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What Is Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy?

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to dealing with mental health issues that may require psychotherapy. Instead, success often comes from time, commitment, and, in some cases, combining treatment with ketamine.

What is Psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy, also called talk therapy, is a means to help someone who may have a broad range of mental illnesses and emotional problems. It can help eradicate or control disturbing symptoms, giving a person the ability to get along better with everyday life and foster well-being and healing.

Problems assisted by psychotherapy include difficulties in dealing with the effect of trauma, medical ailments, or personal loss, like losing a loved one, and specific mental issues, including depression or anxiety. Many kinds of psychotherapy are often combined with traditional medicine like antidepressants or newer ketamine therapy. 

What is Ketamine?

Ketamine is a medicine initially used as a human anesthetic, beginning with field trials in Vietnam, treating wounded U.S. combat troops. As a powerful sedative, it was hugely successful in pre- or post-operative settings, but then researchers, healthcare professionals, and average citizens discovered an interesting thing about ketamine. When administered in low doses, the medicine created a temporary out-of-body experience, leading to the popularization of dissociative medicine. The medicine quickly became a fixture in treating symptoms of mental illnesses like depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, chronic pain, and many other medical problems.

Ketamine and Psychotherapy: A Winning Combination

Psychotherapy as we know it didn’t become an option for people with mental health issues until around 1900, when Sigmund Freud published “The Interpretation of Dreams.” It’s been a burgeoning medical specialty ever since and has grown in popularity and acceptance over the last several decades. Coincidentally, its use has coincided with the rise of ketamine therapy to treat mental illness and other conditions. Together, the two form a winning combination for people whose conditions haven’t responded to other kinds of treatment.

In and of itself, talk therapy is a way for someone to understand feelings, thoughts, and behaviors, and how they can influence actions, reactions, and interactions with others. Ketamine is a stabilizing force, adding more power to a form of treatment that has proved successful for millions of people.

How Does Ketamine Work?

Medicine and science have yet to answer that question with 100% certainty. We know that it creates dissociative effects in most people who use it to treat mental health issues and other medical problems, often giving them the power to cope with symptoms that have controlled their lives. 

Ketamine’s power may be in how it repairs or strengthens certain chemical neurotransmitters in the brain, especially glutamate, which is responsible for routing messages throughout the body – including regions of the brain that influence emotions, pain processing, and other functions. Once neurotransmitters work as they should, many people find they have the strength to deal with negative symptoms or learn coping mechanisms they never had before.

Types of Psychotherapy

Ketamine therapy can be successful when combined with one or more kinds of psychotherapy. In most cases, your healthcare provider can offer counseling while at the same time referring you to a specialist for ketamine therapy.

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help you recognize unhealthy, negative views and behaviors, and swap them with healthy, positive ideas or thoughts.
  • Dialectical behavior therapy is a subset of CBT that imparts behavioral skills to help you manage stress, control emotions, and better your relationships with other people.
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy can help you recognize and accept your opinions and feelings, and pledge to make changes, boosting your means to deal with and adjust to certain situations.
  • Interpersonal psychotherapy, focusing on current relationships with other people and improving people skills.
  • If your healthcare provider recommends supportive psychotherapy, know that it’s a kind of therapy that strengthens your ability to deal with stress and difficult situations.

Getting the Most Out of Therapy

Ketamine-assisted therapy may or may not work for you. Here are some tips to prepare for therapy:

  • Ensure you feel comfortable with your healthcare provider.
  • Realize that therapy is a partnership.
  • Be honest and transparent with feelings and views.
  • Follow your plan as directed.
  • Have patience – positive results may take time.
  • Educate yourself about your condition and its prognosis.
  • Be open to the fact that therapy may not help. Talk with your therapist if you have concerns.

If you believe you need psychotherapy, talk to your healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment options. Combining talk therapy with ketamine may be what you’re looking for.

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