Embarking on a psychedelic-assisted therapy journey can be a transformative experience, offering healing and insight. Many of us want to share our meaningful life experiences with our loved ones, but discussing this unconventional therapy with family and friends, especially if they are unfamiliar with the process, can feel daunting. While some families can share openly with one another, many clients often worry about being judged or misunderstood due to misinformation or misplaced stigma around the therapeutic use of psychedelics.
In this brief guide, we'll explore some ways in which to potentially start the conversation, explain your decision, share your experiences, and emphasize the positive outcomes of your journey to allow for meaningful interactions with those you love, should you feel ready to do so.
Consolidate Your Understanding
Before discussing your psychedelic-assisted therapy journey with your family, take the time to consolidate your understanding of the process.
Often, loved ones worry about the potential for addiction and risks to wellbeing, and having research in hand to show the comparatively low risk of addiction or harm associated with this treatment, especially when a thorough screening process is followed, can be helpful during the conversation. Being well-informed will help you explain your decision more effectively and address any concerns or misconceptions someone might have.
Most people, before entering into a psychedelic-assisted therapy process, have done extensive research on the science behind psychedelic-assisted therapy, its potential benefits, and the potential risks; however, we would encourage someone to ask for clarification and additional resources or information from their treating professionals.
Choose the Right Time and Place
Timing is crucial when sharing sensitive information with others. Pick a time when everyone is relaxed and available to listen without distractions, and when you're with people you trust and with whom you feel safe. Choose a comfortable and private setting where you can have an open and honest conversation without interruptions. It is often best to discuss the treatment before starting or only once it is complete so that any struggles or differences of opinion don’t interfere with the therapeutic experience.
Express Your Therapy Intentions
Start the conversation by expressing your intentions clearly and honestly. Explain that you've been struggling with certain issues (anxiety, depression, trauma, etc.) and that you've explored various treatment options, ultimately deciding to try psychedelic-assisted therapy as a means to address these challenges.
Share Available Research
Share some of the research you've gathered about psychedelic therapy. Emphasize that it's a growing field of study with promising results and that, in the case of EQNMT and other leading providers, trained professionals oversee the entire process to ensure safety and effectiveness. Mention any clinical trials or reputable sources that support the use of psychedelics as a therapeutic tool. Research of this nature can also be requested from your treating professionals, or directly from EQNMT [View EQNMT's Client Outcomes Here].
Explain Your Experience
Describe your psychedelic-assisted therapy experience in a way that is easy for your family and friends to understand. Avoid getting too technical and, instead, focus on the emotional and psychological aspects of your journey.
Talk about the guided sessions, the supportive environment, and the introspective insights you gained. Typically, if you have gone through an evidence-based process, it’s best to explain that you were thoroughly screened by a doctor and/or psychologist who assessed whether this would be right for you. You can also explain that, as is the case with our program, you will be supervised and monitored medically and psychologically throughout the process and that you have a team of professionals checking for any adverse reactions.
We have found that loved ones tend to find comfort in knowing that it is a time-limited treatment intended to facilitate personal growth and improved emotional resilience, so helping them to understand that this is geared towards equipping you to handle life better, rather than make you dependent on a substance, is a reassuring perspective.
Highlight the Benefits
Emphasize how your journey has positively impacted your life, if that has been the case for you. Share specific examples of how it has helped you, such as reduced anxiety, improved mood, enhanced self-awareness, or better relationships. If you have any concrete goals or improvements you're working towards or have achieved during your integration therapy process, it’s helpful to mention those as well. If you are at the start of your experience, there is a great deal of research that can be shared to demonstrate the outcomes others have experienced as a result of evidence-based psychedelic-assisted therapy.
Be prepared to address concerns your family might have about the safety and legality of psychedelic therapy. EQNMT only provides these services in legal geographies and employs highly skilled psychologists and doctors to ensure a safe and profound healing experience. If you require information on how we manage risks of addiction, psychosis and physical conditions (such as cardiac disease), our team is happy to provide this information, which is typically discussed during the screening process.
If your family and friends are interested in learning more or have concerns that you cannot address, offer to provide them with resources. Suggest books, documentaries, or reputable websites where they can find more information about psychedelic-assisted therapy. EQNMT is happy to provide recommendations where you need them. Michael Pollan’s popular Netflix series and book How to Change your Mind is a great start, and some of the latest findings and best-practices in this evolving field can be found on the Johns Hopkins Medicine website.
Be Patient and Open to Questions
Expect that your loved ones may need time to process this information. Be patient and open to their questions and concerns. Provide reassurance that you value their input and are willing to engage in an ongoing dialogue about your therapy journey. It is important that you don't feel compelled to have them agree to everything. Allow for their skepticism and ask them to monitor you through the process as it is important that we recognize their concerns often come from a loving place and desire to protect.
Respect Their Feelings, While Maintaining Your Boundaries
Not everyone will have the same perspective on psychedelic therapy. Some family members may be supportive, while others may remain skeptical. Respect their feelings and choices, and avoid pressuring anyone to share your views. Given that this is an evidence-based treatment, we recommend respecting everyone’s views and allowing for the outcome to speak for itself.
An example of how someone can broach the topic of their psychedelic-assisted therapy journey with their family:
Initiating the Conversation
You: "I wanted to talk to you all about something important. I've been going through a challenging time recently, dealing with [mention your specific mental health difficulties], and I've been exploring different ways to improve my mental well-being. After a lot of research and consideration, I've decided to try something called psychedelic-assisted therapy."
Responding to Negative Reactions
"Psychedelic therapy? Isn't that illegal and dangerous?"
You: "I understand your concern, and I appreciate your worry for my well-being. It's true that there are legal and safety considerations, and that's something I've taken into account. I've been working with trained professionals who ensure that everything is conducted in a safe and legal manner. There's also growing research supporting its therapeutic potential, and I truly believe it's helping me. I'm committed to my well-being, and I want you to know that I've approached this with caution and care."
"I just don't get why you'd turn to something like this instead of more traditional therapy."
You: "I respect your perspective. Traditional therapy is valuable, and I did explore it before considering this option. What appealed to me about psychedelic-assisted therapy is that it has shown promise in treating issues like mine, sometimes in ways that traditional methods haven't been able to. It's not a replacement for conventional therapy, but rather an additional tool, often considered an accelerant for change, that I'm using to complement my mental health journey."
"I'm worried about the risks involved. What if something goes wrong?"
You: "I completely understand your concerns. Safety has been my top priority throughout this process. I have been medically and psychologically screened by qualified professionals who inform me that it’s a safe option for me. The experience is conducted in a controlled environment with trained professionals present to guide and support me. I've done my research and followed all legal guidelines to ensure my safety. I wouldn't have embarked on this journey if I didn't believe it could help me."
Healing happens in relationship with others and its understandable that we would like the people we hold near and dear to know what we are or will be going through, especially when an experience has been profound, will be of significance, or when we require support.
Our loved ones might not always support us in the way we hope they will or in the way we may need, or may sometimes require a bit of time to process information before being able to lend their support. Here, we'd like to reiterate that these types of conversations might not always turn out the way we envision. If you have your heart set on discussing your experiences with your loved ones, we recommend that it takes place either well in advance of your journey, or once you feel comfortable and ready to disclose an experience that has already taken place, to avoid it influencing one's psychedelic journey or integration process.
As with everything, the primary consideration should be that you have taken action in your own best interest (i.e., considered alternatives, done your own research, spoken with healthcare professionals and chosen process with professionals you can trust and with whom you resonate).
DISCLAIMER: This article was written for educational purposes only, and is not intended as advice. Psychedelic-assisted therapy is not helpful or indicated for everyone, and professional, trusted advice from a qualified healthcare professional should always be sought before entering into any new form of treatment. Similarly, we advocate for the safe, legal use of psychedelics in a therapeutic setting, guided and administered by qualified professionals.
Contact us to find out whether psychedelic-assisted therapy is the right option for you.
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