Ketamine encourages clarity, connection, and confidence while often generating profound spiritual and mystical experiences for individuals.
Mystical experiences that occur as a result of psychedelic medicine sessions may include powerful emotional states of unconditional love, joy, peace, awe as well as a feelings of interconnectedness and an inner knowing that what is being presented to you is authentic and true. These mystical experiences can lead to people "just feeling better", increased creativity, a stronger connection with nature, or an enhancement in pro-social behavior. Mystical experiences are also a powerful indicator of clinical mental health improvement.
How might the peak mystical benefits of ketamine be enhanced?
Set and Setting
Set and setting are often emphasized because they are essential aspects. Set refers to the setting - the physical space of the ketamine medicine session and your therapist. Feeling safe and comfortable in the physical space and having a trusting connection with your therapist can enhance the benefits of ketamine. The mindset or "set" are the conscious and unconscious parts that one brings to the session which can include beliefs, fears, hopes, trauma, personality, as well as expectations and even fantasies about the ketamine session.
Ketamine in lower doses tends to be more heart-opening and can allow for psychotherapy to occur during the session. Higher doses of ketamine can lead to ego dissolution, which can be defined as a loss of boundaries between the self and the objective world. Studies have shown an association between ego dissolution and mystical experiences.
Optimizing set and setting:
Choose a therapist you trust, helps you feel safe, and will respect your boundaries.
Before your ketamine medicine session, it might be helpful to journal about what parts you are bringing to the session.
Gift yourself a sufficient number of therapy sessions before the medicine session, to the point where you feel like you not only have a connection with your therapist but also feel that they know who you are and what you're struggling with.
Music playlists for the session should be without recognizable lyrics.
Higher doses of ketamine seem to be more likely to lead to mystical experiences - but not higher than what is considered optimal clinical dosages which would be more likely to cause adverse effects.
Individuals who have a particular personality trait of openness to new experiences are more likely to have potentiated mystical experiences. They often can more easily become immersed in sensory and imaginative experiences, which is known as trait absorption. While trait absorption may be fixed through personality structure, state absorption is modifiable through context and practices.
Enhancing state absorption:
A comfortable setting with relaxing music before the medicine dosing starts.
A regular, daily mindfulness meditation practice leading up to the ketamine medicine sessions.
A ceremonial, ritualistic approach to the ketamine medicine session.
Intention-setting can enhance mystical experiences, helps one feel prepared, and is an essential part of the ketamine assisted psychotherapy experience at Driftless Integrative Psychiatry. Clear intentions revolve around the question of "How do I wish to be different from this experience?"
Intention-setting journal prompts:
Where am I stuck in life?
What's holding me back?
How does my behavior compare to my goals, values, and self-beliefs?
What would I like to change about my life?
Being immersed in nature may provide a number of benefits that enhance the mystical effects of ketamine. Natural settings provide a meditative and reflective space that can increase mindfulness and state absorption. Being in nature can deepen feelings of awe and interconnectedness. While ketamine sessions can't occur outside of the clinic's four walls, it can be very powerful to step into nature on a regular basis between ketamine medicine sessions.
Enhancing the Nature Effect:
Make it a daily practice - at least in the week after a ketamine session - to spend time immersed in nature. Ideally, away from busy and noisy roads.
Visiting the clinic from out of state or out of the area? Pick up a Lansing Walking Guide from the clinic and go out for a nearby hike the day after your medicine session.
A new phase of active healing begins after the medicine session ends. Integration after a ketamine medicine session includes bringing the lessons from the experience into one's present reality and everyday life. There is no blueprint or timeframe for this process. Working with a therapist during this time can help an individual make sense of and process their experience.
Find a therapist who is comfortable helping with psychedelic integration work.
There are virtual integration communities that can be very beneficial. A directory of various groups can be found here: https://psychedelic.support/community-directory/
Gandy, S. (2022). Predictors and potentiators of psychedelic-occasioned mystical experiences. J of Psychedelic Studies. doi: 10.1556/2024.2022.00198
Dakwar, E. et al. (2014). Therapeutic infusions of ketamine: Do the psychoactive effects matter? Drug Alcohol Depend, 136(153-157). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4091719/