Psychedelic science and research has been getting a lot of mainstream media attention over the years and for good reason. The preliminary research suggests that psychedelics may be extremely beneficial in helping to treat mental health disorders and as tools for studying consciousness. As this research begins to hit mainstream channels, some people are left wondering, “How can I find a psychedelic guide or sitter?”
Michael Pollan, a well-respected journalist and author, released a new book called, How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence where he surveys the history of and current state of psychedelic research and therapy. In his book, Pollan describes his experiences with trained underground psychedelic guides. He also explores these experiences in this New York Times article called, My Adventures With The Trip Doctors: The Researchers and Renegades Bringing Psychedelic Drugs Into The Mental Health Mainstream. Pollan’s work has been entering the mainstream and it seems that more people are becoming interested in or curious about psychedelic therapy – so much that many people are seeking ways to find underground therapists and guides to work with.
We, at Psychedelics Today, have been receiving a lot of requests from people asking for instructions on how to obtain drugs or for us to connect them with people offering underground services. While we understand that many people are suffering and seeking psychedelic treatments, sometimes out of desperation for healing, it is not easy to provide advice. Unfortunately, because of the legal system and the current laws in The United States, we are unable to help you on either of these fronts.
With that stated, we can provide some general advice for those looking for alternatives or legal options. Please take the time to conduct your own research as well.
First Thing First
It is important to question what your intentions are and ask yourself why you may be seeking psychedelics either as therapy or as an experience.
- Are you seeking a therapeutic experience because of a mental health issue?
- Are you seeking a psychedelic experience for spiritual or religious reasons?
- Are you just curious to know what the experience may feel like or what it is all about?
- Are you looking for a recreational experience or to have fun?
Whatever your reasons or intentions are, it is important to continue to be self-reflective and question whether or not this is the right path to pursue. Also, be sure to spend time reflecting on the risk/benefit ratio.
Before making any quick decisions, please take your time to get educated on this topic and also reach out to others who may have previous experiences. Psychedelics Today has a lot of great podcast episodes and resources for education, so take some time exploring our site and content. If you want to get a great basic overview of psychedelics, harm reduction, safety, check out our free webinar course, 8 Common Psychedelic Mistakes: Exploring Harm Reduction and Safety or our more in-depth course Navigating Psychedelics: Lessons on Self-Care and Integration
Mental and Physical Health Considerations
While psychedelics are generally considered safe both psychologically and physiologically, there are some important considerations to take into account. These medicines and substances affect everyone differently based on the set and setting as well as a person’s own biology.
If you are seeking a psychedelic experience because you are suffering from a mental health issue or looking for psychological healing, it is important to evaluate whether or not it is the best option. The research is promising, but it also requires a lot of work, support, and follow-up treatment. Psychedelics are not always cure-alls or silver bullets.
If you are seeking this treatment out of desperation because you have read how positive or healing the experience can be, it is important to note that this change does not always happen right away. It may be important to find a psychedelic integration therapist to work with after or before. Also, ask yourself, “Have I tried other options?”
There are some powerful and effective somatic-based therapies that can be extremely cathartic and healing, such as breathwork, Somatic Experiencing, and others. A list of alternatives and somatic-based therapies can be found below in the “Experiential Therapies/Approaches” section. These therapies may be worth checking out if you have not looked into these therapies before and may also be a great first step to working with non-ordinary states of consciousness.
Exploring Legal Psychedelic Therapies and Other Alternatives
One thing that comes to mind is why are you looking for a guide? Is it to heal trauma or some sort of mental health issue? Are you looking for a spiritual experience or a way to reconnect with yourself? Depending on your intention, there may be other techniques and tools. It may not be as “sexy” as partaking in psychedelic work, but it is important to ask yourself, “What is my intention?”
There are some really powerful therapies and techniques that could potentially be helpful depending on the intention. In regard to therapy or addressing mental health issues, starting with a form of experiential therapy could be beneficial. You could look into some of these somatic approaches that could be helpful for dealing with trauma and other mental health issues before trying to seek underground work or travel outside of the country to work with psychedelic medicines.
- Dreamshadow Transpersonal Breathwork
- Holotropic Breathwork
- Internal Family Systems
- Sensorimotor Psychotherapy
- Somatic Experiencing
- Shamanic Healing Services
- Finding/working with a shamanic practitioner may be helpful for some as well. The Foundation for Shamanic Studies (Founded by Michael Harner) is a good starting point for finding a practitioner to work with.
Legal Therapy Options
Ketamine is an interesting substance and has recently been used to help treat depression. There are ketamine clinics throughout the United States that provide treatment for depression and other mental health issues. If you are interested in learning more about ketamine-assisted therapy, check out a few of our episodes covering the topic.
While many people do not think of cannabis as a psychedelic, some are exploring the therapeutic potential of cannabis in a legal and therapeutic setting. There are not many clinics operating with this protocol, so it may be hard to find, but as cannabis becomes legalized in more states for medicinal use and recreational use, this may become more accessible. Here are two resources that we know of so far for cannabis-assisted psychotherapy.
Innate Path: Ketamine and Cannabis-Assisted Psychotherapy
Innate Path, located in Colorado, is exploring the potential of cannabis-assisted psychotherapy and ketamine-assisted psychotherapy. As mentioned on their site, “Cannabis can be a powerful catalyzer of therapeutic process.”
Innate Path combines somatic processing with ketamine or cannabis assisted work, which is a unique bottom-up approach to psychedelic-assisted therapy.
Sara Ouimette Psychotherapy, located in Oakland, CA, offers psychotherapy, psychedelic integration services, and cannabis-assisted psychotherapy. As stated on Sara’s page:
When used in a particular way, cannabis can actually amplify or exacerbate your internal experience. You can become more aware of tightness or soreness in your body. Emotions are heightened; senses are more acute. You may have access to thoughts, fears, and feelings that are normally out of reach. You may even enter a trance-like state and “journey.” In these ways, cannabis can help deepen your therapy process.
To learn more about Sara’s work and cannabis-assisted psychotherapy, check out Sara’s article called, Checking In, Not Checking Out: Cannabis-Assisted Psychotherapy
Participate in Clinical Research
One way to find a psychedelic sitter/guide is to participate in the clinical research. Check out the following for more information.
- Clinicaltrials.gov: This is a database of clinical studies from around the country and around the world. You can use this database to search active clinical studies on psychedelics and to search for recruitment opportunities. Just perform a simple search for “psychedelic” or anything else that you may be looking for in the search box. You can filter your search option and only search studies that are currently open for “recruitment.”
- The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies: If you are already not aware, MAPS is streamlining research for MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. Check out their Participate in Research page for more information about how to get involved in one of their studies.
Psychedelic Retreats and Centers
This option is not always available to everyone because of the cost of travel, accommodations and other expenses. While we understand attending a retreat or center in another country is not accessible for most, it is one of the few legal options for participating in this work. We advise doing extensive research including interviewing the retreat staff/owner and past guests before committing to international travel.
One site that we recommend for finding retreats or reviews is the Psychedelic Experience. While this site is still growing, this may be a great starting point for research. Another popular site is AyaAdvisors.
Traveling to another country to participate in this work is obviously not ideal, but the option exists. Mushrooms are legal in The Netherlands, Jamaica, and Brazil. Mexico has protection for traditional medicines, and mushrooms do fall in this category.
Ayahuasca has an interesting legal status in the USA, where many groups are offering sessions in various contexts and settings from religious ceremonies (Christian or shamanic), YMCA gyms, rural retreat centers, churches, etc. Ayahuasca is legal in some countries like Peru and Ecuador. Ecuador provides licenses for shamans/facilitators which no other countries currently do.
These retreats exist in Canada, Mexico and other countries around the world including where the plant is from and traditionally used – Gabon. Some facilities are very clinical and others are very traditional. Please know that Iboga and Ibogaine have some serious dangers that need to be carefully considered.
We currently don’t advise people go on these retreats. The pressure on toad populations is severe and our culture’s desire for the toad venom may push this toad towards an endangered status. After interviewing toad scientists (herpetologists) we have concluded that it is not ethical to be participating in this “market”. If you feel very compelled, the more ethical path (at this point in history) is to work with synthetic molecules.
Holotropic Breathwork and Transpersonal Breathwork
Breathwork is a term used to describe breathing techniques and systems that foster self-discovery, healing, and sometimes deeply emotional and physical cathartic releases. If you have been following Psychedelics Today, you have most likely heard us talk about this technique on the show. Breathwork is actually a legal and safe way to access a non-ordinary state of consciousness. There are various schools of breathwork, but the Breathwork technique that we are most familiar with is in the lineage of Holotropic Breathwork and Transpersonal Breathwork. Holotropic Breathwork was created by Stanislav Grof, who was a pioneer in psychedelic research in the early years, and his wife Christina Grof. Breathwork can sometimes be on par with some psychedelic-like experiences.
It may not sound as sexy as psychedelic work, but do not be fooled, it can foster powerful shifts in consciousness. We have both had tremendously powerful healing experiences using Holotropic Breathwork, which plays a huge part in why we talk about it so regularly.
Conscious Breathwork and Conscious Cannabis | Medicinal Mindfulness
Medicinal Mindfulness is a Colorado-based organization that provides services in psychedelic integration, breathwork, and conscious cannabis work.
Medicinal Mindfulness is a consciousness community/membership organization and education program that supports individuals and groups who choose to use cannabis and psychedelics with intention and skill. Through our Community Breathwork and Conscious Cannabis Events, we facilitate legal, accessible, safe and sacred psychedelic journey experiences that integrate the four primary paradigms of intentional medicine use: Creative, Scientific, Psychological & Spiritual. Our approach is Transpersonally aligned and somatically oriented.
You can learn more about the work at Medicinal Mindfulness on this episode of Psychedelics Today with the founder, Daniel McQueen.
Conclusion and Legal Notice
Finding an underground therapist to work with is extremely difficult because unfortunately,many of these substances are still illegal. This is why we often refer people to check out techniques like Holotropic Breathwork or to find a legal way to pursue this type of work. Remember, many underground guides are putting their professional careers and lives on the line providing psychedelic work.
We advise you to learn as much as you can before breaking any law as the consequences can be severe. If there are any questions that you think are serious enough to cause harm to yourself or others, please contact a legal professional before acting.
Psychedelics Today, LLC and its affiliates can not be held liable for any action you take. We are not doctors and therefore, cannot provide any medical advice. Please be responsible and seek professional attention when necessary.
Best of luck out there, and expect us to share as much as possible when the laws change.
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