Reflections From The Field: An Oregon Psilocybin Facilitator Muses On Experiences And Findings After One Year Of Practice

July will mark my first full year as a legal licensed psilocybin facilitator here in Oregon. This also happens to be in tandem with the first year that the inaugural licensed service centers have been up and running (psilocybin became legal in January 2023 but it took a while to get the industry built out and for service center and facilitator licenses to be issued). I was fortunate to be a part of InnerTrek’s very first training cohort and to be among the first group of individuals to graduate into this new field in April 2023.

With some above-ground experience now under my belt, I can attest that magic mushrooms are indeed magic, and science is just starting to recognize what many Indigenous peoples have known for millennia. I am in awe of how these psychedelic mushrooms grow all over the world, going about their business of decomposing organic materials underground and then periodically generating fruiting bodies that offer what are frequently some of the most profound and life-changing experiences humans can have.

In the journeys I have been honored to facilitate, I have witnessed firsthand people doing deep healing work on psilocybin. This has taken many forms. I believe that journeys are as variable as each human who takes them. While we prepare people for what kinds of experiences may occur, I am amazed by how each journey is its own unique work of art, exquisitely reflecting the needs and intentions of the journeyer. Psilocybin mushrooms are remarkable in their potential to help people address healing needs, often in ways that surprise the journeyer.

People who take frequent journeys (sometimes referred to as psychonauts) will tell you that even for the same person, each journey is its own unique expression. There is something about the experience that feels wild and beyond every label and attempt we make to describe, categorize, control, and predict. That said, I am excited by the explosion of research now underway to better understand the various ways they can help us.

So, what is a journey like? Some journeyers see beautiful lights, colors, and patterns in their mind’s eye. Some review biographical memories, often seeing them from a new perspective that feels helpful. Sometimes this includes processing old traumas or unresolved grief. Some might experience incredible love and overwhelming awe. Some might commune with animals or fantastical creatures, ancestors, or what they believe are “spirit guides.” Some experience younger parts of themselves, able to feel into their child self and gain insight or healing. Some experience deep levels of relaxation and calm like they have rarely experienced before. Often people experience deep gratitude for their loved ones and a strong sense of connection to them and life in general. Some have a profound experience of self-love. Some experience all of the above in one journey and feel as though the journey lasted days rather than hours. Some journeys are “big” and intense with a lot of emotional release and others are more subtle, with quiet messages around self-compassion or self-love.

Some of the benefits my clients have shared:

  • A deeper trust in life and in themselves
  • Increased felt-sense of connectedness with all life and restored sense of belonging
  • Restored hope
  • Deeper gratitude for loved ones
  • Access to a place within themselves that feels like a well of nourishing healing that they can return to. One recent client said after the journey, “I found a secret garden within myself.”
  • Powerful emotional release, grief processing, forgiveness work.
  • Deeper processing of trauma. A recent client said, “I just healed generations of trauma in my family.”
  • Discovery/recovery of intrinsic goodness and beauty within themselves
  • Experience of deep love and equanimity. “It’s all ok” is a common message.
  • Experiencing parts of self, like one’s inner child, that feel familiar but less accessible in ordinary consciousness
  • A deeper understanding of their life path and larger context for past hardships
  • Healing of attachment wounds through deep connection to universal mother energy. A recent client with early neglect said that she has found a place of peace within herself and wants to be there for her inner child in a way her family wasn’t able to be.
  • A deep encounter with the mystery of being alive and consciousness
  • Renewed wonder and appreciation for life and nature
  • A felt sense of connection to the cosmos that gives them a belief in a higher power or spiritual reality
  • Reduced or eliminated fear of death, sometimes experiencing the death process in their journey and feeling it as a deeply natural experience.
  • Expanded empathy for self and others
  • Increased motivation for healthy habits and reduction in cravings for alcohol and other substances
  • Reduced depression and anxiety, as well as compulsive behaviors. One client told me, “I was able to self-soothe for the first time. Now I know I am capable of it.”
  • Renewed creativity
  • Renewed capacity for joy
  • Reduced social anxiety and more self-acceptance and self-compassion
  • Renewed openness to the natural world and a desire to connect with nature
  • Many of my clients remark that the experience of having a facilitated journey is vastly different from recreational use. They repeatedly share that knowing I was there to support them and attune to their needs meant that they felt safer and could thus go deeper. Even at the peak of the experience when clients report that I often faded into the background, the knowledge that I would be there on the other side provided comfort and security amidst disorienting and intense experience.

I also don’t want to paint an overly rosy picture. As with any healing tool, outcomes vary and some people don’t get the benefit they hoped to get in one psilocybin journey. Some struggle to “let go” or get stuck in a place of fear and anxiety. Some struggle with physical distress and nausea. Some don’t get access to new insights during the journey, but instead experience subtler states of restfulness or sometimes even sleep. In an exhausted society that values constant productivity over cycles of rest and “fallow” periods, I think that sometimes deep rest is one of the first layers of healing that needs to be experienced. A psychedelic journey is one expensive nap in this situation, but I suspect that on a neurochemical level, there is still a positive impact in terms of neurogenesis and neuroplasticity. And indeed, some people who have subtle and perhaps underwhelming journeys, still report feeling better in the days and weeks after the experience, suggesting that they are likely still benefitting.

Sometimes people do have difficult journeys, or even “bad trips,” although these are fairly rare. As facilitators, we do our best to reduce the likelihood of undesirable outcomes, with thoughtful preparation and careful conversation around dosing considerations. Often people who have bad experiences had a larger dose than their system could handle. We aim for a therapeutic range, which will vary from client to client, depending on what medications they are on that might blunt the effects of psilocybin, as well as other factors related to general sensitivity, trauma history, and level of anxiety. That said, challenging journeys are often found by clients to be exactly the work they needed to do and often clients feel better in the weeks after a journey, even though the journey itself may not have been the blissful experience they might have been hoping for.

There are also rare cases where an individual is not launching into the experience, even on the highest legal dose we can provide. This may be due to the blunting effects of other medications a client is taking, or possibly certain very self-controlled personalities that need more of a substance to relax their ego. It is also possible in these situations that this same client may launch on a subsequent journey, once they have a little more comfort with the substance and can relax more into the journey. Since surrendering to and trusting the experience is one of the most important factors in how favorable an outcome the client has, this is something we emphasize a lot in our preparation process. Even still, some people have a lot of difficulty opening up to the experience.

Psilocybin is a powerful substance with great healing potential. And yet, it is not a panacea and one journey is not likely to be a magic bullet. A more realistic perspective is to see it as a potent catalyst in an individual’s healing journey and to understand that with proper preparation, thoughtful integration, and ongoing work, it can set a person on a healing trajectory or give a boost to a healing process that feels stalled. For some with complex problems and entrenched maladaptive patterns of thought and behavior, multiple journeys over the course of months and years may be necessary, as well as ongoing integration practices and support. That said, there are people who say that the insights and change they experienced with one journey was equivalent to years of therapy. Others report that after trying all kinds of treatments to heal from depression or addiction, they have found relief through psilocybin therapy that had eluded them up until now.

My awe and respect for psilocybin mushrooms grows with each journey that I have the privilege of facilitating. I am honored to participate in the magic of this marvelous substance that, at its best, reminds us all of our own unique beauty and amazing souls, empowering us to love and heal ourselves. When we are more healed, we can then naturally extend our love and presence outward to more fully loving and healing our families, our communities, and this one precious planet we all share.

Arah Gould, MA, LPC is a licensed senior staff psilocybin facilitator at Fractal Health in Portland, Oregon. She also holds a professional counselor license and has been a practicing therapist for almost 20 years. You can find her at @renewwonder (instagram) or and