The revival of psychedelic research over the last few decades has brought about a whole new understanding of their potential as novel treatments in mental health. Protocols emerging in clinical trials around the world are aiming to find the perfect recipe for psychedelic-assisted therapy (without much consensus).
Research protocols are indispensable–not just for a tangible measurement of the healing potential of psychedelics, but to world-wide efforts to reverse the damaging effects of the War on Drugs that pushed psychedelics underground for over two decades.
Protocols also inform what psychedelic is used for what–for example, MDMA for PTSD or social anxiety in autistic adults, versus psilocybin for end-of-life anxiety in cancer patients. Protocols discern what makes a good candidate for psychedelic-assisted therapy and what dose is right to achieve the desired state. They dictate the objectives, measurements, and methods used in order to test a hypothesis–for example, is psilocybin as effective in the treatment of major depression compared to the classic anti-depressant escitalopram (short answer: yes, it is; long answer: it’s complicated).
The limitations of protocols
However, it’s important to keep in mind that protocols are centred around a hypothesis, not the individual. Very often, scientists have to navigate funding challenges when it comes to the amount of therapeutic support participants get before and after a psychedelic journey.
And while the standardisation of protocols is necessary for the measurement of specific outcomes, it often comes at the cost of effective treatment for the individuals involved. A close examination of most studies reveals that not all participants get better; a few experience adverse effects; and, most commonly, participants’ symptoms return.
A recent study by Johns Hopkins optimistically estimates that psilocybin-assisted therapy may alleviate symptoms of depression for up to a year. If this doesn’t sound significant, consider that previously efficacy was capped at only four weeks.
The high rates of remission have little to do with psychedelics themselves. However, they suggest that most people need a more comprehensive treatment plan than most protocols can accommodate. In a very grounded and sobering piece, the former clinical lead on the psychedelic trials at Imperial College London, Rosalind Watts, recognises the lack of sufficient integration in most research and retreat protocols:
“People were flocking to psychedelic retreats, many had wonderful experiences, but most of them did not receive the kind of aftercare they needed. After such an intense experience, they found themselves left alone to understand it, process it, and try and incorporate the teachings into their lives.”
And it’s not just the lack of proper integration. Most of the latest research studies on psychedelics remain fixated on the brain. Despite the increased awareness of how the body keeps the score of stress and trauma, or the gut-brain connection, the majority of treatments hold a rigid loyalty to a cognitive, behavioural, and motivational level–maintaining the outdated view that healing is as simple as changing your mind.
Even newer, more comprehensive protocols only bring attention to the body to the extent of the therapy session itself. The quality of nutrition, sleep, physical activity, spiritual practice, relationships, even the environment where one lives and works largely remain unaddressed.
This, of course, is reflected in the non-medical world. Most group retreats employ their own protocols to ensure participant safety, which leaves very little capacity for individual care. The frequency of ceremonies typical of an Ayahuasca retreat can be just right for some, but particularly overwhelming for psychedelic novices or those who require a gentler pace. On the other hand, the one-two journeys on a psilocybin retreat may kickstart a process of transformation, but not bring it to completion due to restrictions on ceremony runtime and the facilitator’s limited availability. The lack of a structured integration program and the absence of ongoing support pose further challenges for lasting postive change.
But there’s another way.
“There is no one pattern of healing, however each process goes its own individual way, and as in alchemy, one returns to the transformative fire many times to go through the process on another level.” — Marion Woodman, Jungian analyst
What if you were the protocol?
Here, at Inlibrium, we celebrate protocols; and we gleefully rebel against them.
Our solution to the challenges highlighted in this article was to build a business model of no compromise. After all, we’re not a medical institution; we don’t work with clinical diagnoses; we’re a retreat focused on supporting leaders actualise their potential in order to maximise their positive impact on the world. The radical change we want to create meant that we had to take a radical position.
Free from the restrictions of the clinical or group models, we built a business that puts you at the centre of the experience.
We call this the alchemy of personalised care–a process of transformation honouring that you are a unique microcosm of beliefs, experiences, emotions, sensations, needs, and aspirations. You’re not just your mind, but also a body and a participant in relationships, communities, and the world at large. And if any meaningful transformation is to occur, it has to be completely tailored to all aspects of you.
It’s no accident that we’re inspired by alchemy. The beauty of this early art lies in its deeply experiential and mysterious nature. In their search for the inner gold, alchemists had to start by building a robust container. They knew that what would happen inside couldn’t be predicted–therefore the alchemical vessel needed to be strong enough to endure various operations and not spill over. The trust in the container allowed them to follow the natural flow of transformation that each substance required in order to achieve the Magnum Opus.
Inlibrium is that container. In the absence of prescribed protocols, your process of transformation can take its own creative shape. Your nervous system, history, and goals dictate the rhythm, frequency, and length of the process. What’s more, our extended team of specialists is there to monitor and mediate your transformation beyond the psychedelic experiences themselves. A holistic, multidisciplinary approach with a strong emphasis on integration ensures that each transmutation is assimilated before moving forward–no part of you is left behind.
The downside is that, however successful, the transformation is difficult to capture in numbers and words; depression scales simply don’t work on inner gold. A reduction in anxiety is not the same as turning your life around or finding your purpose. The scales are simply not big enough.
What if, instead of measuring our success by the alleviation of symptoms, we measured it by the intimacy of our relationships,
by our unconditional acceptance of ourselves,
by our sense of purpose,
by the way we lead our businesses with passion rather than power,
and ultimately by our impact on the world?
That’s the scale of work the Inlibrium container is ready to hold.
The vessel is waiting–are you ready to step in?