Psychedelic-assisted couples therapy and retreats can be useful for couples who seek healing or resolution for diverse problems. Long-term disagreements, communication troubles, major life changes, depression, or a lack of purpose are recurring themes. In 2020, there were over 600,000 divorces in the US. While this may seem like a lot, the fact is that divorces have actually been declining in recent years for a variety of reasons. Divorce is expensive, and can be quite wearing physically and emotionally. In situations where the motivation for couples to stay together is high but serious problems are still present, psychedelic couples therapy can be a transformative intervention.
The most common issues that bring couples into therapy generally, and specifically into psychedelic-assisted therapy are about sex or intimacy . . . and money. Often, something has changed and one or both partners have lost desire, or are not aroused by the other. There might have been a breach of trust or a loss of body confidence, a change in hormones, or past sexual trauma interrupting intimacy. Some couples want help shifting from monogamy to an open relationship, while others want to find meaning after being married for 45 years.
Many issues are underpinned by generational trauma, which occurs when parents unintentionally pass down psychological, emotional and/or sexual trauma to their children. Psychedelics can be a powerful tool for breaking unconscious, inherited patterns of belief and behavior. People don’t come for therapy to work on generational trauma, but for most individuals in a couple, it’s what we end up working on. When clients come to understand how their early relationship imprints, their childhood story, traumas, and inherited family patterns play a part in the dynamics of their current relationship, they are able to sort and discern the difference between then and now. New perceptions of the present, more choices emerge. Though the specific reasons that prompt couples to cross the psychedelic therapy threshold vary, nearly all who enter into the process have reached a fork in the road. They are facing separation or they need to try something very different. They might have children, a house, or a business together, so they see separation as an absolute last resort. Psychedelics, simply speaking, interrupt negative habits. Psychedelics can be used to shift rigid, entrenched behaviors and habits to improve health and well-being. A single psychedelic session can often create a fundamental shift in perspective, address detrimental behavioral patterns, and serve as a powerful catalyst for expanding self-awareness. I have used psychedelic substances for client issues such as obsessive or compulsive thinking, smoking and alcohol addiction, and even narcissism and codependence. Integrating psychedelics into therapy sessions can also provide individuals with profound perspectives of how their moods, behavioral patterns and beliefs affect others. Increased self-awareness leads to greater relationship awareness. The psychedelic experience is individual to each person and results in individuation in the relationship. When couples are too entangled, it’s hard to take responsibility for what each brings to the relationship.
Many of my colleagues and professional mental health acquaintances are using MDMA with their partners and are learning to address diverse personal and relationship issues of their own. Regular MDMA sessions every few months creates space for couples to process issues, discuss the future, bond, and connect sexually. MDMA allows partners to communicate freely with empathy and compassion. They are able to discuss issues that would normally cause a fight, and instead feel love and understanding for each other. Couples are able to explore sexuality together in ways many have never known were possible. MDMA isn't a quick-fix relationship panacea. While the substance allows partners to share new depths of expression, more honesty and authenticity in their relationships, they also have to work on building communication skills and addressing issues from past trauma, insecure attachment, and past relationship wounding to keep the connection alive. Sober individual and couples therapy is an important adjunct that helps couples integrate and apply the insights from their MDMA experiences.