Psychedelic Hype: Is Psychedelic Therapy All It's Cracked Up To Be?
Updated: Jun 6
By Maegan Kenney, MA, LPC, Owner of Third Realm Integration
Psychedelics and drugs like ketamine are all the buzz these days showing promising results for some with symptom reduction for all kinds of mental health disorders. However, is the hype grounded in reality? It begs the question of who is a good fit for these treatments, what can one expect during the treatments and in the weeks/months following, and what experience does the administering doctor have in psychedelic medicine and integration therapy? New York Magazine’s recent podcast coverage of psychedelic therapies shines some light on the shadow elements inherent in the psychedelic therapy space (Wright, 2022), which is an essential element to consider before beginning the voyage into the depths of your own mind. I must note that in my work, however, shadows exist in all parts of human existence so this shouldn’t really be a newsworthy story. In any case, the podcast offers a critical take and therefore a much needed perspective in the discussion of benefits of psychedelic medicine when compared to the more radical side of the psychedelic renaissance movement at the helm of advocating for everyone from all walks of life to jump right in! Enter 1969…
That used to be me, in fact. Cannabis and psychedelics offered me a profound healing pathway forward. These substances put me in touch with my own suffering in transformative ways. Yet, I was still able to clearly see the difference between psychedelic medicines and my other areas of speciality, depth and transpersonal psychology but especially, meditation. Despite the healing potential that psychedelics can provide, the fact remains that the individual is still at the mercy of the drug as the catalyst to a psychological breakthrough. The drug therefore is in control, not the person. The person is merely along for the ride and cannot get off should they choose to call it quits sooner than the medicine dictates. As a result, the same energetic pattern of dependency gets activated. The person’s inner healer remains dormant as the medicine, or even the actual doctor, steps in as the savior with the “fix.” At this point, the person has already lost their voice. They are now the damsel in distress in need of healing from a source outside of themselves. This communicates an instrumental message of powerlessness to the unconscious mind, which is likely an underlying pattern that has contributed to the person’s mental health angst in the first place.
While these novel treatments can certainly serve as an exit strategy from the vicious cycle of psychiatric medications like anti-depressants, offer immediate relief for some from depression and PTSD symptoms solely from the neurobiological effects, help one cultivate a relationship with their own suffering in a newfound way, and open up a portal to their unconscious mind, it’s not a pathway suitable for each stage of life, and for all people. Psychedelics and a drug like ketamine can cause people to feel ungrounded, dysregulated, and incredibly vulnerable. Truth be told, this is a big part of why they are helpful for folks. In the same respect, it can be the exact reason why they are the wrong answer for others especially when administered by physicians who are unskilled in creating an appropriate holding space for someone passing through the powerful portals of the unconscious mind. Administering physicians must handle this process carefully and with great awareness. Follow up support must be offered to each and every patient to help them integrate their insights. However, the patient must also empower themselves to ask questions, do their homework, and use their intuition to decide is pursuing such treatments is the right answer for them at this time in their life.
So the question becomes…should I? Or shouldn’t I? Our society is in a full mental health and addiction crisis as we speak. Traditional mental health treatment rooted in the medical model still seems to be the go-to option for many, which can take years to be effective. It can also be a huge financial burden if services are not covered by insurance. Psychedelics can certainly offer a fast track into a new dimension, one that may be full of insights and opportunities for rapid personal change and growth. However, healthy skepticism will be your biggest asset should you decide to pursue any of these novel treatments.
Be sure you have arranged qualified pre- and post-integration support with someone who has an expertise in the psychedelic/ketamine space. Anyone who has training in Jungian analysis or depth/transpersonal psychology is your best bet.
Make sure you have examined the clinical experience of the prescribing doctor and the therapist/coach providing the psychological support with a fine tooth comb. Ask them how many psychedelic treatments they have administered or how many clients they have supported during post-integration. As them point blank if they have had their own psychedelic experiences. Be mindful of the ones who haven’t. Always remain vigilant when a doctor recommends that you keep returning for booster treatments. This is an industry after all…
Familiarize yourself with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and ask yourself if you have what you need to actively facilitate the self-actualization process, this includes appropriate resources of many kinds namely physical, psychological, and emotional ones.
Cultivate a strong toolbox of effective self-soothing and emotion regulation skills ahead of time and practice, practice, practice.
Be sure your life circumstances are conducive to taking this deep dive. You’ll want to be surrounded by loving, supportive, and non-critical allies, not intrusive psychic vampirish energies that will further wound you during your most vulnerable times.
Make sure you have a safe physical space to return to in the hours and days following your treatments.
Give yourself time to adjust to the new experiences and employ tons of self-compassion. This is a healing journey after all!
Respect the wisdom of the molecules and humble up!
Most of all, be prepared for your life to change.
With clear and sound intention, these medicines may show you exactly what you need to see. Get ready to do the work you have asked to be given. May you find what you are looking for.
Wright, i. T. (Host). (2022). Cover Story: Power Trip [Audio podcast]. New York Magazine. https://open.spotify.com/episode/6LzdqWDqi1lsXgZ50HYJDZ.