A trip sitter doing what tripsitters do: sitting.

What is a Tripsitter (and Why You Need One)?

The growing interest in psychedelics has spurred the growth of the psychedelic chaperone, or “tripsitter.” What is a tripsitter? What do they do? Where did tripsitters come from? Who are tripsitters and why do you need one?

Tripsitting- New Twist on an Old Standby

The use of psychedelics for spiritual and therapeutic purposes dates back millennia. The indigenous peoples of the Americas consumed peyote for ritual and medicinal purposes going back thousands of years. Peyote use in the Rio Grande Valley dates back to as late as 3,780 BC, or about 5,700 years ago. Some people in the research community believe that the consumption of psychedelic mushrooms dramatically expanded our ancestral brain capacity. In the 1950s, psychedelics like LSD and psilocybin gained notoriety and popularity as novel, powerful tools to embark on and enhance subconscious explorations. A psychedelic adventure can render someone quite vulnerable and be a harrowing experience if not done under the proper set and setting. Thus, the vocation of “tripsitter” has grown to meet the needs of psychedelic explorers. 

Enter the Tripsitter

From the 1950s onward, the concept of a ‘tripsitter’ emerged. The definition of a trip sitter is “…a trustworthy and sober individual responsible for ensuring the emotional and physical safety of the psychedelic tripper.” Trip sitters have worn many hats over time, including but not limited to, sober sitter, co-pilot, and spotter. Think of a tripsitter as a psychedelic chaperone, working on your behalf to ensure harm reduction. The tripsitter prevents you from hurting yourself and strives to preempt a bad trip. However, they don’t take an active role nor direct a person through their psychedelic experience.

Andrew Philips, a psychedelic guide who offers tripsitting services in North Carolina, was drawn to tripsitting after his own personal recovery from serious mental illness at the age of 43 with the help of psychedelics. Andrew says that he “was able to heal my anxiety and treatment-resistant depression with the information I learned from using psychedelics.”

Andrew Philips, what is a tripsitter
Andrew Phillips, an Ashville North Carolina-based Tripsitter.

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Psychedelic virgins and novices were understandably nervous about their upcoming trip and how they might react. In the ‘50’s, tripsitters were often friends or colleagues of the person tripping and were chosen specifically for that reason. The psychedelic explorer 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 ushered in the rise of the counterculture movement and with it, a sharp increase in psychedelic consumption. Tripsitting started to become more formalized. Groups like the Brotherhood of Eternal Love and the Merry Pranksters advocated for the widespread use of LSD. Both groups emphasized the importance of employing a tripsitter.

Tripsitters Today

Modern tripsitting has become much more professional and controversial. Some point to the commercial aspects of the trade and question its integrity. Others point to the lack of formal training by tripsitters. Now, in the 2020s, the vocation of “psychedelic integration therapist” has arrived. The line between tripsitting and psychedelic integration therapy is becoming blurred. But what is integration therapy? 

Psychedelic integration therapy helps people make sense of non-ordinary states of consciousness and adjust their lives as needed based on those psychedelic experiences. The psychedelic integration therapy field is ever-evolving. Thus defining it makes for a tricky task. The most contemporary definition of psychedelic integration therapy focuses on internal and external “wholeness.” 

Complicating matters further, new credentials and accreditations are emerging in states with favorable political climates, such as Oregon. Though being a good tripsitter requires more than just understanding how to care for a person in distress, these credentials are obviously useful. On the contrary, many consumers would-be trippers also say that they prefer working with a tripsitter that has experience in administering, or better yet, consuming psychedelics. Current logic according to some says these professionals can provide better guidance during the trip.

Regardless, the use of psychedelics for therapeutic purposes is once again gaining recognition. Clinical trials are exploring the potential of substances like psilocybin and MDMA for the treatment of conditions like depression and PTSD. As the use of therapeutic psychedelics becomes more common, the role of the tripsitter is likely to continue to evolve and will remain an important part of the process.

What Does a Tripsitter Do?

The duties of a tripsitter include providing a safe and supportive environment for a person who is under the influence of a psychedelic substance. The tripsitter may also help them navigate any intense emotions or experiences that may arise during the trip. Some specific responsibilities may include:

  • Creating a comfortable and safe space for the person to have their experience, free from distractions, interruptions and dangers.
  • Being present and attentive to the person’s needs throughout the duration of the trip.
  • Helping the person understand the effects of the substance and what to expect during the experience.
  • Being able to recognize signs of distress or discomfort and intervene as necessary to help the person feel more comfortable.
  • Helping the person process and integrate any intense emotions or experiences that may arise during the trip.
  • Being able to remain calm and composed in the face of any unexpected or intense experiences that may arise.
  • Knowing and being able to provide basic first aid in case of any adverse reactions or emergencies.
  • Being able to communicate effectively and empathetically with the person you are sitting for.

An upstanding tripsitter will never force or coerce a person into taking a psychedelic substance and respects the person’s autonomy and right to make their own decisions about their experience. Finally, remember that possession, use, and distribution of psychedelic substances are illegal in many countries. Be aware of the legal situation and risks in your area before taking psychedelics. 

How Legal is Tripsitting?

The legality of tripsitting varies from country to country, state to state, and city to city. In some places it may not be specifically addressed by law. In many countries, possession, use, and distribution of psychedelic substances are illegal, and tripsitting activities may be considered illegal as well. No clear, legal path forward, for the therapeutic use of psychedelics exists, making the job of tripsitters challenging.

In countries where possession, use, and distribution of psychedelic substances are illegal, providing a safe and supportive environment for someone to have a psychedelic experience would be considered illegal as well. Lastly, in many countries, there is no legal recognition of tripsitting as a profession, so be aware of this and act responsibly.

Be knowledgeable of the legal situation in your area before engaging in tripsitting activities and make sure you are not breaking the law. Also keep in mind that laws can change over time, so stay informed about the current legal situation.

Keep in mind that even if trip sitting is legal in your area, it’s important to approach this experience with caution and to understand that any psychedelic experience can be intense and should be approached with the proper mindset and preparation.

Broadly speaking, tripsitting won’t get you locked up in the United States, as long as it doesn’t involve providing the psychedelic. This is already the case in most countries around the world, as “…clinicians cannot yet prescribe psychedelics or serve as a guide during psychedelic experiences.” Due to the legal ambiguity, numerous tripsitters and psychedelic therapists work underground creating an entirely new set of risks and concerns.

Who Makes a Good Tripsitter?

A good tripsitter is someone who is knowledgeable about the effects of psychedelic substances and is able to provide a safe and supportive environment.

Don’t work with someone who hasn’t work extensively with the medicine you are taking with them. I’ve also heard a lot of stories of facilitators giving people irresponsible doses, working in a poor setting, or not offering to help their client prepare or integrate. The most important thing is that you personally resonate with them – you need to have a feel for the type of energy they are going to bring to your experience before you hire them. Don’t just hire whoever is available or go for the sitter that is the least expensive. 

Andrew Phillips, Psychedelic Guide and Integration Coach

They are able to effectively support the person during the experience. Some specific characteristics that may make a good tripsitter include:

  • Knowledge and understanding of the effects of psychedelic substances: A good tripsitter should have knowledge about the effects of the specific substance being used and be able to explain them to the person they are sitting for.
  • Empathy and active listening skills: A good tripsitter should be able to understand the person’s perspective and be able to respond to their needs in a compassionate and empathetic way.
  • Good communication skills: A good tripsitter should be able to effectively communicate with the person they are sitting for, and be able to understand and respond to their needs.
  • Calm and composed: A good tripsitter should be able to remain calm and composed in the face of any unexpected or intense experiences that may arise.
  • Ability to recognize distress and intervene: A good tripsitter should be able to recognize signs of distress or discomfort and intervene as necessary to help the person feel more comfortable.
  • Basic first aid knowledge: A good tripsitter should have basic first aid knowledge and be able to provide it if necessary.
  • Good self-care practices: A good tripsitter should have good self-care practices in place, as the work can be emotionally taxing.
  • Honesty and integrity: A good tripsitter should be honest, upfront, and transparent, whose actions align with their words. 
Marcel van der Putten , TripTherapie, tripsitter services in Noordwijkerhout, The Netherlands
Marcel van der Putten, Founder, TripTherapie.

Marcel van der Putten, the founder of Triptherapie, which offers both on-location tripsitting services as well as its specialized facilities, listed these additional points for you to raise with a prospective tripsitter to understand how they handle various aspects of the tripsitting process:

  • How do you handle safety? Although truffles are the safest drugs/plant medicine, dangerous interactions are possible with several medicines, and psychedelics are contraindicated with some psychological conditions. Responsible tripsitters should screen participants through an intake process to prevent dangerous interactions.
  • What sort of preparation work do you do with clients?
  • What is the group size that you recommend? We think it is important that the group is neither too big nor too small. Typically, we get the best results with groups of 3-6 participants because there is a group feeling, but not too big to see yourself as one of many.
  • How do you make sure participants have enough personal space? If tripsitting occurs in a facility outside of your residence, is it set up so that participants can have some personal space?
Ceremonial room at TripTherapie, tripsitter services in Noordwijkerhout, The Netherlands
The ceremonial room at TripTherapie.
  • What is the ratio of tripsitters to participants? It goes without saying that experienced guidance gives people peace of mind. As a rule of thumb, we always ensure that at least one supervisor with at least two years of experience and at least one supervisor per three participants must be present.
  • Will there be music, and if so, what kind? The music can take you to the emotions you need to let things go and grow. During the higher-dosed experiences, you can melt into the music, so we pay a lot of attention to the playlist. We have multiple playlists, and we choose them based on the needs of the participants.
TripTherapie, tripsitter services in Noordwijkerhout, The Netherlands
Psilocybin sitting session at TripTherapie.
  • Will food and drinks be provided? While typically, if the tripsitter is coming to you, you will be responsible for this, but if you go to a specialized facility, you ideally want healthy food that tastes good. Think fruit, not junk food!.
  • Will there be any integration? Will the tripsitter engage in any discussion immediately after the psychedelic experience or offer any telephone follow-up days after the session?
Navigated Tripping: Ferdi Uuldriks
Ferdi Uuldriks, founder of Navigated Tripping in the Netherlands

For starters, always ensure you are 100% at ease with the person you are considering hiring. Their presence can be a strong influence during your experience, and you need to be able to fully put your trust, health and safety in their hands. Listen to your intuition when it comes to this. This is why I feel there should be at least some form of option to get to know them before you must commit.

Ferdi Uuldriks, Navigated Tripping

How Much Does a Tripsitter Cost?

The cost of a tripsitter can vary depending on several factors, such as the location, the qualifications and experience of the tripsitter, and the length of the session. In general, tripsitters can charge anywhere from $50 to $200 per hour. Some tripsitters may also charge a flat rate for a full-day or multiple days session. The cost can also depend on whether the tripsitter is a professional therapist or counsellor, which, in this case, the cost can be higher.

The cost of the trip sitting service should not be the only factor considered when selecting a trip sitter. Safety, the qualifications and experience of the trip sitter, and the setting and accommodation provided should also be considered. Remember, laws can change over time, and staying informed about the current legal situation is important. Approach this experience cautiously and understand that any psychedelic experience, including with psychedelics, can be intense and should be approached with the proper mindset and preparation.

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About the Author

While I am originally from Chicago, I call Austin, TX home (which coincidentally led me to my first Ayahuasca retreat) with stops along the way in places like the everglade state of Florida and Spain. An active participant in the psychedelic community, I've had the privilege and opportunity to hear a range of expert speakers speakers, including Anthony Bossis, Jamie Wheal, Dennis McKenna and Roland Griffiths. In my spare time I hike national parks, enjoy abusing my passport, listen to the Flaming Lips and read Joseph Campbell, Jung, Graham Hancock, Alan Watts and Montaigne. As my beloved Bill Hicks said, “It’s just a ride."

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