Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy
Ketamine has been in clinical use for decades, well-established in the field of anesthesiology as a safe and effective agent used in surgical procedures, emergency medicine, and in war zones. Unlike most anesthetic agents which induce respiratory depression, ketamine supports cardiorespiratory stability and has proved to be indispensable in a variety of applications.
Ketamine is now increasingly being administered in sub-anesthetic doses as an “off-label” treatment for a variety of psychiatric conditions including depression, anxiety, PTSD, chronic pain, OCD and substance dependence. Ketamine has shown promising results in rapidly reducing severe symptoms of depression, suicidal ideation, and anxiety. While the pharmacological effects of a single dose are variable and sometimes time-limited, repeated administration with a period of several weeks generally extends the length of symptom remission.
Ketamine works very different from both typical and atypical anti-depressants; as an NMDA antagonist, it activates the glutamate neurotransmitter system. This results in a tempering of the limbic system, controlling vigilance, stress and emotional responses. In addition to reducing depression and anxiety, it may have effects on learning, memory, and sleep. It has a modulating effect on the DMN (default mode network) and on the hippocampus, which assist in the reprocessing and reconsolidation of traumatic memories. Other mechanisms of action include up-regulating AMPA and BDNF, both of which promote neurogenesis and synaptogenesis (the growth of new neurons and new synapse formation). This is a powerful effect, remediating the damage caused by chronic depression and PTSD by helping to reverse atrophy of the brain.
Classified as a dissociative anesthetic, ketamine administration during ketamine assisted psychotherapy (KAP) is intended to bring about psychedelic, transpersonal, mystical, or out-of-body experience. It is these very states that bring about deep personal transformation, growth, and resolution of existential problems, which are best facilitated in a structured and supportive program of psychotherapy. There is typically an improvement in emotional states and reduction in symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic manifestations. People tend to feel a bit different after a ketamine experience, and that shift may promote increased mindfulness and new behavior. Frequently, the ketamine experience may promote happiness, empathy, loving-kindness to self and others, and a sense of greater self-acceptance and peacefulness.
KAP involves the participation of the client, therapist, and doctor. After a thorough medical evaluation, the doctor will explain the recommended protocol including length of session, dosage, and number of sessions. A psychotherapy program helps in preparation for the ketamine sessions and assist in integrating the experiences afterwards, emphasizing possibilities for change. Depending upon the ketamine protocol designed for you by your doctor, I am available to provide psycholytic therapy or simply remain present with you during your experience, holding space, providing support if needed, and assisting with processing once the effects begin to taper off.
Incorporating therapy with the ketamine administration provides for a wonderful opportunity to bring about changes, create new habits and optimize one’s lifestyle during the period of time while new neurons are growing and new neural pathways are being formed. This leads to the potential for long-term, lasting, sustainable change.
Are you wondering whether Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy might be right for you?
I am working in partnership with Dr. David Vanlierop and the treatment team of the Arizona Ketamine Specialists. Dr. Vanlierop has developed an advanced ketamine protocol to personalize treatment for each individual. We offer joint consultations and work collaboratively developing a treatment plan tailored to your needs.