Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy (KAP)

What is it?

Initially Ketamine was developed in the 1960s for use as an anesthetic for surgery, and for pain relief and is still used for both today. Research has shown that in lower doses, it can produce a psychedelic or psycholitic effect that allows access to internal expanded states. Engaging in psychotherapy in this state can produce deep, accurate insights and lasting healing results.

Will I become addicted to Ketamine?

Ketamine does not meet criteria for chemical dependence, since it does not cause tolerance and withdrawal symptoms. However, “cravings” have been reported by individuals with the history of heavy use of “psychedelic” drugs. In addition, ketamine can have effects on mood (feelings), cognition (thinking), and perception (imagery) that may make some people want to use it repeatedly. Therefore, ketamine should never be used except under the direct supervision of a licensed physician.

How does it work?

Chemically speaking, Ketamine “triggers glutamate production, which, in a complex, cascading series of events, prompts the brain to form new neural connections. This makes the brain more adaptable and able to create new pathways and gives patients the opportunity to develop more positive thoughts and behaviors.” 

I’ve also heard the process explain in this way: “It is as if Ketamine is cementing-in old neural pathways of depression, fear, and anxiety and developing newer, more healthy and resilient pathways.”

In essence, it can pause or break up negative thought ruminations, restore a sense of balanced peace to your mood, and allow you to access your internal healing wisdom.

Who should NOT do KAP?

KAP is not appropriate for individuals who are diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, Bipolar I, Schizophrenia, acutely de-stabilized individuals, or individuals with a history of ketamine or other psychedelic misuse. Additionally, individuals who have uncontrolled hypertension, are pregnant, or are engaged in active substance use should not engage in KAP.

What Does a KAP Session Look Like?

2-3 prep sessions are important to establish a trauma history, develop a trusting therapeutic relationship, and to cover all the basics of how the Ketamine sessions will proceed. Agreements are made and boundaries are set about appropriate touch (handhold and hand on shoulder only), how to maneuver after your experience, what you would like to include in musical choices, and whether there are any readings or important recitations you would like to have. You are encouraged to bring items that bring you comfort.

Typically, a Ketamine session lasts 3 hours. The first hour is spent in traditional psychotherapy, focused on setting intentions for the journey. The second hour is the journey itself, using sublingual lozenges, intentional music, and eyeshades to induce a connection to your internal landscape. This part lasts about 45 – 60 minutes. The last hour is spent processing the experience, or simply sitting in silence. This is a delicate and important hour in which new insights begin to form and take shape. Your therapist will record what you are thinking by writing down your insights for you as you process.

You are encouraged to engage in a 6-8 series of sessions for full treatment. This is subject to individual needs and will be discussed so that together we can create a plan that meets your specific needs.

How do I get Ketamine? How is it taken? Do I stay on my current meds?

One Life Therapy, PLLC collaborates with Shannon Darling, PMHNP of Wild Heart Integrative Health Service (https://www.wildhearthealth.org/). You’ll have one appointment with Shannon for medical and psychiatric evaluation and clearance, and to receive a prescription for ketamine. The prescription is for an oral lozenge and will be mailed to you from a compounding pharmacy in Golden, CO. Your psychiatrist will help you determine how to handle your individual medications, but most often you’re asked to avoid taking any prescribed psychiatric medications until after your session. Benzodiazepines (clonazepam, lorazepam, alprazolam), alcohol, and cannabis should be avoided for 24 hours prior to the treatment.