Ketamine is a dissociative agent that has historically been used for anesthesia since the 1960's, in both children and adults. An unexpected effect has been its positive impact on mental health and overall emotional wellbeing through its psychedelic properties. Ketamine is currently the only psychedelic medicine available legally in the United States, when prescribed by a medical provider such as a psychiatrist.
Some individuals decide they want to go in for their first ketamine medicine session without doing much reading or research on the possible effects of ketamine. But it definitely can be helpful to prepare in order to have a better sense of what to expect and also, to know if ketamine is a good fit for you. Below are some ways to prepare for your first ketamine assisted psychotherapy session.
There are often described to be three separate parts of ketamine assisted therapy: preparation, the actual medicine session, and then starting immediately after the ketamine wears off begins integration, which is a very active part of healing. Rather than thinking of ketamine as a one day experience, consider it a process that spans for days to weeks, and even to months.
The preparation session or sessions involve building a relationship with your therapist/psychiatrist so that you feel safe and comfortable. These sessions also help the therapist gain an understanding of who you are as a person including your current life situation, struggles, triumphs, sources of resiliency, and what your intentions are for ketamine assisted therapy. This is also an opportunity to ask questions and learn about what the ketamine session will look like.
With higher doses of ketamine, much of the experience tends to be internal and within one's own mind rather than outward like normal psychotherapy. However, when administered at lower doses, ketamine can often be used alongside psychotherapy work. Therapy with low dose ketamine can be particularly insightful and meaningful, since typical defense mechanisms tend to be at rest. With both higher and lower doses, there is usually time set aside as the ketamine wears off for individuals to begin processing what they experienced with their therapist.
But unlike traditional psychotherapy, ketamine assisted psychotherapy is primarily not directed by the therapist. Individuals experiencing ketamine are encouraged to resource self energy and tap into their own inner healing wisdom rather than looking to the therapist for answers.
Outside of these therapy sessions, it can be helpful to reflect on what your hang-ups tend to be, where you are looking to grow in your life, and being curious about what you want for your life out of the ketamine experience. Individuals might also have some hesitations or parts of them that don't want to experience ketamine and it is wise to explore any reluctance, with curiosity and kindness.
This means living a life that supports spiritual or healing work, which is a pretty broad scope. Some people decide to embark on a social media fast or clean their house as part of their preparation. The preparation practices can drop you into a place of acceptance. The more at ease you are and at peace you are with yourself, the less likely that judgment and inner criticism will come up during ketamine sessions (but if it does, that is okay too!).
Preparing the mind for ketamine sessions is also a worthwhile endeavor outside of the therapy sessions. Find a meditation type of practice that works for you. There are lots of different meditation types and the most important consideration is finding something you don't mind doing regularly. Often, meditation does not feel calming - especially initially - and can even increase anxiety when you first start out. But try sticking with it for at least two weeks before your first ketamine session. Other mind-body practices to consider trying are yoga (we love kundalini yoga in particular), holotropic breathwork, Wim Hoff style breathing, neurofeedback, or visiting a float tank prior to the ketamine session.
There are no specific dietary adjustments that need to be made prior to a ketamine session. Some people like to follow a more restrictive diet in the month leading up to the ketamine session as a way to help mentally, physically, and spiritually prepare, such as cutting out caffeine, sugar, and/or alcohol. Many people feel better physically and mentally when they remove dairy and gluten since both types of foods can increase inflammation in the body and therefore, the brain.
Since ketamine can cause nausea, it is typically advised to not eat any food for at least 3-4 hours prior to the ketamine session. Individuals are often recommended to hydrate well the day before and get a good night's sleep. Coffee drinkers can have a small cup of coffee in the morning but it's best to keep it to a minimum.
Be sure to find out if medications need to be adjusted or held prior to the ketamine session. Typically, people are advised not to take stimulants, benzodiazepines, or lamotrigine on the day of the ketamine session since these medications tend to dampen the effects of the ketamine but be sure to discuss this with your psychiatrist.
The information and any products mentioned in this article are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information provided is for educational purposes only and not intended to replace the relationships with your physician(s). Before initiating any conventional or integrative treatments, please first consult with a licensed medical provider.