The Sayulita Wellness Mushroom Retreat is a multi-modal healing experience that utilizes psilocybin to help people reach their full potential.
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What is psilocybin?
Psilocybin, the active ingredient in Magic mushrooms, is a psychedelic chemical found in around 180 species of mushroom. Ancient cultures used mushrooms to “open up” to powerful forces within their psyches. Now, centers are slowly opening up around the world to help people treat a variety of symptoms including:
- Magic mushrooms to treat anxiety
- Microdosing magic mushrooms guide
- Magic mushrooms for spiritual enlightenment
- Are magic mushrooms legal?
People who are looking for a therapeutic psilocybin experience have a few options. These are solo tripping, tripping with a sober sitter, undergoing psilocybin therapy (legally, as part of a clinical trial, or with an underground therapist), or joining a psilocybin retreat.
For the moment, we are going to focus exclusively on magic mushroom retreats. These are not exactly the same as the kind of psilocybin-assisted therapy used in clinical trials, the kind which Oregon has now legalized. Having said that, some psilocybin retreats are trying to closely emulate the features of such treatment, so as to maximize the benefits of the psychedelic experience.
We will describe the general aspects of a psilocybin retreat, how retreat centers vary, how retreats differ from psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy, and the advantages and disadvantages of this option for dealing with emotional distress.
What Are Psilocybin Retreats?
A psilocybin retreat involves going to a retreat center where you will have one or more magic mushroom experiences (you won’t be taking synthetic psilocybin at these places). The cost of these retreats will vary, but whatever you will pay is meant to cover the staff hired to look after you, your lodging, your food, and any other activities or amenities involved.
What To Expect At A Psilocybin Retreat
No two psilocybin retreats will be the same. However, there are certain aspects of them that tend to be common, including:
- Going to a retreat center in natural surroundings
- Taking a medium or high dose of magic mushrooms
- Having the experience in a group setting (sometimes a private session is an option, however)
- Being able to choose from stays of different duration (with longer stays meaning more psilocybin sessions)
- Having time for preparation and integration
- Having support at hand should you need it
To get a better idea of how a retreat experience will pan out, let’s take a look at Synthesis’ Core Retreat: its flagship 3-day retreat. (Synthesis provides legal experiences with magic truffles in Amsterdam.)
The company states that its retreat is an “opportunity to take psychedelics in a safe, intentional and expertly-guided setting, geared to facilitating positive outcomes like heightened creativity, clarity on next steps in your life, and general personal development.”
With this in mind, the Synthesis team pays careful attention to the six following factors, which play a crucial role in the quality of a psychedelic journey:
- Set: your mindset going into the experience
- Setting: the environment in which you have the psychedelic experience
- Guide: a person experienced with altered states of consciousness who can help you deal with challenges and work through insights
- Substance: the quantity of the substance (in this case, psilocybin-containing truffles)
- Session: what happens during the entirety of a psychedelic trip, including all activities and rituals
- Situation: the environment, people, and culture from which a person comes to a session and then returns to afterward
The three days of the retreat then unfold as follows:
Day 1: Preparation
- Arriving and being welcomed at the center
- Have lunch
- Receive instructions on how best to proceed with a psychedelic journey
- 1-on-1 conversations with the lead facilitators, which will help you to clarify your intentions and work out the dosage that works for you
- DinnerQ&A plus some activities
Day 2: The Psilocybin Session
- You will make yourself comfortable in a setting optimized for your needs
- You consume the magic truffles mid-day
- When it’s time for dinner in the evening, the effects will have worn off
Day 3: Integration
- An integration workshop
- 1-on-1 conversations that will help you process the experience and integrate it into your life going forward
- A continuation of the workshop
This is just one example of a psilocybin retreat schedule, of course, but it should give you an idea of what to expect. A three-day retreat is typically the shortest amount of time psilocybin retreats will last, as it ensures you have time to discuss what you want to gain from the experience and your interpretation of the journey when it’s over.
How Psilocybin Retreats Differ From Psilocybin Therapy
There are several important distinctions between psilocybin retreats and psilocybin-assisted therapy.
The Background Of The Facilitators
Psilocybin retreats do not take place in clinical settings, nor are they typically like psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy where one or more trained therapists are there to support you before, during, and after the sessions. At some retreats, nonetheless, guides with a background in mental health may be present.
Facilitators without a background in psychotherapy may talk with you about your intentions and mindset going into the journey differently than a trained therapist would. Moreover, they may provide support and assist in integration in ways different from trained therapists who specialize in psychedelics, the kind who are part of clinical trials.
These therapists will tend to use an overarching framework (or several approaches) for helping you to make sense of your experiences and use them for personal growth and healing. Psilocybin retreat facilitators may or may not be informed by some of these frameworks.
These differences do not mean that retreat facilitators are not adequately prepared for a wide range of people’s psychedelic experiences. In fact, their personal experience in navigating these spaces, as well as supporting others in their journeys, means they are well-prepared.
In addition, any effective and reliable facilitator should, like a psychedelic therapist, be adept at empathetic listening and providing the necessary level of compassion and care, while respecting an individual’s boundaries.
The Level of Preparation And Integration
Unlike the kind of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy we see in clinical trials, the period of preparation and integration at retreats is much shorter. There will be multiple preparatory and integration sessions as part of psilocybin therapy studies (although even then, researchers feel this time is not enough).
Group Setting Vs. A Solo Experience With Psychological Support
One of the main differences between a psilocybin retreat and psilocybin therapy is that in the former, you’re taking psychedelics in a group setting, while in the latter case, you have the experience with two professional therapists present.
Each setting has its advantages and disadvantages. Psilocybin retreats can encourage group bonding, for instance, which many people find contributes to therapeutic effects and positive experiences. On the other hand, other people may become a source of distraction since reactions like crying, laughing, talking while tripping, and vomiting can all occur.
When it comes to psilocybin therapy, the element of bonding with fellow trippers is absent, although one may feel a close bond with the therapists who are there for you during the journey. The benefit of this context is that you can explore more deeply your states of mind, enhanced by the use of an eye mask and headphones playing music.
Retreats Often Include Other Activities
Psilocybin retreats, in contrast to psilocybin therapy, may include a range of other activities and features, such as breathwork, yoga, and meditation.
Similarities Between Psilocybin Retreats And Psilocybin Therapy
There are some ways in which psilocybin retreats and psilocybin therapy are comparable. Firstly, they both prioritize set and setting. Psychedelic therapists and retreat facilitators recognize that someone’s mindset (e.g. mood, mental health, past experiences) and outside influences (e.g. the type of music, who’s present) can play a significant role in how a psychedelic experience turns out.
But the work done in clinical trials is also influencing psilocybin retreats. As a case in point, Rosalind Watts — a clinical psychologist and former Clinical Lead for Imperial College London’s psilocybin for depression — has joined the Synthesis Advisory Board. Watts’ role as a key scientific advisor will involve developing new initiatives, such as implementing research to design tools to optimize Synthesis’ retreat model.
Psilocybin retreats also inform our understanding of the therapeutic effects of this compound. Synthesis’ connected organization — the Synthesis Institute — gains survey-based results from retreat participants, and it has collaborated with Imperial College London to supplement its clinical research.
Also, through its 18-month professional certification program (the first of its kind), the Synthesis Institute is helping to set the standard for practitioners to safely, ethically, and effectively support people using truffles containing psilocybin.
Over time, we may start to see more psilocybin retreats optimizing their experiences for participants, based on the research and insights gained from clinical trials.
FAQs About Psilocybin Retreats
Are Psilocybin Retreats Legal?
You can find psilocybin retreats in many countries, although they are more popular in some regions than others (usually reflecting the law surrounding psilocybin). Currently, psilocybin mushrooms are fully legal (meaning you can legally grow, sell, and transport them) in the Bahamas, Brazil, Jamaica, Nepal, and Samoa. Jamaica has several legal psilocybin retreats for this reason.
In the Netherlands, meanwhile, psilocybin mushrooms are not legal but magic truffles, which contain psilocybin, are. These are the sclerotia of psilocybin mushrooms — pieces of compact mycelium — and so they are not technically “mushrooms”, despite belonging to the same organism. They are not a real truffle, like the kind you would eat.
Psilocybin mushrooms have been decriminalized in a number of U.S. cities:
- Denver, Colorado
- Oakland, California
- Santa Cruz, California
- Washington D.C.
- Somerville, Massachusetts
- Cambridge, Massachusetts
- Ann Arbor, Michigan
- Seattle, Washington
This means you won’t face interference from the law for possessing magic mushrooms for personal use. But selling them is still illegal in these cities, and doing so in the context of a retreat has resulted in arrests.
For instance, you can find psilocybin retreats operating in Denver, but you would need to bring your own supply of mushrooms.
How Much Is A Psilocybin Retreat?
The cost of a psilocybin retreat, much like an ayahuasca retreat, can vary widely depending on the retreat center, as well as how long the retreat is. A three-day retreat will, of course, cost less than a longer one.
In the first episode of the series “The Goop Lab”, we saw staffers from Goop travel to Jamaica to join a psilocybin mushroom retreat. The episode did not specify which retreat the staff participated in, but there are several operators in Jamaica, and packages range from four-day all-inclusive programs with Atman Retreats costing $1,700, situated near Montego Bay, to a $10,500 luxury week-long retreat with MycoMeditations, based near Treasure Beach.
For its Amsterdamn-based retreat, Synthesis charges $2,000 for three days, which includes modern accommodations, a sauna, vegetarian meals, and a limitless supply of herbal teas. There are four facilitators to guide 15 clients, two of them being licensed mental health clinicians, and a medic present on the day of the journey.
In Jamaica, you would generally be able to find less expensive retreats than in the Netherlands since the country is a bit cheaper.
However, as we can see, even the most luxurious retreat experiences in Jamaica can be quite expensive. If you go for the cheapest option, you still won’t have to “rough it” like you would at the cheapest ayahuasca retreats in the Amazon jungle.
Why Do People Join Psilocybin Retreats?
There are many reasons why someone might decide that a psilocybin retreat is right for them. Synthesis states on its website that:
“This is a legal opportunity to take psychedelics in a safe, intentional and expertly-guided setting, geared to facilitating positive outcomes like heightened creativity, clarity on next steps in your life, and general personal development.”
So, being able to use psilocybin legally is a plus, as the illegal status of the drug in one’s own country can be off-putting. Next, you have the added benefit of having support from people with expertise at hand. Then, there is the appeal of transformative outcomes, such as those mentioned by Synthesis.
A study from Anna Lutkajtis, published in the Journal of Psychedelic Studies, found that a high dose of psilocybin in a retreat setting can lead to enduring positive after-effects in healthy individuals that last up to 12 months. These benefits included significant changes to one’s subjective sense of self and a sense of connection to oneself and others.
Can Psilocybin Retreats Help With Mental Health Issues?
Wanting to heal from past trauma and current mental health issues and addictions is another common reason people give for joining a psilocybin retreat. While most research on the therapeutic effects of psilocybin is based on clinical trials, retreats can be effective as well. A wealth of anecdotal reports support this.
Since retreat centers like Synthesis are working to learn from scientific research, it makes sense that this would translate into the kinds of benefits that participants in clinical trials enjoy. Synthesis claims that its retreats can provide a lasting positive impact on the outlook and wellbeing of an individual.
However, it should be mentioned that not everyone will find their mental health issues, such as depression, improve. For those who do find relief, these positive effects may be short-lived.
Finally, there will be a small proportion of people who actually find that their mental health worsens after a retreat. This may take the form of a spiritual emergency, for instance. Some individuals may also be at a heightened risk of developing hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD) from psychedelics like psilocybin. This condition involves lingering perceptual changes and related distress.
It is not 100 percent certain that a psilocybin retreat will help your mental health issues. Some conditions simply don’t mix well with psychedelics. But even if you don’t have schizophrenia, for example, you still want to be prepared for the journey and ready to work with whatever material arises during the experience. With the right kind of preparation, support, and integration, it is possible to enjoy long-lasting relief from emotional distress.