“Trauma degrades the victim; the group exalts her. Trauma dehumanizes the victim; the group restores her humanity. Repeatedly in the testimony of survivors there comes a moment when a sense of connection is restored by another person’s unaffected display of generosity. Something in herself that the victim believes to be irretrievably destroyed—faith, decency, courage—is reawakened by an example of common altruism. Mirrored in the actions of others, the survivor recognizes and reclaims a lost part of herself. At that moment, the survivor begins to rejoin the human commonality…”
Virtually all well-designed recovery programs stress the need for structure and follow-on community support. The Project New Day Program model offers community support via online (Zoom) sessions that can begin around the time of the final coaching session.
Project New Day weekly community sessions operate on the premise that it is important to create an environment in this world where you are valued for who you are. The PND model supplies [this] environment and encourages participants to choose it over social networks whose members still use the problem drugs.
“Project New Day is an exceptional program that makes full use of the healing power of psilocybin … providing opportunity for community building which will prolong and enhance the healing process.”
Trauma in its various forms typically leads to a loss of connection with oneself and one’s community. This loss of connection diminishes the brain’s production of opioids, specifically µ-opioids, which are responsible for feelings of pleasure and satisfaction felt from social bonds.
This is the landscape of our modern society, and it leads to a sense of hopelessness when coping with our complex life problems. Turning to external sources of opioids can alleviate pain and create a feeling of warmth and relief, but our brains are not designed to receive opioids in this way. Our neurotransmitter receptors start to shut down or even burn out, requiring more and more stimulation for the same sense of well-being. As dosages increase, so does the risk of death from an overdose.
To maintain and enhance the effects of coaching and clinical psychedelic therapy sessions, the Project New Day Program model suggests weekly group Zoom community sessions. Social integration and abstinence-specific functional support have been shown to reduce the risk of relapse in this study: Social support and relapse: Commonalities among alcoholics, opiate users, and cigarette smokers, (E. Havassy, Sharon M. Hall, David A. Wasserman, 1991).
The healing benefits of group sessions are well known. In his classic work, Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy, Irvin Yalom identifies 11 primary “therapeutic factors” present in all group therapy, and particularly present in ongoing longer-term groups. They are as follows:
“People need people – for initial and continued survival, for socialization, for the pursuit of satisfaction. No one – not the dying, not the outcast, not the mighty – transcends the need for human contact.”
Having a community of peers with positive intentions is doubly helpful as an integrative measure for participants who have had psychedelic therapy. That is, during and after psychedelic therapy sessions, participants typically have deeply felt realizations, sometimes referred to as epiphanies. An example might be, “I had this overwhelming feeling of compassion and realized I deserve to begin treating myself with renewed respect.” This is different from someone just telling the participant, “You should start treating yourself with respect.” The former is “deeply felt” and the latter is just an idea, typically received only at the intellectual level. The deeply felt nature of epiphanies is one of the often-cited, long-lasting advantages of psychedelic therapy. But even deep feelings can be fleeting without some kind of integration.
In the article, Psychedelic Harm Reduction and Integration: A Transtheoretical Model for Clinical Practice, (Gorman, et al., Frontiers in Psychology, 2021, Volume 12, Page 8) the authors state,
Psychedelic integration is a process in which the patient integrates the insights of their experience into their life. … [The term refers] to different aspects of a process that includes making sense out of the experience, filtering the content, assimilating and accommodating the experience psychologically, and implementing insights into lasting changes. … The unfolding process, a concept borrowed from humanistic psychology, signals the continuous unraveling of insights about oneself and one’s relationships after a psychedelic experience, which can take place over the span of weeks or months.
This is precisely why follow-on community support is doubly helpful in a psychedelic-assisted recovery program. It is about “implementing insights into lasting changes” over the course of the following weeks and months. Without this integrative community support, participants can easily revert back to their old ways of thinking and behaving because of external factors and, perhaps more significantly, the brain’s resistance to change.