Updated: Nov 6
Psychedelics as a transformational tool are gaining popularity. Local psychedelic clubs are becoming easy to find across the country. Integration groups are popping up at coffee shops, parks, and zoom rooms. These groups are filled with a variety of people with a wide range of experiences and it can be hard to tell if a group is a safe place to work through the intimate details of an altered state.
Here are 4 warning signs your group is not a safe space and 6 signs you can safely integrate there.
Secretive - Members are asked for large amounts of money to learn the “deeper secrets of psychedelics”. There is no reason healers can’t make money off experience, giving talks or providing integration services. However, withholding information in lue of payment or initiation is a sure sign your guru is trying to be the Cult Leader of the Month. there should be no mystery about what services or protocols are used by the experts who facilitate/present to your group. Facilitators should be open about disclosing their financial ties to services and companies.
Authoritarian - There seems to be a right and wrong way of doing things. It’s normal to have bylaws in a support group that set expectations for etiquette. However, a well managed group leaves room for flexibility that accommodates for individual needs. Occasionally, people will go over in time when speaking or laughter or chatter will happen, a good facilitator will react patiently. A group leader that cuts in frequently and responds in an authoritative tone is not healthy for group dynamics and does not encourage sharing.
Gossipy - This can come about in both direct and insidious forms. It may seem normal to talk about other members of the community who are not present but this undermines the trust for the group. Additionally, holding up a specific person's story as a warning or as a desirable outcome, not only breaks trust, but can result in a less effective container for integration.
Sensational- Encouraging high levels of emotional participation upsets the energetic balance between rational thinking and emotional reaction. Pushing people into being unnecessarily emotional is one of the oldest charlatan tricks to control the situation.
Transparent - It is easy to find the club rules and code of conduct. Group expectations are set by having clear and easy to understand rules for how to conduct oneself in the group. They will include things like when and how to present, time limits , and special information you might need to know in order to participate. These straightforward, and likely familiar, guidelines will help to create a container that is respectful and comfortable for all individuals present.
Confidentential - In order to create a comfortable and safe integration group, privacy will be a primary expectation. Nothing shared should be repeated by members of the group. This includes discussing members of the group that were not present. “What happens at the integration circle, stays at the integration circle.” It is also important to note that there is no binding agreement to confidentiality, be mindful of this when sharing sensitive topics. If one is processing their experience in an integration group with someone not present, it is important to speak from one's own perspective and story.
Relatable - You should share some common ground with your integration group. Ideally, there is some shared interest present in the group dynamic.
Respectful - A good integration group will have a culture of respectfulness. This environment should be trauma-informed and is considerate of your struggle and background. This means avoiding crosstalk; giving everyone opportunities to be heard, and taking a trauma-informed diversity aware approach .
Authentic - Participants should speak from their own perspective and avoid advice giving and judgemental statements. Reflections are given in light of what they know to be true for their own experience without trying to convince people or win them to their side.
Boundaries - Facilitators are helpful in protecting boundaries for group members by making the standards clear and by being an example. It’s expected that friendships will form in this community environment, however inviting a few people to after integration beer and coffee can be cliquish
It’s important to take on a balanced view of any community group you're participating in. Understanding what characteristics are desirable and undesirable is important when thinking about joining a support group. Conversely, holding a perfectionist expectation for the group can be detrimental to both the group and yourself. Many personalities will present themselves and give an opportunity to learn in a healing way and to co-create with your integration community.
Can’t find a community integration group? Check out Altered States Integration’s online, monthly themed groups and regular integration circles here.