One of the most common misconceptions about my work as an Applied Shamanic Counselor and Depth Hypnosis practitioner is the assumption that I regularly use plant medicine in my work with clients.
I’m by no means here to knock plant medicine or psychedelic assisted therapy – they can be an amazing agent of transformation! In fact, I do considerable work supporting people as they prepare for or integrate after having these profound experiences. Psychedelics can open us to new ways of perceiving our reality, break down our egoic clinging, and offer a tremendous sense of unity with life and nature. This is deeply valuable and often life changing.
But, as psychedelic assisted therapy becomes more commonplace, people often assume that it is the only way to do altered state healing work, or approach it for the wrong reasons.
At its worst, the pursuit of psychedelic experiences can become a search for a magic bullet that will require no additional growth work on our part. Or, it can become an extractive relationship that exploits the indigenous people, lineages, and ecosystems that have stewarded plant medicine and sacred knowledge for thousands of years. This can cause harm on so many levels, and a thoughtful, discerning approach is necessary.
If you are interested in pursuing altered state healing work but feel nervous or uncertain about diving into psychedelics, Depth Hypnosis or Applied Shamanic Counseling may be a great fit. Not only do these modalities allow you time to explore a gentle, substance-free form of altered state work, they can support your process of preparation, discernment, and integration for any medicine work you may choose to do in the future.
The truth is, altered state work like Depth Hypnosis or the shamanic journey (a tool that I use with many of my clients), can offer visionary experiences that are just as profound and transcendent as a medicine session.
In fact, this is backed by scientific evidence: A recent study from the Center for Consciousness Science at the University of Michigan Medical School found that shamanic practitioners enter a unique and powerful brain state during (substance-free) journey practice. Using EEG measurements of the brain, these shamanic practitioners were shown to have significantly higher levels of gamma waves, the brain wave pattern associated with peak concentration, information processing, and perceptive capacity.
The study also compared experienced shamanic practitioners to subjects on psychedelics. They found that during a shamanic journey, practitioners experienced visual imagery, and a sense of unity, spiritual experience, and insightfulness at similar or even greater levels than subjects using a range of psychedelics.
This study reaffirms what I and other experienced shamanic practitioners already know: that access to extraordinary states of consciousness, deeper wisdom, and connection are readily available to us as humans.
Shamanic practices involving drumming, singing, meditation, ritual, and other methods of connecting to non-ordinary states of consciousness have existed across every continent for many thousands of years. No matter where your ancestors are from, there likely is a culture in your lineage that at some point honored nature, marked important events with ritual, and accessed altered states through shamanic means.
Our cultures have shifted over time in ways that often take us out of community, trust, and a reciprocal relationship with the natural world. So many mourn this deep loss consciously or unconsciously. Healing modalities like Depth Hypnosis allow us to move gently back into this space of flow and trust through altered state work that is powerful, profound, and deeply supportive, yet relies simply on the innate capacity of our body and mind.