Can a Tripsitter Help You Avoid a Bad Trip?
Chances are that you’re hearing alot about the ‘psychedelic renaissance’ and want to participate. Psychedelics are fun and often lead to long-term growth and development. However, they can also be somewhat risky if taken irresponsibly, and there’s always the risk of having a bad trip. Many new consumers of psychedelics are turning to ‘tripsitters’ to address these concerns.
A tripsitter is someone who is present during a psychedelic journey to provide support and guidance. They help create a safe and comfortable environment and work to keep you calm and grounded if your trip starts going in a bad direction. Depending on the approach you agree to, they may remain largely uninvolved and are only there to respond if anything goes wrong; they may also take a hands-on role. A tripsitter can be many different types of people or professionals. At its simplest, a tripsitter may just be a friend who is experienced with psychedelics. Alternatively, a professional tripsitter may be a mental health professional (as in the context of psychedelic-assisted therapy).
We hope all your trips are fabulous, but that isn’t always the case for everyone. Having a tripsitter present can help you in a variety of ways, explained below.
What is a Bad Psychedelic Trip Like, and How Can a Tripsitter Help?
A psychedelic experience is defined by what is happening in your mind, what your senses are picking up, and what is happening in your body. A bad trip will vary according to the person, but the emotional experience is much the same. Feelings of anxiety, paranoia, panic, confusion, disorientation, and intense emotional distress may be present. The tripper may also experience disturbing and frightening hallucinations or delusions. In some cases, bad trips have led to temporary psychosis and other mental health problems. Luckily, bad trips are temporary and generally not dangerous. In the vast majority of cases, the effects wear off after a few hours.
Embarking on your journey while in a calm and peaceful state of mind can help ensure a pleasurable trip, and the presence of a tripsitter will help put you in the right state of mind. But, psychedelic adventures are unpredictable; even the best tripsitter in the world cannot guarantee a good trip. However, they can offer a calm shoulder to lean on if things go south. In some cases, a tripsitter may be able to help guide you back towards a better trip.
How A Tripsitter Can Help You Have a Safe and Successful Psychedelic Trip
Although neither you nor your tripsitter can completely control what happens on your trip, here are some measures your tripsitter may take to keep you safe.
No matter what substance you’re taking, your tripsitter should inform you in advance about what to expect. If you understand how it works, what a trip might be like, and what its side effects and risks are, you will be better equipped to handle a potential bad experience.
Your tripsitter may suggest that you start with a low dose and wait to see what happens before possibly taking more. This is especially important if you are new to psychedelics in general, new to the specific substance you’re taking, or even new to the particular strain. For example, you may have taken mushrooms or LSD in the past, but gotten them from a different source or a different batch. Anytime you are in any way unfamiliar with what you’re taking and your body’s reaction to it, err on the side of caution by starting small. We recommend that you discuss dosing with your tripsitter ahead of time.
Creating a Safe and Comfortable Environment
A tripsitter will assist you in finding or creating a space in which you feel both physically and mentally secure and where you are unlikely to be disturbed. Going into your trip with a sense of safety will set the context for a smooth trip.
Part of a tripsitter’s role is to guide you in setting a clear and specific intention for your experience. Doing so will make the trip more meaningful and help anchor you if the going gets tough at any point.
Preparing for the Unexpected
Pretty much anything can happen during a psychedelic trip, and you may be affected in ways you did not anticipate. Your tripsitter will make sure you are prepared to face whatever happens, and they’ll be there to face it with you.
Depending on your tripsitter’s level of expertise and whether or not they are a medical professional, they may be able to provide advice about potential interactions between medications you are taking or other substances you might like to mix with the psychedelic you plan to take. Generally speaking, they will also likely advise you not to mix other drugs such as alcohol, weed, narcotics, or anything else with your psychedelics. Mixing increases the risk of negative side effects and may even mute the impact of the experience. Furthermore, taking prescription medications may lead to dangerous interactions and complications, so it’s important to check with your tripsitter or consult a knowledgeable medical professional first. Finally, if you are using multiple substances to treat a specific condition, it also becomes difficult to know whether the psychedelic drove improvements or not.
Making an Integration Plan
Your trip may yield new wisdom or a new state of mind that you can take forward and use to improve your life. Your tripsitter should also ‘sit’ with you as the two of you create a roadmap, in advance, for how you plan to integrate the insights you gain on your trip. The roadmap might entail a debrief with your tripsitter, friend, or a therapist. It might include journaling, drawing or otherwise making art, meditation, yoga, or any other practice that could help you process your trip. You also might set reminders for follow-up activities or reflection a certain number of days after your trip. Part of your tripsitter’s role could also involve checking in with you at agreed-upon intervals after your trip.
Mental Health Decision-Making
If you’re concerned about your mental health or have a history of mental health issues, take a pause before you take a psychedelic. If your tripsitter has an educational and work background in mental health, they can help you evaluate whether psychedelics are the best route for you. If not, ask a professional. Alternatively, sign up for psychedelic-assisted therapy instead of taking a psychedelic on your own or with a friend as a tripsitter. Psychedelics can also sometimes trigger serious underlying mental health issues that may not have been apparent before, so talk to a healthcare provider particularly if your family has any history of schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders.
How Your Tripsitter Can Help You Navigate a Bad Trip
We hope this part won’t apply to you, but here’s what to do and how your tripsitter can help if things don’t go as planned.
Reminding You That it Will End
A bad trip will feel overwhelming and intense. You may fear that it will never end, and that you’ll be trapped in a terrifying reality forever. Your tripsitter will be ready to remind you that it WILL end, that the effects will wear off, and that you will soon return to your normal state of mind.
If your trip starts to take a darker turn, your tripsitter may remind you to pay attention to your breathing. If you or they notice that you are not breathing or that you are breathing too quickly, pause, breathe, and reset. Abnormal breathing patterns contribute feelings of anxiety and can directly impact the tone of the trip. Instead, take deep, slow breaths in order to calm your body and mind. Inhale deeply, and then exhale for longer than the inhale in order to calm your nervous system. A good tripsitter will guide you through breathing exercises if need be. This is also something you may discuss in advance with your tripsitter.
Present Moment Awareness
In the event of any anxiety, your tripsitter may encourage you to take your mind off whatever is happening internally and ground yourself by focusing on your immediate surroundings. They may ask you to notice the colors, shapes, and textures around you, and to try to describe them in detail to them. This will help you come back to the present moment and create distance between you, and the elements of a bad trip.
Talk to Someone
If your trip goes south, let your tripsitter know what’s going on and how you are feeling. Although they may not always be able to help you avoid a bad trip in the first place, they are there to help you and can offer support and comfort.
Having Calming Music Available
One thing a tripsitter may do in advance to help you avoid or navigate a bad trip is assist you in setting up a playlist of calming music. During your trip, they’ll have headphones and the playlist on hand and will watch for any signs of distress so that you can hear soothing music if need be.
Relaxing Your Body
Another thing your tripsitter may do to help steer your trip back in a favorable direction is take you through progressive relaxation activities. For example, they may ask you to bring awareness to any areas of tension or tightness in your body, contract the muscles in those areas as much as possible for 5-10 seconds, and then release and focus on relaxing and/or massaging those areas. Letting go of physical tension can directly affect whatever is going on mentally and emotionally.
When all is said and done, there’s no 100% effective way to prevent a bad trip. However, having a tripsitter present and following the advice laid out above will go a long way towards stacking the odds in favor of a good trip. That said, bad trips can still lead to growth and be transformed into valuable experiences. My scariest mushroom trip led me to some of the most profound insights of my life. If I could take the trip again, I wouldn’t change a thing. If you do have a bad trip, consider how you can utilize it as a potent opportunity for growth and development.