Types of Psychedelic Experience

A psychedelic experience, commonly referred to as a trip, entails a transient altered state of consciousness induced by the ingestion of psychedelic substances, with LSD, mescaline, psilocybin mushrooms, and DMT being among the most prevalent. For instance, an acid trip results from the consumption of LSD, while a mushroom trip stems from the use of psilocybin containing mushrooms. These experiences involve perceptual shifts, including visual distortions and a subjective loss of self-identity, often interpreted as mystical occurrences. The predictability of psychedelic experiences is inherently elusive, ranging from intensely pleasurable (termed a good trip) to distressing (referred to as a bad trip). The outcome of a psychedelic journey is profoundly influenced by factors such as the individual's mood, personality, expectations, and surroundings, collectively known as set and setting, and well as the amount of the substance ingested (the dosage).

As mentioned above, the type of psychedelic experience is primarily controlled through dosage, set, and setting, as well as the substance(s) involved. Exact dosages are substance specific, but the type of dose can be described in many ways which may at first sound confusing, such as micro, threshold, mini, museum, low, medium, moderate, high, very high, heroic, ultra, or mega. The “set” is refers to the mindset of the person including thoughts, mood and expectations. The “setting” is the physical environment one takes the substance in. The substance itself can influence the mindset through preconceived notions, its name, texture, flavour, or lack thereof, and its particular psychoactive properties will of course contribute to the type of experience, including the duration, sensations, progression, and physical feelings.

Phases of the Psychedelic Experience

The psychedelic experience is comprised of three primary phases – onset, peak, and comedown, each of which may be divided into subphases, and each having their own associated attributes.


The onset can be divided into a pre-onset period, and a full onset period. The pre-onset period is the period between ingestion of a psychedelic, and the onset of the first perceivable effects. During the onset there can be heightened feelings of anticipation and restlessness, and sometimes a strong desire to go for a walk. Some people may feel some nausea, and others may feel euphoria, inebriation, or a mix of all three. Often the first effects to be noticed are visual, becoming more clear and in-focus, even to the point of not needing (or desiring) to wear one's glasses.


Depending on the dose and the substance, the peak may or may not have a significant plateau, but it represents the highest point of the experience, with the most pronounced effects, as well as the point where one should be having the most deep and inward part of the experience. This phase can include both the topmost pre-peak and post-peak aspects.


The comedown is the phase where the peak has been left behind, and the journey down to baseline has commenced. If the peak was particularly stressful, this phase may come as a welcome relief. Likewise if the peak was very enjoyable, then there may be a strong desire at this point to extend the effects. The comedown lasts until the effects are completely worn off and return to baseline.

Dosing for the experience

While the set, setting, and dosage work together towards fostering the best mix for the intended experience, it is easiest to organize the type of experience in order of dosage, from lowest to highest, even though this a more of a general guideline:

Utilitarian or Performance Enhancing

At the lower end of the scale, with the micro, threshold, and mini doses the experiences tend to be more utilitarian – that is to be compared more to the usage of things like tea, coffee, energy drinks, vitamins, supplements, and nootropics, but some people have also used these doses to reduce their dependency on pharmaceutical medications. While these dosages rarely involve perceivable effects, users have reported definite improvement in mood, motivation, mindfulness, concentration, and creative problem solving, as well as aiding in leadership, and athletic performance.

Recreational Use

The museum, concert, small, low, or sometimes even medium doses are sometimes used recreationally for such things as improved art and music appreciation (hence the “museum” or “concert” dose), but also as an alternative to other recreational substances such as alcohol or cannabis, and can work well in group social settings to enhance social bonding, as well as alone for personal exploration.

As the dose increases, the user is more likely to experience pronounced altered perceptions, which could become overwhelming depending on the setting, so make sure to go easy, and know your limits. (See also managing an overwhelming psychedelic experience).

At this higher end of the recreational dose, the experience is often referred to as a “trip”, as it can sometimes feel like you have phased into an alternate dimension, where the familiar turns strange, and the mundane becomes fascinating. Colours and contrasts become vibrant, and sometimes the inanimate becomes animated.

Spiritual Practice

For higher doses, careful consideration of set and setting is essential, and it is recommended to have an experienced guide (or facilitator) to “hold space” for the individual. The presence of a guide enhances safety and provides valuable support for individuals navigating the intensified and transformative nature of higher-dose experiences.

A “ceremonial dose” is typically higher than a “recreational dose”, because there is the intention to go deeper within the self, which is not typically conducive to social situations. That said, there is no rule that a ceremonial dose is expected to be lower than a medicinal or clinical dose, but it is based more on the comforts and expectations of the participants, as well as the person leading the ceremony. Typically if there are multiple participants, then the dosage should not be so high that it is beyond the capabilities of the officiant to maintain a positive experience for all present.

Many seek a connection with the divine, exploring spirituality outside conventional religious frameworks. The emergence of psychedelic churches and the increasing interest among religious leaders in psychedelics for deepening faith and direct experience of their deity underscore this dimension.

Plants containing molecules, such as mescaline and psilocybin have a very long history of ceremonial use, possibly dating back many thousands of years, and typically tend to have the potential to induce a mystical state where the user becomes “one” with God, the Universe, or the Absolute. Other experiences can involve feelings that everything is connected, or that everything is alive (animism).

Medicinal / Therapeutic

The doses used in private psychedelic therapy are typically higher than those used in group ceremonies, as the setting is usually more controlled, with medical professionals able to provide care and assistance.

Addressing the global mental health crisis, psychedelics offer a means of healing trauma and emotional distress. Their use, deeply rooted in indigenous traditions and now revalidated by modern clinical studies, emphasizes their potential in mental and emotional healing.

Psychedelic assisted therapy involves using psychedelic drugs within a controlled therapeutic setting to enhance therapy effectiveness. It typically includes one to three sessions, where the patient, prepared and supported by a therapeutic team, undergoes a guided psychedelic experience with eyeshades and music. This approach, rooted in the work of Osmond, Hoffer, Hubbard, and Ditman, focuses on patient safety and integration of insights, differing from traditional psychiatric treatments in its method and philosophical alignment with transpersonal psychology rather than psychoanalysis.

While most therapists and clinics go through great lengths to remove the “clinical” feeling of the setting, it cannot be completely dismissed from the mindset.