Ketamine assisted therapy is a newer targeted process in the realm of psychotherapy or counseling. I enjoyed the experience of being exposed to a multitude of practitioners in the course of doing a year long training in psychedelic assisted therapy, through the Integrative Psychiatry Institute, and I am now utilizing this medicine in helping clients notice more connections to themselves and integrate those into their lives to feel more whole. Ketamine is a powerful and safe medicine for individuals who have difficulty with depressive symptoms, anxious symptoms, obsessive compulsive symptoms, post traumatic stress reactions, and chronic pain symptoms. It is important to be medically and psychologically evaluated by a trained professional prior to engaging in this medicine.
There are a number of good sites where you can read more about Ketamine as a medicine, and fewer places where you can connect to others who have engaged in both Ketamine as a medicine, and integration as a process to “ follow where the medicine is leading you. “
I would like to offer some examples of why I think Ketamine could be helpful for most people, some in the way of optimizing their current level of connection to themselves, and others to begin experiencing the start of a rebirthing process in connecting to themselves, others, and their spirituality.
If you have chosen to consider Ketamine as a medicine, you may be asking some questions, either before you engage in Ketamine or after you have engaged…What now?
Learning to integrate a medicine experience takes time and effort. It does not happen overnight. Integration is very personal. In our practice, we believe integration of the ketamine experience occurs most effectively in a therapy setting with therapists trained in ketamine assisted therapy.
Through Ketamine integration, by nature of your own experience, or your community, you may have your own way of viewing and interpreting what integration is. I like this broad definition of integration: Creating wholeness in one’s life.
Siegel ( 2011 ) communicates that wholeness derives from healthy living, which he defines as, “integration of energy and information within the nervous system and between people.”
Typically in a ketamine medicine experience, your rigid personality structure and beliefs are challenged through some of the uniqueness of the experience. This chaos creates a disruption in your life, but it can also change the rigid structure you typically live within.
Integration is about creating wholeness, through spinning and weaving your being back together. This takes work, and allows a letting go as well. Ketamine as a medicine simply reminds us of our potential. You are the weaver of wholeness.
The realms of integration that are possible include:
Mental and intellectual
For most people, preparation for the integration of a Ketamine medicine begins with facing the unknown of what the journey will be like. Fear and anxiety are not uncommon. Facing the anxiety of the medicine can be peaceful, but it can also be like sitting in the cockpit of a spaceship, blasting off the Earth. When you reach the peak, you can become overwhelmed by all of the beauty and the chaos. In that space, beginning to gain new insights and lessons into yourself is common. These beginnings are like seeds to take back with you, but sometimes it becomes difficult to know what to do with them when you arrive back. That is where integration helps you continue your journey to wholeness.
When you come back into your body, it is important to get grounded. After a series of life changing experiences in Ketamine medicine, it is easy to be unsure what to do or how to work with your experience.
Much of the realms of integration are about starting and developing consistency in habits to care for the brain and the body.
Questions that you can begin asking in Ketamine assisted therapy are:
- How do I take care of my body, whether that is exercise, movement, healthy eating habits, or anything else that keeps my body healthy?
- How do I take care of my psychological and mental realm, whether that is reading, writing, learning a new trade, pursuing keeping my mind sharp or learning new things?
- How do I develop a healthy spiritual or religious life? How do I cultivate and engage in it?
- How do I care for my emotions? Therapy? Massage? Taking a vacation? Setting boundaries? Engaging in personal development work?
- How do I keep my work/ play life balanced? How do I develop a healthy work/life balance?
Integral to those questions are identifying self care practices that you can implement. This is really about creating new neural pathways and connections. When you start to strengthen and create new neural pathways/ connections, your brain can change and grow because of neuroplasticity.
Siegel ( 2011 ) suggests:
“Careful focus of attention amplifies neuroplasticity by stimulating the release of neurochemicals that enhance the structural growth of synaptic linkages among the activated neurons…in sum, experience creates the repeated neural firing that can lead to gene expression, protein production, and changes in both the genetic regulation of neurons and the structural connections in the brain.” ( p. 42 )
As these seeds that you have gained in your Ketamine medicine begin to sprout and grow, you begin growing, shifting, and you begin to notice it. Cultivating personal awareness in ketamine assisted therapy, as well as in relationships and in your body are signs of seeds growing within you.
Part of integration in ketamine assisted therapy is about making lifestyle changes and developing a relationship with yourself. Another part is expressive and creative. The left brain wants to see some concrete accomplishments and actions and the right part of the brain wants to express the language of the soul. This can be connected through creating something, whether that is a poem, art piece, music, podcast, a paper, article, research paper. Whatever your mind and soul inspired you to do.
Integration is a continuing process. I remember talking with someone in my training who had a powerful experience with medicine 10 years before we talked. As I listened to her, I was struck by how much she is still learning 10 years after that experience as she reflects on it. It simply does not end. It is important to stay open, stay curious, and also stay engaged in the process. The Ketamine medicine experience shows you a new way of seeing and being in the world. The challenge of integration is now re-adjusting to the world with these new sets of beliefs and thoughts.
With any seed, if planted and nurtured, many seeds grow to produce. The integration process is much like this…you spend time growing, changing, letting go, before finally flowering, fruiting, all before letting go again. Ketamine assisted therapy is an opportunity to share your gifts and sweet fruits of labor with the world and with the people who are in your life!
The Journey is the Destination!