What Happens to Your Mental Health After Ketamine Therapy?

Ketamine has been used widely all over the world as an anesthetic for decades. But many providers now employ it as a safe and effective therapy for all kinds of psychiatric conditions. Addiction, PTSD, depression and anxiety are very responsive to this type of treatment. And at The Sanctuary, we’ve developed our own, very special version of ketamine-assisted treatment to help our clients on their journey to getting well.

How Ketamine Works for Treating Mental Health Conditions

Ketamine’s benefits for those in mental health treatment are two-fold. Some researchers refer to these as “trance” and “transformation.” On a biological level, ketamine decreases symptoms of disorders like depression, PTSD and anxiety. It also facilitates the treatment process to allow clients to open up to therapy and gain a wider perspective.

Psychologist and ketamine specialist Raquel Bennett, Psy.D. says that in addition to the medicine’s ability to relieve symptoms, “A different way of working with ketamine is to use it as a lubricant in the psychotherapy process. The basic idea here is to offer the ketamine session(s) in the context of an ongoing psychotherapy relationship, in order to help the patient talk about material that is too painful or shameful to discuss otherwise.”

At The Sanctuary, we use ketamine-assisted treatment primarily to enhance all of our other treatments and modalities. One former client says of her experience with KAT:

“Alongside the work that we do here, I feel like the ketamine helped me progress faster. It helped me retain information better. Before, I was so closed off. And creating those new neural pathways really expanded my mind.”

An Alternative Approach When Nothing Else Seems to Work

Ketamine shows impressive benefits for treatment-resistant depression (TRD) and other mental health issues that aren’t responsive to conventional treatment approaches. Depression medications carry many undesirable side effects like sickness, lowered sex drive, weight fluctuations and interactions with other medications. SSRIs are tolerance-building and require adjustments to dosage, which can create a spike in depressive episodes. In fact, contrary to the widely believed myth of chemical imbalance, they may create imbalances in the brain where none existed before. And many studies show them to be ineffective for large swaths of participants.

Ketamine, on the other hand, works on depression faster and with longer-lasting results. And it offers something antidepressants don’t: the opportunity to go deeper into your inward journey. “Pharmaceutical approaches to treat depression have met with limited success over the preceding decades,” says author Michael Ziegler in his review of The Ketamine Papers: Science, Therapy, and Transformation edited by Phil Wolfson, M.D., and Glenn Hartelius, Ph.D. “Ketamine’s addition to the psychiatric toolbox has therefore been hailed as an important breakthrough.”

Another peer-reviewed article on the outcomes of ketamine-assisted psychotherapy (KAP) reflects on the discovery of ketamine as an effective antidepressant and therapy tool. “In the late 1990s, investigators at the National Institute of Mental Health began exploring the antidepressant potential of ketamine while searching for alternatives to the limited benefits of SSRIs and SNRIs,” says the review. “After a single session of IV ketamine, investigators noted remission of TRD and a reduction of suicidality. However, the benefit was short-lived. This led to a more intensive approach to providing treatment, tending towards an induction phase of six sessions over about two weeks’ time, with further sessions occurring at various times depending on the practitioner.”

Is Ketamine Psychedelic?

Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic. It’s not technically a psychedelic medication, but it does have some psychedelic effects. “Interestingly, ketamine is a highly psychedelic medicine, but not in the classical sense. It is a dissociative medicine that quiets sensory input and can launch people into an expansive, transpersonal space,” says Raquel Bennett.

Initially, ketamine research focused on its biochemical effects. Its psychedelic effects were avoided. But these soon showed to be the most beneficial aspect of the ketamine experience. “Our view is that the psychedelic, or dissociative, effects are an integral part of KAP, not to be feared or avoided, but instead that offer benefit to our patients when supported and integrated in a psychotherapeutic context,” concluded researchers in the study.

This is great news for treatment providers, as the recent resurgence of interest and investigations into psychedelic medications shows great benefits for clients. And because ketamine is safe, legal and FDA-approved, it’s ready for us to use here and now.

Creating a Perceptual Shift

Ketamine’s dissociative properties help people see their experience from a new point of view. And this can provide perspective that moves them forward in their healing journey. “The primary effect of ketamine seems to be its ability in recipients to shift their awareness from one fixated mind-state or perspective to a new one. Hopefully and usually, this kind of paradigm shift leads to a more enlightened view of their human condition,” says Michael Ziegler. “A radical shift of awareness can break the cycle of depression. A paradigm shift of awareness can also bring a person into a new relationship with their addictions.”

The Sanctuary’s program graduate recounts her experience with this:

I feel the ketamine really helped me to do the work here. It allowed me to really dig deep and see where I needed to change things. You get to revisit old feelings, but from an eagle’s eye perspective. You get to take a look, without an attachment to those feelings and re-triggering yourself… For me, the ketamine alongside the work was the perfect match because you’re here to dig deep and do that shadow work. And the ketamine is like a catalyst to help propel you forward. I don’t think my progress would have been as strong without the ketamine. It really changed the narrative inside my head. I see things completely differently now.

How The Sanctuary Holds Ketamine-assisted Treatment Sessions

Those who are interested in ketamine-assisted treatment at The Sanctuary will first be screened by our medical and clinical staff. We’ll give you all the information you need and answer any questions you may have. If you have no contraindications (and there are very few), you’ll be welcome to join our ceremonial ketamine treatment process.

The ceremony we’ve created around ketamine occurs in the evening, so you’ll be able to participate in regular programming during the day. Groups consist of no more than six clients at a time, and take place right on campus in our comfortable IV drip room. This beautiful space is a place where you can feel safe and relax. And people you know will be by your side: your program peers as well as Sanctuary staff.

All staff at The Sanctuary are trained in holding KAT sessions. And one of our two, in-house medical doctors administer the treatment. We are all here to provide a safe, sacred, therapeutic experience and allow adequate time for everyone to process what they feel.

Clients arrive about 30 minutes before the session begins to settle in and get comfortable. We start with an opening intention-setting ceremony. We then provide eye covers and play music specifically for your journey. Clients experience ketamine together as a group, and the journey itself lasts for about 45-60 minutes. Once people are awake and return from their journey, we share what we experienced and do some light processing with each other. We then wrap up with a closing ceremony and enjoy a light, nourishing dinner. Altogether, the experience lasts about two hours. Clients often report sleeping great on the night of their treatment. The next morning, they wake up feeling rested with a noticeable change in mood.

Integrating the KAT Experience Into Your Healing Path

We notice that after our clients’ ketamine sessions, they’re able to better utilize their time in treatment. They glean more benefit from their treatments and therapy sessions. And many derive profound meaning from the message they receive in their journey, which they then apply to their healing path. As our former client says:

“When I went through the beautiful ceremony and used the integration piece afterwards – which is, I feel, the most important part; it’s just changing the way you do things to really solidify those pathways – it really helped me start to see things differently.”

Journey to a New You

As treatment providers and healers, we’re very impressed with the results we see from ketamine. And as such, we’re grateful to be able to offer this to our clients. This powerful medicine gives them an opportunity to find some respite from the symptoms of anxiety, PTSD, depression and addictions. Often, these have been plaguing them for decades.

“It’s amazing to think back on how I was when I first got here,” says our former client. “I was so blocked. Now I feel so open and expanded. The ketamine is so gentle. The ceremony is extremely sacred. The way The Sanctuary does it is different than any other place. It’s life-changing, and I don’t believe I would be where I am without it.”

Find out where you can be when you open to change. Contact us to learn more about our holistic mental health treatment program today.

B. Forrest Shenkman, N.M.D. Signature Photo

Dr. Forrest is a licensed Naturopathic Physician specializing in retreat-style holistic medicine, natural detoxification and cleansing, mind/body medicine, and regenerative medicine. Dr. Forrest brings to his work a sense of humility, respect, and compassion that is too often absent in the sterile, rigid world of modern medicine. He is deeply honored and grateful to be continuing this work as part of the community and healing that is taking place at the Sanctuary. [email protected]