Ketamine Assisted Therapy has gained a lot of popularity in recent years, after many years of research and experimental use within the psychology and psychiatric fields. It's gained significant attention for its ability to provide relief to individuals struggling with various mental health conditions. Join us as we explore the science, benefits, and transformative effects of this innovative therapeutic modality.
What is Ketamine?
Let's start with understanding what Ketamine is. Ketamine is a legal, FDA approved prescribed medicine. Originally developed as a dissociative anesthetic, ketamine has shown promising results when prescribed for off label use, for things like pain management, ALS, and mental health disorders- including depression, suicality, anxiety, OCD and PTSD. Ketamine has rapidly-acting antidepressant and mood-enhancing effects, which can begin to take effect within 1-2 hrs. after treatment, and last up to two weeks. This is a critical piece for someone who is dealing with acute symptoms. With repeated dosing sessions, the impact can be accumulative on one's mental health and well-being.
The Science Behind Ketamine's Impact
Ketamine works by blocking the brain’s NMDA receptors as well as by stimulating AMPA receptors. These mechanisms boost neural circuits that regulate stress and mood and help form new synaptic connections. In other words, it promotes neural plasticity and facilitates new connections in the brain that promote mental well being. This mechanism is believed to play a crucial role in the therapeutic effects of ketamine-assisted therapy. By enhancing neuroplasticity, ketamine can help individuals break free from negative thought patterns and create new pathways towards healing.
Understanding Ketamine-Assisted Therapy:
Ketamine assisted psychotherapy (KAP) is a unique treatment that combines the use of ketamine with psychotherapy techniques. Ketamine can be administered in a variety of ways, including IV infusion, intramuscular injection, nasal spray and sublingual lozenges. In my practice, sublingual lozenges are used. Treatment with ketamine is part of a larger therapeutic treatment plan, and includes preparation and integration sessions. Ketamine assisted therapy can include different therapeutic approaches at lower doses. In my practice, we may include EMDR, somatic therapy, breathwork or parts work in the ketamine session. This is called a psycholytic approach, and is meant to be therapeutically interactive . At higher doses, the experience is less interactive and more of a psychedelic, ego dissolving and transpersonal journey for the client, with the therapist available for support as needed. Both approaches have their benefit and place within the therapeutic treatment, and which approach is used is part of what is decided during treatment planning. This therapeutic support is what makes KAP different than going to a ketamine infusion clinic, which uses ketamine as a medical or psychiatric intervention, rather than part of the therapy process.
In my practice, which is typical for how most ketamine assisted therapists are trained to practice, I take on the therapy portion, and the client is referred to a medical prescriber for the ketamine, and care between providers is closely coordinated. The medical provider supports all the medical aspects including determining eligibility, prescribing the medicine and monitoring outcomes. The therapist facilitates the therapeutic goal setting, preparation, support during the dosing/journey sessions, and integration support.
Benefits of Ketamine-Assisted Therapy:
1. Enhanced Therapeutic Process: Used at lower doses, Ketamine's unique properties can help individuals access deep emotional states and memories while defenses are lowered and the nervous system is more relaxed, making therapy sessions more impactful and transformative. It can facilitate breakthroughs, promote introspection, and accelerate the healing process. These breakthroughs can be carried over and continue to be worked with in unmedicated therapy sessions. In this way it can reduce the time it can take to make gains on therapeutic goals.
2. Disruption of the Default Mode Network: The default mode network is the parts of your brain that are active when a person is in a passive, non-talk oriented state (eg- a relaxed daydream state). This is often where a person's habituated thoughts and beliefs (often negative) reside. Thoughts that just pop in, like "I'm not good enough" are probably part of the default mode network. I like to think of them as software code that have gotten written into the brain that fire off out of habit, and we tend to believe them. Studies show ketamine quiets the Default Mode Network, and with the quieting of these "scripts", it creates an opportunity for new thoughts, more helpful and adaptive "scripts" to be written.
2. Rapid Relief: One of the most remarkable aspects of ketamine-assisted therapy is its ability to provide rapid relief. Unlike traditional antidepressants, which may take weeks or even months to take effect, ketamine can often produce noticeable improvements within hours or days. This can be especially helpful for people experiencing debilitating symptoms or experiencing suicidal ideation.
3. Treatment-Resistant Conditions: Ketamine-assisted therapy has shown particular promise in treating treatment-resistant depression, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other mental health conditions that have not responded well to conventional treatments.
Many individuals report a significant reduction in symptoms, improved mood, increased motivation, and a renewed sense of hope. By addressing the root causes of mental health conditions, ketamine-assisted therapy can empower individuals to reclaim their lives and embark on a path of long-lasting recovery.
Ketamine-assisted therapy though still in it's early stages, is a promising frontier in mental health treatment. Its ability to provide rapid relief, target treatment-resistant conditions, and enhance the therapeutic process makes it a compelling option for individuals seeking transformative healing. At Golden Whole Being Therapy, I believe in exploring innovative approaches to mental health, and ketamine-assisted therapy is undoubtedly a powerful tool in this pursuit. If you're ready to embark on a journey of healing and transformation, consider exploring the potential of ketamine-assisted therapy with a qualified professional.
Disclaimer: This blog post is for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult a qualified healthcare provider before making any decisions regarding your mental health treatment.
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by Nasima Laczynski, LPC