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What is Psychedelic Somatic Interactional Therapy (PSIP)
Psychedelic Somatic Interactional Therapy is a somatic (body) based way of working to address our traumas, issues, and symptoms around mental health, using cutting edge, bottom up methods, and legal psychedelics in the form of Cannabis (and sometimes Ketamine or, if out of the country in a legal area, Psilocybin. This way of working can be significantly faster than talk therapy, as it addresses the source of our traumas in primary consciousness as stored in the body. It is however and as you might imagine, more intense, and therefore one must have good resources and support (other people that care about us in our lives as well as some methods for dealing with challenging emotional states.
How Does It Work?
Your body is a far more effective pathway for processing the charged experiences, memories and revelations that come with psychedelic therapy than your cognitive mind. Gaining insight, understanding where your symptoms are coming from, or telling your story again has very little effect on actually shifting the reactivity underlying symptoms. Even though your thoughts can trigger symptoms, anxiety is fundamentally a nervous system response that you feel in your body, in your gut. Fear, depression, numbing are very frequently responses created by your autonomic nervous system. They are, or were at one point, appropriate responses to stressful or traumatic events you experienced in life, particularly in childhood. Your nervous system is generating these symptoms, and given the proper conditions, your nervous system knows how to organically process and resolve these symptoms. The psychedelic medicine is a powerful catalyst allowing this to happen much more quickly and thoroughly.
Psychedelic Somatic Interactional Therapy (PSIP) is not Talk Therapy
We do not use CBT or traditional narrative based talk therapy interventions as part of the PSIP processing model for a number of reasons all stemming from the fact that traditional psychotherapy interventions were primarily designed to operate inside of and support ordinary states of consciousness or ‘secondary consciousness’. Insight, cognitive restructuring, meaning making, verbally retelling the story of events are all features of secondary consciousness whereas psychedelic substances work by neurologically taking the brain in the opposite direction towards primary consciousness which is a far more experience, sensory, emotion, and visually dominant form of consciousness.
Essentially, we find that talk therapy approaches do not pair as well with psychedelic medicine as do the more experience focused, body-based approaches. While it is certainly possible to talk one’s way through a psychedelic therapy session and gain more insight, we find that many mental health symptoms such as anxiety, panic, depression, bipolar symptoms and addiction do not improve through gaining more awareness of the pattern. Understanding the cause of something or changing a belief in most cases does not change the bottom-up reactivity that clients experience. It is the difference between trying to think your way out of anxiety and depression versus feeling your way out of anxiety and depression. We find that deeper shifts are accomplished when the much more robust pathway of the body is used to help process the difficult revelations, memories, and emotions that typically arise with psychedelic therapy.
How long do sessions typically last?
We recommend leaving about two hours for drug assisted sessions. How long any you might take in a session will depend on your nervous system and how your body interacts with cannabis or ketamine. We provide ten to fifteen minutes of discussion and integration after the active processing phase of the session comes to a close.
How Many Sessions Will You Need?
The answer depends on what you are bringing to the table. Here is the rule of thumb: with a basically good childhood and attuned parenting as a background, and within that framework you have a stressful traumatic period or event, the course of treatment is shorter, roughly around 6 sessions.
Alternatively, if you have had stressful, chaotic, traumatic or neglectful experiences, particularly in the developmentally sensitive window of childhood, this is a far more complex situation because we are not just working with traumatic charge, we are working with human development that was interrupted and powerful relational transference that arises when trauma takes place in a person’s family of origin. In this scenario, the course of treatment can be from 16 to 25 sessions. Still fast by most standards.
Sessions are typically held once a week for best results, though they can be held more frequently if tolerated.
Do people need to be consciously aware of their trauma to process it using this method?
Absolutely not. We know from researchers such as Bessel van der Kolk that explicit, declarative memory systems (the conscious form of memory you can put into language) either shuts down or becomes greatly distorted during highly stressful or traumatic episodes. In contrast, non-declarative forms of memory (non-conscious, non-verbal memory), remains active and records traumatic events accurately. It is the non- declarative forms of memory to which we gain access in primary consciousness. Very frequently, we see that the medicine will go much deeper than people’s conscious memory. Even setting an intention to focus on a particular event does not mean your system will focus on that event during a session. The process tends to evoke more dissociated, unconscious events for processing.
If you are interested in experiencing this innovative and powerful modality to work through your issues, fill out the Intake Form found at the buttons below.
Cannabis Assisted Somatic Processing
Using Psychedelic Somatic Interactional Therapy
While many people have tried cannabis recreationally and some even use it to manage their mental health symptoms, neither of these applications reflect how useful it can be in a therapy session. Cannabis is typically met with skepticism or concern in the mental health field because it interrupts insight, cognition, meaning making, executive decision making and it can be used to avoid or numb out from life. In other words, all the ways that typical talk therapy works are disrupted by cannabis.
However, if the therapy model you are using values feeling emotions and body states deeply, if it values accessing the unconscious layer of programming, and an autonomic nervous system that comes online to process stress, anxiety, depression, PTSD and complex trauma, we find that cannabis is an ideal medicine can be strategically used in the actual therapy session to greatly support therapeutic processing and progress.
Psychedelics are what we call experience dependent for their outcomes: The setting you take them in, your internal state, and the modality being used determines their response. Take MDMA or what is more commonly known as ecstasy or molly for example, there are thousands of people that take that substance recreationally every weekend at a rave or party. In that situation, MDMA has little to no therapeutic benefit. Now take the same exact substance and put it in a psychotherapy setting specifically designed for it, we see that MDMA becomes an excellent medicine for processing trauma.
This MDMA example equally applies to working with cannabis. If you pair cannabis with a therapy modality, such as the PSIP model that beautifully works within the altered state of consciousness cannabis creates, it becomes an incredibly useful therapeutic experience. Perhaps more so than any other medicine we’ve encountered, cannabis undergoes a radical change and exhibits very different properties when used during therapy. It moves from being a recreational calming or uplifting tool to being a deeply excavating, therapeutically supportive experience.
Even people who are well acquainted with cannabis and use it on a daily basis are surprised at how different it feels in therapy, and what it can accomplish: People enter an altered state of psychedelic consciousness. The DMN, default mode network, the organizer between brain regions that is most associated with our sense of self, is temporarily disrupted which means there is much less censorship and control from the conscious rational mind. Basically, your conscious mind, identity and defense mechanisms get out of their own way, and allow more sensation, more repressed feeling, and more memory to arise from your unconscious mind to be seen, felt and processed. This is a very therapeutically useful response.
While there is limited data from the PSI combat veteran pilot study and PSI is currently gathering outcome data on the effectiveness of cannabis psychotherapy, PSI can anecdotally say that a cannabis therapy session looks virtually identical to an MDMA assisted therapy session. It is impossible to tell one from the other based on what the sessions look like and the type of material that emerges for people using this modality. Our speculation is that the psychedelic response and the innate healing intelligence that this catalyzes is the key healing factor and less so the specifics of any particular psychedelic medicine.
The consensus among PSI’s veteran participants who completed twelve 2 hour sessions of cannabis-assisted psychotherapy was that roughly 75% of their PTSD had been resolved. (Note that this was a treatment resistant population with enormous amounts of adult war trauma along with high levels of childhood developmental trauma.)
The pathway cannabis takes through a person’s system is not rational, linear, insight focused, or even verbal. This is another reason why this plant is not welcomed in traditional talk therapy. It is not particularly helpful at giving more insight, understanding or telling a story in therapy. It is however very helpful at giving you much greater access to areas of your mind that you normally are not in touch with in your ordinary, everyday, waking consciousness.
Cannabis shares this ability to dive into your subconscious mind with other psychedelic medicines. Going below the defenses of your ego structure allows you to see what has actually been running the show and driving your symptoms. Most importantly, cannabis assisted psychotherapy supports your body (your autonomic nervous system) to process the strong emotionality and revelations that come out of psychedelic experiences.
For more information and to consider working using this powerful healing modality please contact Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org
Paul is trained in the Psychedelic Somatic Interactional Therapy Model through PSI, the Psychedelic Somatic Institute.