Fern, a naturopath, and Connor, a furniture maker, first used mushrooms together after they had been dating for a year. Fern had become familiar with the world of psychedelic therapy through her work with alternative plant medicines. "I'd met people who use them like you would yoga or meditation—as a regular practice for self care and self exploration," Fern says. "We didn't do it for recreation, although it can be fun. We wanted to learn more about each other.""[Connor and I] always set an intention, and our intention for the first trip was to 'trust' the medicine and what it can show you," she continues. "At first, I felt these warm flushes all around my body and became hyper-aware of the limbs and the hairs on my body, as well as the textures and ambience around me. This shared energy and connection created a bubble for us to see everything about each other and we just laughed and laughed like children.
We'll have this incredible deep chat that we didn't even know we wanted to have.
During the trip, says Fern, the couple started to look subjectively at their own and each other's lives. "I started to see the events of my life not from an emotional perspective, but as facts. This is your life, these are things that have happened, this is your role in them, this is how others around you have been affected. I realised the lengths I'd gone to suppress certain negative thoughts and feelings and by acknowledging that, I could release them."The couple found that during the trip they felt more connected and had an increased understanding of each other. "We were cuddling and it felt like we were melting into each other, it was like we could see each other's souls," says Fern. "You discover each other's troubles and fears, and don't judge them."
Dr. Ros Watts is a clinical psychologist at Imperial College London who guided patients through a trip for a recent trial looking at the effects of magic mushrooms on depression. "People develop ways of avoiding certain thoughts and feelings, but during the dose our patients would be completely flooded by them" she says. "This was overwhelming and sometimes scary, but it also gave them an opportunity to work through these feelings and confront them."
Six months after the study, every attached patient also reported positive benefits to their romantic relationships. "During the trip they would have revelations about how important their partner was to them," says Dr. Watts. "One man went to dinner with his wife for the first time in six years. He said they were like teenagers again". This change was also noticed by their partners."They reported that their partner was more open with them, more able to express emotion, and more willing to have deep conversations after the experience."Hilda Burke, a London-based psychotherapist and couples counselor, says the common thread between couples seeking therapy is that they've lost the ability to communicate with each other. "They've become so polarized that they can't really go over to the other person's island and see how it is from their perspective."
The normal sense of self is broken down and replaced by a sense of re-connection.
Eric, 38, runs an advocacy group for the therapeutic application of psychedelic plants. He and his wife Rose*, 27, started taking mushrooms together quite soon after they met. "Early on in our relationship we confronted many different scenarios together through tripping: past relationships and emotional wounds from childhood all came to the surface," says Eric."Through taking mushrooms together we went on a journey, healing wounds from my past. My best friend passed away in a car accident when he was 16, and through communion with magic mushrooms I confronted the pain that I'd held [around that] for over a decade. Through sharing that experience with her we both reached a deeper understanding and acceptance of each other, and each other's past."
Confronting the past rather than letting it manifest in your relationship is something Hilda Burke tackles often with her clients. "A massive step in couples therapy is looking at our own part rather than saying it's all about the other person" she says. "You have to look at what you're bringing to the party; even though it's hard, it's necessary to sort through what belongs to the relationship and what doesn't, and make peace with it."
First it brought us really close and then it tore us apart.
Dan*, 35, experienced this from the other side. "First [tripping on mushrooms] brought us really close, but then it tore us apart," he said. "We were engaged, but during the trip my boyfriend had a revelation that he had been lying to himself and to me."For Fern and Connor, though, mushrooms have become a monthly ritual they both feel is integral to the health of their relationship. "It's not that we wouldn't be as close as we are without doing them," said Fern, "it's just that it could have taken us years to get there. It really feels like you're getting 10 years of counselling in one night."Magic mushrooms grow naturally all over the world, but you won't find them at your local supermarket: They are currently illegal in the UK, the US, Australia and New Zealand. Dr. Watts emphasizes that although there can be many benefits, they are a powerful substance and not to be taken lightly. "When they're done in a safe setting, they're safe," she says, "but one of the patients said it was the worst five hours of his life, even though it was very beneficial for him in the end. [So] I wouldn't advise seeking out that experience outside of a research setting."If we can get the research through, then people who need them for therapeutic purposes will hopefully one day be able to get them."*Names have been changed