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Psychedelic Medicine

Association

Psychedelic Therapy: Slow Down to Heal Faster with Sunny Strasburg, LMFT

Summary

In this episode of the Psychedelic Medicine Podcast, Sunny Strasburg joins to open the conversation of leveraging lower doses of psychedelic substances for more effective healing. Sunny Strasburg, LMFT, a licensed psychotherapist, educator, and pioneering author, specializes in psychedelic therapies and training clinicians to be skilled and trauma-informed psychedelic therapists. As the founder and author of The Theradelic Approach, she equips clinicians with trauma-informed psychedelic-assisted therapy methods, blending IFS, EMDR, archetypal psychology, trauma-informed care, and her extensive experience.

In this conversation, Sunny shares insights drawn from Internal Family Systems (IFS) and explores how these perspectives can help inspire more effective psychedelic work, especially with lower doses. She emphasizes the importance of adequate preparation and not over-valorizing intense psychedelic experiences, noting that these therapies themselves can be traumatic if not handled with care. Sunny also discusses how one’s own internal protectors have adaptive rolls and display a lot of compassionate intelligence, so even though these parts may initially provide a barrier to deep trauma work, it is important for therapists to work collaboratively with these parts of a client’s psyche. In closing she talks about how to better set reasonable expectations in group psychedelic therapy and retreat settings, where integration can easily turn into a competition of who had the most intense experience, with things like ego dissolution becoming the barometer for healing.

In This Episode

• How “protector systems” and “rubber band effects” manifest in high-dose psychedelic therapy sessions
• Uncovering previously unknown traumas during psychedelic therapies and how therapists can be better prepared for this situation
• How therapists can skillfully work with symbolic material that arises in psychedelic journeys
• The importance of slowing down and letting the client guide the pace when addressing serious traumas in particular
• Differences between ketamine, MDMA, and the classic psychedelics in terms of effects on the fear center of the brain
• Leveraging critical learning periods in therapy to reprocess traumatic memories

Quotes

“Being a trauma therapist, you have to be skilled enough to know what is symbolic in a psychedelic journey, what’s a literal memory… You don’t want to do any kind of leading or prompting the client to fill in anything or directing them to anything—you’re really tracking where they are and letting them uncover their own path. Again, at the speed in which their protector system is ready for that.” [22:43]

“These parts want people to remember. They want to heal, they want to let their stories be told. And so our job as therapists is to clear the clutter so we can really hear the system and trust the system. The system knows.” [28:02]

“Trauma is like a sliver that’s buried in the arm—like in the deep skin of your arm and it’s got an infection around it. And all of your coping mechanisms, all of your protectors (using IFS language), is like building a giant layer of scar tissue on top of that. And you could just go through life with that, and you could just put lotion on the top of that scar and just try to make it look pretty—and that’s okay. But you could go in and surgically remove the sliver that’s been offending your system the whole time. And once you remove that sliver, you will start to heal—your arm will heal, it won’t have an infection anymore, right? But removing that sliver hurts. It’s painful. It’s a process. But you don’t have to deal with that sliver anymore. And that’s kind of how I imagine going through trauma work.” [31:08]

“I’ve had clients that I’ve worked with using EMDR, IFS for years, we’ve made some progress, but then we get ketamine on board and it’s totally helped them and amplified the benefit.” [35:13]

“Trust your protector system. Slow down. I promise, if you slow down and really get curious about what your protectors need, you will go so much further with these medicines. It really is not a race. It’s slow and steady, and you’re going to be able to get more work done.” [40:23]

Links

* The Psychedelic Medicine Podcast has allowed the Psychedelic Medicine Association to post episodes as an educational resource, and in return the PMA is hosting the podcast show notes.