facilitator Guidelines for Participants

Companionship of the Sacred Vine – facilitator Guidelines for Participants

This document outlines the Guidelines of the Companionship concerning ayahuasca use for people organizing and conducting ceremonies and for preparing participants for the ceremonies. This document is for ceremony organizers and also for members who wish to assess or understand the safety and accountability that’s offered in a Companionship ceremony.

Membership Preparation

  • Read the ayahuasca decision-making guide here
  • Signup for a membership on the Companionship website
  • Fill out the Health Questionnaire in your membership profile
  • Your facilitator will be in contact before the ceremony date

Selecting and Preparing Members for a ceremony

Make sure all of the applicants are aware of the ayahuasca decision-making guide available on this website. This should be done as much in advance of the ceremony as possible. The decision-making guide ensure applications are suitably informed about ayahuasca and its potential effects and can prepare responsibly. The information sheet includes:

  • the properties of ayahuasca, its composition, its effects and the potential risks
  • the implications of drinking ayahuasca
  • the dietary restrictions before and after the ceremony
  • the responsibilities of the staff and the participants
  • the procedure and operation of the ceremony
  • the process in its entirety

Applicant Forms

Ensure all the applicants have signed/acknowledged the required Health form and informed consent declaration. Available on the Companionship website in an online fillable form or provide a copy of the form that can be delivered to the applicant.

Conduct a one-to-one interview with each of the participants.

  1.  Get a feel for the individual, find out why they want to join the ceremony and qualitatively assess their current status.
  2. If a participant has prior experience, make a note of any changes they have noticed since their last ceremony.

Participant Permission to Attend ceremony

Use the information gathered from the questionnaires and interview to decide whether to accept an individual or not. Consider the following:

Applicants must be able to demonstrate that they understand the personal process that their participation involves.

Only accept applicants whose personal process is unlikely to require more assistance (in time or resources) than is available in the current context of the ceremony.

Applicants may be in need of additional therapy before drinking ayahuasca and should be advised to seek appropriate professional help.

In cases where an applicant is refused, suggest alternatives and explain the reasons for your decision.

If you have any doubts about a person’s suitability, it is better not to accept him or her.

Before the ceremony

The person or team organizing the ceremony should:

Only use medicine prepared and certified by the Companionship. Be familiar with the test results for the medicine you are going to serve.

Have enough helpers on hand to cater to all of the participants. It is not advisable to hold large ceremonies unassisted.

Ensure the ceremony space is prepared with drinking water for after the ceremony, toilet amenities and any other requirements for the ceremony.

Ensure the participants’ physical safety and comfort by preparing the environment to accommodate their needs (e.g. remove any dangerous objects, make the place cosy or comfortable, provide mats, bowls, paper tissues, buckets if required etc.)

Understand the facility emergency plan for various scenarios. Make sure the whole team understands it as well.

During the ceremony

The person or team organizing the ceremony should:

Estimate the correct dose according to age, gender, experience, health condition and individual needs. If unsure, administer a smaller dose.

Ensure the participants’ physical safety by keeping an eye out for potential hazards (eg. removing dangerous objects, preventing anyone from driving, someone mistakenly sitting on someone else’s mat, wandering off, etc.).

Ensure the participants’ emotional safety. This includes providing the emotional support needed, making sure no harmful interactions take place between participants and/or assistants and watch over the participants’ well-being.

The participant should never be left alone. Always ensure you or a helper is available.

Protect the integrity, privacy and security of the participants and their interactions

No participant should leave the ceremony before it has been closed. Participants should spend the night at the facility.

Check each participant individually before they leave the facility to ensure that he or she is in a stable emotional space

Ask for the proper help in case of need, emergency or in difficult situations. Be able to delegate.

Never deny help to anyone. Safety first.

In case of emotional problems: if a participant is having some emotional difficulty during the ceremony, proceed with simple non-pharmacological techniques (focused breathing, active listening, serene presence, etc.)

In case of medical problems – assess the situation and call for medical help, ambulance, doctor or other emergency response measures as required. Refer to the facility emergency response plan as a resource.

After the ceremony

The person or team organizing the ceremony should:

Ensure participants remain in the ceremonial space or in their room (if facility is so equipped) until morning.

Ensure that there is ongoing support available for those who need it after the ceremony.

Provide for integration where participants can individually or together participate in discussions. Use creative materials (paper, pencils and crayons for drawing, note-taking etc.) as they process their experience if possible.

Ensure that all participants have the opportunity to share their experience with the rest of the group if they wish.

Be mindful of the interactions during the group share. An active listening attitude without judgment or interpretation is used. Allow participants to reach their own conclusions and interpretations.

Check the physical and emotional state of all participants before they leave.

Offer the possibility of additional support after the ceremony either personally or through the Companionship support program.

Direct the participants to a Companionship support person if you are unable to provide the level of support that you feel they require during their integration process.

Remind participants they will be receiving an after-care email/questionnaire for additional support and to provide feedback to the Companionship and to the facilitator.

Be mindful of your role as a facilitator and do not get carried away if anyone wishes to give you credit for their profound experiences or see you as a spiritual guide.

It is important to be helpful and supportive but, as much as possible, ensure that each participant understands that they direct their own process and they are solely responsible for their own evolution, discoveries, connections and insights.