Finding the Perfect Psychedelic Retreat: A Guide to Choosing the Right Provider
Comparing different Psilocybin Mushroom Retreat Providers in Europe
July 6, 2023
Table of Contents
Beckley retreats, Evolute Institute or Alalaho? The landscape of psychedelic retreat providers might seem messy and confusing at first. Finding the right psychedelic retreat provider that fits to you and your standards and interests might pose a challenge. This guide aims to help those looking for orientation and guidance through the wild psychedelic retreat landscape.
Note: The research for this article was carried out in July 2023 and was done to the best knowledge of Evolute Institute.
Psilocybin mushroom retreats on the rise – how to choose?
Psychedelic retreats have gained significant popularity in recent years as more individuals seek alternative paths to healing, self-discovery, and personal growth. These retreats provide a safe and supportive environment for participants to explore the transformative potential of psychedelic substances like psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca, or LSD. However, with a growing number of providers offering such experiences, it’s crucial to understand what factors to consider when choosing a psychedelic retreat. This article aims to provide guidance on what to pay attention to during your search and offers a comparison of different providers.
1. Legality and Safety
First and foremost, ensure that the retreat you choose operates within legal frameworks. Psychedelic laws vary across countries and regions, so it’s vital to select a retreat that operates in a jurisdiction where the use of these substances is legal or, if you are OK with greyzones, at least decriminalized. In Europe, it is legal to purchase and consume psilocybin-containing truffles (“magic truffles”) in one country only: the Netherlands.
2. Expertise and Credentials
Look for retreat providers with experienced and knowledgeable facilitators. Check if the staff members have relevant credentials, such as certifications in psychedelic therapy, psychology, or related fields, such as in grief work, somatic work, breathwork, Gestalt therapy etc. Facilitators should possess the necessary expertise to guide participants through the psychedelic experience, handle challenging situations, and provide appropriate integration support.
Moreover, prioritize safety measures such as medical and psychological screening procedures, trained facilitators (such as MAPS-trained psychedelic-assisted psychotherapists), and a comprehensive understanding and transparent communication of potential risks and contraindications.
While psilocybin is generally considered a safe substance, high-quality psychedelic retreat providers have a medical doctor on-site during the ceremony. Better be safe than sorry.
Finally, we advise you to not only look at qualifications, but to also consider the number of facilitators and the group size. How large will the participant group be? And how many facilitators will be on-site during the program? Do you want to be journeying amidst a small and intimate group or don’t you mind being surrounded by 20+ people? Bear in mind that having only 1 facilitator for a large group (>10 people) might jeopardize the safety of participants and the depth of your psychedelic journey. What happens if one or even more participants need dedicated, personal support at the same time? Are there enough facilitators present to make sure the participants’ need are adequately met? Make sure to choose providers that have a good ratio of participants to facilitators (2:1 or lower).
3. Retreat Duration and Structure
Solid preparation and integration are essential for reaping the benefits of a psychedelic experience. Chart by Evolute Institute.
Different retreats may offer varying durations and structures. Some programs last only one to two days, while others can span over several weeks. Consider your personal preferences and availability when choosing a retreat duration, but also keep in mind that preparation, on-site setting and integration are crucial vectors for the depth, impact, and long-lasting effects of the psychedelic experience.
Because high-dose psychedelic journeys can be so intense, you will need time to safely land, digest the experience, and start coming back and adapting to “everyday life”. This is why we suggest that a retreat should be at least 3 days long, so you have enough time to get into the right state of mind, to prepare, to journey profoundly, and then to climb down the peak again. Too short of a retreat might leave you destabilized, without on-site support of professionals who can assist you with integration.
Additionally, assess the retreat’s structure, including the number of psychedelic sessions, integration support, and other activities such as meditation, yoga, or workshops that enhance the overall experience. A special plus is if a retreat provider offers multiple personalised 1:1 coaching sessions before, during and after the retreat.
Most retreats don’t offer content / real curricula but simply try to create a safe group space for a high-dose psychedelic experience. Few retreats offer well-thought through curricula that you would expect in other training or seminar settings from the educational, business or organizational world. Content and facilitation around the neuroscience of psychedelics, a balanced perspective on the mind/consciousness, the use of psychological inner development frameworks, inner parts or constellation work, values and purpose work, and content around leadership and social, economic and environmental challenges are a special plus – they can help give meaning to the experience, support integration and reflection, and situate the psychedelic experience in a larger historical, social and cultural context.
4. Philosophical Orientation
Psychedelic retreats often have specific philosophies, approaches, or spiritual frameworks that guide their work. It’s important to feel comfortable and supported within the retreat’s framework, as it can significantly contribute to the transformative potential of the psychedelic journey.
Ponder on your personal mindset and intention for undertaking a psychedelic retreat. Are you seeking personal or professional growth, spiritual exploration, healing, or something else? Some retreats may specifically cater to certain intentions, such as personal transformation, creativity enhancement, or deepening connections with nature. Research and assess if the retreat’s philosophy resonates with your personal beliefs and intentions.
For example, some retreats may draw inspiration from indigenous practices and shamanism, while others may incorporate elements from Eastern philosophies and wisdom traditions, such as Buddhism or Taoism.
Bear in mind that psychedelic experiences can be deeply transformative and often have spiritual dimensions. Consider whether you are seeking a retreat with a spiritual orientation that emphasizes mystical or transcendent experiences, or if you prefer a more secular and psychological approach that focuses on personal growth, self-exploration and integration.
It’s important to appreciate that under the influence of the psychoactive substances you are highly suggestible and the philosophical or spiritual orientation of the retreat can heavily impact you and your experience. This is why you should try to assess in advance if you can resonate with the philosophy of the people offering the retreat.
In addition, we adivse you to assess the retreat’s ethical framework and values. Look into the facilitator’s professional training & ethical standards, their commitment to sustainability, environmental stewardship, responsible sourcing of substances (applies mostly to Ayahuasca, Peyote, Iboga and other substances or living beings like frogs), community engagement, and social orientation and impact.
5. Setting and Environment
Evolute Institute’s main retreat centre in Lochem, Netherlands. Photo of the ceremony room at Centrum Athanor.
The setting and environment can significantly influence your psychedelic experience. Look for retreat centers situated in serene, natural surroundings that promote a sense of tranquility and safety. Consider the facilities, accommodation options (private or shared), and the availability of private or shared spaces for integration and reflection. It’s a big advantage when the retreat center isn’t shared with other groups (e.g. parallel bookings of retreat centers) and you can enjoy full privacy to focus on your personal journey.
Also, mind the probable group composition – who are the other participants? Are they likely to be like-minded people? There are more esoteric retreats, hedonistic retreats, or professional and leadership retreats catering to very different demographics, from “hippies” to entrepreneurs, from activists to organizational leaders. Make sure to choose a group and team of facilitators you would feel comfortable with.
6. Integration support
Psychedelics can be considered safe in general, but integration support is key for a beneficial journey. Chart by Evolute Institute.
Working with psychedelics in a professional, ethical and careful container is considered safe, but not absolutely risk-free. Integration support is a crucial aspect of the psychedelic journey, as it helps participants make sense of their experiences and integrate the insights gained into their everyday lives. Find out if the retreat provides post-experience integration support on-site and off-site, such as individual or group coaching/therapy sessions, integration circles, or online communities. Robust integration support can greatly enhance the long-term benefits of the psychedelic experience. 1:1 integration coaching sessions are the most beneficial as they can respond to your individual situation and needs.
Comparison of the Main Psilocybin-Truffle Retreat Providers in Europe
Photo of the main ceremony hall at Land van Yemaya in the Netherlands, one of Evolute Institute’s retreat centres.
When comparing different providers, consider the aforementioned factors. As always, we advise you to conduct your own thorough research. Read testimonials and reviews from previous participants, assess their reputations within the psychedelic community, and evaluate their adherence to safety protocols and ethical practices. Additionally, compare the cost of the retreat, as prices can vary significantly depending on factors like location, duration, group size, number of facilitators, and additional services provided. Some retreat providers offer income-dependent pricing and scholarships as well as payment plans.
Some prominent providers in the field of psychedelic retreats with legal psilocybin-containing truffles that offer their services in English and in Europe include:
– Beckley Retreats – the founder of Beckley retreat is no other than the colourful psychonaut Amanda Feilding, a heiress who became famous not only for her very experimental methods of soul-searching (there is a movie about her self- experiments: Heartbeat in the brain), but also for the psychedelic research of her foundation (Beckley Foundation). Now she offers high-end luxury psychedelic retreats in Jamaica (starting from USD 6.000) and they are starting out in the Netherlands, too.
– Synthesis Retreats – Synthesis was one of the largest and most reknowned psychedelic retreat providers and was considered as one of the trail-blazers in the psychedelic retreat scene. They have been offering retreats in the Netherlands (around EUR 6.000 for a 4-day retreat) until they went bankrupt beginning of 2023. In short, the company, led by Myles Katz and Martijn Schirp, had a grand vision to open a “psychedelic Hogwarts” in Oregon (USA), but unfortunately got overextended on real estate investments in said location (read the story of the implosion here). The retreat operations ceased with the collapse of Synthesis.
– Evolute Institute – Yours truly 😉 – offers psychedelic retreats especially for professionals and leaders in the business, non-profit and academic world – entrepreneurs, freelancers, organizational leaders and other pioneering minds. Science-backed and wisdom tradition informed (especially Taoism and Buddhism), they don’t only have a medical screening but make sure each psilocybin-containing truffle ceremony on-site is also supervised by a medical doctor. They are also different from other providers as they weave into their programs a broad range of material: a developmental curriculum based on adult developmental psychology, interpersonal neurobiology, internal family systems work, and more. They generally bring in the big picture around the mind/consciousness, the neuroscience of psychedelics, and have a fresh view on leadership and systems dynamics and support the IDG movement (Inner Development Goals). Unique part of their offering: it includes four one-on-one-coaching sessions for every participant so they can work in a highly customized way with the participants’ intention and their individual challenges and interests. Scholarships are available for the 3-month hybrid program with a 4-day retreat in the Netherlands.
– Spinoza – a new and stylish player with a unique approach. They offer very short “well-being” retreats (1 night only) in an atmospheric yurt, however without any considerable integration time on-site. Neither medical supervision nor 1:1 sessions are available. A mobile app is used for accompanying participants. Given their retreat is only a one-nighter, their price point is very accessible compared to most other providers.
– Kiyumi – a large and diverse team offering 6-month programs, including a multi-day psychedelic retreat in the Netherlands. As they got addiction and substance abuse expert Gabor Maté as a brand ambassador, Kiyumi is particularly focused on trauma work (Maté published “The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness and Healing in a Toxic Culture” recently).
– Alalaho – A spin-off from the Psychedelic Society UK’s experience retreats, the two female founders offer a warmly facilitated, more animistic / mystic retreat experience, where great care is taken to create a welcoming setting for the participants. No medical support is present on-site and no 1:1s are offered by design.
Beyond the provider choice – your personal commitment matters
Choosing the right psychedelic retreat is a deeply personal decision that requires careful consideration of various factors. By paying attention to legality, safety, expertise, ethical practices, retreat duration and structure, philosophical orientation, curriculum, setting and environment, and integration support, you can make an informed choice that aligns with your needs and values. Trust your intuition.
Ultimately, the transformative potential of a psychedelic retreat lies not only in the provider but also in your willingness to engage in the process with an open mind, intention, and respect for the substances and traditions involved. Approach your journey with humility, curiosity, and a commitment to your personal growth and well-being and don’t save on your time and money investment.
Make sure you are in expert hands and have time to digest the experience – on-site as well as in the days and weeks after your potentially transformational retreat experience.
Dr. Dmitrij Achelrod,
co-founder Evolute Institute
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