veryone’s therapeutic needs are unique. If you’ve struggled with depression or any other mental health issue, you know that finding the right treatment can take time. There are countless styles, models, and approaches to therapy, and it may take more than one attempt for you to find the one that works. Sometimes, new or unconventional treatments are worth exploring. Ketamine assisted psychotherapy is a fairly recent development in the field of psychology, but research suggests that it can have powerful benefits for mental health. The substance has a complex but significant effect on the mind and body.
We at The Beverly Hills Therapy Group offer ketamine assisted therapy for clients who qualify for the treatment. If you’re interested in this form of therapy, you should understand what ketamine is, how it’s used in therapy, and what a typical session looks like.
What Is Ketamine?
Many people know of ketamine only as a club drug, but it actually has several medicinal purposes. Ketamine is a psychoactive medicine that was first synthesized in the 1960s. It has been used as an anesthetic for medical procedures for around 50 years and as a sub-anesthetic for about 20. Today, doctors prescribe low doses of ketamine for chronic pain and some other physical health issues.
Ketamine also has documented effects on mental health. Just like it provides relief from physical pain, it can alleviate painful mental and emotional symptoms as well. Experts are still in the early stages of research into the effects of ketamine on the mind, but so far, studies show promising results.
Ketamine interacts with several different chemical receptors within the brain. Most notably, it may block cells in your brain from binding with glutamate, a neurotransmitter that can cause symptoms of depression when overactivated. By blocking the effects of glutamate, ketamine may help the brain break out of its negative thinking habits and learn new, healthy ways of interpreting the world.
Is Ketamine a Psychedelic?
Ketamine shouldn’t cause psychedelic effects in low doses. In moderate amounts, though, it does have psychedelic properties. This experience may help people view personal or vulnerable situations from a new perspective, and it can promote a sense of meaning and purpose.
The psychedelic experience of ketamine can be valuable in a therapeutic setting, but it may be overwhelming or harmful if taken without oversight or taken in too high of a dose. When you’re experiencing depression or other mental health concerns, you’re in an emotionally vulnerable state. The effects of ketamine or other psychedelic drugs could lead to other uncomfortable mental health symptoms when you don’t have a professional to help facilitate the process. This is why self-medicating is so dangerous and why it’s critical that you work with a psychotherapist and prescribing physician if you’re interested in this treatment.
Ketamine in Therapy
Ketamine assisted therapy, or KAT, is a specific treatment model that involves the use of ketamine alongside talk therapy. Because of its psychedelic and sedative effects, ketamine can help you find a unique sense of separation from yourself and your thought processes. Overcoming mental health challenges can be incredibly difficult because you feel so swept up in your negative thoughts, so the dissociation that happens with ketamine may allow you to take a step back and find clarity.
The psychedelic effects of ketamine on their own may not be enough to overcome depression, though. The true value of the medicine happens when it’s combined with therapy. After you experience the clarity and awareness the drug provides, you and your therapist will discuss your life concerns, thinking habits, or other worries. You’ll find ways to incorporate the insights you discovered into your daily life, and you’ll use the experience to take active steps toward improving your mental health.
Candidates for KAT
The most common mental health condition treated with KAT is depression. Because the drug works differently from other antidepressants, it may be an option for people who haven’t been successful with traditional psychotropic medications or conventional therapy.
KAT can be an effective treatment for other conditions, too. It has been used to treat anxiety, PTSD, addiction, and chronic pain. Many people see an immediate improvement in their mental health symptoms in the hours or days following the KAT session, but it usually takes a few sessions for long-term effects to settle in.
There are certain medical or psychological concerns that may disqualify a patient from receiving KAT. These include hallucinations, mania, cardiovascular disease, hyperthyroidism, and some other conditions.
What to Expect During a KAT Session
It’s normal to be nervous before your first KAT session. Even if you do as much research as possible, you won’t truly know what ketamine feels like until you experience it. Your therapist is there to guide you through the process and to help put your mind at ease.
Before you undergo KAT, your treatment team will make sure it’s an appropriate method. Your team will ask about your psychological and physical health history, and you’ll discuss your goals for the treatment. You can also discuss any questions or concerns you have about the therapy.
If you’re approved for the treatment and are still interested, the next step is usually to attend a preparatory session. This provides an opportunity to get to know your therapist and learn more about what to expect.
The actual KAT session may last between 75 minutes and three hours. You’ll begin by taking a dose of ketamine, and you’ll likely notice the effects after about 15-20 minutes. The effects will gradually increase for the next 30 minutes, and then they’ll slowly diminish. Your therapist will offer support during this time if you experience any anxiety, confusion, or discomfort.
After the session, you and your therapist will discuss your experience. Sometimes, therapists prefer to talk about the experience in the moment, but it can be difficult to articulate your thoughts and feelings. When speaking with your therapist, you can explore how you felt, what you thought about, and how you can apply these insights to your life.
Most therapists recommend having at least three (but most effectively, six) KAT sessions. While the first one can be powerful and beneficial, it often takes recurring sessions to tap into the true potential of the medicine. Research shows that ketamine has a cumulative effect, so multiple sessions will ensure that you continue to feel the benefits long after you’ve ended the treatment.
The Beverly Hills Therapy Group offers ketamine assisted psychotherapy as one of our many specialties. Our therapists understand the benefits of ketamine for mental health and are trained to provide this treatment method. We are here to guide you through the process and to make sure you feel safe, calm, and comfortable. Our goal to offer a supportive and stable environment while you find clarity and peace.
To learn more about ketamine assisted psychotherapy for depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions, contact The Beverly Hills Therapy Group today. Our licensed therapists are happy to help.