The Importance of Journaling in Psychedelic Therapy
It’s nearly impossible to go through a credible psychedelic therapy program without a recommendation to journal at some point throughout your experience.
If you don’t have a regular journaling practice already, or are new to it, it can be difficult to understand why there is such a strong emphasis on journaling when working with psychedelic medicines.
This doesn’t only apply to the world of psychedelic therapy, journaling is an exceptional practice generally.
In this resource we’ll demonstrate why journaling is a uniquely effective practice within the context of psychedelic therapy, and when going through a psychedelic experience.
We’ll also explore how journaling is involved at every stage of the psychedelic therapy process, and some of the unique benefits it can bring along your path to healing and wholeness.
The benefits of journaling in psychedelic therapy
Depending on who you are, what you’re working on, and where you want to go with your life, journaling will have different challenges and different benefits for you.
Journaling is so often recommended in psychedelic medicine because there are several universal benefits that it can bring. These include cathartic expression, facilitating insights, and clarifying your own thoughts and inner experience.
It allows for raw, unfiltered expression
It’s hard to overstate how expressing your honest truth can be healing. Many of us are experts at biting our tongues, withdrawing from conflict, or coming up with reasons why our experience may be better left unsaid.
It is healing simply to express the truth of what you think, how you feel, and what you want. While there can be added benefit in expressing truth to another person, there is equal power in simply expressing it through the written word, in the privacy of your own journaling practice.
This catharsis that comes from “getting something off your chest” is a near-universal benefit of journaling. It's a raw, unfiltered expression of who you are, how you feel, and what you want.
This is often referred to as “stream-of-consciousness” journaling. This means sitting down and writing whatever wants to be expressed, without editing, and without filtering. Once you get started, you will often find that the words write themselves.
It provides unique insights and perspectives
There are moments throughout the course of a psychedelic therapy program where things may seem “fuzzy.”
Maybe the message isn’t quite clear, or the next steps aren’t immediately obvious. You might be confused as to why something happened, or how it relates to your intentions for the session or the program itself.
Journaling is a powerful ally in the process of facilitating deeper insights and understandings about yourself, and about your medicine experiences.
During your integration periods, if you are ever stuck on something or unclear about where to go, sit down with your journal and begin writing about this.
What specifically is unclear to you? What would it look like if you knew what to do next? What is something you’re missing?
Attempting to answer these questions, through the conscious practice of sitting down and considering these ideas, can often facilitate deeper levels of understanding and awareness.
These key insights or perspectives provide you with the next step on your path towards healing and wholeness.
It helps to clarify and document your thoughts
Another powerful benefit of journaling is that it forces you to clarify and codify your inner experience into written, linear language. This may be the most obscure benefit to understand, but it is also the most powerful.
For example, when you ask yourself “How am I?” or “How do I feel about that experience?” you may be confronted with an ocean of information: thoughts, feelings, memories, physical sensations, stories, beliefs, and distractions.
You might be able to argue “both sides” at the same time, “I feel great because of A, B, C… but I also feel bad because of X, Y, Z.” What are you to make of this?
Journaling, by virtue of being written language, forces you to “pick a side” and collapse the ocean of experience into written words. And you might be surprised by the words you pick!
For example, “I feel terrible about this” is vastly different from “I feel slightly annoyed by this.” That slight distinction can lead to a cascade of insights, clarifying important aspects of your experience to yourself.
Clarifying your thoughts, and seeing them physically on the page in front of you, is a transformative and informative process.
Journaling in the stages of the psychedelic experience
Journaling is like a Swiss army knife: a single tool that is useful in a variety of contexts.
There are generally three stages to a psychedelic experience: the preparation stage, the psychedelic medicine experience itself, and the integration period that follows immediately after your experience.
Journaling has earned its rightful place in each stage of the psychedelic therapy experience.
Journaling in preparation
During the preparation stage, you may move through a variety of steps.
This might include making the decision to begin a psychedelic therapy program, consulting with your clinical care team, preparing your set and setting for the program, and setting clear intentions before each individual session.
Journaling is an asset in all of these. Taking time to write about how you feel about your life currently can help you clarify the decision to begin the program itself.
You can write out your questions, comments, concerns, hesitations, or worries, and have a targeted, direct list that you can bring to your initial consultations. This may help you feel well-informed and confident in your decision to move forward with the program.
Journaling is arguably most powerful in helping create a receptive, positive mindset before beginning your program, and in clarifying and crystallizing a powerful intention for each session.
By taking intentional time to connect with yourself and your emotions, you can reaffirm your decision, clarify what specifically you would like to work on in your session, and help release any tension or worries you may have by writing them out in front of you.
Journaling during the experience
While it’s not typically recommended to take time out during the psychedelic medicine experience itself, journaling is a powerful tool to capture your thoughts, feelings, and experiences from a session in the moments immediately following a dosing experience.
With many psychedelic medicines —including ketamine— the memories of your experience may fade quickly, sometimes within hours.
Take a few moments after your dosing sessions to jot down your experience, notable moments, or significant thoughts/emotions that arose. You are collecting raw material to dive deeper into during the neuroplastic integration window that follows your psychedelic experiences.
Journaling during this time is also effective because it forces you to take the potentially abstract, nebulous, and ambiguous emotions that you experienced and translate them into linear, written language.
This process of “clarifying and codifying” your inner experience is invaluable, and a helpful resource to have as you move through the rest of your therapeutic programming.
Journaling during post-session integration
Journaling usually surfaces most prominently as a recommended practice during the integration period of your psychedelic therapy programming. And for good reason!
Oftentimes, key insights or deep transformation takes some time to “settle in,” to make itself known to you, or to highlight the next step on your journey.
There are several techniques and practices for integration: physical, emotional, spiritual, or relationship-based. Journaling is a useful technique for refined clarity on all of these.
Journaling truly shines as an asset on your healing journey, especially when revisiting and returning to your experiences, and how you’re feeling in the days after your sessions. It’ll help you continue to clarify your commitments, highlight your next steps, and process your emotions.
Journaling remains an essential part of psychedelic therapy programs.
It has many benefits, including facilitating cathartic expression, providing novel insights and perspectives previously inaccessible. Journaling helps you to clarify your thoughts, feelings, and inner experiences for further exploration.
Journaling is useful at each stage of the psychedelic experience. In the preparation stage it helps with setting intentions. After the experience itself, it helps you remember key moments. And in the integration period, it assists with processing the experiences that you have had.
As you embark on your own psychedelic therapy programs or your own journaling practice, it’s likely that you will discover other benefits to journaling unique to you and your own healing path. Have fun with these discoveries!
This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. If you are in a life-threatening situation, call the National Suicide Prevention Line at +1 (800) 273-8255, call 911, or go to the nearest emergency room.
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