoms of depression, anxiety, and PTSD after psychedelic therapy sessions.
  • Cognitive flexibility: There is evidence suggesting that psychedelics can help break rigid thought patterns, allowing for new perspectives.
  • Increased openness: Patients often feel more open to new experiences and perspectives following therapy.

It’s important to note that while the benefits can be profound, they are best achieved within a structured and supportive environment.

At the heart of psychedelic therapy’s effectiveness is its profound impact on the brain’s functioning. Research suggests that substances like psilocybin and LSD can temporarily disrupt the default mode network (DMN), a brain network associated with self-referential thoughts and the ego.

This disruption can lead to a state of heightened plasticity, where the brain forms new connections and pathways. By facilitating this neuroplasticity, psychedelics can help individuals break free from entrenched patterns of thought and behaviour, offering new perspectives and solutions to old problems. This mechanism is thought to underlie the improvements in mental health conditions, as it allows individuals to confront and process emotional experiences in new and healing ways.

Studies tracking the long-term effects of psychedelic therapy have shown promising results. For instance, research from Johns Hopkins University found that a single high-dose psilocybin session provided lasting relief from depression and anxiety symptoms for up to six months in cancer patients.

Other studies have documented sustained increases in openness and other positive changes in personality traits, suggesting that the benefits of psychedelic therapy can extend well beyond the immediate aftermath of the experience. These long-term impacts underscore the potential of psychedelics to effect enduring change, challenging the transient nature of benefits seen with some traditional therapies.

When compared to conventional mental health treatments, psychedelic therapy offers a unique and often more rapid pathway to improvement for certain conditions. Clinical trials have indicated that psychedelics can achieve significant reductions in symptoms of depression, anxiety, and PTSD, sometimes after just one or two sessions.

This contrasts with traditional therapies, like SSRIs or talk therapy, which may take weeks or months to show effects and often come with a range of side effects. While not a panacea, psychedelic therapy’s ability to produce meaningful, lasting change in a relatively short timeframe presents a compelling alternative for individuals who have not found relief through standard treatment modalities.

The therapeutic potential of psychedelics is still being explored, but the anecdotal and clinical evidence thus far points to a promising adjunct to conventional mental health treatments. As research continues, the understanding and applying these substances in therapeutic settings will likely evolve.

Detailed Benefits of Psychedelic Therapy

Neuroscientific Explanations of Psychedelic Benefits

Psychological Explanations of Psychedelic Benefits

Psychedelics Versus Alternative Treatments

Risks and Considerations

While psychedelic therapy can offer profound insights and emotional healing, it’s crucial to approach it with caution. Awareness of potential risks and careful consideration is crucial before embarking on this journey.

  • Intensified psychological distress: While seeking profound healing, individuals may encounter unexpected, intense emotional or psychological distress. This distress can manifest as anxiety, fear, or the re-emergence of traumatic memories during the psychedelic experience. Such episodes, although often temporary, can require skilled support to navigate safely.
  • Physical reactions: Beyond nausea, increased heart rate, and blood pressure changes, people might also experience headaches, dizziness, or sensory sensitivities. These physical reactions, while generally not severe, can be unsettling and distract from the therapeutic goals of the session.
  • Interactions with medications: The potential for psychedelics to interact with prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs, and dietary supplements poses additional risks. Particularly, interactions with psychiatric medications, like SSRIs or MAOIs, can be harmful.
  • Emotional vulnerability post-session: The days and weeks following a psychedelic therapy session can involve heightened emotional sensitivity and a period of adjustment as insights and changes begin to integrate. This period can be challenging and may require additional support and coping strategies.
  • Potential for misinterpretation: The symbolic and often metaphorical nature of psychedelic experiences can lead to misinterpretations or confusion about the insights gained. Without proper guidance and integration, there is a risk of drawing incorrect conclusions that could impact mental health.

It is essential to discuss your medical history and current medications with your therapist to mitigate risks.

Remember, the setting and support during the session can greatly influence your experience. Ensure you are in a safe, comfortable environment with a trained professional to guide you through the process.

Psychological Risks of Psychedelics

Physical Risks of Psychedelics

Interactions with Medications

While the therapeutic use of psychedelics shows promising potential, it's important to note that such treatments are currently not widely available outside of very limited use in Australia and are unlikely to be approved within the next five years in Europe due to regulatory constraints. 

However, for those interested in exploring the psychological benefits of psychedelics within a legal framework, psychedelic coaching offers an accessible alternative. FLO Coaching provides coaching services to help individuals prepare mentally and emotionally for their personal journey, navigating and integrating their experiences for personal growth and healing. 

To learn more about how we can support you, visit our services page.

Preparing Mentally and Emotionally

Setting Intentions for Psychedelic Sessions

Entering a psychedelic session with clear intentions can significantly influence your experience and outcomes. Setting intentions is like drawing a map for your journey; it guides your thoughts and can help you navigate the psychedelic space purposefully.

  • Reflect on what you hope to achieve or confront during the session.
  • Consider writing down your intentions to solidify them in your mind.
  • Be open to the experience, even if it deviates from your expectations.

While the psychedelic experience can be unpredictable, your intentions can serve as anchors, keeping you grounded and focused on your therapeutic goals.

Remember, the goal is not to control the experience but to enter it with a sense of direction. This preparation can lead to a more meaningful and insightful session.

Detailed Intention-Setting Guide

Mental Health Assessment

Before embarking on a psychedelic therapy journey, it’s crucial to undergo a thorough mental health assessment. This evaluation helps to ensure that the therapy is appropriate for your psychological state and to identify any potential risks. A comprehensive assessment will typically explore your mental health history, current symptoms, and personal goals for the therapy.

  • Discuss any history of mental health conditions.
  • Evaluate current psychological well-being.
  • Determine suitability for psychedelic therapy or coaching.

It’s important to approach this assessment with honesty and openness, as the information gathered will be pivotal in tailoring the therapy to your needs.

The outcome of the assessment may lead to recommendations for additional support or adjustments in the therapeutic approach. Always consult a qualified healthcare professional to interpret the results and plan the next steps in your preparation.

Mental Health Assessment Checklist for Psychedelic Therapy

Prepare Your Integration Practices

After your psychedelic therapy session, integration practices are crucial for processing and understanding the experiences you’ve had. Integration is the bridge between your psychedelic journey and your daily life, ensuring that insights and emotional shifts are not lost but incorporated into your being.

To facilitate this process, consider the following steps:

  • Reflect on your experience in a journal.
  • Engage in discussions with your therapist or a support group.
  • Practice mindfulness or meditation to maintain a connection with your inner self.
  • Allow yourself time to rest and process before jumping back into your routine.

Remember, integration is a personal and ongoing process. It’s important to be patient and kind to yourself as you navigate this transformative period.

The positive changes in your behaviour and outlook can often measure the success of integration. It’s not uncommon to experience a range of emotions, from joy to confusion, as you make sense of your psychedelic experience. Having a structured approach to integration can provide a sense of stability and direction during this time.

Integration Practices Tips

Find our Pre-Trip Checklist for an even more actionable list things to do before a psychedelic trip.

Physical Preparation

Dietary Guidelines

Proper nutrition plays a crucial role in preparing for a psychedelic therapy session. A balanced diet can significantly influence your physical and mental state, creating a more profound experience. It’s recommended to avoid heavy meals and certain substances before your session to ensure your body is not taxed with digestion and can fully engage in the therapeutic process.

  • Avoid alcohol at least 24 hours before the session.
  • Stay hydrated, but don’t overdo it right before the session to avoid discomfort.
  • Opt for light meals that are easy to digest, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

It’s essential to listen to your body and make dietary adjustments that align with your comfort and well-being. Personal sensitivities to certain foods should be considered to prevent any adverse effects during the therapy.

Remember, the goal is to enter the session feeling physically balanced and comfortable. Consult with your therapist, coach, or nutritionist if you have specific dietary concerns or restrictions.

Nutritional Preparation Timeline

Sleep and Rest

Ensuring adequate sleep and rest is crucial before your psychedelic therapy session. A well-rested body and mind can significantly enhance your experience and ability to engage with the therapy. Lack of sleep can affect your mood and emotional resilience, which may impact the therapeutic outcomes.

  • Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night the week before your session.
  • Establish a calming bedtime routine to promote relaxation.
  • Avoid stimulants like caffeine or nicotine close to bedtime.

Remember, the quality of your sleep is just as important as the quantity. Creating a restful environment and minimizing disruptions can lead to more restorative sleep, setting a positive foundation for your session.

Emphasizing quality rest and adopting these practices can significantly contribute to a more centred and receptive state for your psychedelic session.

Restful Psychonaut Checklist

Physical Comfort

Ensuring physical comfort during your psychedelic therapy session can significantly enhance the experience. Comfortable clothing is essential; choose loose-fitting, soft fabrics that won’t distract or cause discomfort. Consider the room’s temperature and have blankets or layers available to adjust to your needs.

  • Bring items that provide a sense of security, such as a favourite blanket or a soft pillow.
  • An eye mask can help you focus inward.
  • Noise-cancelling headphones can be beneficial if you prefer a controlled auditory environment.

Remember, the goal is to minimize external distractions to allow for deeper introspection and connection with your inner self. Creating a comfortable physical space is just as important as the mental preparation for your journey.

Women’s Clothing Checklist for Trip Comfort

Men’s Clothing Checklist for Trip Comfort

Physical Space Enhancement Checklist

Are you responsible for the physical space or want to know what it should look like, check out our post on Creating a Safe Space.

Preparation is Half The Work

Preparing for your first psychedelic session is a crucial step towards a transformative and healing experience. By following the guidelines outlined in this guide, you can ensure that you are mentally, emotionally, and physically ready for the journey ahead.

Remember to approach the session with an open mind, trust the process, and prioritize self-care throughout the entire experience. With proper preparation and a supportive environment, your first psychedelic session, be it therapeutic, coaching, or self-exploratory, can be a profound opportunity for growth and self-discovery. Embrace the journey and allow yourself to explore the depths of your consciousness with courage and curiosity.

Questions & Answers on Preparing for a Psychedelic Session

How can I ensure I’m mentally prepared for a psychedelic session?

Engage in reflection and set clear intentions for what you wish to explore or achieve during your session. Consulting a mental health professional for a thorough assessment can also help determine your readiness.

What are the potential risks of psychedelic therapy?

Risks include intensified psychological distress, physical reactions like nausea and changes in blood pressure, interactions with medications, and emotional vulnerability post-session. It’s essential to consult with a healthcare provider to navigate these risks.

What should I eat before my psychedelic session?

Opt for light, easily digestible foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Avoid heavy meals, alcohol, and excessive caffeine to keep your body comfortable and ready for the experience.

How can I integrate my psychedelic experience into my daily life?

Journaling, engaging in discussions with a therapist or support group, practising mindfulness, and allowing yourself time to rest are effective integration practices. Integration helps incorporate insights into your life meaningfully.

What should I wear for a psychedelic therapy session?

Comfort is key. Choose soft, loose-fitting clothing made from natural fibres. Layers can help adjust to changes in temperature, ensuring physical ease throughout the session.

Can I take my regular medications before a psychedelic session?

Many medications, especially psychiatric ones, can interact with psychedelics. Consult a healthcare professional to review your medications and make any necessary adjustments before your session.

What if I feel anxious during the psychedelic experience?

Feeling anxious is normal. Techniques like focused breathing, having a trusted guide present, and creating a comforting environment can help manage anxiety. Remember, safety and support structures are essential.

How long does integration typically take after a session?

Integration is a personal process and can vary. Some may integrate their experience in a few days, while others may find it unfolds over weeks or even months. Continuous self-reflection and support can aid this process.

Is psychedelic therapy suitable for everyone?

Psychedelic therapy may not be suitable for individuals with certain psychiatric conditions, those on specific medications, or those with a history of psychosis. A thorough assessment by a professional is essential.

How can I create a comfortable physical space for my session?

Prioritize a quiet, safe environment where you won’t be disturbed. Consider soft lighting, comfortable seating, and personal items that bring you peace or joy, like plants or art.

What is the mechanism behind psychedelic therapy?

Psychedelic therapy works by altering consciousness and brain function, primarily through the interaction with serotonin receptors. This can lead to increased neural plasticity, allowing for new patterns of thought and behaviour to emerge, potentially addressing underlying issues of mental health conditions.

How does psychedelic therapy differ from traditional therapy?

Unlike traditional therapy, which relies on verbal communication over many sessions, psychedelic therapy involves one or a few sessions where substances induce profound experiences that can lead to rapid psychological insights and emotional healing.

Can psychedelic therapy lead to lasting changes?

Yes, studies suggest that psychedelic therapy can produce lasting changes in behavior, mood, and outlook, especially when combined with integration practices that help individuals apply their insights.

Is psychedelic therapy safe?

When conducted in a controlled, therapeutic setting with proper preparation and integration, psychedelic therapy is considered safe. However, it’s not suitable for everyone, particularly those with certain psychiatric conditions or on specific medications.

What substances are commonly used in psychedelic therapy?

Substances like psilocybin (magic mushrooms), LSD, MDMA (for PTSD), and ketamine are used in therapeutic settings, each offering different experiences and being researched for various conditions.


Lotte and Floris are the two guides for FLO Coaching. We combine our years of coaching & therapy to help people experience a (first) guided psychedelic trip.

We uniquely focus on preparation and integration to provide long-term positive changes in mind and behaviour.

Assistance is provided by Max and Saar, though our dogs haven't yet learned to write for the blog 🐾