A psilocybin experience can be of significant therapeutic value. Psilocybin has been found to be an effective treatment for a number of mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, PTSD and addiction. It offers the ability to reconnect with nature, with oneself and allows for the possibility to redefine one’s life's purpose.

However, the positive outcomes of a psilocybin experience highly depend on factors such as the right set and setting of the experience – the state of mind that you are in before your psychedelic journey and the environment in which the journey takes place. In order to get the most out of your experience, with the greatest potential to achieve a spiritual breakthrough and healing, you want to be in a supportive and caring environment so that your mind can be at ease. This will help you to fully surrender to the medicine and its myriad of benefits.

Both factors – the right set and setting – are highly influenced by the retreat facilitator or tripsitter you choose. However, there are more and more retreat centers and tripsitters offering their services, and it is difficult to judge at first glance which provide the set and setting that is ideal for you.

Welcome dinner

In this guide, we explore which aspects you should consider and which questions to ask yourself if you are thinking about attending a psychedelic retreat. It will help you to ponder which retreat will be most impactful for you, in order to make sustainable changes in your life and attitude that support your personal goals.

Questions to ask yourself

Before you start looking into the various retreat possibilities, you should think about why you want to attend a retreat in the first place. Do you have a mental disease and are searching for relief? Do you want to explore what’s possible in other dimensions? Or do you intend to make peace with a past chapter of your life? Try to answer the following questions:

  • For what reason am I seeking a psychedelic experience?
    e.g. anxiety, depression, curiosity, confusion, restlessness
  • What are my intentions are and what aspects of myself would I like to work on?
  • What type of people do I feel comfortable with leading me through this experience? e.g. selflessness, caring, experienced, loving, supportive, heart-centered
  • What kind of people do I want to surround myself with whilst I’m more emotionally vulnerable? e.g. understanding, supportive, kind, caring, loving
  • What sort of retreat setting am I looking for? E.g. luxury or basic
  • What results am I expecting from the retreat? E.g. relief, change, transition, understanding, peace, healing, social bonding, being alone, relaxation, rejuvenation, spiritual breakthrough, having fun, resolving trauma, being understood

If you are conscious about your emotions, expectations and intentions, will be able to choose a retreat that is the perfect fit for you. Once you have developed a clear understanding of where you are coming from and what you are envisioning for you retreat, you can begin the search for a retreat that is aligned with this image.

Alignment with your personality and intention

Each retreat is unique and not every aspect may be ideal for everyone. As we are all different human beings, we also have different needs and desires. A retreat that focuses on healing and has helped many people to alleviate their depression might still be the wrong choice for you if healing is not one of your intentions. For this reason, it is crucial to take time to reflect on the questions and examples mentioned above. What do you want and what do you not want? When you are exploring the different retreat options, keep an eye open for keywords that reflect your personality and intentions. Is the retreat provider aligned with your values? Do you feel like you are on the same wavelength with the facilitators pictured on the company’s website? The design of the webpages can tell you a lot about the personalities of the people behind it. If you are uncertain whether the retreat can provide for your needs and matches your personality, contact the facilitators and guides, if possible, and talk to them about your thoughts and emotions. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people in an atmosphere in which you feel at ease will make a crucial contribution to an up-lifting and transformative retreat experience.

Journey space

Support with preparation and integration

As mentioned earlier, one of the main factors that determine the result of your experience is the pre-journey mindset. However, not everyone knows how to get into this ideal state of mind. Try to choose a retreat provider that gives you information, instruction and support on how to prepare your body, mind and soul. When you are browsing through retreat options, be on the lookout for preparation consultations and guidelines that are included in the total price of the retreat.

Besides the pre-retreat preparation it is important that the offer includes in-retreat preparation time, meaning that there should be at least one preparation day before the actual psychedelic experience. You need this time to settle in at the retreat location and to get to know the people with whom you’re going to share the experience with. Feeling safe and trusting your guides and fellow participants is key to a pleasant psychedelic experience. This trust can only be gained by spending quality-time together. To make it easier to open up, some retreats include sharing and bonding circles on the preparation day. These circles will allow you to share your intentions and develop an understanding of where your fellow participants are coming from. Overall, keep the principle in mind that the more preparation the better.

Journey guidance before brunch

The same applies for integration. Integration is the process of implementing the insights you gained during your experience in your daily life. If the retreat provides integration time during the retreat, you will feel more at ease with going back to your daily routine. On the other hand, if in-retreat preparation time is not taken care of, it is possible to feel overwhelmed and out-of-balance. Psychedelic experiences are powerful and can take you into completely different realms. Everyday existence may be confusing afterwards, as you start to question patterns, societal structures and attitudes that you’ve been taking for granted. Choose a retreat that makes transition from retreat to everyday life as smooth and easy as possible. During an in-retreat integration day, you may get the opportunity to discuss your insights with experienced psychedelic journeyers and guides, who can help you to make sense of what you went through. Sharing your emotions with others will give you a strong sense of connection and help you accept them and look into the future optimistically.

However, the service should continue once you leave the comfort of the retreat. The time after you return is the most crucial period in determining how the psychedelic experience will impact your life. Are you going to forget about your insights or are you going to implement them in your life to change it for the better? Choose a retreat provider that supports you during this important period. Be on the lookout for retreat companies that provide you with comprehensive integration guidelines. Even more important is the inclusion in communities of psychedelic journeyers who went through similar experiences and with whom you can connect afterwards. The most valuable integration service is personal integration consultations. Your guides know what you went through and can give you constructive guidance once you’re back in your routine.

Proximity to nature

During a psychedelic experience you are in a highly vulnerable, open and child-like state. Your senses are heightened, and you feel connected, dependent and influenced by your environment, in a way you may never have experienced before. In such a state you want to be surrounded by the best that this planet has to offer. Instead of traffic noise and the hectic sounds of city life, you want to listen to the songs of the birds, the whispering wind and rustling trees. Witnessing nature whilst  on psychedelics can for some feel like a revelation.

Most people develop a deep sense of appreciation for our natural surroundings. Psychedelics will reconnect you with the beauty in each of nature’s creations that we tend to overlook in a normal state. If you want to experience this connection with the beauty of nature, you should choose a retreat that takes place in a natural setting. Additionally, this environment will help you during your preparation and integration day as you calm your mind and reflect.

Number of guides

Another aspect that you should consider when you’re choosing your psychedelic retreat is the number of guides that are available to you before, during and after the journey. At the same time, you should keep in mind the number of participants attending the retreat. Here again, it is a good idea to reflect on your intentions and needs. Do you want to be able to share and consult with your guides as much as possible? Then you should look for a retreat that has the highest guide-to-participant ratio or even consider a private retreat – in such a retreat you have 1-3 guides at your disposal around the clock. Do you value the connection with other participants? In this case the best choice would be a group retreat which usually consist of 10-40 people. However, it is good to be aware of the fact that the more guides are present, the safer the psychedelic experience will be.

Legality

Of course, legality plays a huge role when choosing your psychedelic retreat. It will influence the provided safety as well as the state of mind you’re in before and during the retreat. To be as safe as possible and to ensure considerable peace of mind, choose a retreat that is aligned with the laws of the hosting country. For example, in the Netherlands psilocybin truffles are legal and widely sold.

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