Supporting psychedelic therapy with digital interventions

A new paper has described the development of a self-directed intervention that harnesses digital technologies for psychedelic preparation.

Psychedelics cause considerable changes in consciousness, requiring careful preparation for the experience in order to limit potential adverse reactions. Equally, careful preparation is important for improving clinical outcomes.

A team of researchers from University College London, Massachusetts Medical School and Karolinska Institutet, Solna, Sweden, have now designed a 21-day digital course called Digital Intervention for Psychedelic Preparation (DIPP).

The course consists of four modules including:

  • Knowledge–Expectation
  • Psychophysical–Readiness
  • Safety–Planning, and 
  • Intention–Preparation

These modules include tools such as meditation practice, supplementary exercises, and mood tracking. 

The authors write: “DIPP provides a comprehensive and scalable solution to enhance psychedelic preparedness, aligning with the broader shift towards digital mental health interventions.”

Preparing for psychedelic experiences

With an explosion in the use of psychedelics as medicines, the team highlights that historically, Indigenous cultures have systematically implemented strategies that integrate mental, physical and spiritual dimensions in preparation for the psychedelic experience.

The authors write: “These holistic approaches are rooted in a deep understanding that navigating these altered states of consciousness without adequate preparation or guidance can pose significant risks and challenges…

“Although there is a consensus in the current scientific discourse around the importance of adequate psychedelic preparation, there is a pressing need for more rigorous evaluation of the various approaches, techniques and frameworks used to prepare participants, as well as research specifically dedicated to developing instruments to optimise this process.”

While multiple psychedelic therapies utilise these clinician-guided preparatory sessions, self-directed preparation strategies that may enhance readiness for psychedelic experiences have not been investigated.

Course development

To develop the course, the team drew on elements from the UK Medical Research Council (MRC) framework for developing complex interventions and looked at two studies.

The first study looked at interviews with participants who had attended a high-dose psilocybin retreat, and the second looked at participants who attended an ongoing retreat in co-design workshops. The team refined the intervention protocol based on insights from the first interviews.

The investigations revealed participants’ top priorities for the development of the course such as connecting with retreat leaders, reading assignments, meditation, journaling, abstinence from intoxicants, grounding techniques, and more, along with solutions and strategies to address barriers and risks.

One of the main barriers reported by participants was ‘information overload’, highlighting the need for structured guidance. 

The findings also revealed that participants predominantly preferred digital delivery of such a programme with an optimal duration of three weeks. 


The 21-day programme includes a ‘prep-DIPP’ introductory booklet with instructions for daily meditation sessions and an online resource library offering supplementary materials corresponding to each of the four thematic modules. 

Participants are also required to abstain from drugs and alcohol for the duration of the intervention and are encouraged to eat a healthy, balanced diet and prioritise good sleep and regular exercise. 

The authors write: “The DIPP framework is designed to be versatile, applicable across different user groups such as those in psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, recreational users, and participants at retreats. 

“It is also intended to be compatible with a range of psychedelics. Nevertheless, it is crucial to recognise that the framework’s content requires customisation to cater to the unique needs of each user group and the specific characteristics of the psychedelic in question.”

The course’s development aims to guide best clinical practice, inform understanding about the impact of preparation for psychedelic experiences on clinical outcomes, and make psychedelic therapies more efficient and convenient.

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