What is a Trip Sitter?
We are all familiar with what babysitters and even pet sitters do. On the physical level, a trip sitter really is no different. A trip sitter remains free of substances, and stays with another person or group of people while they consume psychedelics or other mind-altering substances. Other names for this person include “sober sitter” or “copilot.” A trip sitter can help during both recreational and spiritual drug use.
A trip sitter’s responsibility is to remain sober and to ensure as much safety as possible for the drug user, who is “tripping” under the influence. In other words, a trip sitter acts as an added layer of harm reduction. During the user’s journey the copilot attempts to minimize any possible negative outcomes once the user has consumed a substance. Although most people using a trip sitter’s help and support are first-time psychedelic users, having a trip sitter can be wise for even the most experienced psychonauts.
Trip Sitter Preparation
Just like a designated driver to a party, a trip sitter has to prepare in order to accept and take on the responsibility of assuring a psychedelic consumer’s safety. This naturally, means to remain sober.
Another key element to respect as a trip sitter is committing to assisting the traveler. Their journey will last for a long period of time. In the case of LSD, a traveler might not reach the hallucinogenic state for up to two hours after taking the substance. With that in mind, the trip sitter needs to educate himself on the substance the traveler has decided to take. Important considerations include how long the substance’s effects can last, as well as what side effects it may cause. The tripper should inform the sitter of the substance and precise dose being consumed. Trips with substances such as MDMA, cocaine, ketamine, DMT, psilocybin, and GHB commonly utilize trip sitters.
In order to be prepared, a trip sitter needs to commit to an entire day, maybe even two days. This is why having a sleepover is always a good idea. The best-case scenario would be sleeping at the traveler’s home. However, that doesn’t exclude camping out in tents or any other alternative.. It really depends on where the user feels most comfortable.
Flexibility and Empathy
For this very reason, a trip sitter needs to remain open-minded. The trip sitter must prepare to accept the user’s wishes on where the trip will actually take place. Being a good trip sitter is first and foremost being a good listener.
Unless the traveler already knows and trusts the trip sitter, it is important to establish a trusting and valuable relationship with the user prior to their taking the substance. The user needs to feel like the person who is communicating with him wants nothing but his well-being. The user must be able to trust the trip sitter. Therefore, if you volunteer as a trip sitter, you might need to prepare. Building a bond with the future traveler can take months.
As a trip sitter, become familiar with some key aspects of the tripper’s life. This could include their favorite music, what foods they like, movies, their spiritual beliefs, and more. The traveler needs to feel the person next to them actually knows them. The traveler needs to feel safe with them.
Setting the intention for the day of the trip is a great way to prepare. Both the user and the trip sitter will have agreed to the day’s plan. They will be on the same page emotionally and physically. It’s a great idea for the trip sitter to talk with the traveler about the psychedelic journey itself.
Setting the right intention is an absolutely vital part of making the psychedelic journey a pleasant experience. This holds true for both the trip sitter and the tripper. Psychedelics increase how a person feels, rather than creating feelings that weren’t there in the first place. The user needs to “free their mind” from any stressful situation. Examples might include an upcoming project, or even having to clean the house.
Likewise, the trip sitter needs to be in the right state of mind. Don’t prepare for the journey day after a negative life event, or in the midst of stressful life obligations.
Journey Day Prep
Although only one person will ultimately be going on a psychedelic journey, two people will be together for multiple hours. Because of this, it is important to plan the day well. This includes creating the right set before the user takes the drug. Music, a movie in the background, nice scents; discuss all these things prior to the journey day and prep accordingly.
The trip sitter should be equipped with food and water. Discuss food and drink in advance. The traveler might have specific requirements due to food allergies, or simple preferences that can put them at ease.
Prepare for the long haul. Different psychedelics can last for different periods of time. LSD’s effects last between 12 to 16 hours, while shrooms could last between six to nine hours. MDMA lasts from three to six hours, and Ayahuasca from four to six hours.
Do Your Homework and Be Prepared
Another important part of the journey day prep includes researching beforehand the effects of certain drug interactions. Many users like to mix two types of substances, such as MDMA with LSD. or LSD with weed, and more.
Ideally, the trip sitter should be experienced with psychedelics and know what to expect from the substance being consumed. However, a check sheet with anticipated effects and symptoms that could raise a concern is a very good idea. It could be a great way for both inexperienced and experienced psychedelics users to keep track of the traveler’s well-being.
The tripper’s set plays one of the most important parts in their psychedelic journey. Therefore, the trip sitter needs to make sure that they aren’t expecting any visits, calls, or anything else that could interfere with the traveler’s trip. The tripper’s set needs to be a comfortable, safe, and pleasant environment where the traveler simply feels “right”.
On the day of the psychedelic journey, there is no way to tell exactly what the traveler’s trip is going to be like, nor the exact length of time they will be tripping. You might have to be talking for hours on end with the traveler, or staring at the ceiling for just as long as they are while listening to their favorite Led Zeppelin album.
In unfortunate cases, you might have to spend a long time talking someone out of a bad trip. No matter what the traveler experiences, it is important to respect the golden rule: Never leave them alone. It is hard for the trip sitter to comprehend the exact experience felt by the traveler. Therefore, the trip sitter needs to always be by their side, expecting to be needed.
Letting the tripper talk freely and be themselves is part of the trip sitter’s job, no matter how weird or ridiculous the tripper might sound. If they appear to be at ease with what they are saying, and they do not make sense, the trip sitter needs to simply let the tripper be, and enjoy the moment.
How to Talk to a Traveler
The use of supportive language can have a tremendous and positive impact on the tripper, especially if the trip gets to a negative space. Positive affirmations not only relax an individual, but help increase confidence, turning a potential bad trip into a good experience.
Paranoia is a common emotion that first-time users can feel when consuming psychedelics. Confirm to the traveler that nothing bad will happen. Remind the person tripping that this is only a psychedelic experience. It will only last for a couple of hours and, in fact, will eventually end. Help the person realize that their experience is not normal reality. Let them know they do not need to fear what they are experiencing.
The slightest suggestion from a trip sitter could cause the traveler’s journey to shift from one experience to the other. It is, therefore, best for the trip sitter to first listen to the tripper, answer their questions, and simply stay on a positive path. Affirmations of what is real and what isn’t should be the only additional input necessary to a traveler’s psychedelic journey.
All other forms of communication should be simple, pleasant, and help to guide the traveler’s journey to a positive state of mind. Experienced trip sitter Celestina Aurora Mądry says that, often, it is just about holding space for the person.
The chosen space for the journey should be as safe as possible. It goes without saying—but we’ll say it here—that tripping on a rooftop or close to kitchen knives are bad ideas. Staying safe is important for the tripper, but also for the trip sitter, especially if the trip sitter is alone with the person who will consume psychedelics. Having to physically handle a person alone can be extremely difficult.
It is best to avoid a space where many strangers might be present and might have possession of other drugs and/or other dangerous materials.
What to Do if the Trip Becomes Challenging
As the traveler will be in a delicate and unpredictable state, having a checklist of resources on hand can be a handy way to keep track of the individual’s well-being. Include a list of vitals to check, such as their temperature, heart rate, and even blood pressure in case the tripper is acting extremely or abnormally, such as screaming for help and fearing for their life at the top of their lungs for hours.
While maintaining a positive conversation usually helps the traveler feel safe, sometimes talking doesn’t suffice to rationalize a person out of a negative experience. In that case, music can often help a traveler overcome a bad trip.
Being physically supportive can help the traveler feel more in touch with the present, and that their surroundings are safe. The trip sitter should be prepared to accept that a person needs to hold on to the trip sitter’s arm for a while, and accept the traveler’s form of expression, whether it be physical or verbal. Of course, a trip sitter reserves the right to set his or her own boundaries.
Changing the setting might be helpful if the person is stuck in a negative loop-like state of mind. For instance, if the traveler is inside, perhaps take them outside to focus on the fresh air and count the stars. If a certain movie has been playing in the background, maybe turn it off and put on relaxing music instead. This can again change the direction of a psychedelic experience for the better.
How to Find a Trip Sitter?
Finding a trip sitter should be a well-thought-out process. The key is to find a trusted person, preferably with psychedelic experience, someone who is in general familiar with the effects of the drug the user has chosen to consume.
However, a person who has no experience with psychedelics could also trip sit, provided they prepare accordingly.
A trip sitter does not necessarily have to be a friend or a family member. As a matter of fact, there are resources, such as TripSitter.org, that allow for first-time users and other travelers to find a psychedelic-assisted therapist. This can frequently be helpful for people using psychedelics for healing as well as trauma recovery.
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Contributing RS Author: Andréa Oldereide
Andréa is a London-based journalist who loves to write and cover anything out of the ordinary. You can probably find me her reviewing a drag show or walking her dog if she isn’t sitting by her computer and a cup of coffee writing something. Andréa has written for an LGBTQ-based website as well as a fatherhood themed publication and more. Andréa definitely never limits her writings to one specific area. Most importantly, she has always been fascinated by the mind and how our brains function, so you can expect a lot of research-based article from her. Feel free to follow her on Insta @drewithanaccent and Twitter @Dre_Oldereide