Ketamine Assisted Therapy
A Gateway Into Self-Exploration, Understanding, And Healing
“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” – Wayne Dyer
Ketamine assisted therapy offers us new possibilities by providing a different way to heal. While individual therapy has proven itself useful, all too often people find themselves overwhelmed by the experience of therapy and uncertain of where else to turn. Ketamine is a medicine traditionally used for 5 decades as an anesthetic. When used in low doses, Ketamine creates a dissociative feeling, a distance from every day, life and a deeper connection to your own inner world. Ketamine assisted therapy has been proven as a supportive therapy for a variety of mental health issues including trauma/PTSD, depression and other psychological illnesses. Come in for Ketamine assisted therapy, gain a new perspective, and see yourself in a new light.
What is Ketamine Assisted Therapy
How does it Work
Is Ketamine Right for Me
Inappropriate Institutional and Personal Use of Ketamine
What is Ketamine Assisted Therapy?
Ketamine assisted therapy is a whole new way to heal that combines medicine and therapy into a personal, interactive, and insight based experience utilized to create mental healing. Working with a combination of Ketamine and therapy, the Ketamine assisted therapist will work with you to bring about emotional healing on a deep level. (see Watermark Counseling resources page for scientific resources)
Ketamine is an anesthetic/psychedelic that has been used in hospitals at high doses for procedures and surgery for the past five decades. At low doses it works as a dissociative medication that allows you to create distance from your everyday world and allows you to create a deeper connection to your internal self, creating a space for self understanding and change. It has been described as both powerful and tranquil in its effects.
This is therapy with great depth. The experience of Ketamine assisted therapy, is a one to two hour long inward journey that takes place at the doctors office with you and a therapist to guide the experience. People often report experiencing a new deep connection with parts of themselves they have distanced themselves from, often experiencing new and positive connections they never thought possible. Together you and the therapist explore the space you find allowing for self exploration, understanding, and healing. With the dual support of medical staff and a mental health therapist, Ketamine assisted therapy creates a new and innovative way for us to achieve mental health.
What Does Ketamine Assisted Therapy Look Like?
Unlike previous models of healing, Ketamine assisted therapy utilizes medication and therapy in a new, more symbiotic method. The therapy works deeply with the Ketamine medication ensuring that you are benefiting from the interconnected work. Therapy happens before, during, and after the Ketamine sessions. During the ketamine sessions you will be receiving therapy from a doctoral level psychologist, who will guide you through your dissociated and internal experience. Your medication levels will also be monitored by on-site medical staff who will help adjust your levels as needed to create the most ideal experience.
Before starting Ketamine assisted therapy, you will come in for approximately two initial sessions with your clinician. During those sessions you both will spend time preparing for the upcoming Ketamine sessions and building the right relationship to create change. This time will also be used to determine the right schedule for Ketamine sessions and post Ketamine integration. The experience is different for everyone and the schedule is highly individualized. On average, people start to feel better with anywhere between 2 and 8 Ketamine sessions, with approximately 1 to 3 integration sessions between each Ketamine session.
Why Does Ketamine Assisted Therapy Work?
Ketamine assisted therapy works because the treatment is based on a new thorough and thoughtful understanding of mental health. Mental illness is an area of concern that appears to be growing increasingly problematic for our entire population. Some have even started to call it an epidemic. And part of the difficulty with these illnesses is twofold.
First, there is a lack of interconnections between the professionals working on the issue. The mental health field is divided into medication, therapy, social support, and a variety of other disciplines. With so much divide it can difficult for a mental health team to work together to support the growth of a client. Second, the science of mental health is young and lacks some of the years of experience that can be found behind other scientific disciplines. Although there is also a benefit to being young, in that new discoveries are being made all the time. Many of these new discoveries create whole new potentials for growth.
It is inside Ketamine Assisted Therapy that these two limitations are recognized, accounted for, and surpassed. Ketamine Assisted Therapy combines medicine and therapy in a whole new and entirely interconnected model. It also utilizes some of the newer, great healing, and lesser known discoveries currently being uncovered by science in the field of mental health. Many of the new and most astonishing discoveries at this time are being found in the study of psychedelics and mental growth see Watermark Counseling resources page for scientific resources). Ketamine Assisted Therapy utilizes the dissociative/psychedelic properties in a safe and therapeutic environment to create powerful changes within our minds.
Additionally, Ketamine Assisted Therapy also utilizes some of the most recent scientific findings.(see Watermark Counseling resources page for scientific resources)This includes treatment based on the recently discovered default mode network (DMN). A brain network, discovered through the use of research utilizing psychedelics and brain scans. The DMN is a part of our brain that appears to be most active when we are engaging in everyday activities. It usually acts to support us by helping us manage large amounts of information quickly. But it is not always helpful and can sometimes become harmful. In other words, the DMN can sometimes become counterproductive. When it starts to work against us the DMN is associated with rumination, frustration, depression, anxiety trauma, and the feeling that we are running into the same problems over and over again.
Ketamine, like other psychedelics causes the DMN to quiet for a short time. Where there was once noise and confusion, there is suddenly space and insight. It is in this space where we can see ourselves in a whole new light and where change is most possible. During the time that the DMN is offline we are open to rapid growth and we have a heightened ability to respond to therapy. With the support of a therapist to guide the experience people often find themselves leaving the ketamine assisted therapy sessions with insights that would have appeared impossible just hours before.
At Watermark Counseling, ketamine assisted therapy is based on the models currently being used by MAPS in the psychedelic/MDMA assisted therapy research, one of the most promising new research groups working on mental illness in the past three decades. (see Watermark Counseling resources page for scientific resources) For this research MAPS has been using MDMA to treat severe trauma. The research was recently been awarded breakthrough therapy status by the FDA. Psychedelics are becoming the new image for hope in mental health as they prove themselves to be extraordinary tools of change and growth. At Watermark Counseling we utilize this research to support the growth of those in need. At the moment, Ketamine is the only legal and available medicine that allows therapists to work with the healing properties of psychedelics.
Is Ketamine Right for Me?
Ketamine can be helpful where other therapies have failed. It has been called a therapy for “treatment resistant mental conditions.” It is successful for many people who have experienced little to no growth from other mental health treatments such as traditional therapy or anti-depressants. People who try Ketamine Assisted Therapy are often the ones who have tried everything else to no avail and are fed up with other treatments. Ketamine is also fast-acting, often creating change within hours which makes it particularly effective for people suffering from severe forms of mental illness or suicidal thoughts.
To determine if you are a fit for Ketamine Assisted Therapy you will be connected with our medical team who will discuss your medical history and explore your emotional and physical fitness for the treatment. You will be informed of potential side effects, as well as given some understanding about the dissociative/psychedelic feelings that will most likely occur during this treatment.
There are a few clear rule outs for Ketamine Assisted Therapy. Pregnant or a nursing mothers will need to wait until the child is no longer nursing to start treatments. Additionally, those with dissociative disorders, psychotic disorders, or those who are currently in a manic or mixed episode are discouraged from utilizing Ketamine or any other dissociative/psychedelic medication. Additionally, physical rule outs include uncontrolled hypertension. Furthermore, the use of medication such as benzodiazepines, lamictal or latuda can interfere with Ketamine Assisted Therapy and a discussion with medical staff will be needed to determine possible options. Finally alcohol can interfere with Ketamine and would need to be withheld for 24 to 48 hours before treatment.
Inappropriate Institutional and Personal Use of Ketamine
Like most things in life, there is the possibility of using Ketamine inappropriately. This can be done on a institutional level or a personal level.
Inappropriate Use of Ketamine by an Institution
Recently in Colorado it became clear that the law enforcement community has been using Ketamine inappropriately and in a way that causes great harm to individuals and the community at large. The result was the death of a young black man, Elijah McClain. This was a completely avoidable death. While Ketamine is a substance that is highly safe when used at the right dose and with knowledgeable and caring practitioners, none of these things were present at the time of Elijah's death. Furthermore the Ketamine was forced on him without giving him any knowledge of the possible effects of ketamine use. It is entirely inappropriate that a chemical made for healing was used in this way and Watermark Counseling does not condone this use of this medication.
To paraphrase from a professional statement written in response to this tragedy by medical and mental health providers "As providers we are horrified by this unnecessary use of ketamine as a chemical restraint against the will of the patient. Chemical restraints should always be a choice of last resort, used by trained medical personnel, without undue influence from law enforcement, when the risk of injury or death from the agitated behavior clearly outweighs the inherent risk of the chemical restraint. Chemical restraint is a practice with a history of inconsistent and racist application. We feel it is incumbent to register our strong protest against this use of chemical restraint and to reclaim this potentially healing drug from systemic abuse by law enforcement."
The full professional statement can be found here:
A Professional Statement from Medical and Mental Health Professionals: On the use of Ketamine by Law Enforcement and the Death of Elijah McClain
Inappropriate Use of Ketamine by an Institution
At Watermark Counseling steps are taken to promote growth towards independence from Ketamine and psychotherapy. The goal is to empower you to a place where independence is obtainable. Ketamine is never considered a long term solution.
In part this is because Ketamine can be inappropriately used to the point of addiction even though it is not a medication that can result in chemical dependence. Medical evidence suggests that Ketamine’s abuse potential is equivalent to that of other hallucinogenic substances. Hallucinogenic compounds don't cause chemical dependence. This is because they do not cause tolerance and withdrawal symptoms. However, ”cravings” have been reported by individuals with a heavy use of “psychedelic” drugs. In addition, ketamine can have effects on mood, cognition, and perception, that may make some people want to use it repeatedly. Therefore, Ketamine should never be used except under direct supervision of a licensed physician.
Repeated, high does, chronic use of ketamine does not occur within the framework of our work. Additionally our work will include monitoring for any possibly harmful relationship dynamics within the therapy and with Ketamine to support true and long term growth.
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