What Is a Trip Sitter in a Psychedelic Experience?

A trip sitter on a psychedelic experience informs, accompanies, and guides patients in the administration of hallucinogenic substances.
What Is a Trip Sitter in a Psychedelic Experience?
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 18 January, 2024

A trip sitter in a psychedelic experience has the function of guaranteeing the safety of people during the administration and effect of hallucinogenic substances. These drugs have traditionally been used for recreational purposes, but in recent years, they’ve become a resource with great potential in clinical and therapeutic settings.

Right now is a key moment when it comes to treatments based on psilocybin, MDMA, or LSD. An investigation published by Current Psychiatry Reports states that it’s an emerging field in which combining this approach with psychological therapy can transform mental health care.

This explains the need to train professionals who can accompany and assist people during the administration of such alternative drugs. It’s a topic of great interest that’s well worth delving into.

Research shows that people who’ve used psychedelics in a clinical setting show significant gains in healing clinical conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder and major depression.

What are psychedelic therapies?

Psychedelic substances carry with them a bad reputation, mistrust, and prejudice; they’re still a type of drug with serious effects. However, as an investigation in the Social History of Medicine highlights, starting in the 1950s, great effort has been put into using these formulas for therapeutic purposes, specifically for mental health.

Dr. Humphry Osmond discovered the potential of these by treating addictions such as alcoholism. Therefore, from the last century to the present, hundreds of trials have been carried out, which suggest that the application of these models in clinical settings is safe and effective.

Psychedelic therapies are already emerging as a promising intervention method against various psychological disorders and also have broad scientific support.

The Johns Hopkins Center, for example, has spent years developing psilocybin medications to address the symptoms of anxiety, trauma, and addiction.

What’s more, a publication in Nature Medicine highlights the benefits of psilocybin therapy against depression, helping the brain networks to achieve better interconnection, integration, and flexibility, something essential when it comes to favoring changes in the mental and emotional focuses of this condition.

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man with his travel caretaker on a psychedelic experience
A “trip sitter” supports people during their psychedelic treatment experience.

The role of a trip sitter in a psychedelic experience

The effect of substances such as psilocybin, ayahuasca, LSD, or MDMA begins in 15 minutes and can last up to 12 hours. The “trip sitter” in a psychedelic experience has the main functions of informing, accompanying, guiding, and caring for the patient before, during, and after that period.

It should be noted that this figure has always existed; either in the recreational field or in settings for religious and/or spiritual purposes.

However, because psychedelics are already part of many clinical-therapeutic settings, training professionals in the skills of psychedelic trip sitting has become a necessity. Take a deeper look at their role below.

Psychedelic trip sitters ensure that the administration and effects of hallucinogens are always safe.

Roles of psychedelic trip sitters

Institutions such as the National Center for Biotechnology Information and the US National Library of Medicine do a great deal of the research on psychedelic therapy. It’s important to consider that, currently, there’s still no conclusive regulation on how these substances should be administered.

Psychedelic therapy uses what’s known as “micro-dosing,” which is the administration of one-tenth or even one-twentieth of a normal dose. The trip keeper in a psychedelic experience supports the patient both in the preparatory and information sessions, as well as during and after the treatments themselves. In addition, they’re responsible for the following:

  • They help the individual feel comfortable at all times.
  • This figure aims to be non-intrusive and avoids external distractions.
  • A trip sitter makes sure that the patient is always in a safe environment where nothing poses a threat.
  • They’ll use positive affirmations that transmit confidence and tranquility, helping the patient to differentiate between what’s real and what isn’t.
  • Once the dose is ingested, the psychedelic trip sitter guides the patient to experience all the effects in a peaceful way.
  • The professional accompanies the patient so that the feelings, thoughts, and sensations experienced aren’t disturbing, but quite the opposite. The purpose is for the psychedelics to be complemented by psychological therapy and for the patient to integrate those experiences.
  • The trip sitter in a psychedelic experience knows how to act in the event of adverse reactions, such as the appearance of paranoia or other unwanted effects. It’s important to keep in mind that each individual can react differently to these psychoactive substances.

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A female therapist looking at a female patient who's lying on a couch with her hand over her eyes.
Psychedelic therapy should be administered with the help of a trip sitter.

Who can be a trip sitter in a psychedelic experience?

The University of Chile has a study that analyzes the experience of therapists specialized in psychotherapies assisted with psychedelic drugs. It’s worth noting that the figure of these caregivers is normalized in the clinical setting, despite the fact that this role always existed outside of them and for recreational purposes.

  • Mental health professionals are the most suitable individuals to assume the responsibilities of a trip sitter.
  • Doctors or psychiatrists licensed in this area know the effects of substances and know how to administer them.
  • Specialists in psychedelic psychotherapies know how to guide patients so that these substances have a beneficial effect on mental health.
  • A good psychedelic trip sitter knows that these compounds serve a medical purpose, not a recreational one. The ultimate goal is to address the patient’s trauma, depression, or addiction.

Although psychedelic trip sitters have always been around and stood as that sober, non-using figure who helps those who consumed these drugs, today’s health professionals are empowered in this role.

Warnings about the use of psychedelics

Psychedelics temporarily change a person’s mood, perceptions, and thoughts. Using these drugs outside of controlled medical settings isn’t advised. Although there are many people who claim to consume them recreationally to improve their well-being or for mere personal or spiritual interest, their effects can be highly dangerous.

The University of Hertfordshire points out Hallucinogen-Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD) as an associated pathological symptom. In other words, what’s experienced is a prolonged alteration of consciousness that includes depressive symptoms, hallucinations, psychosis, altered thinking, etc. This is common among those who regularly consume such compounds.

Avoid, therefore, resorting to psychedelics, especially without specialized supervision; you never know how the brain and the body will react, even if you do it only once and out of mere curiosity. At present, the exact mechanisms of action of these substances are not known, so being cautious is of utmost importance.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Amoroso, T., & Workman, M. (2016). Treating posttraumatic stress disorder with MDMA-assisted psychotherapy: A preliminary meta-analysis and comparison to prolonged exposure therapy. Journal of Psychopharmacology30(7), 595-600. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27118529/
  • Barber, G. S., & Aaronson, S. T. (2022). The Emerging Field of Psychedelic Psychotherapy. Current psychiatry reports24(10), 583–590. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9553847/
  • Daws, R. E., Timmermann, C., Giribaldi, B., Sexton, J., Wall, M. B., Erritzoe, D., Roseman, L., Nutt, D. J., & Carhart-Harris, R. L. (2022). Increased global integration in the brain after psilocybin therapy for depression. Nature Medicine28(4), 844-851. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-022-01744-z
  • Dyck, E. (2006, August). “Hitting highs at rock bottom”: LSD treatment for alcoholism, 1950-1970. Social History of Medicine. https://academic.oup.com/shm/article-abstract/19/2/313/2259116?redirectedFrom=fulltext&login=false
  • Gorman, I., Belser, A. B., Jerome, L., Hennigan, C., Shechet, B., Hamilton, S., Yazar-Klosinski, B., Emerson, A., & Feduccia, A. A. (2020). Posttraumatic Growth After MDMA‐Assisted Psychotherapy for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Journal of Traumatic Stress33(2), 161-170. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32073177/
  • Husain, M., Umer, M., & Mulsant, B. H. (2022). Can the revival of serotonergic psychedelic drugs as treatments for mental disorders help to characterize their risks and benefits? Expert Opinion on Drug Safety21(6), 721-724. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14740338.2022.2063274
  • Orsolini, L., Papanti, G. D., De Berardis, D., Guirguis, A., Corkery, J. M., & Schifano, F. (2017). The “Endless Trip” among the NPS Users: Psychopathology and Psychopharmacology in the Hallucinogen-Persisting Perception Disorder. A Systematic Review. Frontiers in psychiatry8, 240. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29209235/
  • Schenberg, E. E. (2018). Psychedelic-Assisted Psychotherapy: A Paradigm Shift in Psychiatric Research and Development. Frontiers in Pharmacology9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6041963/
  • Tartakowsky López, I. (2014-12). Psicoterapia asistida con LSD, Psilocibina y MDMA. Descripciones realizadas por los terapeutas en torno a los procesos clínicos [tesis de maestría, Universidad de Chile]. Repositorio Académico Universidad de Chile. https://repositorio.uchile.cl/handle/2250/135079

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.