Selecting a setting

Prepare for a psychedelic trip like you would an overnight stay at summer camp or a childhood friend’s house. Make sure you have all your favorite clothes, foods, and comforts on hand. This guide is largely based off MAPS’s Manual of Psychedelic Support.

Choose a location

If you are inexperienced, it is best to take psychedelics somewhere with which you are already familiar, such as your home or at a friend’s house. If you prefer to spent time outside, find empty land or trails you’ve visited before. Avoid places where you may be interrupted by unexpected guests or authority figures, or where you may be spotted behaving strangely by oblivious family or neighbors.

Indoors

Taking psychedelics indoors allows for maximum control over one’s setting. If you are planning an indoor session, be sure to clean up the space area beforehand, putting aside obstacles and fragile objects. If you have a house or multiple rooms available to you, prepare each room so they are ready for activities: queue up your playlists, prepare any food, make your bed, feed any pets, set out art supplies or decorations. Set up beforehand, so you can comfortably relax during the drug come-up knowing everything will be ready.

You won’t be answering the door for any unexpected guests, so it may benefit you to draw the blinds, lock your doors, and make it look like nobody’s home. Similarly, you might unplug your phones and close out any social media so that you don’t get wrapped up in conversations demanding an unaltered mindset, such as getting called into work or someone asking for advice.

Suggestions for preparing an indoor environment:

  • Lighting: pick lighting that is not too harsh, to accommodate for pupil dilation. Soft diffuse or indirect light is preferred, so that participants can find their way around without being overwhelmed by direct bright lights. Chinese lanterns, lava lamps, Christmas lights, and artificial candles all provide excellent sources of gentle, non-directional lighting. Candles are generally discouraged due to their fire risk; if deemed necessary, small tea-lights are safest and should be kept in high-walled jars or candleholders so that their flames are not exposed.
  • Comfort: make your bed, wipe down any surfaces (dirty textures such as grime can be enhanced while on psychedelics), air out the house or burn your favorite incense. Make sure there is plenty of bedding to flop down on, and that any music or videos are ready to be played.
  • Clothes: wear clothes that are light easy easy to move around in, or whatever you find most comfortable, or clothes which invoke positive thoughts or feelings. Consider removing heavy or precious garments for safekeeping.
  • Safety: put away any objects which could bring up volatile or intimidating associations, such as knives, firearms, toxins, or any other items which may be association with psychological triggers.

Here are some common indoor activities which are conducive to comfortable session:

  • listening to music or playing musical instruments
  • enjoying art, making art, or doing art therapy
  • yoga
  • meditation
  • playing videogames or trying VR experiences; especially sandbox, creative, or musically oriented game
  • viewing old photos, journals, yearbooks and reflecting on growth
  • watching favorite childhood movies and empathizing with one’s inner child, or listening to nostalgic music
  • revisting childhood occupations: toys, dolls, videogames, journals, schoolwork, artwork, photographs, stuffed animals

Outdoors

Psychedelics frequently increase one’s feelings of connectedness with nature. Spending time outside while on psychedelics can be emotionally grounding and afford many engaging opportunities. It is recommended that you bring a guide if you plan a session outdoors, as it can increase your exposure unexpected interruptions such as authority figures. As with any outdoor expedition, plan for natural hazards and have alternative accommodations available in case of a storm.

Suggestions for preparing an outdoor environment:

  • Lighting: bring sunglasses — these are very necessary with psychedelics, as your psychedelics will cause your pupils to dilate, so that they are less able to adjust to bright light.
  • Comfort: bring a blanket and pillow, so that you have a means to lay down in case you get tired or bundle up if you are cold. Finally, see if you can access a tent or shelter, in case you decide you don’t want to be outside anymore.
  • Clothes: pack clothes that are comfortable and well-fitting, but which are also practical and durable enough to endure outdoor adventures. Bring a change of dry clean clothes, in case anything should happen to the ones you’re wearing — getting dirty or wet can be fun and cathartic, but sitting around in clammy wet clothes can generalize into uncomfortable sensations or thought loops. Leave any precious jewelry at home so you don’t lose it.
  • Safety: sunblock and bug spray, to protect you from the elements. Be sure to apply sunblock, as it is easy to forget once you are under the effects of a drug, and you may be too distracted by the psychedelia to notice sunburn occurring. Bring a first-aid kit and plenty of water — if you are near a water source, consider bringing a water purification straw or hand pump.

Outdoor activities include:

  • tree hugging (a.k.a. “tree grounding”) and flower gathering
  • watching water flow, clouds drift, stars twinkle, trees and grass sway
  • wading in shallow water
  • sitting by a campfire, roasting marshmallows
  • breath meditation in the fresh air, appreciating nature’s scents
  • going for walks on pre-planned trails, walking meditation
  • listen to the sound of birds, insects, water, leaves rustling

Digital detoxing

Many people, especially in a therapy context, might opt not to use digital communication devices (such as phones or tablets) during psychedelic sessions. This may be done for a variety of reasons, such as to hone focus on inner sensations, to help break out of technology habits, or simply to avoid talking. Whatever the reason, the psychedelic experience is usually much more worthwhile when it is not entirely spent staring at a screen.

Decorations & visuals

As discussed at further length in Visual Appreciation, taking in beauty is one incredible opportunity the psychedelic experience has on offer. Psychedelic users have adopted countless pop cultural associations, visual motifs, and archetypal talismans; some of these are suggested below:

  • projection art — either using a digital projector, or an old-school overhead projector. if a projector is unavailable, psychedelic visuals playing on any unoccupied screens
  • hanging tapestries featuring intricate patterns
  • lava lamps, paper lanterns, Christmas lights, artificial candles
  • prints of surrealism paintings, visionary art, Buddhist Thangkas, mandalas, deities of any kind, labyrinths, or optical illusions
  • flowers, houseplants, succulents, origami, crystals, rhinestones, prisms, polyhedral dice

Food & drink

During a peak experience, most participants show little interest in eating. Many foods becomes radically less palatable while under the influence of psychedelics, varying by individual taste and associations. For the most part, fresh foods such as fruits, vegetables, cheese, and bread generally remain appreciable and even more delicious. Ancient, unprocessed foods provide sustained energy and are generally easy to digest. These can be good to have on hand during the come-down phase, when patients are likely to feel a little tired and hungry.

It is also wise to have plenty of water on hand for hydration. Soothing tea such as honey lemon ginger tea can further aid in averting dry mouth, reducing nausea, and provide sensory pleasure.

Incense, smoke, & air quality

Consider if you will be burning any incense, or smoking any cigarettes or cannabis, and if this will affect the air quality. While some participants prefer to have incense filling the room or are chain smokers, and are not bothered by the particulates, others may be bothered by these conditions while under the influence of psychedelics, or find it physically irritating.