Psychedelic Somatic Interactional Psychotherapy
Graphic courtesy of the Psychedelic Somatic Institute
Biology Before Psychology
The basic fundamental approach that we hold as therapists is mental health issues are primarily biological responses coming from repressed or suppressed emotional charges. Our bodies have evolved for millions of years to be able to process trauma through the autonomic nervous system. The focus on the ANS is at the foundation to our approach. This model was developed by Saj Razvi, LPC through his early work in 2008 with Trauma Dynamics and his participation in the MAPS Phase II Clinical Trial of MDMA where Saj was a principal investigator. Steve Elfrink who is a co-founder of both OmTerra and the Psychedelic Somatic Institute was a research assistant to Saj for the peer-reviewed article for the Journal of Psychedelic Psychiatry on the PSIP Model. You can read that article here - and it is highly recommended to read it prior to contacting OmTerra.
Why is the Autonomic Nervous System so Important?
All animals are wired to process trauma through the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The beautiful thing about the ANS is that it does require any training or techniques to process trauma - it is an innate ability that we all carry. Our challenge as people and as a culture is that we have developed incredible coping strategies to suppress and push down trauma. We distract, we eat, drink, do yoga, watch TV, take medication, do therapy, meditate or even take psychedelic medicines to heal. The challenge is these methods are designed to take us further away from what our bodies have been programmed to do for millions of years. We have become a culture where we cope with our symptoms of anxiety and depression vs. allowing the body to naturally process the trauma.
Our bodies seek something call homeostasis - a return to normal. The best example of this is our body temperature. Our body automatically keeps our body at 98.6 degrees - or close to it. Just like our body wants us at 98.6 our bodies want us to return to a neutral state when it comes to stress, anxiety and depression.
Fight | Flight | Freeze
Your First PSIP Session
This is a general overview of what to expect and what you will need for your first session.
Where to acquire the cannabis? Diamond Cannabis is in Grant's Pass. It isn't a recommendation, but we like it there and find what we've wanted and know others who have as well. There are several places in Medford, where you will be landing. ICloud 9 is one option and another option is Ground Up Farms. We recommend a vape pen - no edibles or tinctures, most dispensary locations will have pens. You may want to consider trying the cannabis the night you arrive to make sure it works and have a sense of how much you will use. That could be your baseline. The model works with indica, sativa, or a hybrid - it's really your choice.
What else to bring? Please bring eye shades. Here are the Mzoo's we use. They're soft and have a contoured space for eyelashes. Here are the Mindfold's. We don't like them as well, but they both work. If you are a writer, a journal would be very good. We write a lot about our sessions and our process. We think it's helpful not only to write out what you're feeling and the insights you're gaining, but also to document your process as you move through it. Also, you may want to bring a water bottle or favorite snacks.
What to do in advance to be more prepared for the sessions? If you aren’t already, you could begin to write about the thoughts, feelings, memories, and dreams you're noticing. Not to judge them, change them or shift them in any way. This can be uncomfortable. Just notice that too. If something arises, take a moment and sit with it. Focus on the feeling and ask, 'Where is this in my body?' Write down the feeling, where it is in your body, and what the sensations are. Simple and brief is fine. What is key is to begin to bring your awareness to your body - hello body!
On session days, what helps integrate the experience? Being resourced helps. Walking, napping, a cup of tea, cozy blankets to snuggle in, warm and comfortable clothing, conversations with friends/loved ones, a sweet movie or show to watch, a gentle walk in nature, roaming around local shops (if you're up for it-Jacksonville and Ashland are both very small, quaint, and cute). And most important allow whatever you are feeling to arise and be felt. This work will start to open you up in new ways once your system starts moving into material (versus dissociation). You will be accessing memories, events, feelings, etc. that have been long held and possibly slightly or never seen since they occurred. It's important to "trust your body" as these feelings arise. Simply allow - even if they are uncomfortable.
On the days of medicine sessions, can you drive? You could expect to drive once you're no longer altered (you would have to determine when this is, but many find it’s 4-6 hours). Second, you may or may not be up for it. If you're in dissociation for much/most of a session, you may find you feel pretty 'normal.' However, if big feelings, event memories, insights arise during/after session, and if you experience hot waves (State 2 of the ANS map-panic, fear, increased heart rate, physical movements, etc.) you may find you feel the need for more rest, resourcing and taking it easy.
To what extent is the experience typically translated into/accessible cognitively? (versus a body/somatic experience only) Since you are 'there' for the whole session, you have awareness of all that arises - feelings, thoughts, somatic experiences, event memories, insights.
What suggestions are there for going deep and accessing material? Remember, you can trust your body. You do not need to figure out this process, remember any part of your past, understand anything that has happened in your life, or otherwise manage this experience. Your body knows how to process trauma. The most important thing you can do is create the mantra, "body, body, body. I can trust my body." What your body is holding that needs to be healed, released, and expressed, your body knows how to move through and what that timing is. You do not have to determine any of this for your body. When you are coming up to something difficult in session, you will have a choice point as to whether you move toward it or wait. Both are ok - both are right. The other thing is to let go into the safety of the container that we build together and to remember that we have been there too - and we can hold loving space for whatever arises. We truly care about you and will hold you in a loving space throughout our time together.
What if I don't have any traumatic experiences? A major trauma such as sexual, verbal or physical abuse is in no way required in order for the body to store charge and for the person to feel its (often intense) effects in their life. While there are many who've endured abuse, more common is that there isn't abuse, but there is charge. Many of us hold trauma around our childhoods. This is a process to see what arises/moves/heals as you do the work. Anything stored in the body as charge likely impacts your life. Everyone we know doing this work has experienced impact from it, and much more so for those who have moved through their dissociation and into their 'trauma ball.' People experience many things: less reactivity, removal of triggers, greater clarity, greater self awareness, greater ability to navigate relationships with self and others, greater sense of freedom, physical healings, etc.
How to know when one has gotten what one needs from the modality? You will notice more what is no longer part of your life. You will notice less dissociation in sessions. The hot waves will decrease in sessions. These will be indicators that you're moving from Tier 1 (body/events) into Tier 2 (sense of self/identity). Your life will be different!