Psychedelic substances and music both have the profound ability to alter consciousness and they have been used by humans for thousands of years across different cultures. Despite the growing number of discoveries about how music and psychedelics come together, there is still much to learn about their convergence.
We don't know what effect it would have if music were to be eliminated from psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. We don't know whether the musical characteristics suggested to have emotional influence generally produce the same effects when played during a psilocybin or MDMA session. However, judging by the synergy that exists between the two, the role of music in psychedelic therapy cannot be overlooked.
Understanding the Role of Psychedelic Therapy and Music
In a therapeutic environment music often intensifies emotions and can even guide the person through the experience. It's known to help induce a sense of calm and care for patients while in psychedelic therapy and supports resolution of psychological struggles. This is common in psychedelic therapy across the world.
Due to the fundamental role that music plays in the psychedelic therapeutic environment, it has recently been named the “hidden therapist” because of the strong associations between the musical experience's quality and better therapeutic outcomes.
A Journey Inside: The Nature and Type of Music Used in Psychedelic Psychotherapy
There is no single musical genre or form that is best suited for psychedelic-assisted therapies. Today, solo psychedelic enthusiasts the world over draw inspiration from electronica, world music, classical, ambient, and even from popular music, film soundtracks, and jazz.
Much of the music used in psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy is not particularly “trippy” in nature. On the contrary, the chosen playlists tend to purposefully evoke and sustain emotional expression of intense positive and negative memories, thoughts or experiences. There is no standard playlist that blends perfectly with psychedelic journeys in every case. It is, however, worth noting that most of the music played during psychedelic-assisted therapy sessions is instrumental. It's important that any music's lyrical content doesn't convey any specific meaning or story that may unduly influence the listener's journey.
There tends to be an arc built into psychedelic playlists. At first, the music can be quiet and slow, but later the songs can invite or make the listener experience deeply felt emotions while eventually bringing them back to tranquility and calm. The music in the middle of the session can be intense and dynamic to synchronize with the strong emotions typical of that part of the journey. For example, we've found during our Warrior's Way™ gatherings that some songs, genres, and tones are more suitable for invoking the hero archetype in support of heroic journey exploration. Regardless of whatever playlist you curate, care should be taken to suit the music to the listener or be compiled with the listener's input as there is no one-playlist-fits-all solution.
Is Music-Induced Psychedelics Experience More Effective?
Guidelines are being developed for the use of sound and music in the clinical context to better support the different stages of the psychedelic experience. This has been an interesting topic in the psychedelic world. Mendel Kaelen, a researcher at Imperial College, and his colleagues conducted some of the first studies on the combined effects of music and psychedelics, noting that music's ability to elicit emotional response was even greater when people listened to music under the influence of LSD. In a subsequent study, Kaelen and his team studied the specific responses and effects of music heard at different phases of the psilocybin experience for people with depression. Kaelen discovered that there was a significant correlation between the listener's positive experience of the musically-assisted psychedelic journey and positive clinical outcomes.
The folks over at Wavepaths, led by Mendel Kaelen, are doing incredible things in the field of therapeutic sound healing. The DPS team is proud to be taking part in the beta-testing portion of their research and we look forward to bringing their technological breakthroughs in neurological health to Diaspora Psychedelic Society's Music, Medicine & Mindfulness workshops scheduled for 2021.