Harm Reduction Guidelines & Psychedelic Experiences

Jan 15, 2023 | Blog

We believe training to facilitate expanded states of consciousness (ESC) induced by plant and fungi medicine or compounds.* 

We acknowledge that the world is rapidly changing to support the uses of various substances amid policy change in their scheduled status. We have had members of the public and students look to us for guidance on how to engage in activity involving a scheduled substance safely. While we do not endorse or support the non-legal use of substances, we do recognize that some people will use illegal substances, regardless. While individuals should assume their own risk, we offer some guidance in the hopes of mitigating potential harm. Gather Well Psychedelics offers the following harm reduction principles in order to support the maintenance of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual safety around psychedelic experiences. 

We recommend, according to the way we teach, that those who engage with psychedelics do so with a “guide,” someone skilled in the practice of being with another person during an expanded state experience. The person you choose to guide and support you should have some therapeutic or counseling skill, understanding of your medical and psychological history and current status, understanding of safety, ethics and informed consent, their own professional support system or supervision, and a basic understanding of medical interventions. We believe these are the foundational elements required to enable you to have the proper support system to reduce potential harm. Along with these requirements, we recommend these steps to better protect yourself:

    • Be with a friend or someone you trust. Your judgment will be impaired, and you will be more vulnerable to others who encounter you. Having someone with you who has some training in supporting expanded states of consciousness is critical.
    • Educate yourself. Various substances have medical, psychiatric, and psychological contraindications and considerations. These should be carefully considered in general and specific to your circumstances. Someone guiding you should have some education on potential risks.
    • Check your substance. Botanical or fungal substances are generally, though not always, less tampered with or mixed with potentially dangerous substances. If you are considering ingesting a synthetic substance we highly recommend testing it first.  Dancesafe.org is a resource for testing substances.
    • Consider your setting. Your judgment and perception will be impaired. Consider where you are at, who you are with, and how long a particular substance may alter your consciousness. Are you physically safe in the setting?
    • Consider your impact. Do not engage in mind altering work around children as it can be disturbing and harmful to them barring a few traditional contexts. Your judgment and capacity will be affected and so you should not engage in any activities that could bring harm to yourself or others, such as trying to operate any machinery, drive, or have access to any weapons. 
    • It’s always possible to do more, but never to do less. Start slow, go low in dose, and be aware of your response to a particular substance before considering a larger amount.
    • Treat yourself with care. Hydrate, eat, and rest, and be mindful of your body and emotions. Be careful not to over exert. 
    • The right person to guide you is not necessarily the first person to offer such services. In service to yourself, it is important to find someone who is trained, resonates with you and your values, and whom you can build a trusting relationship with. 
    • If the guide doesn’t feel right and in alignment, do not move forward. Remember that peoples’ personalities, cultural conditioning, biases, belief systems and judgements will inevitably influence your experience and have the potential to create harmful situations for your psychospiritual safety in these vulnerable states. Who sits with you will effect your experience. 
    • Have a Plan B and emergency contact. Have a plan in place if things don’t go how you had imagined. Have a friend or someone you trust available to support you should you need support.

    The following types of questions can be asked to evaluate a potential guide:

    • Where did you do your training? Can I find information about that place/people?
    • Are you trained in other professional capacities?
    • How many years of experience do you have?
    • Why do you do this work?
    • What are the most important lessons you have learned from guiding?
    • How do you create a container that feels safe?
    • What does your process look like for preparation and integration?
    • What are your practices if I am having a difficult experience?
    • Do you hold any biases or judgements of others? If so, what are they?
    • I identify as _______. How do you identify? Have you worked with people who have my experience of life, and/or do you share my experience of life? (If being guided by someone who has a shared identity is important to you and/or will impact your sense of safety, it’s critical to ask these questions).
    • Have you ever had accusations of crossing boundaries, either physical, sexual, emotional, psychological or spiritual? 


    *Gather Well Psychedelics does not promote the use of any schedule 1 substance in an unlawful context. Possession and use of various substances remains illegal in the US and in other jurisdictions around the world. Engaging in these activities can carry legal risk. The materials available on this web site are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. We acknowledge that use of such substances can present risk and can cause harm.


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