January 10, 2023

Group vs Individual Medicine Journeys

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

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Article written by Peg

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