A trip sitter doing what tripsitters do: sitting.

What is a Tripsitter?

The use of psychedelics for spiritual and therapeutic purposes dates back millennia. Think, for example, of the use of peyote by the indigenous peoples of the Americas for ritual purposes. Or of the belief by some in the research community that consumption of psychedelic mushrooms dramatically expanded the brain capacity of our ancestors. For as long as psychedelics have been consumed by someone for the first time, so has that newbie requested someone to ‘sit’ with them, making sure their trip is a pleasant experience. And now, that helpful, empathetic and patient individual can have a meaningful, successful career.

Enter the Tripsitter

By the 1950’s, psychedelics like LSD and psilocybin were being sought out as a means of exploring the subconscious. Research into the chemical compounds was flourishing, and a result of all of these trials was the development of a powerful new tool in the field of psychology. During this time, the concept of a ‘tripsitter’ emerged. Newly-introduced consumers were understandably nervous about their upcoming trip and how they might react. Tripsitters are quite literally that – providing support and guidance to the consumer during their psychedelic experience.

In the ‘50’s, tripsitters were often friends or colleagues of the person tripping and were chosen specifically for that reason – the consumer knew they could trust them. Tripsitters were expected to be non-judgmental. They would provide some serenity and calm in the event that the trip was unpleasant or the consumer became anxious. They were also responsible for ensuring the physical safety of the person tripping.

The 1960’s brought the rise of the counterculture movement and with it, a sharp increase in the intake of psychedelics. Tripsitting started to become more formalized. Groups like the Brotherhood of Eternal Love and the Merry Pranksters, advocating for the widespread use of LSD, emphasized the importance of having a tripsitter. For a time, being a tripsitter was very much a cultural icon and a badge of honour for those willing to take on the responsibility!

Tripsitters Today

An experienced tripsitter gets some down time with an experienced consumer.

Modern tripsitting has become much more professional and, despite protest from some corners, commercial. The line between tripsitting and integration therapists is becoming somewhat blurred. New credentials and accreditations are emerging in legal environments, such as Oregon. Though there is more to being a good tripsitter then understanding how to care for a person in distress, these credentials are obviously useful.

But many consumers also say that they prefer working with a tripsitter that has experience in administering (or consuming) psychedelics. While they may not have formal medical training, these professionals are expected to be more empathic. This allows them to provide better guidance during the consumer’s trip.

Tripsitting to Come

The use of psychedelics for therapeutic purposes is once again gaining recognition, with clinical trials exploring the potential of substances like psilocybin and MDMA for the treatment of conditions like depression and PTSD. As a result, the use of psychedelics in a therapeutic setting is becoming more common. As this continues, the role of the tripsitter will evolve, and remain an important part of the process. Very little industry data exists to confirm this. But in this author’s conversations with industry participants, tripsitters across the US are in high demand. “I take calls 18 hours a day, 7 days a week” said one tripsitter we found through a Discord invitation. “I don’t need to advertise, it’s all word of mouth. So many first-timers all terrified that they’ll hurt themselves.”

Tripsitters are having alot of commercial success and attracting untold numbers of new colleagues to the job. Expect their growth, and the launch of new accreditations and training courses to facilitate this growth, to continue.

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