We chose the name for our method carefully, and in it there lies a very slight joke. The “Lascaux Method” might sound like an approach based on the works of a famed French theoretician and, as such, something that takes a lot of training and learning to understand before one can apply its techniques. Our name, however, actually derives from work done by individuals who would have had a hard time choosing an outfit for their first day at the Sorbonne, let alone sitting through arduous training in therapeutic technique. The Lascaux caves, where wall paintings drawn more than 17,000 years ago by prehistoric cave people are preserved, lie just over 500 kilometers from Paris. These remarkable depictions are signs of artistic and seriously playful impulse in our early ancestors. Paleontologists believe that the Lascaux caves were painted as part of a ritual space and thus call the domed chamber where most of the art is, a “prehistoric Sistine Chapel.”
Play is often associated with fun. And while fun is great, and often a part of play, it’s not really what we, wise and learned Lascauxians are talking about when we use this word. Instead, we mean something deeper and very specific; something we think that these early humans were trying to reach: an impulse, with serious psychological and spiritual elements.
The Lascaux Method aims to coax people out of a habitual, rote response to the world and into a place in which a more playful one becomes a central posture they take toward their existence and the world around them. In other words, the aim of this method mirrors the changes ketamine and psychedelics promise: a mind that can move beyond powerful narratives in order to choose new and innovative roads to growth, to awaken and to experience each day anew.
One way to understand Lascaux is to see it as a form of improvisation art, in which one person in the room is the focus of creating a more playful and lively existence, and another person is following along, providing the right kind of environment for play to occur. That makes it very close to the original processes behind psychotherapy. And it also shares a psychotherapeutic ethos of helping people with “problems of living,” playlessness and a deadened existence big problems in this area. But it is not a psychotherapy, and it isn’t beholden as a method that can only be used by trained psychotherapists. It’s typically short term and/ or sporadic and often offered as an adjunct to a person’s preexisting psychotherapy, but not always. In this way, the Lascaux method can be thought of as similar to a lot of the current work in the psychedelic space. It’s a way to get people to a place of awakening that can help in the psychotherapeutic process, or generally help them along their way to more pliability in their approach to the world without psychotherapy. And yet, it is not simply a method for “Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy,” or a way of “psychedelic space holding.” It’s more than that: sort of its own thing.
It’s helpful to think of the Lascaux Method as containing five components held within a general approach that we call “radical hospitality.”
Radical hospitable hosting. By radical hospitality we mean an approach to care that is always shifting and changing depending on what is happening with our guests. We see it as a model of response that places our guests and their own original relationship to the world as our focus, and a way of care that matches our belief in the improvisational nature of growth. Typically, a person who comes to Cardea is assigned a “personalizing guide” who meets with them at the beginning of care in order to finely tune a mutual expectation for their work with us. This initial meeting is conducted “dialogically,” a process we will discuss further in a moment. Following that meeting, the guide will meet regularly with the guest both before and after they receive a service. In these meetings, guest and guide discuss any changes in regard to the guest’s understanding of their goals and needs. They may also work with the guest’s therapist, if there is one, in order to think further about any changes. In these meetings, guests can also can meet with our sound practitioners in order to help modify the sound experience in their next session. Guests may also want to engage in other practices with us such as art therapy, more dialogic sessions or work with one of our dance or movement practitioners. The personalizing guide will set these all up.
Dialogic sessions. Influenced by a Finnish model of care called Open Dialogue, our dialogic sessions are a central element in the Lascaux Method. We choose this model because we believe it offers the best means to converse with guests that does not impose our own formulations about their needs in our care but provides an excellent way to help them achieve a deeper understanding of these needs. There’s a lot of good talk in the psychedelic world about “setting intentions.” We take these intentions very seriously and we want to understand, as best we can, the meaning of these intentions as we walk alongside the guests in our care. We also know that the meaning of such intentions can shift and change along with a person’s growth, and we want to be there, too, for that shifting and changing care. All of this gives us the opportunity to build a collaborative relationship with our guests in which we design the road for their care as we walk on it, and often choose the nature of the next session soon after one is finished. Here are the four most important things to know about the dialogic sessions: 1) They are conducted by at least two practitioners. 2) These practitioners often reflect to each other their own thoughts, images or responses to what you have to say. 3) These practitioners resist formulating ideas about you and remain in a mode of curiosity and uncertainty; they state what might be happening in their own minds without labeling you or your own thoughts or images with their assumptions. 4) All of this is an attempt to create a “sense” of your experiences and wishes without nailing them down with clinical certainty. In this, a dialogical session attempts to flatten hierarchies. It is the farthest thing from a typical clinical meeting in which diagnoses or prognoses are made.
Sound work. The use of sound in psychedelic experiences has a long history, so much so that it is difficult to image psychedelic practices without some element of soud. At Cardea, sound is the central guiding element in our ceremonies and space holding, and a pivitol element in the Lascaux Method. We offer different forms of sound experience for both our ketamine sessions and for sessions without the medicine. Our sound work is not like any other in that it is oriented to each person’s unique needs and focused on their improvisational movement toward growth. We believe in the “iso principle,” a concept from music therapy that is about matching the sound experience a person has as closely as possible to their unique internal life. This is why we offer both recorded and live sound experiences, and why we most often conduct meetings with sound practitioners prior to and following ketamine journeys.
Nasal ketamine. Our guests self-administer ketamine with a nasal spray. We’ve chosen this method for two reasons modeled to the Lascaux Method: 1) We can finely tune the spray to meet each guest’s unique needs through a compound pharmacy. 2) During sessions we can help guests raise their dosage to levels they feel are optimal. We also offer small-dose, ketamine-assisted psychotherapy, and offer our space to therapists and guests if they wish to use ketamine in their therapy.
Whole-person services. Again, the goal of dialogic meetings with a personalizing guide is to develop the care for our guests step-by-step. It is also our goal to develop a plan for more playfulness that is, itself, playful and imaginative, and bring in professionals with particular expertise for our sessions. Artists, art therapists, dancers, dance therapists, bodywork practitioners and musicians are all ready to facilitate meetings that match clients’ improvisational care.