Most people who have been on a psychedelic medicine retreat will tell you that a powerful sense of community is part of what can make this experience so special. The sharing of hopes and fears before and after the voyage and the bonding that takes place between attendees are often the stuff of treasured memories and lasting friendships. But is this part and parcel of the healing that these ceremonies can bring, or is it simply a valuable bonus?
By conducting a large-scale web survey of participants in medicine retreats and other group psychedelic sessions, researchers at Imperial College London’s Centre for Psychedelic Research found that the emotional connection, camaraderie, and mutual trust generated at those events seemed to have a positive impact on mental health.
They speculate that communitas, defined as “intense togetherness and shared humanity that temporarily transcends social structures,” might make for more powerful psychedelic therapy.
As it stands, most formal psychedelic therapy sessions are conducted with individual patients in clinical environments. Perhaps by bringing some of the elements of a group entheogenic experience into psychedelic therapy—namely, a sense of shared experience, greater bonding between patient and facilitator, and a strong level of emotional support—therapists could maximize the value of these treatments.