Lessons from ketamine
The only psychedelic substance that is legally used in mainstream psychotherapy in the US and in Germany, is Ketamine. Ketamine is a chemical compound and a powerful dissociative anesthetic and has been applied in medicine since the 1960ies. The mental health field ultimately took notice in the mid 2000s when the first clinical trials for depression took place. It has since been recommended as a rapid acting agent for treatment resistant depression, and even PTSD, OCD, bipolar disorder and other mental health conditions.
I myself have worked with people who struggled with suicidality, pain, addictive tendencies, and major depression, and who saw their symptoms drastically relieved with the first few administrations of Ketamine.
But Ketamine, like other psychedelics, for many only work in the long term in conjunction with some kind of psychotherapy. The substance itself amplifies a person’s experience, helps to process past trauma and provides insights and a new perspective. It supports and accelerates the therapeutic process. In most cases, it will not magically make a long standing emotional problem go away instantly, although the breakthrough that often happens during the experience leads to more motivation, hope and confidence.
But with every promising remedy, caution is advised. Business interests can get in the way of proper preparation. Ketamine websites who sell cheap access to the substance without medical consultation have multiplied, which has already led to negative outcomes for those who seek relief.
Psychedelics are not for everyone, even when accompanied by the most experienced mental health professional. It is important to approach the work with mind altering substances in psychotherapy deliberately, and prepare the individual for what may or may not happen. I believe that the best outcome happens in relationship between the client, the therapist and the medicine.
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