Ketamine Therapy - what is it, how it works, and how it can be of benefit
Updated: Aug 12
Ketamine, has become a buzz word in therapy today. When people find out what it is, an anesthetic medication, they can become fearful and skeptical. I'd love to give more information about the use of this substance in therapy, and share my own journey to demystify Ketamine for those who are skeptical or are on the fence about exploring this Psychedelic in therapy.
-Psychedelic means mind-manifesting, and is a broad term applied to compounds and experiences with related subjective effects of an altered perception of one's sense of self and an increased awareness of mental processes. -
What is Ketamine Therapy?
Ketamine therapy is a treatment approach that uses low doses of ketamine, a dissociative anesthetic medication, to manage various mental health conditions, such as treatment-resistant depression, anxiety disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Ketamine is approved for use at high doses as an anesthetic in the operating room. Although not FDA-approved, lower dose “sub-anesthetic” ketamine injections are used “off-label” to treat depression, pain, and other mental health/substance use disorders.
In recent times, there have been many factors contributing to increased depression across wide populations. There are several medications available for depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders which involve daily administration of a medication aimed at correction of neurochemical imbalances via action at specific brain receptors (e.g. serotonin, dopamine, mu opioid).
Effects of Ketamine
In contrast, using a psychedelic-assisted therapy model with ketamine produces a short-lived but intense subjective experience—the mystical or peak experience—which triggers or elicits an afterglow, accompanied by a subsequent positive change in affect, insight, motivation, cognition, and behavior.
The potential for mystical experiences to produce rapid, profound, and sustained changes in insight, mood, behavior, and consciousness was recognized and first used by indigenous cultures in shamanic and other healing rituals. Psychedelic-assisted therapies for treating behavioral health disorders was studied extensively and safely in approximately 40,000 patients in North America in the 1950s and 1960s.
Patients with depression, anxiety, PTSD, end-of-life distress, chronic pain, drug/alcohol problems, and other conditions may be eligible for psychedelic-assisted therapy with ketamine.
How Does Ketamine Therapy Work?
Usually ketamine treatment includes one or a few in-clinic ketamine dosing sessions under clinician supervision integrated with preparatory and integration counseling.
Ketamine works by blocking the activity of the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor, a receptor in the brain that is involved in the regulation of mood, cognition, and pain perception. Ketamine therapy is thought to have rapid-acting antidepressant effects, with many patients reporting improvements in their symptoms within hours to days after treatment.
By harnessing the potential psychedelic effects of ketamine, the aim is to achieve more sustained results with fewer ketamine treatments compared to IV ketamine infusions without accompanying psychotherapy. Consider tackling and shedding some difficult issues and making a fresh start wherever you are in your life. As with any medical treatment, it is essential to discuss the potential risks and benefits of ketamine therapy with a healthcare professional before considering this treatment option.
"This therapy seems to have optimum benefits when done in an assisted therapeutic setting. I believe that due to set and setting being one of the most essential aspects of this kind of experience, having someone to hold space and guide is highly recommended. Of course, I feel that for your greatest benefit, that person needs to be an experienced practitioner and someone licensed and/or who has accountability by the state, a board or council." -Ali Moto
Integration work is one element of the treatment process in altered states therapy. This is a highly recommended aspect with this treatment. Some clinics provide this, and others recommend you do this integration with your own therapist. Unfortunately, many therapist are unable to provide this kind of integration, because they are unfamiliar with it, or are not skilled in this kind of integration. Integration can be the most critical part of Ketamine therapy, along with the set and setting.
Have more Questions? Contact me
Want more information?
Here are some links for you to check out to gain better understanding with. Enjoy!
Pacific NeuroScience Institute
Frontiers in Psychotherapy
Compass - Mental Health
The Ketamine Papers Edited by: Phil Wolfson & Glenn Hartelius PhD