What happens at a psychedelic retreat

What Happens At A Psychedelic Retreat?

If you’re entirely new to psychedelics, it’s perfectly normal to wonder “What happens at a psychedelic retreat?”

In fact, even experienced psychedelic users have their reservations about these retreat centers…

“Shamanism? Magic potions? Crystals? No thanks, I’ll pass.”

The reality is: these are all myths. Well… kind of! In this article, we’ll demystify psychedelic retreats for newbies so that you can decide whether or not they’re right for you.

Let’s get started!

The People Working at a Psychedelic Retreat

As with hotels, psychedelic retreats need lots of staff, including a cleaning crew and people to cook and serve food.

In addition, these retreats employ specialists who provide services like massages, yoga and fitness classes, and psychological and medical care.

The ceremonies are most commonly held by people trained in delivering the plant medicine being used.

They can be a Maestro or Maestra, a Shaman, a medical professional, or the owner of the retreat, depending on the type of retreat you attend.

Therapists and social workers are often part of the staff as well.

They help guests feel comfortable, prepare for the journey, and integrate the experience and learnings of the psychedelic ceremony.

The Facilities at a Psychedelic Retreat

When it comes to psychedelic retreats, there are all sorts of building layouts and types — from modest shared rooms to bungalows in the jungle to luxurious villas.

Here are some examples to show you how varied psychedelic retreats are:

  • At MycoMeditations, you can stay at an authentic Jamaican house or a luxury villa right by the beach or in the middle of the jungle.
Common area at MycoMeditations Psilocybin Mushroom Retreat in Treasure Beach, Jamaica
Common area at MycoMeditations.
  • With the Dutch branch of Beckley Retreats, you’ll stay at a minimalist chic villa that’s surrounded by a beautiful forest, but only 25 miles away from Amsterdam.
Landscape at Beckley Retreats Psilocybin Retreat Netherlands
The grounds at Soltara Healing Center Ayahuasca Retreat in Tarapoto, Peru
  • The accommodations at Atman Retreat are the most modest of the bunch — you’ll stay at a historical 18th-century property surrounded by a beach and tropical gardens.
The beach at Atman Psilocybin Mushroom Retreat Montego Bay Jamaica
The private beach at Atman Psilocybin Mushroom Retreat Montego Bay Jamaica

In most cases, there’s a communal kitchen, yoga studio, and ceremony space (also known as “maloca”).

And, often, there’s some space for R&R, including hiking trails, beach access, hammocks, a pool, and more.

The Itinerary at a Psychedelic Retreat

Itineraries at psychedelic retreats are as varied as the facilities.

But there are a few activities or steps that are common to pretty much every retreat. The three basics are:

  • Preparation work before you arrive and before your first ceremony
  • One to five (or more) plant ceremonies
  • Integration work after the ceremony/ies and once you return home

Before your first ceremony, you’ll get some time to settle in — they’ll likely organize a group dinner so participants can get acquainted.

You’ll also get to meet the staff, including the therapists or Shamans, so you feel more at ease and get some info on what to expect from the retreat.

In between ceremonies, there’s downtime for you to relax, process, and recover from your experience. Group activities and off-retreat excursions are also common.

Here are some activities retreats usually offer:

  • Spiritual and personal growth workshops
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Massages
  • Movement and somatic workshops
  • Breathwork
  • Sound healing
  • Guided tours and excursions (to the jungle, nearest town, or farmers’ market, for example)

In addition, most retreats see clean eating as part of your therapy. You can expect fresh meals, cooked on-site and made from locally sourced ingredients. Often, retreats stick to vegan or vegetarian options.

Usually, integration activities go well beyond the end of the retreat either by individually following the guidelines they provide you with or through online 1:1 or group sessions.

Are the Ceremonies at a Psychedelic Retreat Scary? Are they Intense?

Ceremonies at psychedelic retreats can be scary!

Plant medicine, especially in high doses, can heighten the senses to the point that even trivial stimuli turn into disturbing episodes.

Plus, indigenous traditions in shamanistic retreats are very foreign to Westerners and can be quite unsettling.

Music is often used to enhance the experience. However, it’s not your typical radio hit. It’ll likely be a collection of dissonant sounds meant to challenge your mind.

Yes, it can be unsettling — or even scary — but it’s important to remember that the whole experience was designed to help you, not scare you!

How to Prepare for Your First Psychedelic Retreat

Thoroughly researching the retreat, staff, plant medicine, and what you can expect from an experience like this is the best way to prepare for it.

Once you’ve narrowed down your retreat options, browsing through past attendees’ reviews will also give you a good idea of what to expect.

After you’ve chosen and arranged your retreat, here’s how you can maximize its beneficial effects:

  • Follow the guidelines
  • Do the recommended prep work
  • Take time to look within yourself
  • Adhere to the detox and diet plan

Remember, the people working in retreats are there to give you the best possible experience and to help you.

A lot of them were once beginners — just like you! After experiencing the healing powers of plant medicines, they made it their mission to pay it forward. Trust the staff and their recommendations.

With that being said, there are a few more things you should do to prepare for your first psychedelic retreat, including:

  • Talk to a healthcare provider to know if you have any current or past, mental or physical conditions that are incompatible with the plant medicine you chose.
  • If you take any medications, talk to a healthcare provider to know if there are any contraindications.
  • Journal before, during, and after the retreat to define your goals and document how you feel at every stage of the journey.
  • Pack accordingly. Take your comfiest clothing and some warm socks, pants, and a jacket or sweater — even if the retreat is in a warm location.
  • Plan for the retreat and after by picking an emergency contact, carefully planning your roundtrip to the retreat, and taking a few extra days off work to ease yourself into “normal” life.
  • Before going, plan how you’ll maximize the positive effects of the retreat after returning home — research shows that psychotherapy or counseling, chatting with people who went through the same experience, and spending time in nature are the most important variables to increase well-being post-retreat.

So, What Happens at a Psychedelic Retreat?

Each psychedelic retreat is unique.

But, generally speaking, here’s what goes on at pretty much every center:

  • Preparation work before you arrive
  • Time to get acquainted with the staff, other guests, and facilities
  • One to five (or more) plant ceremonies
  • Time for solo or group activities in-between ceremonies
  • Integration work after the ceremony/ies and once you return home

Yes, a minority of people may find the ceremonies scary, unsettling, or too intense, but that’s part of facing your trauma and overcoming it.

As long as you follow the guidelines, take the retreat seriously, and trust the practitioners, there’s nothing to fear — but so much to look forward to!

For more information about psychedelic retreats, visit our retreat listings, or consult our definitive guides!

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About the Author

Having experienced the healing powers of nature first-hand, through cannabis and psychedelics, I now aim to educate and, hopefully, improve the lives of as many people as possible.

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