What is Ketamine Assisted Therapy?

Ketamine-Assisted Therapy (KAT) is a therapeutic approach that combines the dissociative-anesthetic medicine ketamine with supportive and integrative psychotherapy. Ketamine is either taken sublingually (SL) in rapidly dissolving lozenge form, or intramuscularly (IM) via injection.

When used in the dosage range utilized in KAT, ketamine induces a profound visionary expanded state of consciousness which is highly effective for therapeutic reprocessing and growth. It is a particularly effective medicine for reprocessing and resolving posttraumatic stress, depression, chronic pain (i.e. fibromyalgia, migraine), anxiety, existential distress, and problematic substance use.

During the peak of the experience clients participate in a realm of consciousness variably described as as “cosmic,” “connected”, “ego dissolved,” and “boundless.”

Due to the intensity of these experiences, it is important for those inducing such states to prepare clients for and support them during their journeys. We seek to do this first, by intentionally preparing the environment to foster a sense of safety, trust, and relaxation; second, by preparing clients psychologically and emotionally to navigate the trip before inducing this altered state; and third, by being present with our clients throughout the experience so that they always have an experienced, knowledgeable person to assist them in navigating the challenging parts of a journey.

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Upon returning to waking consciousness there will often be much to process, and not all of it will make sense or be remembered. This initial stage of returning and remembering is a vital aspect of KAT, where insights can be brought back, processed, and digested into takeaways which can be implemented into one’s daily way of living and being. Having a therapist familiar with these journeys and their integration to share one’s experience with can greatly enhance the long-term impact of the ketamine experience along with being helpful for finding one’s equilibrium and sense of feeling grounded after coming back from such a transformative but also disruptive journey.

We see the client as the primary agent of healing

With KAT in contrast to ketamine IV clinics or similar treatments like Spravado, we see the client as the primary agent of healing and look not to the drug, but rather to the internal resources of the client to catalyze healing and growth.

In more medicalized models the altered state is minimized and in many practices even seen as an undesirable side effect, with the biological impact of the drug being given the lion’s share of credit for positive change. From our perspective such a framework is disempowering. It places the client in a passive role in their own life and healing. It also goes against what researchers are currently finding, which is that the altered state, particularly when it reaches a level that may be described as mystical or unitary, is the best predictor of positive change we have when it comes to utilizing this class of substances (see Roland Griffith’s research at Johns Hopkins).

What KAT offers is the most powerful form of experiential medicine currently legal and available in this country.

So long as one sees taking a drug as the primary agent of change, their healing will be contingent on taking that drug. But if instead a substance like ketamine is understood to be a catalyst for change, granting access to realms of experience previously inaccessible (i.e. joy, connectedness, peace, love, courage, empowerment), then we may utilize it as a useful tool for opening up one’s own vision and felt experience of life. The ultimate goal is not that the client remain dependent on a substance to maintain a positive feeling state, but that based on the experiential insight gained through KAT one learns to live from the richer vision and felt experience of life they have accessed.

Similar to indigenous, shamanic traditions (see for example the peyote ceremonies of the Native American Church and ayahuasca ceremonies of the indigenous Amazonian tribes) we seek to prepare, initiate, and support those seeking healing through this transformative process. Additionally we draw on relevant psychotherapeutic approaches and research including transpersonal psychotherapy, Internal Family Systems, Jungian psychology, psychoanalysis, mindfulness and self-compassion practices, and somatic therapies among others in order to bring the insights gained back into one’s life. We encourage our practitioners to draw from their own preferred modalities and clinical experience in their work with ketamine.

If you are interested in future trainings or participating in KAT when alternative options become available you can send inquiries to scott.ross@salishseacounseling.com

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