The Psychological Benefits of Psilocybin Retreats: What Research Says

January 12, 2024
Posted in Education
January 12, 2024 Sacred Pillars Church

The Psychological Benefits of Psilocybin Retreats: What Research Says


Nearly 20% of people in the U.S. have a diagnosed mental illness. Some of them have used therapy and medication to no avail, and they’re ready to try something different. Psilocybin benefits are being explored at retreats and are filling the void for these people and others. 

Psilocybin retreats are a safe, monitored space where people can experience the benefits of psilocybin, a natural psychedelic fungi that influences mood and cognition. 

Religious and spiritual groups have used psilocybin as a sacrament, but these retreats are gaining attention for their potential therapeutic benefits. Read more to learn what the research to date says about the benefits of psilocybin retreats.

Understanding Psilocybin

Psilocybin is a naturally-growing psychedelic in more than 200 species of mushrooms. When you ingest it, it mirrors serotonin, the brain chemical that influences mood and cognition. These mood changes can last far beyond ingestion.

While psilocybin retreats are not considered therapeutic treatment, they are beneficial for psychological wellness and personal growth. Despite not being a therapy, research has found that psilocybin is effective in treating conditions like depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The Psilocybin Retreat Experience

What a psilocybin retreat experience entails depends on which retreat you sign up for. Each one will be slightly different, but many have similar qualities.

Retreat experiences should start with a preparation phase, which may be done in person or virtually and individually or in a group. In this phase, the hosts help you understand what to expect from the experience and ensure that you’re emotionally and physically eligible for the retreat. People can’t participate in psilocybin retreats if they have certain medical conditions, like heart problems. They also may need greater oversight or physician approval if they’re 65 or older.

The psilocybin retreat experience itself is where participants consume the substance in a controlled, safe, monitored environment. The experience often happens in a small group and includes grounding and spiritual exercises, like meditation or breathwork. Facilitators oversee the retreat, which typically occurs in a nature-based setting, to ensure participant safety.

After a Sacred Pillars retreat, there is an integration phase where facilitators help participants understand and process the experience. Integration also may include individual or group sessions and be done virtually or in person. It often includes group sharing, reflecting, journaling, or other thought-provoking written exercises. 

This phase aims to help participants get the most from the experience and integrate it into their lives. More importantly, our past retreat participants have told us that this phase has been vital to experiencing the full benefits of psilocybin.

Psychological Benefits of Psilocybin: What Research Says

While the practice of psilocybin consumption goes back centuries in religious practice, research on the modern-day benefits of ​​psilocybin is still young. 

The U.S. government stopped this line of inquiry in the 1960s, ending research on the use of psychedelic drugs in mental health. But the research reignited in the 1990s, and many findings, including this one on the therapeutic benefits of psilocybin, suggest that this substance is good for various mental health concerns.

Some promising psychological benefits uncovered in the research to date include that psilocybin can assist with:

However, much of the research done to date isn’t generalizable because the sample sizes are too small. In other words, while the studies show the benefits of psilocybin for these groups of people, that doesn’t mean it will provide the same positive results for all or even most people. More research studying larger groups of people must be done to support those types of claims.

A gorgeous and green landscape. A woman sits in the foreground facing away from the camera, enjoying the view

Changing Perceptions: Benefits of Psilocybin Recognized

While the U.S. and other countries haven’t yet authorized the legal use of psilocybin for mental health treatment, it may be on the horizon. Australia became the first country to fully embrace the treatment benefits in 2023.

The Australian government announced in February 2023 that it would allow psychiatrists to prescribe psilocybin and MDMA, another psychedelic substance, for the treatment of acute mental health disorders like PTSD and major depressive disorder. The ability to prescribe this medication came with strict medical oversight, but government officials said the change in classification of the drug was the result of “the current lack of options for patients with specific treatment-resistant mental illness.”

The change went into effect in July 2023, leading some experts to speculate that other countries might not be far behind.

In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) amped up research on these substances back in 2018. It also allows some people with treatment-resistant mental illnesses to use them in clinical trials, known as expanded access

Other countries, including Switzerland, Canada, Denmark, and Israel, have also approved prescribing the drugs for medical use in these clinical trial situations. Brazil, Bolivia, and Peru allow legal psilocybin use with a license.

But some U.S. states aren’t waiting for a federal change. Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado, Michigan, Massachusetts, and D.C. all have laws that allow for the decriminalization or legal use of psilocybin. Other states are considering similar measures.

Personal Growth and Spiritual Enhancement

People don’t just seek out psilocybin retreat experiences for the mental health benefits. Many people look to psilocybin to assist with personal growth and spiritual enhancement. 

Psilocybin has benefits that can help you get more in touch with yourself, your faith, and the spiritual world around you.

Tiffany, a co-founder of Sacred Pillars Church, said:

“Many people think the goal of using psilocybin is to have a transcendental experience, where you meet God and then live happily ever after. Although this type of journey may be beautiful, it can lack the lasting power needed post-retreat to navigate life’s challenges and live gracefully.  From our years of experience, we repeatedly see that the most profound, life-altering benefits of psilocybin are learning self-awareness and to know and trust yourself.  When you are rooted in deep connection within yourself, it’s easy to find spiritual connectedness, peace, harmony, and love in all things. This is the spiritual benefit of using psilocybin.”      

Sacred Pillars Church believes in the sacrament of psilocybin as a way to create connection and awaken participants’ spiritual potential. We believe that we are all one and that life can challenge our soul growth and lead us to question our own divinity. But unifying events like psilocybin retreats can help reinforce your divine essence and assist in your life journey and spiritual awakening.

One participant said:

“It allowed me to lift out of this time and space and travel the universe. It allowed me to understand the nature of life more deeply. It gave me a sense of connection to my sisters that was very comforting. It helped me realize that I am immortal and eternal.”

Read more about Sacred Pillars participants’ experiences with psilocybin retreats.

Community and Shared Experiences

Community is a key component of psilocybin retreats and its benefits. While people begin retreat preparation as strangers, they become uniquely connected throughout the experience.

The community you meet through a psilocybin retreat helps provide you with emotional support, diverse perspectives, and a sense of shared humanity.

Helping forge and develop this community also is a key function of retreat facilitators. They understand the importance of shared experience and work to develop it. Tiffany said:

“The power of the group dynamic to elevate transformation might be the single biggest overlooked and understated tool in healing and spiritual growth. Many of us fear intimacy and being vulnerable because of past hurt. Yet it is this lack of connection and deep, healthy relationships that often keep us from living fulfilled and meaningful lives. Like-hearted souls need each other to thrive. We create safe group spaces for you to find ‘your people’ and form amazing, supportive bonds that last a lifetime. Our hearts swell with love watching people grow together.”

Many people participating in these retreats say that the community is a valuable part of the experience they didn’t consider or expect beforehand. A Sacred Pillars participant said:

“The experience was very powerful. It helped me with insights, a safe place, and strong, positive connection to others at the retreat.”

Ethical and Safe Practices

Safety is of the utmost importance at our psilocybin retreats. That’s part of the reason facilitators carefully vet potential participants before they’re accepted into the program. 

As the research to date has shown, psilocybin retreats may not be for everyone. Before you sign up for a Sacred Pillars retreat, facilitators will ask questions about your medical history and current substance use to measure your eligibility for safe participation. It’s essential to answer these questions honestly. You’re unlikely a fit for our ceremonies if you have a heart condition, a history of a psychotic disorder, or are pregnant, for example. You also can’t participate in a retreat experience if you are actively using drugs or alcohol.

Once you are deemed eligible to participate in our retreat program, the facilitators help ensure you’re emotionally prepared for the experience. This preparation includes helping you understand what the experience will entail and learning your personal goals for the experience.

In addition, facilitators are present during the retreat to serve as guides and ensure safety for participants.

Continued Learning about Psilocybin Benefits

The research on psilocybin retreat experiences to date suggests that they have positive mental health, personal, and spiritual growth benefits for many people. If you think a psilocybin retreat might benefit you, we’re here to listen to your goals and see if you’re a good fit for the experience. Learn more about Sacred Pillars Psilocybin retreats, then contact us with questions or register.