Making sense of a trip: Katya Sivak talks about psychedelic integration therapy

The Vancouver counsellor has been providing this approach to psychedelic experiences since 2012


Katya Sivak is the founder of the Within Counselling Therapy Collective.


Katya Sivak, a registered clinical counsellor, often hears something about going on a psychedelic trip.

“In many circumstances, they say that ingesting psychedelics is 30 percent of the work, and the integration is 70 percent,” Sivak told CannCentral in a phone interview.

The founder of the Vancouver-based Within Counselling Therapy Collective is very much into this subject.

Since 2012, the UBC- and University of Victoria–educated counsellor has been providing what is known as psychedelic integration therapy.

She works with people who have had a psychedelic experience.

It’s like waking up from an “amazing dream”, Sivak explained.

“All of a sudden, you have some insight or something changed and when you have some new knowledge or some new understanding, the question now is: how do I bring this into my daily life? How do I change my life? How do I change my behaviour?” Sivak said.

According to her, people seek psychedelic integration therapy for different purposes.

“A lot of people are using this for healing. They’re using this to improve their lives. Sometimes, to improve their relationships,” she said.

In a number of cases, people simply want to talk about their experience.

“Some people describe it as like living in another lifetime, and sometimes they just need to talk to someone about what they have seen, what they have experienced,” according to Sivak.

Sivak also recognized that for some, psychedelic use is just for fun, and so they find no need for integration.

“You have the experience, but then it fades away. And nothing changes,” she said.

While psychedelics can produce pleasant experiences, some also encounter bad trips.

“Sometimes I do get people who had very negative experiences, and what they’re going through is actually as if they experienced a traumatic event,” Sivak said. “So they’re actually seeking trauma therapy after their experience.”

According to her, people having bad trips see “disturbing images”, and “sometimes, disturbing memories show up from the past”.

“I don’t actually go digging with clients if it is actually true or if this was just a dream, like you dreamed about something,” she said.

For example, images of rape show up and “a lot of people go, like, ‘Oh, I don’t remember that it happened.’ Sometimes, it’s very clear, and ‘Now I actually remember and I know this happened,’” Sivak related.

Sivak has a psychology degree from UBC, and a master’s degree in counselling psychology from UVic.

According to Sivak, people trying to make sense of their psychedelic experiences want to talk to someone who is “not going to look at them funny”.

“It’s kind of like someone is coming in for therapy and they lived a polyamorous relationship, which is very unconventional, and you want to talk to someone who is not going to judge you,” she said.

Her therapy sessions do not involve use of psychedelics. During therapy, she does not suggest psychedelics. She does not advise clients on where and how to procure controlled substances.

Understanding a psychedelic experience can sometimes be like figuring out dreams.

“When you receive a dream, there’s a theory that it comes from our subconscious,” Sivak said, “that our subconscious is sending a message to us, so we can work with those images to understand what’s happening in our lives.”

“It really comes from you. No one else,” she continued. “The messages are from yourself.”

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