FAQs

Applying to a retreat

What will you do with my responses on the application form?

The purpose of this form is to build an understanding of where you are coming from and what your needs might be before, during, and after a retreat.

We take confidentiality seriously. The information you provide to us will only ever be shared with relevant members of the retreats team and never with anyone outside of the organisation.

The content of your questionnaire will be stored in a database accessible only by members of the Alalaho team. Your data is held only to evaluate your suitability for the retreats programme and to understand your individual needs. Your data is not passed on to anyone outside of the organisation. You can read more about our privacy policy and data protection here.

Why do you ask for an emergency contact? And who should that person be?

Ideally, at least one person in your life should know what you are planning to do, and where you are going. This will be important for your integration process. It could be a friend, a family member, a partner, your therapist. We will not contact this person without your consent, except in the very unlikely case of an emergency. 

What factors might preclude me from attending a retreat?

Some medications, or the conditions they treat, do not combine well with psilocybin and may have potentially dangerous interactions, disrupt the effects of psychedelic substances, or could produce situations that we are not equipped to safely manage in a group retreat setting. Likewise, some mental or physical health conditions are not compatible with our retreats or the experience we offer. 

It is our sincere desire to facilitate psychedelic journeys for as many people as possible. However, it is our duty of care to acknowledge the limitations of what we can offer.

The psychedelic experience is not a magic bullet for any of life’s problems. We do not offer therapeutic interventions and our retreats are not intended as a substitute for therapeutic or medical treatment.

Does a diagnosis of mild/moderate depression mean I cannot attend?

We review this on a case by case basis. While the science is encouraging for those with depression who are working with psilocybin, we want to have a sense that each participant is coming to the retreat from a fairly stable base (i.e. a place from which the ‘shaking of the snowglobe’ that psychedelics can sometimes produce for individuals will be something they can manage and translate into action when they return home.) 

We have accepted participants in the past who have been diagnosed with mild-moderate depression, with the understanding that they are not seeking a direct therapeutic intervention or treatment through attending a retreat, but rather, a lever to support their overall healing journey. Ideally, the individual would be supported by other therapeutic work or practices such as therapy, meditation or community.

Why can’t I attend a retreat if I’m taking an antidepressant (SSRI or SNRI)?

Unfortunately we cannot accept anyone taking antidepressant medication at this time. This is because SSRI and SNRI antidepressants work on the same receptor system as psilocybin and block the effects of it. Trying to overwhelm the medication with the truffles is not a sensible approach and we cannot legally ask you to go against your doctor’s medical advice.

If, in conjunction with advice from your medical doctor, you decide to taper off this medication, we typically only accept applicants who have been off their medication for approximately 3 months. 

I have not been accepted onto the retreat. How else can I be supported?

Increasingly, many people who experience mental health challenges have exhausted mainstream mental health care options and often find no relief or ongoing improvements to their quality of life. With the increased publicity around psychedelics and mental healthcare, we are often contacted and asked if we can help.

While we know the need is very acute, at this point we do not offer psychedelic-assisted therapy, and our retreats are not intended as treatment for any kind of disorder. Unfortunately, if you suffer from more severe mental health issues, you might require a level of assistance we are not able to offer you in a group setting. Please know that this is for your own safety and wellbeing, as well as the safety of the group. The practice of psychedelic treatment is in its infancy, and research (primarily at Imperial College and Kings College in London, and Johns Hopkins in the United States) is ongoing to find out the best way to integrate psychedelics and therapeutic support that moves beyond a clinical trial setting. 

It can be really disappointing to not be accepted onto a retreat when you have your hopes pinned on it, and we wish there was more we could do at this stage. Here are some options you could consider beyond attending a retreat with us:

  • See whether there are any psychedelic clinical trials recruiting participants to explore psychedelic treatments for a range of conditions including treatment resistant depression, anorexia, post-traumatic stress disorder and alcohol addiction. 
  • Often people write off therapy thinking ‘I tried therapy, it doesn’t work for me’. The world of therapeutic approaches is however very broad, so sometimes it can be worth exploring another approach if we haven’t found the more conventional psychoanalytic or cognitive behaviour approaches helpful. We recommend body-based trauma therapy such as Somatic Experiencing or the Hakomi method. 
  • There are incredibly powerful group therapeutic processes that can also be life-changing for many. We are big fans of The Path Of Love, for example.
  • Explore using other methods to access altered states of consciousness, which do not require the use of a psychoactive substance, such as Holotropic Breathwork.
  • Get in touch with your local Psychedelic Society and connect with the community.

Transfers and Cancellations

Can I get a refund or transfer my ticket if I decide to cancel/change my place on the retreat?

When you book a retreat, your payment includes a €250,- non-refundable deposit

If you can no longer attend the retreat you’ve booked, we offer the following options:

  • Up until 6 weeks before your retreat, we offer you a full refund minus the non-refundable deposit. Alternatively, you can use your credit towards a future retreat at no extra cost.
  • Up to 21 days prior to arrival, we offer a 50% refund minus the non-refundable deposit. 
  • For cancellations within 21 days of the retreat no refunds will be offered.

What if I can’t attend my retreat because of Covid-related restrictions?

Retreat organisations like us have been hanging by a thread to survive during Covid, so we have had to put in a cancellation policy that offers us protection to weather any potential additional future storms. We ask for your understanding.

  • If Alalaho has to cancel your retreat due to COVID-19 health and safety or travel restrictions, we will store your full paid amount as credit towards a future retreat. This credit will not expire. 
  • If you are no longer able to attend due to COVID-19 health, safety or travel restrictions, and notify us at least 21 days in advance, we will store your full paid amount as credit towards a future retreat. This credit will not expire. We ask that you provide documentation of your positive test result or country’s travel restrictions.
  • If you have to cancel within 21 days of your retreat for Covid-related reasons, we will retain a 750€ additional to the 250€ deposit to cover some of the costs of your retreat place. We will refund you the remaining amount or you can use it as credit towards a future retreat.

If you are forced to cancel your place on a retreat, it is your obligation to notify us as soon as possible via retreats@alalaho.org.

Retreats during the Covid-19 pandemic

What is your Covid safety policy?

We adhere to local Dutch Covid regulations. Currently there are no restrictions for an event such as ours. As such, our policy is as follows:

  • Please do a quick-test/selftest before travelling to the retreat, and stay at home if you test positive or show any signs of feeling unwell. Our work is very much rooted in trust and honesty, so we won’t be checking you on this, but ask you to be responsible and caring for yourself and our community.
  • As an additional safety precaution please remain as isolated as possible in the days leading up to the retreat to avoid infection and use this time as an opportunity for deeper preparation and personal inquiry time for the retreat.

  • If you come from a country where you don’t meet the Dutch entry requirements, you need to self-quarantine in the Netherlands before you attend the retreat. You cannot quarantine at our retreat centre.

  • Should someone begin to feel poorly while on retreat, we will support you to take the next best steps to ensure your wellbeing and that of all participants.

We reserve the right to change our Covid policy at any point if required by our ethics or the Dutch regulations, and will inform you of any changes immediately.

On the retreat: The setting

What is the setting for the psychedelic experience?

Our ceremony space is spacious, light-filled and beautifully decorated by local artists. You will be offered your own comfortable ‘nest’ for the journey, with your own mattress, eye mask, duvet, and pillow. 

Participants ingest their truffles in a tea infusion at around lunchtime. The experience lasts somewhere between 4-6 hours, after which time, you’ll be offered a nourishing supper and a quiet, gentle evening to land and integrate.

We work with a specific playlist designed to help you explore your inner world. The ceremony is not a social space and we encourage participants to cultivate an inward focus for the journey. However, it’s likely that the collective group experience and the support it provides will also be a part of your journey.

What is it like participating in a group retreat?

Although you’ll be on your own personal journey during the retreat, you will also be living and working in a community with other participants. 

As part of the preparation and integration programme, we hold sharing circles and group exercises that are designed to deepen your experience. These are safely held, confidential, low-pressure, supportive environments where like-minded participants are invited to open up and share a little more of their inner experience. You will never be expected to impart any information that you do not feel comfortable sharing. 

Although being with groups can be daunting for many of us, a large proportion of participants report that the process of building community, being supported by the group, and communicating in a real way with others was one of the most powerful aspects of the retreat experience.

Can I come on retreat with my partner/spouse?

Yes – we  welcome couples on our retreats and it is often a beautiful experience for you to share as a couple. That said, each person will need to apply and be accepted individually.  Should you both be accepted on retreat, we can usually accommodate you in a private room at an additional cost.

While a beautiful experience to share together, we generally recommend that couples do not sit next to each other during the ceremony itself in order to create optimal conditions for each person’s own inner exploration. We are happy to find the right arrangement with you on a case-by-case basis.

Where do your participants come from, and are there any language requirements?

Our retreats attract participants primarily from across Europe but include participants from as far afield as New Zealand, Hong Kong and the United States. While the retreats are multinational and multicultural, all the conversations on the retreat are in English and it is crucial that participants have sufficient mastery of the language to be able to communicate with the facilitators and to participate in the group activities. At this point, we are unable to accommodate translators. 

Can I come to the retreat late or leave a day early?

Unfortunately it is not possible for participants to come to the retreat late or leave early. It’s essential to commit to taking the time to be in the process with the rest of the group for the entire retreat. Moreover, we strongly recommend taking a day or more off work following the retreat to give yourself more time to integrate the experience. The time afterwards is as important as the ceremony itself.

The Psychedelic substance, ceremony and dosages

I’ve heard of magic mushrooms, but what are truffles and why are you using them?

Mushrooms themselves are the fruiting bodies of fungi. The main part of the fungus’ ‘body’ is below ground, the mycelium. It’s a mat or web of tiny silky fibres that grows through soil or wood, digesting plant matter or working in partnership with living plants, passing them minerals and water in exchange for food.

As an adaptation to the risk of the mycelium drying out and dying before there is a chance to make mushrooms, some species of fungus create tough knots of mycelium underneath the ground, which are called sclerotia (or truffles), that can survive harsh conditions. So, psilocybin containing truffles are simply psilocybin containing mushrooms that have created tough knots under ground.

Unlike psilocybin mushrooms, psilocybin truffles are not legally regulated in The Netherlands, which is why we do our retreats there, and with truffles instead of mushrooms. The active psychedelic component in both “magic” mushrooms and truffles is psilocybin, so in terms of the effect experienced they are very similar.

How do you ingest the truffles?

Participants generally ingest the truffles as a tea with fresh ginger, as this enables a fast and easy absorption of the active ingredient psilocybin and helps reduce any potential nausea. 

If you have experience with eating truffles, you are welcome to also eat them, but for first timers we recommend the tea as it is less likely to upset the stomach.

What is the dosage of truffles in ceremony?

The dose of truffles for each participant is determined between each participant and a facilitator during a one-on-one preparation session ahead of the ceremony. The dosage decision  depends on a range of different factors ranging from body type, to intention, to emotional set-up. Generally, the dosage would be around 30g of fresh truffles irrespective of previous experience, which equates to approximately 30mg of psilocybin, with the opportunity to have a top-up about an hour and a half into the ceremony. 

Although this is indeed a high dose, and would not be appropriate in a recreational context, it can be personally transformative in the strongly held environment of the ceremony and is suitable even for participants new to the experience.

Are the dosages the same during both ceremonies of a 6-day retreat?

No – the dosage of the second ceremony will be higher than the first ceremony.  This is for two reasons: you build up a tolerance to psilocybin which lasts for about a week, so if you were to take the same dose, the effect would likely be less strong for the second ceremony. The second reason is that with the first ceremony, we intend to start off with a smaller, but still significant dose to allow everyone to explore navigating the psychedelic space. This gives the opportunity to start some initial cleansing, releasing stuck energy and potential trauma.

The emotional starting point going into the second ceremony is very different than before the first ceremony. It is possible that a lot of clearing will have already happened, and even more trust exists in the psychedelic experience and the setting, the group and the facilitators. The dosage for the second ceremony is approximately double the amount ingested on the first.

Having said all this, there is only so much planning that can be done when working with psychedelics. It is a very mystical process at the end of the day. It might be that the first ceremony is extremely powerful and the second ceremony becomes more about grounding and integrating what has been opened (yes, it is possible to integrate through a psychedelic ceremony, also). 

Beyond any plan, our facilitators will engage with you on an individual basis to find which dosage is right for you.

What happens if I have an adverse physical reaction on retreat?

Truffles have incredibly low toxicity, even lower than alcohol, and are therefore safe to ingest. There are certain physical conditions and medications, which can be a contraindication however, so it is of utmost importance that you tell us in your application form of any medication you are on as well as any health conditions.

It is possible to feel unsettled in the stomach or nauseous after ingesting the truffles, particularly in the first hour of the experience. This phase is sometimes called psychedelic turbulence, as it is similar to the lift off on a plane. As the plane is taking off, it can be a bit shaky, but this generally fades once you have reached a certain altitude. It’s similar with the psychedelic experience: the onset can be a bit wobbly, and be accompanied by nausea, but this generally fades once you have fully entered the ‘trip’. It has a lot to do with nerves as your normal egoic state transitions into the psychedelic state of mind.

Having transitioned into the “psychedelic state” doesn’t mean it will be “smooth sailing or flying” from then on, but the physical discomfort will generally have faded. You might still encounter challenging experiences, but our facilitators will have prepared you for this and are well trained to support you through such an experience so that it may even turn out to be one of learning and growth.

Unlike with ayahuasca for example, where purging can be a common aspect of the journey, this generally is not the case with truffles. Nonetheless, very occasionally participants will feel so nauseous that they have to vomit. There is nothing bad about that and our facilitators are trained to support you. None of the nearly 900 participants who attended our retreats have reported any lasting physical harm. 

Each retreat also has at least one facilitator certified in First Aid, should there be an emergency. Having said that, so far we have never had to make use of this part of our training in any of the hundreds of ceremonies we have held, which speaks to the safety of both truffles and the holding environment we create.

Logistics: travel, accommodation and catering

Where do we meet and how do I get to the retreat venue?

We offer a complimentary coach transfer from near Amsterdam Central Train station to the venue and back. It’s nice to travel with the group to the venue and it is actually more cost-effective and less hassle than taking public transport or driving a rental car. 

You can of course also make your own way to the retreat centre. Some participants even cycle! You will be sent the full address of the venue once you’ve purchased your ticket.

Can I have a private room on the retreat?

There is a limited number of private rooms available per retreat, at 100€ per night.

What catering is offered during the retreat?

The food at the retreat is vegan, organic, seasonal and locally sourced (where possible). It is healthy and delicious at the same time. The menu changes with the creative influence of the chef in residence. 

  • Breakfast usually consists of bread, spreads, non-dairy yoghurt, porridge, fruit and muesli.
  • Lunch (aside from ceremony day where snacks are served during the ceremony) is often a soup and salad.
  • Dinner might include an Indian dhal with rice, riata, or an Ethiopian peanut stew, or miso aubergines with tahini sauce, kale salad and roasted vegetables.

We also have a selection of snacks, herbal teas and fruit on offer. 

We appreciate that these may be new tastes for some of our participants but can assure you that we have yet to have a participant feeling hungry or thirsty. Participants tend to leave our retreats with both their literal and figurative cups having been filled. Gluten-free, celiac and other allergies can be catered for. 

How do I integrate my psychedelic experience post-retreat?

What structures do you have in place to help me integrate my experience?

We offer several support structures and suggestions to help you integrate your retreat experience with us. On the retreat itself, we dedicate a minimum of a full day and a half explicitly to integration. We hold individual check-ins with each participant the day after the journey and explore a range of practices such as bodywork, breathwork, journaling, creative expression, nature immersion, authentic relating and sharing circles, all focusing on bringing back the psychedelic lessons into your daily life.

We recognise that change is a long-term endeavour so after the retreat, you get to participants a 9-months-integration journey with your unique retreat group to help you weave the insights gained at the retreat back into your everyday life. This will include group video calls, exercises and practices, as well as a list of suggested readings, videos and podcasts. You are also welcome to book further one-to-one sessions with our facilitators to deep dive into any topics that came up during the retreat. 

Do you offer one-to-one integration support?

Yes, for those who desire a more in-depth exploration of topics that came up during the retreat we also offer one-to-one integration sessions with our facilitators.

Trip sitting

Do you offer 1-day sessions?

We do not offer one-day trip-sitting type sessions.  Four days is the minimum length of time we allow for our group retreats – this allows proper time to prepare, build trust and to do the necessary work to integrate this transformative experience.