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Exploring the Collective Journey: Understanding the Dynamics of Psychedelic Groups

Psychedelic groups, such as ceremonies and communal experiences with substances like ketamine and psilocybin mushrooms, are becoming increasingly popular. These spaces offer unique opportunities for individuals to explore their inner landscapes while connecting with others. However, it's essential to understand the nuances and distinctions between different types of group work, particularly when involving psychedelics.


In this blog, we discuss how to know if you are ready to participate in a group psychedelic experience and best practices for successful group psychedelic facilitation and participation. 


What Is Psychedelic Therapy?


Psychedelic therapy involves the use of psychedelic substances to facilitate therapeutic processes aimed at psychological and emotional healing. This type of therapy can take place in individual or group settings, each offering distinct benefits and considerations. When deciding between individual or group psychedelic experiences, consider your desired outcomes and personal needs. It also helps to understand the types of psychedelic therapy and the differences between them.


Individual Psychedelic Therapy


Individual psychedelic therapy provides a one-on-one setting with a trained therapist. This format allows for personalized attention and a tailored approach to addressing specific mental health issues, such as trauma, depression, or anxiety. In this format, the therapist can offer continuous support and guidance throughout the session, making it suitable for processing intense or deeply personal emotions. This is the ideal starting point for someone who is brand new to psychedelics. Success in group psychedelic settings often comes with already having interactions with the medicine and understanding how the medicine works for you.


Group Psychedelic Journeys


Group psychedelic journeys involve multiple participants sharing the experience in a communal setting. While this format can foster a sense of community and shared healing, it is not typically suited for processing acute personal trauma(s) or mental health needs. In addition, experts in the field discourage combining group psychedelic experiences and group therapy unless the facilitators are specifically trained in process group work as well as being skilled psychedelic therapists. Group journeys or circles are better suited for those looking to explore consciousness and connect with others in a supportive environment who have already had a psychedelic experience or journey in another context and/or are not seeking the experience to treat a major mental health condition.



What Are the Benefits of Psychedelic Group Experiences?


Psychedelics in community are incredibly powerful and can bring people together in profound ways by creating a sense of unity and shared experience within the group. Psychedelic group experiences offer a unique blend of personal insight and collective healing that can be profoundly beneficial for many people. Here are some of the key advantages:


Enhanced Connection and Community


One of the most significant benefits of psychedelic group experiences is the sense of connection they foster. In today's fragmented world, there is a strong yearning for communal spaces where individuals can bond and share meaningful experiences. Psychedelic group work can fulfill this need by creating a supportive environment where participants feel part of something larger than themselves – something that de-centers their personal experience and re-centers the community experience. That shift of focus from the individual experience to the collective experience can be relieving and healing on its own.


Cost-Effective Healing


Compared to one-on-one psychedelic therapy, group experiences can be more affordable, making these transformative practices accessible to a broader audience. Sharing the cost of facilitators and resources among participants reduces the financial burden while still providing a rich and supportive environment for healing.


Collective Energy and Support


Being in a group setting amplifies the energy of the psychedelic journey. Participants often report feeling a sense of collective support and shared purpose, which can enhance the depth of their personal experiences. The presence of others on similar journeys can provide comfort, courage, and a sense of solidarity.



How Do I Know When To Seek Out Group Psychedelic Experiences?


Before seeking out group psychedelic experiences, it is important to understand general group dynamics. Being cognizant of the fact that there are other members in the group is vital. As a potential group participant, one  must be honest and mindful of the requirements of the group and understand their own qualifications before participating. Unlike individual experiences, group experiences are not set up to provide 1:1 support, and facilitators’ roles differ, asking them to serve more as stewards of the whole space rather than therapists or a personal guide. 


In order to ensure that you are ready to participate in shared, group psychedelic experiences, be sure you meet these qualifications along with any others that may be listed in the group description. 


You will be ready to seek out group psychedelic experiences if:


You Understand the Types of Psychedelic Group Experiences


As previously stated, the first step to knowing if you are ready to seek out group psychedelic experiences is to understand the difference between group therapy, process groups, and communal psychedelic experiences. While group therapy and process groups often involve structured therapeutic interventions, psychedelic group experiences in communal settings are typically more about shared journeys rather than personal therapeutic processing.


You Have a Working Relationship With the Medicine


Ideally, participants in psychedelic group work should have prior experience with the medicine being used. This familiarity helps ensure that individuals are prepared for the intensity of the experience and understand their personal needs and reactions. By knowing this ahead of time, participants can plan accordingly and communicate effectively with facilitators.


Lacking familiarity with the medicine may result in unexpected reactions that need processing, which is not usually the intention of the group setting. This can divert the facilitator's attention from the group as a whole and require them to prioritize a single individual, impacting the group's dynamic. Therefore, it is unwise to participate in a psychedelic group without previous experience with the substance being used.



You Know and Understand What Medicine Experience Will Work Best For Your Needs


Ketamine circles can be a good starting point for individuals new to psychedelics, provided they are not dealing with severe mental health issues such as major depressive disorder or suicidality. As previously stated, 1:1 therapeutic sessions may be recommended first if mental health symptoms are currently present to ensure safety and adequate support. However, in many cases there may be healthy folks looking to experience psychedelic altered states. These individuals can seek out Ketamine circles, like those run by Dr. Shannon Hughes and Dori Lewis, owners and founders of Elemental Psychedelics, which often cater to practicing professionals or individuals with a strong support system and familiarity with the medicine.


Mushroom circles are more suitable for those who have prior experience with mushrooms, understand their dosage, and have had a solid integration practice during 1:1 sessions. These circles provide a communal space for individuals to deepen their relationship with the medicine in a supportive environment. It's essential for participants to be familiar with their responses to mushrooms and their needs during the journey, as the level of one-to-one support available in a group setting may be limited.



What Do Successful Group Psychedelic Experiences Look Like?


Navigating a group psychedelic experience, whether as a facilitator or participant, requires careful attention to various factors to ensure a safe, supportive, and transformative journey. While group psychedelic experiences may differ by facilitator, there are certainly best practices to follow to ensure safety and success for both facilitators and participants. 


Successful group psychedelic experiences:


Are Led By Qualified Facilitators


Ensuring that group psychedelic experiences are led by qualified facilitators is paramount to the safety and effectiveness of the sessions. Qualified facilitators possess extensive training and/or experience in both psychedelic facilitation skills and have participated in psychedelic group journey work themselves for a period of years. Having witnessed and participated in this work extensively, custodians of this work have learned from teachers and guides before them how to create safe, supportive, and ethically sound environments for participants. 


Possess the Correct Facilitator-To-Participant Ratio


When considering participating in any type of group circle, especially in psychedelic work, it is crucial that facilitators and organizers maintain an appropriate facilitator-to-participant ratio. Ideally, a ratio of 1:3 is preferred. This means one facilitator for every three participants, ensuring each person receives adequate attention and support. Facilitators may also enlist the help of a volunteer or aide to provide additional support, further enhancing the safety and effectiveness of the session.


While a 1:4 ratio can be manageable, anything larger risks compromising the quality of care and may be considered unethical. Maintaining a low facilitator-to-participant ratio helps reduce the risk of individuals feeling neglected or overwhelmed, fostering a safer and more supportive environment for all participants.


Thoroughly Assess the Participants 


It is crucial that participants in group psychedelic experiences are thoroughly assessed to ensure their needs will be met and that they will contribute positively to the group dynamic. A lack of a thorough screening process should be seen as a red flag. As a participant, you have the right to know and understand the screening process, so feel free to ask if it isn’t evident upfront. Questions you can ask include:


  • How are you choosing your participants?

  • How was this group advertised?

  • In what other ways are people assessed for their participation in the circle?


*This is not to imply that there are bad or toxic individuals, but rather that some people may not be a good fit for a particular medicine or group setting based on various factors such as ones’ current mental health state, their desired outcomes and past experiences.


Facilitators must curate the group to provide maximum support. The key in group settings is ensuring that no single member monopolizes the facilitator's attention or derails the group's progress, and this must be determined before the group begins.



Are Purposefully Structured 


Structured activities, such as guided meditations, journaling exercises, and breathwork, help maintain focus and minimize potential issues during the psychedelic journey. Unstructured interactions can lead to projections and destabilizing dynamics if not managed carefully.


Group experiences with clear practices and minimal free associative talk are ideal. This doesn’t mean that individuals should ignore one another during the experience, but their interactions should be planned and intentional. 


Respect Boundaries


Participants should be mindful of personal boundaries and avoid physical contact or unsolicited advice during the peak of the psychedelic experience. Respecting each other's space is crucial for maintaining a safe and comfortable environment.


When individuals are under the influence of the medicine, they cannot accurately gauge the level of self-awareness of other participants. This makes it difficult to judge how physical touch or verbal communication will be received, further emphasizing the importance of maintaining personal boundaries.


Conclusion



Psychedelic group experiences offer a powerful way to explore consciousness, heal, and connect with others. By understanding the dynamics of these practices, individuals can safely and effectively navigate their journeys. 


At Elemental Psychedelics, we aim to provide an exemplary group psychedelic experience adhering to the best practices outlined in this blog. We strive to be a model for safe and ethical psychedelic experiences of all shapes and forms. We are also committed to providing a supportive environment for transformative psychedelic group experiences, helping participants unlock deeper insights and foster meaningful connections.


Interested in expanding your knowledge and comfort with group experiences? Elemental provides a myriad of circles and workshops suitable for individuals in all stages of their psychedelic exploration. It is important to note that all of our trainings include group experientials with medicine. 


We are providing the following group experiences in 2024:






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