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Setting the Stage for Healing - The Role of Set & Setting in Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy

Setting the Stage for Healing - The Role of Set & Setting in Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy

Although Timothy Leary’s impact on the field of psychedelic-assisted therapy has been controversial, his famous dictum to focus on ‘set and setting’ has enduring value for anyone on a journey of personal transformation. We’ll start off with the concept of ‘setting’ as it’s often the simpler of the two to facilitate.

Exploring the Value of ‘Setting’ During a Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy Journey

Setting, in this case, refers to the external environment in which you will experience your psychedelic journey. Psychological research indicates that emotional healing and exploration is best served by a setting that allows for a sense of:

1. Beauty,

2. Comfort,

3. Calm, and

4. Safety.

It is for this reason that EQNMT welcomes all retreat participants to the island paradise of Jamaica. A luxurious venue within a warm, welcoming and natural setting far from the frenetic rush of our everyday demands and stressors, ensures that the first three components of setting are addressed. The space in which the psychedelic journey takes place is set up with care and with each of the four components in mind.

Safety is addressed not only physically but emotionally, too. Our expert team of therapists are present to attend to your needs, guide you on your journey and walk the road of healing right beside you. Through the establishment of trusting bonds with our therapeutic team, and each other, we foster a space of trust, openness and emotional safety.

The concept of emotional safety serves very much as a bridge to the second key consideration of ‘set’.

Exploring the Purpose of ‘Set’ During a Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy Journey

Set, or more specifically, mindset refers to the internal psychological state of anyone undergoing a transformative experience. We fortify each participant’s mindset by providing thorough preparation for the psychedelic experience.

[Check out our FREE step-by-step guide on Setting Intentions for a Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy Journey, by signing up to our Newsletter via our home page - delivered straight to your inbox]

To prepare the body, we offer plenty of time for rest, nutritious food and abstinence from unhelpful dietary choices. We also engage in experiential exercises such as breathwork, yoga and cold exposure to teach each participant how to calibrate their bodies in preparation for any stormy emotional tides during the psychedelic journey.

By the same token, group/individual therapy sessions, life story journaling, intention-setting and workshops provide tools for self-reflection, emotional regulation and a context for the therapeutic process so that all participants have a clear roadmap for the journey ahead.

A key ingredient to both Set and Setting is music: Curated playlists may enhance the therapeutic effects of psychedelic-assisted therapy by guiding someone through their journey and promoting deeper relaxation and healing. At EQNMT, we’ve crafted our own transcendent Journey playlist, inspired by science, therapy, and a familiarity with psychedelic experiences. Paired with an eye mask and a safe, comfortable environment, the music gently guides you on your journey inward, supporting your mindset, and enhancing your Journey environment.

Preparation: The Foundation of Set & Setting

While a psychedelic journey can feel intimidating, by day 3 of the retreat (Journey Day) participants tend to feel calm, hopeful and eager to reconnect with the deepest parts of their minds and emotional worlds.

While the two days on Retreat prior to the psychedelic experience are important, we focus on preparation for several weeks before the retreat. EQNMT provides all participants with a list of recommended ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ to follow, thereby allowing for a safe and impactful journey. Simple recommendations around limiting media consumption, lowering alcohol use and reducing the amount of meat and caffeine consumed in preparation for retreat can be helpful to participants, while also allowing for psychological and physiological benefits in and of themselves.

By paying careful attention to each of the aforementioned details, we provide an environment (both internal and external) that is optimal for a deeply transformative experience. Under these conditions, it becomes possible for us to meet the request that the esteemed psychiatrist, Dr. Bill Richards, makes of all those who experience a psychedelic therapy:

Trust, be open, let go.


Find out more about our evidence-based, psychologist-led psychedelic-assisted therapy programs by visiting our website.

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NOTE: While EQNMT offers psychedelic-assisted therapy and wellness programs, we firmly believe in a holistic approach to wellbeing. As such, we acknowledge that psychedelic-assisted therapy might not be useful to or desired by everyone, and encourage healthcare seekers to consult trusted professionals before starting 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.


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