Psychedelic Therapy vs Holotropic Breathwork

Hello, and welcome on board! This week we’re exploring the alluring fields of psychedelic assisted therapy and holotropic breathwork. I will help you understand what each of these is about, how they compare, and also how they contrast.

A Deeper Look into Holotropic Breathwork

We first get introduced to holotropic breathwork by Stan Groff, a pioneer in psychedelic research and therapy. His extensive experience, along with his perspective on the relevance of set and setting, forms the basis of his development of Holotropic breathwork.

“Remember, the same wind can take you to numerous different destinations based on the way you set your sail. The same applies to our mind and experiences!”

You may wonder what spurred this creation. Well, the 70s were marked by the unfortunate prohibition of psychedelics that were being used therapeutically, and making significant advancements.

Nevertheless, Stan recognized that towards the end of his sessions, when clients were coming down from LSD, for instance, they would enter into an altered state of consciousness upon breathing rapidly. From this observation, Holotropic breathwork was born, paving a new way into inner exploration.

Holotropic Breathwork vs Other Breathwork Practices – Is there a difference?

Delving a bit deeper, we ponder on how holotropic breathwork differs from other breathwork practices. The technique, in reality, doesn’t diverge much from the others – breathe rapidly without pauses. By consistently inhaling and exhaling, we can achieve an altered state of consciousness.

Holotropic breathwork, however, does stand out with its specific framework designed to facilitate transformative experiences.

The Framework of Holotropic Breathwork and Psychedelic Assisted Therapy

The architecture of holotropic breathwork is strikingly similar to that used in psychedelic therapy. Firstly, preparation forms the core of both practices. Before engaging in a breathwork session, an individual meets the facilitator to clear up any doubts and understand the process in depth. This helps create a safe environment for the session – an essential component of such therapies. Understanding how to navigate through various emotions that may arise also forms part of the pre-preparation.

“A safe setting is essential for both psychedelic therapy and holotropic breathwork because it allows us to dive deep into our emotions.”

Another similar attribute is the flexibility in conducting both therapies individually or in a group setting. In the case of holotropic breathwork, a ‘breather and sitter’ setting is employed. This means one person embarks on the breathing journey while the other monitors and offers emotional support. They swap roles after a period, allowing both individuals to experience breathwork.

How Does the Actual Breathwork and Psychedelic therapy Experience Fare?

Moving on to the experience itself, music plays an integral part in both breathwork and psychedelic assisted therapy sessions. Utilizing loud music is characteristic of a breathwork session. This helps drown out any physical or vocal expressions of emotions that are prevalent during this process.

Although such expressions also occur during psychedelic therapy, their frequency is more prominent during a breathwork session.

For me, holotropic breathwork was a profoundly physical experience. Focusing on breathing connected me deeply to my body and facilitated expressions through movements and sounds.

On the other hand, psychedelic therapy ventured more on an emotional journey and a philosophical introspection of various issues.

Consciousness Exploration: The Ocean Metaphor to explain the difference between Breathwork and Psychedelic Assisted Therapy

To comprehend the experience better, picture consciousness as an ocean. We all possess a unique stream within this vast ocean, which we can dive into during an altered state of consciousness. Each time we dive, we discover something new.

When considered in this light, breathwork helps us connect with the basics of exploring consciousness: breathing and allowing. It enables us without the need for any tools, analogous to exploring the ocean simply by swimming.

Contrarily, psychedelics can be viewed as tools or equipment aiding in our exploration. They allow us to delve deeper into our psyche, much like sophisticated diving gear making it easier to explore the ocean. This doesn’t mean we can’t explore without them – it’ll just take more time and developed skills.

Psychedelic therapy and breathwork are not contradictory but are complementary practices. Breathwork can be seen as reconnecting us with the basics, which will enable us to better use tools like psychedelics when necessary.

Which one should you choose: holotropic breathwork or psychedelics?

Ultimately, which one to go for depends on your individual needs and intuition. Always remember to trust your self-healing intelligence during such therapies. However, I personally recommend exploring both, if given the opportunity. They offer different yet enriching experiences you can learn from.

Psychedelics could be useful if you find it hard to work through personal defense mechanisms or emotions. If you’ve had significant experience with psychedelics and are curious about exploring self-healing without the aid of tools, breathwork is a feasible path to explore. Both are incredibly powerful and offer profound understanding and healing in complementary ways.

I am grateful for both psychedelics and holotropic breathwork as they afford us the chance to get a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world we live in. I invite you to share your experiences with psychedelic therapy or holotropic breathwork, and any questions in the comments down below.

If you are interested in psychedelic assisted therapy (link to: or breath work sessions, please contact us as we offer both.


Find out more about our psilocybin assisted therapy sessions and psilocybin assisted retreat.

Photo by Kylli Sparre