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From the book, Music Centered Psychedelic Integration

by Matt Baldwin LMFT and Dr Mark Shortt

The idea for Music Centered Psychedelic Integration (MCPI) came about through the slow accumulation of insights and practical ideas based on our clinical training and practice from the year 2017 up to the present. We found that in our psychedelic psychotherapy training, music was, on one hand, emphasized as being a supremely important aspect of this modality, while on the other, it was also discussed as being somehow secondary; a kind of adjunct to the power of the psychedelic medicine itself. This perspective ran counter to an instinct that we both held from the very beginning of our acquaintance with the process of psychedelic therapy. Conversely, we had always suspected that music was just as important to the process of psychedelic healing as the medicine itself; that the music and medicine amplify one another, leading to a synergistic potential for personal transformation beyond what either could achieve alone.


Our work in private practice, providing ketamine assisted psychotherapy, has confirmed this. This came via the recognition of the importance of effective music selection and song sequencing for psychedelic experiences. We found that if we did this well for our patients, they reported deeper experiences and better outcomes for symptom reduction after their psychedelic sessions. Of course, psychedelic medicine offers so much more than symptom management but these effects were dramatic and measurable evidence of the power of correctly facilitated musical psychedelic experiences.


This led to having our patients begin to relisten to certain tracks from a playlist that had been used in one of their prior psychedelic sessions. We were familiar with discussions within the psychedelic psychotherapy community about how it can be useful to listen back to certain songs that were used in a previous psychedelic experience. We found that doing this with consistency - a process that we dubbed Integrative Relistening - was an incredibly powerful and immediate way to reconnect the journeyer’s awareness back to the deeper insights and meaning of the psychedelic experience. This aligned with our own history of personal psychedelic experiences, in which we noticed the distinct tendency for a song to become imbued with an uncanny power or emotional significance when it had been encountered in a deep psychedelic state. All subsequent experiences of that song seemed to immediately provide a vivid evocation of the moments of expanded consciousness associated with that song.


This mirrors our understanding of the notion of psychedelic integration, which is the ability to stay connected to the state-specific shifts in consciousness in the weeks and months after the active psychedelic session. We found that repeated listening achieved this outcome with remarkable impact. Additionally, we began to explore the possibilities of deep listening sessions conducted before the active psychedelic session - what we call Preparatory Pre-listening - and found that these pre-drug sessions have the power to help familiarize the journeyer with the notion and process of a musically facilitated inner journey while, at the same time, helping to provide a kind of check-in or perspective on what is occurring at deeper levels of the journeyer’s psyche. What arises in these sessions often acts as a helpful form of preparation for approaching psychedelic sessions and can help in the process of formulating intentions for growth and healing.


From there we began to formalize the MCPI protocol into a series of steps that involve a variety of integrative listening practices that are meant to support and deepen all phases of psychedelic treatment. This protocol, described in detail in subsequent chapters, is based on our work with ketamine, to which MCPI is particularly well suited, due to the manageable duration of ketamine sessions. We also provide effective protocols for the use of MCPI with other longer acting psychedelic medicines, group and individual therapy models and how to run remote telehealth MCPI sessions, with considerations for safety and construction of strong therapeutic containers.


Essentially, MCPI is a process of deeper engagement with music by going back to it again and again. We have become fond of saying:


When in doubt, return to the music.

Fundamentally, MCPI is based on a simple idea: listen to more music throughout the entire process of psychedelic assisted psychotherapy. But simple ideas, in their rigorous application, will reveal their potential for great depth. We have found this to be the case with MCPI and believe that it is one of the most powerful new ways to integrate psychedelic experiences. Ultimately we think of MCPI as a kind of correction, a recentering and reconnection with a flow of deeply healing musical psychedelic experience that has been waiting for us all along. We simply needed to recognize what had been in front of us the entire time.


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