Upon first thought, going to therapy stoned sounds like a bad idea and a waste of money–but is it? Could cannabis actually enhance sessions and help clients get the most out of their treatment? Maybe those of us who go to therapy stone-cold-sober are doing it all wrong. Mental healthcare is expensive, and there’s nothing worse than leaving a therapy session feeling like you didn’t get anywhere or kept emotions bottled up. For some, however, weed is the antidote.
Let’s face it: Therapy can be awkward–even stressful. If you’re someone who gets anxious before a session, you’re in good company; plenty of people experience at least a little worry surrounding therapy. While therapy is beneficial for treating anxiety and various mental illnesses, the thought of heading to an appointment might very well get your heart racing. Therapists will often encourage you to dig up the darkest parts of your past and to challenge unhealthy thoughts that you’re having. Doing that is definitely not easy or fun.
Enter our friend, Mary Jane.
If you’re not the kind of person who turns into a quiet zombie while smoking, going to therapy stoned could be beneficial. Dealing with trauma in therapy is often a tricky process in which you have to talk about painful experiences that can be emotionally draining.
29-year-old Alayna K. says going to therapy stoned helps her process trauma in a much less painful way. She says that going to therapy high the first time wasn’t a premeditated plan. During her first mind-altered session, however, she found there was a great difference in the way she felt. “I realized it was helping me and easing me into talking about hard things,” she says. “During the session, I was relaxed and calm, and could tell my therapist things I didn’t think I was ready to.”
Alayna doesn’t smoke before every therapy session, but when she does, she takes note of both emotional and physical benefits. “[Cannabis] slows me down and keeps my heart rate from skyrocketing from thinking about my trauma,” she says. “It just makes me look at things from afar and process them. Things that normally wouldn’t roll off my [tongue] are suddenly easier to speak about.”
Perhaps most importantly, Alayna’s weed-therapy combo has helped her come to a monumental treatment milestone regarding her past trauma. “It opens my eyes. I can see that things weren’t my fault and that it’s okay that I froze when I did.”
Even folks who aren’t in therapy for trauma may find attending appointments anxiety-inducing. Gabriela Herstik, 25, has been going to therapy stoned for the past year. She’s found that going to therapy stoned significantly lessens her anxiety surrounding talking about what makes her anxious.
She confesses, “Although there have been times where this has made my experience a little more difficult (A.K.A. I got a little too stoned) for the most part I feel like when I smoke, I not only have less trouble communicating my emotions, but it’s also easier for me to connect with them in the first place.”
Herstik explains that sometimes just the idea of talking about what makes her anxious sparks her anxiety. Thus, weed helps her relax and avoid fixating on anxious thoughts before a session. “I find that when I turn up to my therapist office high I open up easier, and feel more comfortable diving into what’s really on my mind,” she says. “Sometimes it just gets me talking, sometimes I feel like it allows me to connect to my heart so I can express what’s going on from a more authentic place.”
Nina A., 28, has been in therapy for 10 years for generalized anxiety disorder and depression. She agrees that cannabis helps her get the most out of therapy. “I do my best thinking on the ride up to therapy, stoned,” she claims. During her hour-long commute to the therapist’s office, she organizes her thoughts and plans for the session. “I start to pull all of my swirling thoughts for the week down onto paper or into more of a developed thought on my way there,” she says. “I start to organize my ideas or concepts for the week that have floated around. I really think being stoned kinda helps with the fluidity of that process.”
Upon arriving at therapy, Nina shares the same sentiment as Gabriela: cannabis helps her open up. “When I get to therapy I definitely flow more freely with thoughts,” she admits. “I might jump around more, but I think it allows me to access the emotional leads of my thoughts.”
For a mental health professional’s point of view, we spoke to Arizona-based therapist and holistic life coach Vivian Nelson Melle, who also happens to be a medical marijuana patient. She tells me she does not have a problem with clients attending therapy stoned. In fact, she sees benefits to it. “I think cannabis as a treatment for behavioral health should have the same acceptance as pharmaceuticals,” she contends.
Think about it: Imagine how many people pop a Xanax before therapy. Therapists don’t see a problem with that, do they?
Nelson Melle believes that cannabis lowers inhibitions, making a person more open to talking and being honest. “It basically cuts the amount of time needed to be real and get down to the nitty-gritty,” she says.
This theory is in line with the experiences that Alayna, Gabriela, and Nina have shared with us. Weed helps them to feel less reluctant to open up in therapy, thereby getting more in touch with their feelings and right down to the “nitty-gritty.”
But going to therapy stoned isn’t something everyone should do. Nelson Melle says that anyone who is on probation, dealing with courts, or child protective services should avoid using cannabis and going to therapy. “Basically, anyone who could endanger court cases shouldn’t go to therapy high,” she says. “[A therapist] would likely know if they have to do drug testing. And although I would not report people using cannabis without a card, I think clients should be very cautious using without a medical marijuana card. There are too many counselors who will report it, especially if [a patient has] children. They’ll often call CPS (child protective services). I’ve seen that done. Some drug treatments also don’t allow treatment to continue if cannabis is found in the system, so if the care is in coordination with drug treatment, the client needs to weigh the benefits. For some, cannabis is more helpful than traditional drug treatment. Again, it depends on the client.”
So, if you’re in therapy and also an avid cannabis consumer, you might just want to give this unique approach to therapy a go. It could be the solution you’re looking for if you feel like you’re hitting a wall in your treatment or dreading every appointment. When it comes down to it, whether or not you want to try going to therapy stoned is entirely up to you–but why wouldn’t you make the most of it, and enhance your session?