Life is a Festival Podcast: Sara Gael of the Zendo Project – How to Help Someone Having a “Bad Trip”

Written by Eamon Armstrong on . Posted in Multimedia Library

Originally appearing here.
Summary: Learn about psychedelic harm reduction and techniques to support someone going through a challenging experience by listening to a recent episode of Life is a Festival Podcast with the Zendo Project’s Director of Harm Reduction, Sara Gael, M.A., and host Eamon Armstrong. During the podcast conversation, Gael discusses the four key principles of psychedelic peer support, the differences between trip sitting and psychedelic therapy, and how to create a community around compassionate care.

Do you know what to do if a friend or a stranger is having a difficult psychedelic experience? Sometimes called a “bad trip,” these challenging journeys can actually be catalysts for healing and personal transformation. The key is to keep them safe and trust their inner healer. Sounds simple right? In fact, it’s a profound art, which requires specialized training and can be incredibly personally rewarding.

In this episode, I speak with Zendo Project Director Sara Gael. The Zendo Project is a part of MAPS (the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) that creates a safe space within festivals and similar gatherings for people having difficult psychedelic experiences. “Trip sitting,” as it is sometimes called, is a specific kind of peer support that follows four key principles:

  1. Create a Safe Space
  2. Sitting, Not Guiding
  3. Talk Through, Not Down
  4. Difficult is Not the Same as Bad

On the show, we talk through each principle in detail. We also discuss the differences between trip sitting and psychedelic therapy, the state of the psychedelic renaissance, and how to create a community around compassionate care.

Sara has been working with MAPS to coordinate psychedelic harm reduction since 2012. She also supports the MAPS clinical trials of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD in Boulder, and spent two years working as a Ketamine-assisted psychotherapist at the Boulder Integrative Psychiatric Healing Center. Sara maintains a private practice as a psychotherapist specializing in trauma, integration, and non-ordinary states of consciousness.

You can be a safe container for someone having a difficult psychedelic experience, you just need to learn how to make yourself empty.