Call the trip sitter, we’re going in.
Sometimes the most meaningful journeys happen right in the comfort of our own homes, inside of our own minds. Psychedelic medicine is finding its way into clinical trials for a myriad of conditions, but the overall interest is much more grassroots.
Personal experimentation with psychedelics, spurred on by popular culture and philosophies of self-help, is occurring at a volume not seen for decades. Whatever the dose or intention, if you mean to use psychedelics, it’s best to be aware of the facts, and to come at any potential risks from the perspective of harm reduction.
Fortunately, most hallucinogens and psychedelics have an extremely low threshold for addiction, but misuse through a combination of dosing and inexperience resulting in a bad trip is an unfortunate possibility. This is best avoided through proper preparation, and by having a trip sitter on hand.
This is not to say that trip sitters are always honest. We’ll be sure to disclaim this here. Be sure to do your research. Negative experiences, including unwanted sexual contact, have been reported by those who attended an experienced trip sitter, or so-called professional guides and psychedelic facilitators in the past. When under the influence of a mind-altering substance, users are extremely vulnerable.
The good news is that as psychedelics move toward the mainstream, while remaining illegal, various stakeholders including nonprofits, entrepreneurs, and activists are building platforms around trip sitting, preparing the ground for the community to grow and at least attempting to mitigate these risks.
Avoiding a Bad Trip
Trip sitting is simply the process of having (or being) a sober person present to support and hold a safe space for an individual, possibly a friend, who’s undergoing a psychedelic experience. This might involve magic mushrooms, LSD, or other psychedelic substances. A trip sitter might also extend their role to professional services such as counselling, working as a psychedelic guide or therapist, or resolving any medical emergency that may arise.
While this can be helpful to those investigating psychedelic use therapeutically, it is not strictly necessary for recreational users. A conscientious and empathetic companion is all you need. Just be sure to be responsive to your subject’s needs as a prospective sitter in case of a difficult trip or actual emergency.
Whether your intention is therapeutic or recreational, a trip sitter should be mindful of set and setting, and prepared to guide their respective psychonauts through some rocky emotional waters. In fact, there’s a school of thought among veteran psychedelic researchers that believes emotionally difficult psychedelic experiences can end up being the most transformative trips with the right kind of presence beside you and proper integration afterward.
Drugs and Education
We’ve been fortunate enough at Truffle Report to meet some incredibly dedicated people devoted to psychedelic research and education, and to compiling knowledge and resources. Some of these include specific advice on trip sitting. Most are simply recommended reading for would-be trip sitters, psychonauts, and psychedelic guides or those looking to connect with them. Integration services play a vital role, but often go beyond the typical trip sitter’s repertoire and into a range of psychological coaching options.
Psychable founders Jemie Sae Koo and Matt Zemon were determined to build a comprehensive resource for psychedelic users seeking guides and education, with lots of useful knowledge for trip sitters looking to help facilitate or support psychedelic experiences.
In their previous interview with Truffle Report, they discussed their research and vetting processes. “As we’re creating this database, we made sure there are multiple sources for every practitioner that we’re gathering from. Ketamine providers are a part of the American Society of Ketamine Physicians (ASKP), so that was the easy one. For less traditional ones, who are licensed but not in ketamine, we reached out to them to ensure the quality of information,” said Zemon.
While also providing access to a network of practitioners, and combining educational resources and a library of published articles on psychedelic science and lifestyle practices, Psychedelic Support goes a step further with a directory of community groups.
While the first-time user or trip sitter probably won’t need to take it this far, support and integration groups are forming a vital part of the growing psychedelic community. More experienced psychonauts will recognize the value of sharing, of learning, and being able to trip sit and help integrate the psychedelic experiences of others.
“We’ve created a platform for professionals to come out and associate themselves with psychedelics. This is still a grey area for the professional field. By having the support in the network, it’s safer for them to offer integration services. It is a necessary directory because sometimes people have difficult challenging experiences on psychedelics, or they have emotionally opening experiences, and they want to talk to someone that has knowledge about the range of psychedelic experiences that can occur and how to work with people,” explained founder Dr. Allison Fedducia.
If you’ve been exploring modern psychedelic research for more than five minutes, odds are that you’ve come across the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, or MAPS, already. They’ve most recently been making news with their successful clinical trials around MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD.
We won’t try to sum up MAPS’ many achievements here, but we will say that they offer one of the most detailed pictures of psychedelic science and best practices in the space. Their practitioner directories are a valuable resource, and they have links to many classic works of the earlier psychedelic movement for those interested in the space. Trip sitters and psychedelic users of all levels of experience will find something fascinating.
Fireside Project: Sitting and a Psychedelic Guide by Phone
Fireside is a psychedelic helpline, and an experiment in psychedelic telehealth and community support. It’s not quite the same as having a trip sitter in the room, but it’s the next best thing.
They provide peer support to users who are having an intense psychedelic experience, or who want to process previous experiences that they’ve had in therapeutic, ceremonial, social, or any number of other settings. They do so by providing compassionate, accessible, and culturally responsive peer support, as well as educating the public and backing ongoing psychedelic research.
“We think that Fireside Project could become the go-to resource for anyone having a difficult experience who doesn’t have other kinds of support available, and that nobody will ever need to be alone in a scary psychedelic experience ever again,” co-founder Joshua White told Truffle Report.
The line is open to all kinds of callers, whether it be someone who mistakenly ate a whole batch of infused brownies, or an experienced user who’s consuming psilocybin mushrooms in their living room and looking for companionship on this journey.
Being an Effective Trip Sitter: The Bare Essentials
If all of this seems a bit overwhelming, that’s okay. Psychedelics are making waves right now, but the experience doesn’t have to be anything more or less than you want it to be as a user or a trip sitter.
All of these resources and knowledge are great things to have, but ultimately, the classic psychedelics are enjoying a popular and medical renaissance because they are accessible, and have a low risk profile compared to other controlled substances. Set and setting, intention, and dosage all matter, but beyond that, part of the process seems to be to revel in the unexpected, and in the alteration of one’s perceptions that comes from that first psychedelic experience.
No two experiences will be the same, and there are those, for reasons medical, emotional, or psychological, who may be left worse off by a psychedelic experience, guided or otherwise. For those ready and able, and looking for a trip sitter, it might be best not to overthink it the first time. Be safe, always, but let it happen.
For those doing the trip sitting, education, integration, and a helpline to call in case of emergencies are never a bad thing, but you’ll likely be best served by personal experience, patience, calm, and empathy.