Written by Gathering Facilitator Sally Kupp
Community-based [plant medicine]-assisted therapy relies on the power of relationships and community to attune individuals to both themselves and others. Compassionate witnessing is one of the primary tools used in this therapy, allowing individuals to connect with others on a deep level and build trust over time. Attunement, or the ability to be present and attuned to another human being, is a fundamental need that many people have lost due to past experiences, including trauma. AND: it seems many people do not have trust in themselves or a supportive community that they feel safe being vulnerable in. Through community, support and unconditional positive regard, trust can first be recognized in self, and then with others.
By holding space for each other's experiences, individuals in the community can expand their window of tolerance, which is the optimal arousal zone that allows for flow and growth. When individuals spend enough time at the edges of hyper or hypo-arousal, they may feel either numb and shut down or aggressive and impulsive. Through co-creating a therapeutic container with community and being witnessed as worthy exactly as we are, individuals can grow their window of tolerance over time.
A community-based approach that emphasizes the power of the individual as well as relationships and community can be a transformative tool. In a strengths-based approach, meaning the focus is on building on people's existing strengths and resources, rather than on their weaknesses or deficits, people feel more empowered and capable. Helping people see their own strengths more clearly and feel more confident in their ability to heal and grow supports their innate inner healing power.
Over the past 15 years, I have been traveling to and working in rural communities throughout Ethiopia to help empower women with access to clean water and education. On one of these trips my friend and local guide, Gebre, took me to see the oldest and largest tree I have ever seen. It was a 1500-year-old Sycamore tree at the base of the Gheralta Mountains in Northern Ethiopia. He explained that this was a sacred tree because people have used it to heal for thousands of years. He explained that when there is a death or a loss, the entire community gathers together around the tree so that it can take and hold the pain for the ones suffering. He said that no one should ever suffer alone. When one of us is in pain we all need to shoulder that together. This communal ritual helps the individual to feel supported, seen, and understood. The latin word for compassion means to “suffer alongside of”. When Gebre’s Ethiopian community shows up at the tree and stands with the one suffering they are suffering alongside of that person. The person feels heard and understood and their pain is lessened in the process.
In the West, we no longer have those communal rituals that draw us together for the sole purpose of healing. Our therapeutic interventions are primarily focused on treating the individual as a lone sufferer. Working with plant medicines offer a radical departure from our typical therapeutic models. For thousands of years Indigenous communities have used plant medicines in communal ways. When we are wounded in community it makes sense we should heal in community. Group medicine experiences engender what Psychedelic researcher, Dr. Rosalind Watts calls communites: “a state of feeling connected to self, others and the wider world”. She found that this is the secret ingredient that has been missing in psychedelic therapy and is essential for long term integration.
Here are the top 6 reasons to try a group psychedelic experience:
1. Feeling seen and heard by a group of peers is actually more profound than the medicine itself.
2. You have a built-in integration group that allows you to connect with others long after the medicine journey is over.
3. Group models help mitigate attachment wounds that often happen when the therapeutic relationship ends.
4. Having shared intentions as a group prior to a journey brings a sense of unity and connection.
5. This is how our ancestors used to do this kind of work.
6. It feels very sacred and spiritual to participate in this kind of group ritual.
- Peg Peters
My name is Heather and I am a mother of four grown daughters, a teacher, a counsellor, a doula and I have been married for 30 years. This blog is my musings on my own journey towards health and healing through psychedelics.
UNVEILED: is a podcast that explores spirituality and psychedelics. The hosts are Peg Peters and Dave Phillips.
A beautiful discussion on Group Structure by Winchester, Somatic Trauma Therapist, Cheam First Nations, Chilliwack BC, Canada
Phil, CEO, of Pan Pacific Pet Talks About Using Gathering in his Business to Help His Employees
This is a trauma-informed model of group work that values predictability and structure.
This group work is specifically designed and researched to promote resiliency, connection and personal growth.
Each week the 90 minute group meeting will be structured as follows:
1 - WE LEARN
We will watch a 3-5 minute teaching video that gives you a practical tool. This is designed to help us focus our attention on the topic of the week.
2 - WE PAUSE
We will follow along with an instructional breath-work video, mindfulness practice or movement practice like trauma-informed yoga for about 10 minutes.
3 - WE OPEN
We open the circle each week by each sharing one emotion that we are feeling and one physical sensation that we are feeling in our body right now without any backstory. (30 second per person)
4 - WE SHARE/EMBODY
Each person will have 3 minutes to share their heart-felt response to the weekly question that was sent out 24 hours in advance of the meeting time.
After each person shares there will be opportunity for a few people to respond from an embodied place. This skill of embodied listening is crucial to the group work and will be explained thoroughly.
5 - WE CLOSE
We close the circle by each sharing one emotion that we are now feeling and one physical sensation that we are noticing.
Below is a 10 minute breathing exercise to help you practice what you are learning in our Gathering Groups, led by Gathering Facilitator Heather