The psychedelic sector desperately needs more integration providers. As more and more people seek out psychedelic medicines for therapeutic benefit, the demand for trained professionals to support their integration is predicted to go through the roof. However, while this career path promises to be emotionally, spiritually, and energetically fulfilling to those who choose it, it’s not without its challenges.
Psychedelic integration is profound, transformational work. Both the client and the coach or therapist often find themselves diving into the depths of their psyche, uncovering uncomfortable material and traversing challenging psychological terrain. Much of this exploration is necessary for deep, transformative healing to occur – but it’s certainly no simple task. Integration providers will undoubtedly face challenges along this journey, and it’s important for them to be aware of these so they can react appropriately when obstacles pop up. That’s why we’ve put together this article on the top four challenges faced by integration providers. We will also give you some helpful tips for handling them along the way.
Psychedelics Are Not a Silver Bullet
Reading some of the top headlines on psychedelic breakthroughs and their promise for the mental health crisis, you might misconceive substances like psilocybin, MDMA, LSD, or ketamine to be a ‘magic cure all’ – all you need is one high dose and you’ll be transformed into a happier, healthier, trauma-free you.
This is not the case, and psychedelic integration providers know this well.
“It’s important to discern expectations from intentions,” says Leia Friedwoman, psychedelic integration coach. “People that are new to psychedelics often go into the journey with a sense of what a successful trip will be, so they’re not open to the multitude of possibilities that may arise. When the ‘sexy’ trip doesn’t happen, they feel like they failed, when maybe that was really what they needed,” she adds.
Integration providers are thus tasked with helping first-time trippers understand the importance of letting go of expectations around a trip and trusting the flow. This lack of patience also applies to the post-session integration process, which may look like ongoing coaching or therapy sessions over a period of months or years. The psychedelic experience itself is only one fraction of the healing work. A level of sustained commitment to integration is often essential to see and feel real changes in one’s life.
Clients who try to rush the work or get frustrated at having not had a breakthrough after three sessions will seldom achieve the long-lasting changes they’re chasing after. Managing these expectations can be a challenge for integration providers, but it’s possible to minimize them by emphasizing the unpredictable nature of the healing process and the necessity for patience from the get-go.
Managing Challenging Material
Many who begin the path of healing through psychedelic integration support don’t yet have a sense of what’s ahead, and how challenging the process may get. As a result, uncomfortable material that reveals itself can be a lot for people to handle and can result in them avoiding facing it head-on.
“I am finding that people are going so deep in this work so rapidly that people are a bit overwhelmed with the process, so I am really clear about working with people who are really ready and committed to the process,” says integration coach and psychedelic somatic therapist, Jill Van Meter.
“I use breathwork and coaching using horses to support people’s nervous systems between therapy sessions,” she adds.
Trauma and integration coach Andrea Kauenhowen has a few tips for helping clients move through painful moments. “It’s normal for resistance to come up in this context, but each client typically has a unique way in which they resist facing uncomfortable material,” she says.
“For example, some people smile or use humor when speaking about something painful as a way to resist the true pain of it. Some people will divert their gaze and start looking around the room, distracting themselves. Some might fully dissociate from the experience.”
According to Kauenhowen, part of building that coach-client relationship is learning which avoidance techniques are being displayed, and the coach can then simply mirror back. “You might ask: “I see that you are smiling, have you noticed that you always smile when you’re recalling painful experiences?” or “I see that you are looking away, can you tell me what’s going on for you right now?”,” she adds.
“Most of the time they are completely unaware that they’re doing it. Once both parties can become aware of the mechanism of resistance, it’s much easier to move through,” says Kauenhowen.
It’s also crucial that the provider be ready for whatever may come up for the client. “The challenges I have seen are first and foremost proper education both in entheogenic use and business set up. No proper education equals low skill sets which equals low confidence,” says Shiri Malcolm Godasi, psychedelic integration coach and teacher and founder of the Psychedelic School and PsychedeLiA.
There’s also “some bias and misunderstanding of mental health and pharmaceutical treatments,” she says. While it takes time and effort, educating oneself so you can deliver confident, skilled, and informed integration support – no matter what the client may be facing – is essential.
Removing Your Own Ego
To be a good psychedelic integration provider, one of the biggest challenges is doing one’s own inner work. This can remain a lifelong endeavor for coaches, guides, and therapists that hold containers for clients where they are free and safe to explore the inner workings of their subconscious.
“My biggest challenge is doing my own work and being empty myself so I can remove as much of my ego as possible when working with clients,” says ayahuasca integration coach, Darren Wendroff.
“My integration work with clients is always my own personal work, and I always thank clients for the opportunity to share these experiences together,” he says.
Living a life of integrity and honesty takes consistent effort on the part of the integration coach. If a coach’s ego creeps in, they risk projecting their own triggers onto the client. This integrity also means understanding one’s own capabilities as well as how far the client is ready to go.
“It’s about being in integrity with oneself. Being honest about where you’re at, what you can hold, and what the person is ready for,” says Liam Farquhar, psychedelic integration coach and founder of Brighter Pathways.
Building a Successful Business
Many psychedelic integration coaches have excellent domain expertise and experience with plant medicines but lack the business acumen necessary to build a thriving coaching business.
Beth Weinstein is a spiritual business coach who helps her clients grow psychedelic integration coaching businesses, as well as other types of coaching, healing, and psychedelic-assisted businesses. “One of the number one problems that I see is that people do not have clarity on exactly what their business looks like, what to do first, and how to grow their business,” she says.
“It’s not just about marketing – it’s about effectively communicating so that your ideal clients want to work with you and become part of your community,” she adds.
“Just because you’re a psychedelic integration coach doesn’t mean that you’re going to get clients. You need clarity and understanding around how exactly your business is different from anyone else.”
“You have to be able to communicate clearly so your potential clients understand what makes you different and why they need your help – that will set you apart from the others and help you grow a successful business,” explains Beth.
Providing psychedelic integration support is not without its challenges. For those who venture down this path, however, it’s a humbling and hugely rewarding way to support psychedelic-assisted healing.
Are you interested in learning more about psychedelic integration as a potential career path? Check out our complete ebook on entering the field of psychedelic integration therapy and coaching.