Black, grey, and orange alphabet letters scattered around the word therapy

What is Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy for Depression?

Some people experience profound mental health breakthroughs with a treatment called ketamine-assisted psychotherapy (KAP). I’ve been treating my depression with IV ketamine infusions for a while, now, but never really considered ketamine-assisted psychotherapy an option for me. I’m comfortable with the arrangement of treatments I have now, and KAP has always intimidated me. I’m about to tackle that fear in my next IV ketamine treatment for depression. So what is ketamine-assisted psychotherapy? How does ketamine-assisted psychotherapy for depression work?

What is Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy for Depression?

KAP is a type of mental health treatment in which a person engages in talk therapy while having a ketamine infusion. Ketamine-assisted psychotherapy is effective partly because the dissociative state that ketamine puts you in can make you less inhibited. It lets you separate yourself from your emotions. A therapist can then help you through topics that might otherwise be too difficult to talk about.

My Treatment-Resistant Depression is Gaining Ground

I’m in a rut. Again. My previous ketamine infusion didn’t seem to have a large effect on my mood, so discussions began to circulate about how to adjust things. My doctor suggested a ketamine-assisted psychotherapy session and directed me to the release form that would allow him to talk to my therapist.

At this point, my alarm bells were going off, urging me to slow the KAP train down, but alas, here we are. My therapist had a conversation with my doctor, in which it sounds like they agreed that I am, indeed, in a rut. My therapist got some information about what ketamine-assisted psychotherapy for depression entails and then brought her thoughts to me at our regular session.

For context: One problem that I consistently run into during therapy is the brick wall between my mouth and certain emotional topics. Sometimes I can plow through it, but sometimes, I just shut down and the words don’t come out. There’s no fixing it until I go home and, often, write down what was happening on the other side of the brick wall.

A person wearing a mustard yellow sweater and bangles on one wrist is typing on a laptop while sitting at a wooden table
Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

The conclusion that everyone reached upon discussion of KAP was something like, “Well gee, KAP would probably improve that problem where Gen makes like a mollusk and clams up.” (It’s likely that that particular wording only happened in my own brain.)

Taking Charge of My Mental Health Treatment

Blue pen resting on an open notebook with lined paper on a wooden table
Photo by Daniel Alvasd on Unsplash

I’ve decided to give KAP a try. Despite constantly feeling like I don’t do enough, I do recognize that I work hard at improving my mental health. Beyond keeping up with the everyday tasks that seem to pile up to colossal proportions in my depressed mind, I also routinely push myself to leave my comfort zone. And yet, I continue to slog through quicksand. I sometimes feel like I “should” be able to heal myself with the tools I already have at my disposal, and if I can’t, it’s because I’m not working hard enough. This is garbage thinking. I’m allowed to add things to my treatment, and I’ll try something new if it seems like it could help me, even if it does sound scary.

Keeping an Open Mind

My therapist asked me, “What’s the worst that can happen,” when I expressed my reluctance to do KAP. We decided that the worst is probably that I could embarrass myself or cry a lot, both of which I have already done in front of my therapist. Still, I know how I feel during a ketamine infusion, and that knowledge makes the idea of having a therapy session at the same time feel uniquely invasive.

The sensation of talking while under the influence of IV ketamine treatment is something I’ve written about before because it is just so bizarre. I’m always struck by how quickly thoughts go from my mind to coming out of my mouth; there’s no time to deliberate on whether or not you’ll say it.

Again – thinking less is part of the goal for me in this ketamine-assisted psychotherapy experiment, but man, as a guarded person, the idea really provokes anxiety. Somehow, I’m also worried that I may not say anything. There is no way for me to enter into this with no worries other than to accept that there is no wrong way to do it.

If you’d like to read more about my experience with ketamine for depression, start from the beginning of The Ketamine Chronicles or visit the archives. Click here for mobile-optimized archives of The Ketamine Chronicles.

One thought on “What is Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy for Depression?

  1. I can definitely see that. Letting down barriers is one thing, but letting them down because you don’t have the option to control them is an unsettling idea.

    Like

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