A casual invention that works wonderfully and has created a tendency and an international practice

Psychotherapeutic Integration is an approach that I have practiced for many years without even knowing what it was called, or that it was an approach. Currently, after 15 years of starting this practice with many who practice it, and after more than 20,000 people have experienced this labor I am fit to tell the details and secrets of how it was born and developed.

First was the way of doing it, then the name. They say that great inventions have been born out of chance events or even accidents, without planning their discovery. Such is the case with PSYCHOTHERAPEUTIC INTEGRATION, a “serendipity”, which means: finding something fortunate and unexpected which is much better than what was sought.

I found myself facing a very complex situation, first in myself, then in many other people. It happened after taking Ayahuasca for the first time with a shaman in Bogotá, Colombia. I realised that many things had moved inside of me: thoughts, feelings, past memories, unpleasant visions of my present life, visions of colours and shapes I had never seen before, etc. The morning after, having slept for about 3 hours, it was obvious that I was in a deep reflexive state. The people there were greeting each other, looking at each other and saying very little, but they all seemed to be doing fine, like reborn or as if they had slept for 12 hours straight. While returning to the hotel where I was staying, I spoke to the psychologist that accompanied me; it was inevitable to tell her what I had experienced. It seemed natural to have doubts about what I had seen and felt. I asked her some things and she gave me very assertive clues to comprehend my process. Two hours later we arrived at the hotel. At that time I thought it would have been ideal if everyone of us shared each of our experiences. Months later, after several sessions with Colombian shamans, I participated in other ceremonies of the Red Path with Ayahuasca in Europe, where the sharing took place in the morning and each person was given the floor one by one to talk about the experience. Each participant explained what he/she felt or learnt; but I perceived that at the end of the round there was some kind of void, as if something was missing. Maybe a final reflexion, a conclusion about the common point in all the experiences lived the night before by all the people who took Ayahuasca.

It was then that I started to visualise a way to make bidirectional sharing round, in which every participant received some feedback; questions could be asked, and even some corporal and emotional dynamics to integrate the experience; even with the possibility of a brief therapy for a concrete objective. Everything aimed at the participants taking a reflexion inside of them, integrated and taking full consciousness of what was installed to be used in daily life. A part of me is extremely pragmatic; I am passionate about putting into practice all that I comprehend.

I started practicing therapeutic integration long before I gave ayahuasca. I started this labour in Bogota with Diana Bernal, the psychologist that invited me to take Ayahuasca the first time. Together, we gave shape to a working method that consisted of making a previous preparation, a ceremony with a taita or shaman that we brought from the Colombian jungle to give ayahuasca at night and a 3-4 hour workshop in which we focused on self-knowledge using the Enneagram tool along with psycho-emotional and corporal dynamics. The results were incredible; taking ayahuasca would play an important –but not leading- role. People lived it as a holistic group retreat, not as just a small gathering to take ayahuasca. This is how I started to see for myself the importance of making a more integrated and encompassing proposal, gathering many psychotherapeutic resources and spiritual practices. I incorporated Osho meditations, systemic movements, Biodance lessons, Yoga, Tantra and many other things that gave greater force and sense to the incipient method that was being born impromptu.

After realising this labour with various psychologists in different places, one of them (Oscar Gómez) pointed out that I was uniting ayahuasca with psychotherapy; in other words, combining a natural shamanic medicine with a therapeutic method based mainly on the use of words. It was then that I started to write patiently about all that I observed in the participants that took ayahuasca and then shared their experience in a public story. Thousands of notes helped me gather very valuable information to observe the common points between the participants of these retreats.

Óscar Gómez, an Argentinean psychologist (sorry for the redundancy) joined this project in Spain; he worked in a therapy centre that I managed. Plenty of people came through our doors with many and very different problems, symptoms and pathologies. When I started to invite our centre’s clients to these ayahuasca retreats, we organised the ayahuasca intake at night, and the morning after we did an interactive sharing with the participants; everyone shared what happened and then we gave him feedback so they could see those aspects about themselves that they were blind to. It was at that moment that a certain attitude emerged in each person; gestures, emotional and physical movements that summed up the state and situation of each one of them, not only at that moment, but also in daily life. Something about their everyday lives was manifesting, but outside that context and in a space of inner search or psychotherapeutic labour. The great discovery was that everything we bring from life as it is, manifests in many ways in an ayahuasca session. That was the point of observation that opened the door when it was time to share or exchange.

A psychotherapeutic integration consists of gathering all the emerging information from the internal movements produced by a fact, a moment or a circumstance, so that it is assimilated through a conscious process. It is the recollection of data and different ways of looking at the deep self to develop a way of perceiving reality free of conditioning. When we observe something, whether it is internal or external, we do it in a subjective way, with the burden of identification; but when a moment of objectivity is achieved, a constructive reflexion happens. We have called COMPREHENSION this consciousness phenomenon (which is not understanding from the mind but assimilating from the feeling). Precisely, one of the meanings of the word INTEGRATION is COMPREHENSION.

One day, Óscar Gómez told me: “This we are doing has a name and last name: PSYCHOTHERAPEUTIC INTEGRATION”. From that moment on, we started to shape it in an increasingly professional and ordered way, caring for the timing and moments, objects an instruments, spaces and ambiance; the set and setting (putting and adjusting, taking care of the place) started to have a great importance in these encounters of people who came to try ayahuasca and undergo a process of inner comprehension.

The result of this new working model with Ayahuasca has been much greater than imagined. The fact that it has worked so well on thousands of people gave us the drive to create a school and even our own working system, in which Oscar Gómez and me supervise the students and apprentices until they launch to perform this approach in the retreats we organise around the world.

We currently have over 20 formed integrators and with experience in Ayahuasca International and Inner Mastery, and another 20 in formation. We have a philosophical advisor that counsels us in the comprehension of the questions they formulate. We also have a therapeutic director, Isamar Gutierrez, with great experience in systemic therapy, which handles the personal processes of each integrator, as one of the fundamental bases of our proposal is the inner care of each of our integrators. The indispensable openness of doing therapy is reflected in the quality of work we achieve with others.

To those who give Ayahuasca, whether they are shamans, facilitators or “ayahuasqueros” from our school, we also offer this therapeutic service; while also forming them in all the related aspects to the act of accompanying processes when this powerful natural medicine is taken. This is because they also need to go inside themselves to root themselves in their own centre and find a space of transcendence to perform a job as delicate as supporting participants in an indescribable journey through their own inner matters.

Currently there are many groups and well-known personalities in the world of ayahuasca that criticise us for this complementary practice to the ayahuasca intake; for the fact that we have opened a new parallel path to what indigenous tradition advises. Nonetheless, I am sure that later than sooner these people who radically defend a way of working with ayahuasca will get to comprehend the magnificent potentiation that is produced by uniting Ayahuasca with other psychotherapeutic techniques. In fact, we already have shamans that support us and accompany this project. I cannot give their names because then they will be attacked and slandered. It is not necessary or possible that they change their ways, and that is not what we want; on the other hand, we support the culture and traditions. These days, Taita Querubín’s grandson and a traditional Yagé cooker from southern Colombia are in Europe performing indigenous Cofán ceremonies in our retreats; because we also love the traditions and cultures that have known how to maintain and refine the use of this plant, sacred to them.

I will never forget the Yagé (Colombian ayahuasca) sessions with the taitas in the Amazonian jungle, where I enjoy their chants infinitely, their forms, their dresses, their religion, their focus and their love for the healing nature.

Someday I will return to the Colombian jungle to take Yagé with the taitas and, why not offer them a psychotherapeutic integration? We westerners need ayahuasca as much as they need therapy.

Alberto José Varela


[email protected]

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What is it and how did it begin?

What is it composed of?

What is the opinion of those who experienced it?

Who can perform it?

Where is it taught and by whom?

What relationship does it have with change and transformation?

In what point is it associated with Inner Evolution?

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