Psychedelic integration therapy training – and the psychedelic therapist
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This talk gave me (and everyone attending the convention) shivers. Impactful, truthful, real. Perhaps the best 20 minutes you can spend to get some clarity about your life and experience.Carlos Miquel, attendee at the Nordic Psychedelic Science Conference 2022
Ivar Goksøyr is a specialist in clinical psychology. He is an experienced therapist with training in an intensified, body-oriented, experiential form of psychodynamic therapy, ISTDP. He is also a psychedelic therapist at the Norwegian psychedelic research team Psykforsk where he works in several clinical trials.
Psychedelic integration therapy training & the psychedelic therapist – full transcript
Below, you can read the whole transcript of this talk on psychedelic integration therapy training. Enjoy it, and remember to contact us if you need a English speaking psychologist for integration therapy or if you If you would like to learn more through our online trainings in mdma-assisted therapy and psychedelic integration therapy.
Here is the full transcript:
"Thank you so much, Dominic, for that kind introduction. And thanks to all of you from my heart for being here and sharing this moment. This is incredible. So, yeah, being a psychedelic therapist is emotional. And it's also emotional for me to stand here as we've come so far. I am thrilled to share the hopes and the dreams of all the great work that we're going to do together to change the future for so many. So thank you so much.
Integration – the most important phase
So I won't bore you with details of the phases of psychedelic therapy by now. You all know it, and the integration phase is the most important, most people would say.
It's also difficult and it's challenging. It can be a bit scary because psychedelics can lift you up, but they can also bring you down. They can really intensify the issues you have. You're carrying the conflicts, all the suppressed material so you can get into real deep water with people. And to navigate that space can be challenging.
Of course, integration is about bringing the fruits back to daily life and it's about cultivating the seeds you get from the experience and then keep on attending the garden for the rest of your life.
Peak experiences vs personality integration
We have this notion of psychedelics promoting the peak experience, but on the other hand also an enhancement, an intensification of pathology. On one hand you have worked with shadow integration, personality integration all the bad stuff that you have shoved under the carpet.
On the other, working with higher realms: transcending the ego versus building ego. The relationship between these two polarities is in a way a place where psychotherapy meets spirituality.
Claudio Naranjo has written a great book where he discusses the relationship between them, The Healing Journey, which I highly recommend.
So psychedelic integration is about maximizing benefits from peak experiences, but also to work through the difficult experiences towards integration of you as a whole person. I will talk mostly about the laughter.
Authenticity, attachment, psychedelic integration therapy and mental health
So, this is you. This is me. This is your mother. This is your father:
There is this code within the child that wants to express itself naturally. But then the nature of the child meets the culture of man.
One thing that always comes up in psychedelic journeys are relationships. And when you watch this art, you know, no wonder! We're so intimately connected to another human being from the get go.
A lot of stuff is going to happen to that little boy or girl. And there will be hardship. But there is this code within the child that wants to express itself naturally. But then the nature of the child meets the culture of man.
Attachment triumphs authenticity
Children are completely dependent upon the caregivers, so whatever is threatening their attachment bonds will create anxiety in them, and those parts, feelings and needs will need to get suppressed.
This is in essence a great coping strategy. However, then these patterns of relating to other people get generalized.
So you feel you can't become angry at your boss when he does something bad to you. You get anxious instead, because this unconsciously brings up these memories of being angry as a child and being guilty, or shamed, or given the silent treatment or whatever.
The same is true when your sensitivity and your needs to be cared for were unattended to. If you needed something emotionally, you were told to grow up. Boys don't cry and all this.
Then it's hard later in life when you're in a close relationship to actually ask for something. I need you. I can't do this on my own.
This attachment programming is so fundamental for our wiring that we need to talk even more about it in psychedelic integration therapy. Symptoms later in life and a lot of mental health issues stem from these early experiences that are suppressed and become unconsciously triggered in your daily life.
A disclaimer: I can't back everything I say with RCT data or hard data, and what I say is of course not necessarily true for everyone. But it has been true for every single human being that ever came close to.
Integration of unintegrated needs and associated feelings
Our organisms are incredibly wise. They have developed through millions of years. We have only been here some decades, but we tend to put ourselves above.
For the most part today's symptoms later in life are just a reflection of these early wounds, wounds with parents, with other close relationships and also with peers. So social anxiety, for example, that means you have a wound that happened in a social context.
When you get some trauma like getting dismissed from your peers, and tour all alone with it, then there's tremendous pain inside you. Animals and humans, have this tendency to always seek homeostasis. Our organisms are incredibly wise. They have developed throughout the millennia, through millions of years.
We have only been here a few decades, but we tend to put ourselves above.
We, our egos, tend to personalize and think we can control. So when the social anxiety comes, it's the body that starts to try to react to earlier wounds. To heal from it.
So what this means is that, you know, our personality is partly a genetic disposition, but then also learning history. We need to find a way to navigate, to push certain needs and feelings down. And the more you have to suppress and adjust, the more triggers you will have.
A central thesis is that these things happen in relationships the hurt, and it can only be resolved in relationships. This is a central thesis.
Cultural norms as barriers to integration
Most of us die with parts that we always hide.
So what happens is that our society has these norms. We put up very strict norms for how you should behave. And our society is fueled with political oppression and religious stigmatization and all this throughout the years. Social hardship and so on. So if you fall out of the norm, you can be in trouble.
And still, in most countries today, it's allowed to hit your child. Here, it's not allowed. But we are hitting our children emotionally with shame and guilt used as means to control behaviour. And of course, this is not necessary because the child only needs to learn to take perspectives.
It's not necessary to control or scare the child because the child has a benevolent psychology. If it just is able to get close enough to people to understand people, it will start to do the right thing. You will learn to do the right thing.
But we carry all these wounds and all this shame and this guilt. We carry loneliness because there are parts of ourselves that were never met. And most of us die like this. With parts that we always hide.
Distinction between patient and therapist
One of the reasons why we don't talk even more about this is that this, of course, makes the distinction between our patients and ourselves, much less. Because we all have these issues.
And as a psychedelic therapist, when you start your psychedelic journey, this is something you discover: I am so much more alike, than different from, my patients.
When you work through these things for your own sake, it's so much easier to spot it and help others go through the same, or a similar, dark night. And this, of course, has been the case for healers in all cultures throughout times. They have been wounded. And healed themselves. Then healing others.
Psychedelic therapy – training integration towards wholeness
Growing up, attachment will triumph over authenticity. But nature will always try to express itself. No matter how much the nature is condemned by man, it will continue to be and to try to move towards wholeness
Interestingly, etymologically speaking, integrated means "untouched". So we talk a lot about what we should do when we do psychedelic integration therapy. But I think it's much more about what note two do.
We must learn to stop doing stuff. We learn to stop old adaptation. We need to stop criticizing ourselves. Two take out distance. Two overanalyze. To try to comply, to compensate, or to overachieve to get a sense of value.
Making the unconscious conscious
These medicines, psychedelic medicines, actually have this innate property that once you take them, this unconscious, suppressed emotional charge starts to come up. This is a really helping process, but it can be difficult to handle it if you're not understanding what's going on.
There are parts of us that are expressed only through our symptoms and our job in psychedelic integration, talking about personality integration, is to integrate these parts, these feelings and needs. Is is about being able to feel vulnerable, to be able to set limits, to be whole.
If we think about it, when did you feel most depressed, lethargic, hopeless? Wa it in a close relationship where you once again got into the same dynamics, ending with this distance, ending with lack of taking initiative to closeness, intimacy, sex? Where are your own trigger points?
Feelings drive anxiety, anxiety drives defences
When the psychedelic medicines come and intensify the charge, remember that the organism wants you well.
When we get anxious in a fight with our partner or something like that, our partner is telling us the truth about us. And there are a lot of painful feelings connected to it. But we just feel this uneasiness in the gut and we defend, we attack or we withdraw.
These uncomfortable feelings in your gut, your chest, your muscles, are a sign that your organism is trying to express itself. But we control it. So what we do is that we start to take control of our body. We tense up, armouring ourselves.
We also control with our mind, we think, we rationalize. We move away from these bodily cues with our attention.
All the habitual, automatic or unconscious ways in which we avoid might get more clear to us on psychedelic medicines.
Principles of any integration therapy
So how can this translate into working with people in psychedelic integration therapy?
A lot of people come to me because they know I'm involved in this field and they wonder if we can have some arrangement with psychedelics. They're would like to work with MDMA or something and go to therapy with me.
I say that I can't engage too much in those kinds of things, but why don't we apply the principles we've learned through the MDMA assisted therapy? And then see how far we can get without the medicine?
Trust your organism
The basic principle is that you can trust your organism. Your organism wants well for you at all times. It always tries to bring up wounds for healing. And the wounds you carry most often have happened in a relationship. And they will be triggered in relationships and they will be triggered in the relationship to me as well.
Become yourself with others
The problem is that we're not able to be ourselves with other people. We can't be ourselves fully with other people. And that's really hard.
The question becomes: What does it take for two people to sit in a room, me and the patient, and just sit with each other and feel good about each other and feel connected to each other? Let's try. Let's see what happens if we try to get close to each other and get to know each other.
And then all these all these ways to avoid closeness come up. Ways to avoid the deepest feelings. There's all these expectations, these pressures that come in the way: I need to be a certain way. We need to solve something.
Find your barriers
Therapy is always when the illusion that there was a problem to be solved in the first place falls. Because maybe you were never sick.
Maybe just a part of you expressed itself through these symptoms.
As Rumi said, you don't need to seek for love, only to find and seek all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.
So when we sit with each other, we just watch what's happening automatically, driven by unconscious programming. We see if it is possible to reach some kind of contact. And if not, what are the barriers?
When we identify the barriers, the psychedelic integration therapist doesn't say, Oh, are you like that? You actually start to try to perform or comply? It's more like: Yes, we are like that. We are thought to be like that since we were kids in this society.
Our parents as carriers of culture
This is the way it goes. It's not you. This is culturally bound problems. So, again, broadly speaking, and there are nuances to this, but this is really important. Of course, when our parents can't accept us and our peers can't accept us, they are first and foremost just carriers of the culture.
Intergenerational trauma in psychedelic therapy
Of course, there are more intergenerational trauma in some families, and that's also why some people are extra affected by this. But it's always about how we met. The problem was not the nature of the child. We never blame a plant for not growing up in the way we want. We respect the plant and the plants' ways. It doesn't grow sound, we just give it fertilizer and water and everything it needs.
We are nature trying to express itself
And we are also nature. Our job here is to express ourselves. It's for parents to discover who this kid is. Who are you? And then help the kid understand its design and then live it.
If the premise is that we need to solve a problem in you, then we make this problem, then we define this problem. And then this becomes a problem. And then there's two people digging and digging and digging to find a problem. But you only dig deeper into some ditch.
Characteristics of the psychedelic integration therapist
Let's break it down. What are the characteristics of the psychedelic integration therapist?
So this point about trust and compassion is the most important thing. There's a spiritual teacher, HH Almaas, who is philosophically saying that to enter truth, you need trust and compassion.
To enter truth, compassion is needed
Because to enter truth is always painful. And nobody in their right mind would enter pain without having some hope, at least, that it will be met with some compassion.
So, you need trust and compassion. That's what MDMA does. It builds trust and compassion within yourself. And then the therapist comes with trust to the inner healing intelligence of the patient and a lot of compassion towards the whole person.
So you get trust and compassion from the inside and from the outside, and then the body starts to do the work it needs to do. So instead of clinging to the stories you heard as a child about who you are or who you should be, you start to live your own experience.
Your organism can finally react to the experiences that it has had. And when we were able to enter these bodily these emotions that are processed, you find a lot of answers there because then it opens up context dependent memories.
You go back and feel how it was and you can see the context in a totally different manner.
Non-judgmental therapeutic attitude
And then we have judging. I need to talk about judging. We place value judgment on everything. When it comes to human beings, it always comes down to judging what is.
The problem is that what you judge you cannot understand. When I sit with a patient and the patient has a reaction and immediately he starts judging the reaction. This will stop the reaction and interfere with our understanding of it. We are simply noticing this.
And in my experience, we judge what we don't understand. When you judge, you can't understand. But also: When you understand something, it's impossible to judge it.
Understanding, not judging in psychedelic therapy
So it's always about understanding your patterns and your reactions. It's taking yourself out of the equation. Looking at the bigger picture. We are all small parts in a larger scheme of things. We are not the main players in this. We're just manifesting nature through us.
We need to get away from this very personalized shame, guilt and accept that we are all human beings expressing nature in our own way.
And that's what we want for each other. I want nothing for anyone else than they express their nature and also that they respect my boundaries. But they will if we get close enough.
The psychedelic therapist has authentic presence
So this thing with authentic presence and not imposing technique, is important. And these things are hard. How do you do that? Who's able to do that? You know, who's able to slip your own cultural conditioning? Because you have all these pressures when you sit there, you're supposed to perform. You're supposed to have some results, get somewhere, be smart, whatever.
And if the therapist and client are feeling the same, when two superegos are colliding, then there's a lot of guilt to be exchanged. Whose fault is this?
Present moment awareness in psychedelic therapy
So this is also important. I will. To go into present moment. Awareness with the client is always key because the mind, the thinking mind, the rational mind cannot solve these things. It's part of the psyche. The intellect is part of the psyche. It can't heal the psyche or understand the psyche. It needs bottom up processes.
Trusting innate wisdom
So to really trust the self-organizing wisdom, puts psychedelic integration therapy in the in the client-centered, Rogerian psychotherapy tradition. As a psychedelic integration therapist you relate to the aspect of the client that knows everything because that's ultimately what we see. All the answers are there. You just need to get out of your head, step aside and let more bottom up processes come to play.
We are training to welcome everything because everything tells a story about you and how you had to adapt. It's not that we search for feelings and we want to get to the core. Well, we want to get to the barriers. We want to understand how different parts have helped you survive. At the same time we also want to look at how they may come into play to perpetrate your suffering today.
Psychedelic integration therapy is not about feeling better
It's not about feeling better, but better get better at feeling. This is important. So when you start to get in touch with yourself, you can become destabilized. That's part of the process because you have suppressed things maybe functionally, but at a high cost. The cost of intimacy. Of authenticity, of meaning, of closeness.
Intensify what is already happening
Psychedelic integration therapy is about looking into clues of what is already happening and help to sustain attention long enough so the processes can unfold. Because when I sit with a patient there are things that start to happen in the body, but in just a second then there are some forces trying to pull away. So it needs a lot of time to be in this space without complying with cultural conditioning and attachment history, for these things to start to show themselves enough so that they can be understood.
A psychedelic integration therapist has training in projective processes
This is also important, to be intimately familiar with these concepts within psychodynamic treatments, because there's a lot of stuff going on. And even though every psychotherapist works relationally, it's a good thing to have a very explicit focus on these terms, and it doesn't go by itself. Use the here and now.
Psychedelic therapist – know thyself
So the psychedelic psychedelic therapist has all also been alone as a kid. It's also had to find out a lot on its own. There are continents in his or her soul that are untouched by any human being.
You don't need to be a fully integrated, self-actualized saint to do this work at all, because the medicine is helping on its own as well.
As long as you don't get too much in the way. You can't bring anyone longer than you have gone. But the client can bring himself or herself longer than you have gone. As long as you don't stop it. But it's a big chance that you will stop it.
Because the intensity of the feelings that people feel, the pain they feel, the anger they feel, it really moves you as the therapist and you remember the same stuff in yourself. You can help a lot of people, but to really be able to if you go on this journey, this is where when you work on your own stuff, then then you will understand how the psyche works, the principles of the psyche.
I think this is really needed because the field and psychiatry and also psychedelic therapy is a bit fragmented in its thinking. We look at concepts here and there and we try to define them.
Psychological flexibility, for example, what is that? I think if you have something some parts in you that you need to keep at the distance, that you can run but you can't hide. A deep need to keep out vulnerable feelings, for example, or anger, does not make you very flexible.
So one important way to get psychologically flexible is to be integrated, to be able to process everything you've been through so you can have feelings instead of having symptoms when feelings actually arise.
Integration of shadow – and light!
So. It's magical work. It's wholly sacred work, one might say. It's beautiful. Psychedelic integration therapy is also about getting used to having a new life. And all the changes in dynamics that go with that.
Ultimate goals of integration therapy
So in closing, the ultimate goals of psychedelic integration therapy, drawing upon Claudio Naranjo, is:
- Contact with reality.
- Take responsibility for your own life.
- Expansion of consciousness.
- Resolution of conflict into even more encompassing wholes.
- Development of freedom.
- Instead of enacting the self-concept you identify with your true essence.
So to sum up, the psychedelic psychotherapist needs to be patient! Because this takes time. And the healing goes in spirals. But just keep walking.
The shit needs to get out
In closing, I would say that yesterday I had an interesting talk at the speakers' dinner. We can criticize Western medicine, despite its advances and all the good stuff, for being way too symptom oriented.
This might be especially true for psychiatry. And yesterday I heard about this medicine which is used to prevent diarrhoea. And it prevents diarrhea by simply… contracting the anal muscle!
And you know, when you have diarrhoea, you have something you need to get out.
And to be fair, it's okay to take this when you're traveling or something like that. But in psychiatry, we keep giving people these medications that constrict us. That keeps the shit in.
But in the case of psychiatry, it's even more serious because it's not even your own shit you're holding in! And it's not even your mother's shit or your father's shit. It's your forefathers shit. It's the cultural shit we're holding in.
It was culture that triumphed over our nature, and we need to reclaim our nature, with or without psychedelic therapy. The shit needs to get out.
And then: We can't operate within all the cultural conditioning. We need to get our minds clear on how we as therapists are also affected by all the cultural conditioning.
We can do a lot of work to break cycles and to treat symptoms and we can come far with some people. But this is key to moving to the next level. To do the deepest work.
So get the shit out! You do that by getting out of the way and letting the body take care of it.
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