Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy
Ketamine has been used off-label in subanesthetic doses for the past 20 years to treat chronic pain, depression, and a host of other mental health problems due to its rapid onset antidepressant effects, sometimes providing almost complete relief. Ketamine is used off-label for various mental health conditions, including depression, chronic pain, anxiety, and PTSD. Ketamine is currently the only legal psychedelic drug available to psychiatrists for the treatment of emotional distress.
Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy (KAP) is a unique treatment method used to treat various mental health conditions, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain, addiction, and some forms of anxiety. Facts have proved that ketamine-assisted psychotherapy is a unique new tool to help people cope with severe mental health problems. Ketamine is an anesthetic and is a promising treatment for depression patients resistant to other prescription drugs.
Ketamine has not received the same attention as other well-known psychedelic drugs such as MDMA and psilocybin. However, psychiatrists have used it safely as an adjunct to psychotherapy for nearly two decades. Ketamine on the label is used for surgical anesthesia. However, over the past two decades, neuroscientists and psychiatrists have found it to be highly effective in treating symptoms of depression. Subsequent research has also shown it to be promising for other mental health problems such as anxiety, substance abuse, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
People who experience physical symptoms of anxiety or chronic pain may benefit from ketamine therapy because of the psychological component of such problems. Research is underway to determine if feelings of dissociation can predict a patient’s depressive symptom response to ketamine therapy.
In 2019, the FDA approved Spravato, a nasal spray related to ketamine used in combination with antidepressants and has been shown to help people with refractory depression. Generic ketamine is not specifically approved for the treatment of depression. However, American doctors often use FDA-approved drugs “off the label” for other purposes. The generic ketamine used to treat depression or other mental illnesses is off-label and has not yet been approved by the FDA, but expert consensus suggests that its benefits may be more significant due to dosage flexibility and lower blood levels.
Suppose you are the 30% of patients who do not respond to ketamine therapy. In that case, you will find out within a few treatments. You may decide to use a different course of action instead of the 6-8 weeks of treatment that is usually required before determining the patient’s response to an oral antidepressant. There are several reasons why we conduct medical and psychological screening of all patients before determining if ketamine is the right treatment option. After an initial series of treatments, most patients, in consultation with our doctor, decide to start a maintenance program, periodically returning to one-time treatments or using tablets at home or during therapy.
It works best in combination with other mental health treatments, such as counseling. Especially if you can combine this with meditation before starting a treatment session, this practice enhances healing by helping patients create the healing space in their minds made possible by the art of meditation.
When a new patient is interested in ketamine therapy, we will regularly perform several psychological treatments to get to know the patient before starting ketamine. Our team includes doctors and advanced nurse practitioners in the field of psychedelic psychotherapy who have received specialized training and experience in the unusual state of consciousness provided by ketamine.
-Elif Angel Raynor, LMHC, CCH, KAP