What is Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy?
Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy, often abbreviated as KAP, is an innovative new approach that differs from traditional therapy. KAP can be used to address a number of treatment-resistant conditions like depression, PTSD, OCD, anxiety disorders, and chronic pain conditions.
A key part of Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy, unsurprisingly, is the use of ketamine administered via an intramuscular injection to accentuate and enhance the therapeutic session. Likewise, therapy can enhance the positive effects of ketamine.
Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy can be incredibly effective on its own, but having a therapist guide you through the experience and work through your feelings and thought processes can strengthen the amount of good this treatment can do for your mental health.
During a KAP session, many patients report imagery and sensations that are hallucinogenic or delusional in nature, if not outright psychedelic. While these side effects are mild in many cases, it can be extremely helpful to have a therapist act as a guide for you during your infusions to make sure you remain in the right frame of mind.
Ketamine, even at the low doses, can induce dreamlike states which allow your psychotherapist to move past the barriers and various defense mechanisms that your psyche puts up in response to trauma or emotional stress. This can lead to shifts in conscious or a new sense of awareness, and at times, even profound spiritual connections.
Ketamine Side Effects
How Does Ketamine Work?
Ketamine is still being heavily researched, but the medical community’s current understanding is that ketamine binds to receptors in the brain that increase the amount of the neurotransmitter called glutamate. Releasing more glutamate sets off a chain of reactions within the brain that affects thinking and emotional regulation.
To put this in simpler terms, the human brain reacts to ketamine in a way that triggers hormones that directly help create feel-good emotions. This effect can occur very quickly after a person receives their treatment, but a series of treatments is usually necessary to optimize the amount of good this treatment can do.
What Are KAP Sessions Like?
The first session is designed to determine if KAP is the right treatment for you and to identify what the end goals of your treatments are.
The next sessions may last anywhere from 90 minutes to 3 hours in overall length, but the length of the session greatly varies depending upon dose, response, recovery time, and other factors.
Much like ketamine infusions or traditional therapy, KAP is most effective when you commit to an individualized treatment plan that stretches out over a period of several weeks.
It is important to remember that KAP, like ketamine itself, is not a “cure” for your condition – rather it is a novel new treatment designed to strengthen and empower you to take on the root causes of your condition.
Denovo Therapy started offering ketamine assisted psychotherapy (KAP) in late fall of 2019. We have had the unique privilege of seeing it benefit many of our clients. Typically KAPs are done one on one with one of our therapists. While there are many therapeutic benefits to the model of ketamine assisted psychotherapy, there are also benefits to providing KAP in a group setting.
“We were humans being human to each other again.”
Just like comparing regular therapy to group therapy, there are benefits to KAP with just you and a therapist and benefits to KAP in a group setting. Humans are relational beings who long for connection with others and shared experiences. From our family of origin to sports and faith based gatherings, or even just time out with friends, we all have had shared experiences in various contexts that are important for our lives and development. The pandemic has been a terrible opportunity to learn how important our communities and shared experiences are to us.
The same is true for group therapy. Below are a few benefits of group therapy:
- Hearing others’ challenges helps us learn we are not alone in our struggles.
- Conversely, hearing others’ growth stories helps us learn how we might grow. They give us ideas for things we can try.
- Groups provide multiple perspectives of feedback to our situation allowing us to hear, see, and consider different angles we might have missed.
- Groups give us a place to connect with others in their growth. As the individuals grow, the group grows and that momentum can help us when we feel stuck.
- Groups help us learn how to interact with our own and others emotions in a healthy and productive way.
- Groups help reduce the cost of therapy and expand access to more people.
Ketamine helps facilitate a therapy session in many ways. Ketamine quiets our minds constant chattering (default mode network) aka “time out from our ordinary mind.” It helps give us a perspective shift on our life and situations. It can help us learn where we are rigid or stuck and with a trained therapist, how we might grow.
Group ketamine assisted psychotherapy combines the physical, psychological and experiential benefits of ketamine with all of the benefits of group therapy. While adding ketamine to a group therapy session is a new idea to many, the combined benefits of the two are synergistic.
Our director Ben trained in group KAPs at The Ketamine Training Center with Dr. Wolfson, author of The Ketamine Papers and a frontrunner in the ketamine psychotherapy field. Our therapists are trained in facilitating group KAPs. Each participant goes through the same screening and education our other patients receive prior to their group experience. Just like the rest of our practice, licensed medical practitioners and therapists administer the medicine and the session.
A recent participant at a Denovo Therapy group KAP praised the experience saying, “If it has no other therapeutic value than time out from life (read quieting the default mode network) and connection, it’s worth it.” Another participant also noted the value of connection in a group KAP experience saying, “We were humans being human to each other again.”
Group KAPs are a beautiful way to create a sense of connection and expand access to care. We are excited to offer this treatment option to our community. If you want to learn more about group KAPs, Psychedelics Today published an excellent article you can read here.
If you have questions, are interested in participating in a group KAP, or have a group you would like to bring in, please fill out the form on our website or contact our office.