How Treatment Centers and Retreats Set the Setting

How Treatment Centers and Retreats Set the Setting

Psychedelics change your mind. And a mind in flux is a delicate thing.

“Our clients,” says one psychedelic guide, “want to know that their mind is in good hands.”

To care for the clients’ psyches safely during a psychedelic trip, caregivers pay close attention to their surroundings. Guides decorate with calming artwork and live plants. They give clients soft pillows and vibrating chairs. They have Jacuzzis and incense. Some have clients do cold plunges and massage therapy. They use careful playlists and burn incense. Who wouldn’t be comfy?

Whether you’re new to psychedelics or a seasoned veteran, you’ve likely heard the term, “set and setting” in reference to a psychedelic experience. The concept refers to the mindset (“set”) of the individual undergoing the experience. The client brings the mindset. “Setting” is the physical and social environment. The caregiver sets up the setting.

Setting the Setting

Curing the space and vibe is an important job. “Set and setting” have long been recognized as critical factors in determining the outcome of a psychedelic experience. The term was famously popularized by Timothy Leary during the 1960s and has only grown in prominence since then.

Recent research in the field of psychedelic science has not only validated but expanded upon these notions, emphasizing the central role of “set and setting” in the therapeutic process. In fact, a 2022 study published in the Kennedy Institute of Ethics journal found that mere suggestions laid out in the guidebooks participants used in preparation of their psilocybin experiences were enough to elicit an identity shift.

It stands to reason, then, that “set and setting” holds a powerful place in the transformational process that psychedelic experiences can elicit. And in the realm of psychedelic therapy, the clinics and retreats where treatment happens have as much impact on the outcomes of treatment as does the medicine itself.

If you’re new to psychedelic therapy, you may be wondering what to look for in a psychedelic clinic or retreat. After all, everything from the furniture and décor to the intake process and staff contributes to the “set and setting” of your treatment.

So today we’re speaking with psychedelic experts to see how they “set” the setting at their treatment centers and retreats.

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Tyler Strause – Eleusinia

At Eleusinia Retreat, we believe that setting plays a pivotal role in facilitating meaningful psychedelic experiences. Our location in scenic Valle de Bravo provides a nature-rich backdrop that serves as a grounding force, inviting guests to sync with the rhythms of the natural world. Our multidisciplinary staff, well-versed in the intricacies of psychedelics and consciousness studies, further shapes this setting, offering scientifically-informed support that educates and empowers. Integral to our ethos is a commitment to a shame-free environment, where guests’ experiences and traumas are met with love and compassion rather than judgment. These elements converge to create a holistic, nurturing space conducive to deep emotional, psychological, and transformative healing.

— Tyler Strause, Psychedelic Support Specialist at Eleusinia

Brendan O’Connor – Cambridge Biotherapies

At Cambridge Biotherapies, one of the key components that contribute to a healing setting is our highly-trained and compassionate staff. Beyond their medical qualifications, our staff are adept at establishing a rapport with patients, ensuring a psychologically secure environment. This interpersonal dynamic is crucial, especially when patients are undergoing potent treatments like ketamine infusion or accelerated TMS. This quality of care extends from the moment of arrival to post-treatment follow-up. We believe a supportive human connection greatly complements the advanced therapies we offer, setting the stage for more effective and holistic healing.

— Brendan O’Connor, VP of Operations at Cambridge Biotherapies

Gabriel Charalambides – Odyssey Psilocybin Retreats

Many of our clients have never done psychedelics before and, understandably, feel quite a lot of trepidation. They are looking for an experience that is legal, local, familiar, and reputable. They want to know that their mind is in good hands. Everything about our experience is designed around this. We are based exclusively in the United States. Our protocols are rooted in science and evidence-based practices. Our therapists and facilitators use modern psychotherapeutic techniques. Our team comes from Stanford and Harvard and has been involved in research and clinical trials. There is nothing more important than feeling safe and comfortable during a psychedelic experience and that is at the very core of an Odyssey journey.

— Gabriel Charalambides, Founder & CEO of Odyssey

Dr. Susan M. Gillispie – Wholistic Health

Wholistic Health, located in West Mobile, Alabama, prides itself on creating a serene ambiance for its patients. They do this by incorporating a peaceful setting and using calming artwork that showcases beach and ocean themes. Wholistic Health also incorporates live plants throughout the clinic to enhance the environment. Each treatment room is private, with a chair that can lay down to a bed, several pillows, and a blanket for the patient’s comfort. Wholistic Health encourages all of their patients to bring in anything that they would like to make themselves more comfortable. Some patients even bring in their CPAP machines to make their experience more pleasant!

— Dr. Susan M. Gillispie, EdD, MSN, BSN, RN, APRN, Founder of Wholistic Health
Andrew Tansil Sayulita

Andrew Tansil – Sayulita Wellness Mushroom Retreat

At Sayulita Wellness Retreat, we meticulously curate every aspect of the environment to enhance and deepen our guests’ psychedelic experiences. Our retreat is nestled in a tranquil, natural setting that provides an immediate sense of calm and disconnection from everyday stresses. Each space is thoughtfully designed to evoke serenity, from the soothing color palettes and comfortable furnishings to the harmonious blend of indoor and outdoor elements. We incorporate sensory experiences such as ambient music, aromatic scents, and soft, natural lighting to create a supportive and nurturing atmosphere. Our team of skilled facilitators and therapists are always on hand to guide and reassure, ensuring each guest feels safe, respected, and deeply cared for. We believe that the setting is a critical component of the psychedelic journey, and our aim is to create a space where transformation and healing are not just possible, but inevitable.

— Andrew Tansil, Sayulita Wellness

Anthony Townsend – EQNMT

EQNMT holds psychedelic-assisted therapy retreats in luxury, beach-front villas to soak up the natural tropical beauty of Jamaica. A comfortable, fully catered experience, (including private rooms, a pool, jacuzzi and plenty of opportunities for leisure), immersed in nature, is complimented by world-class psychologists guiding you through your healing journey. Through participation in group therapy sessions, completion of life story journaling and intention-setting exercises and participation in workshops on emotion-regulation, trauma, and personality formation, participants are thoroughly prepared to unlock their mind’s inner healing intelligence. By the same token, body-based and experiential exercises such as yoga, meditation, breathwork, and cold exposure serve to enhance one’s mindset by combining modern science with ancient wisdom. A natural and comfortable aesthetic is preferred for the psychedelic ceremony with focus on integration and ongoing support to ensure that the healing experience translates into lasting and good lifestyle habits for all who join us for this transformative experience.

— Anthony Townsend Head Clinical Psychologist & Co-Founder of EQNMT

Dr. Dan Zimmerman – Acheron Psychiatry

When it comes to creating a safe treatment setting for KAP, an ethos and environment that are socially inclusive and free of social bias may be overlooked factors. It is something that we pay particular attention to and pride ourselves on.

— Dan Zimmerman, Co-Founder and Psychiatrist at Acheron Psychiatry

Luc van Poelje Founder – Psychedelic Insights

Psychedelic Insights works with male – female teams of professional psychedelic guide-therapists. This is done to optimize safety and have more perspectives on the client process and different archetypal energies to serve clients in more challenging phases of their psychedelic journey.

Multiple private talks about the process, the client, ourselves, their and our backgrounds and experiences, provide us with the basis of understanding, compassion, and insights to establish trust. We phrase the intention setting in a mantra question you can ask over and over again during the trip. What stands between me and more inner peace, self love, self acceptance, or similar type topics.

— Luc van Poelje Founder, CEO of Psychedelic Insights

Dr. James Simonson – Integrative Psychiatry of Oklahoma

At our clinic, we are committed to cultivating a serene and inviting atmosphere that nurtures the healing journey of our valued patients. Our primary objective is to alleviate the burdens of stress and anxiety that our clients often carry with them from their daily lives. To achieve this, we have carefully curated a range of amenities and techniques to provide an oasis of tranquility and well-being. Upon entering our clinic, guests are welcomed into a thoughtfully designed waiting area. Here, soothing background music graces the space, creating an ambiance of calm. Additionally, our healing library offers a selection of literature on both mental and physical health topics, providing patients with the opportunity to immerse themselves in knowledge and self-care while awaiting their appointments. To further enhance the sensory experience, we incorporate the use of therapeutic incense, creating an atmosphere conducive to relaxation. Our dedicated massage therapist is readily available to assist patients in achieving a state of deep relaxation before, after, or even during their ketamine infusions, tailored to their specific therapeutic needs. Within our treatment room, we have carefully chosen oversized, plush recliners that provide not only comfort but also the option for heat and massage during infusions, ensuring optimal relaxation. Complementing these features are weighted blankets and optional eye masks, along with LED lighting designed to foster an inviting and open environment. One of the unique aspects of our clinic is the integration of artwork by the renowned Jeffrey Loman, which, when combined with the ambient LED backlighting, creates an immersive and visually captivating experience. This artwork not only enhances the aesthetics of our space but also aids patients in exploring their inner journey within a natural and inviting landscape. Our overarching goal is to provide patients with a brief respite from the stresses of their daily lives, allowing them to immerse themselves in a therapeutic environment tailored to their needs. Through the thoughtful integration of these elements, we aspire to create a sanctuary where healing is not just a process but an experience.

— Dr. James Simonson, MD, Owner and Founder of Integrative Psychiatry of Oklahoma

Melanie Jimenez, PMHNP – Ketamine Clinics Los Angeles

Creating the right set and setting for a ketamine infusion experience is a crucial aspect of our approach to mental health care. We believe that every element contributes to a patient’s journey towards healing. Our compassionate staff members are an essential part of the healing process. Our nursing staff not only administers ketamine treatments but also provides emotional support and guidance. We believe in creating a warm and empathetic atmosphere where patients feel safe and heard throughout their journey. The decor in our office is designed to evoke a sense of calm and positivity, in addition to the art pieces in our hallways that inspire reflection. We’ve also incorporated indoor plants and large windows that offer glimpses of the natural surroundings. We offer rooms with both natural light for those patients who request lighter rooms, as well as darker rooms for patients who like to infuse in darkness. Music and comfort items are carefully curated to enhance the experience. Patients have the option to choose from a selection of relaxing music that complements their state of mind during the infusion. We also provide comfort items like blankets, pillows, noise canceling headphones and eye masks to ensure that patients are physically and emotionally comfortable during their sessions. At Ketamine Clinics Los Angeles, we believe that the combination of a serene natural environment, thoughtfully designed aesthetics, and caring staff plays a pivotal role in our patients’ ketamine healing journeys.

— Melanie Jimenez, PMHNP, with Ketamine Clinics Los Angeles

Alberto Herrera – Soul Medicine

At Soul Medicine Retreat, nestled on the mesmerizing Pacific coast of Nayarit, Mexico, we wholeheartedly embrace a profound approach centered on reconnecting with nature, nurturing soul healing, and drawing strength from the healing embrace of the ocean. Our retreat unfolds amidst the heart of a lush jungle, where guests live amidst ancient trees. This immersive natural setting serves as a potent backdrop for our transformative work, inviting participants to deepen their connection with the natural world and their inner selves.

Beyond our jungle immersion, we are devoted to crafting an environment that emanates the warmth of a loving family. Within our close-knit community, we extend unwavering support, nurturing a sense of belonging and trust. Each guest is an integral part of our Soul Medicine family, ensuring they feel cared for throughout their journey.

At Soul Medicine Retreat, we seamlessly blend nature and community, where the Earth’s healing power, the soothing rhythms of the ocean, and human connection entwine harmoniously, fostering profound soul healing. We guide you towards transformation, self-discovery, and a rekindled bond with the natural world and the depths of your truth.

— Alberto Herrera, collaborator and facilitator at Soul Medicine

Aeden Smith-Ahearn – Experience Ibogaine

We make sure the rooms are prepared to be visually appealing in a psychedelic way before treatment. We have also loaded our gardens with as much of a variety as we can in this climate zone, some are some very special plants.

— Aeden Smith-Ahearn, Founder at Experience Ibogaine

Vernise Cardillo – One Retreats Jamaica

Our retreat center is located in Jamaica and offers a sacred space for transformative healing. Nestled on this beautiful Caribbean island, where psilocybin is both indigenous and legal, we harness the magic of Jamaica’s lush nature, high vibrational energy, crystal blue ocean, and soothing reggae music. This setting becomes an integral part of the healing process, offering participants a relaxed and nurturing environment.

We firmly believe in the power of removing oneself from everyday surroundings and immersing oneself in nature for profound healing. Jamaica is the perfect setting to support the transformative potential of psilocybin psychedelic retreats, allowing individuals to heal, reconnect, and thrive.

— Vernise Cardillo, Retreat Coordinator & Psilocybin Facilitator, ONE Retreats Jamaica

Jennifer Tessler – Alalaho Retreats

Setting the right atmosphere is essential for our retreats. We’ve handpicked a peaceful place in the Dutch countryside, surrounded by lush green fields and absolute quiet. The heart of our retreat is a house built by two artists. Every corner tells a story of their passion. And our ceremony room? It’s just special. Picture high vaulted ceilings, sunlight streaming in, and the kind of warm, cozy lighting that makes you feel right at home. Add a touch of wood underfoot, and you’ve got the perfect space for a psychedelic journey.

— Jennifer Tessler, Founding Director of Alalaho

Finding the Treatment Center That’s Right for You

While “set and setting” will vary slightly from center to center, it’s essential to keep in mind its central role in therapeutic success. And psychedelic therapy treatment centers – and the environment and experiences they meticulously craft – are at the forefront of that.

Whether you’re looking for a retreat surrounded by nature or a clinic close to home, ultimately, the treatment center that’s right for you is the one you’re most comfortable with. Reputable treatment centers will have staff available to walk you through treatment options, answer your questions and concerns, and ensure you feel adequately supported and prepared for your experience.

Healing Maps Editorial Staff

Healing Maps Editorial Staff

View all posts by Healing Maps Editorial Staff

The Healing Maps Editorial Team has decades of experience across all facets of the psychedelic industry. From assessing studies and clinic research, to working with clinician's and clinics, we help provide data-backed information to psychedelic-curious individuals across the globe.

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