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Psychedelic therapy on its own - does it work?

Many people think about the cost, and the most economical alternative is of course to do it yourself. On the one hand, I myself am an example of how psychedelic therapy on your own can work. On the other hand, most people I know who have tried it on their own have not been able to get the value that research suggests lies there. Therapy on your own can work, but it involves a higher risk, both for psychological harm and the risk of it not working. And it can take a long time to reach your goals.

What does it take for it to work?

A solid platform to start from

I started on my own and got the results I wanted in the end, even though the road there was a bit long and rough. It is important to mention that many aspects where in place for me to succeed. I had good stability in life in general, a broad support network and time, and was well balanced psychologically initially. In addition to this, I also had friends with experience present. These are good cornerstones for making it work.


Acquiring knowledge of psychedelic therapy is essential. There is an online course called Navigating Psychedelics which I would recommend to anyone who wants to go through an experience on their own. In addition The Psychedelic Explorer's Guide by James Fadiman gives a good introduction on how to proceed.

My main problem with learning on my own is often knowing if I really understand the concepts behind what I have read. And whether what I have read and understood is enough to move on. I like theory in combination with practical experience, but one of the things I find most confusing about psychedelics is that I often become uncertain about how to proceed without guidance. You can get this guidance from guides/therapists or others who have experience with psychedelics as a therapeutic tool.

See my overview of psychedelic therapy reading material here.

A guide/sitter

The first challenge is to find someone who can look after, or guide/tripsitter. To dare to surrender mentally and dive as deeply as one needs, one must feel safe. It is important that you trust that the person who is sitting with you both has the knowledge/experience to handle challenging situations, but also that the person only has your best interest in mind and sets his own agenda aside. The latter may sound simple, but is actually what is most demanding part.

It's not just about putting aside your own hopes for what the therapy should do for the other person, but also to stop your own desire/drive to influence, explain, intellectualize or analyze. Therefore, it is important that your guide reads up and has some experiences themselves first. People under the influence of psychedelics see straight through attempts to hide uncertainty and quickly become skeptical of what the guide says.

Without a guide, a psychedelic experience can quickly lose focus and you get less therapeutic benefit. Another problem further is that it is usual to conclude that the experience you gained is the only type of experience these substances can offer. And that prevents you from seeing that you can get something else out of it. I compare it to trying meditation. Millions of people have tried to meditate on their own, and concluded that there it isn't for them and then give up. If, on the other hand, you receive guidance and support for your meditation practice, you are much more likely to see the potential benefits in it.

What difference does a therapist make?

It has been said that psychedelics open up a time period when therapy is extra effective. If you don't take action during this period, you will likely not experience any major changes in life. Many people go right back to old routines after a psychedelic experience and quickly forget the insight they received. Professional guidance can be of great help even if you have to do most of the work yourself. If I had found a guide I had trusted before I started on my own, I am convinced that I would have accomplished my goals several years earlier.

Basic harm reduction tips

Maybe you want to do this on your own and think the advice I have given here is too much work. I want to introduce some very basic harm reduction tips to you. The first tip is to test the substances you ingest. LSD can be mistaken for NBOM, which we know too little about. It is also sold on blotter paper, for example. MDMA can be mistaken for PMMA, which has caused several deaths in Norway. Be wary of others saying they know what it is.

Tip number two is to not do it alone. Psychedelics temporarily distort your reality to the extent that you can at best become insecure and afraid if you're alone, and at risk of physical and psychological harm at worst. This is especially true for classic psychedelics, but also MDMA, which can provide quite a different experience in a therapeutic setting compared to a recreational experience. Read more about the difference between MDMA for fun and therapy here. Sites like TripSafe.org has a large amount of well-structured harm reduction tips.

More information about psychedelic therapy?