Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy: What to Expect? - Vancouver Counselling Treatment Center

Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy: What to Expect?

Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy: What to Expect?

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Psychotherapy tends to look more deeply, addressing the underlying causes of a person’s problems and how to solve them.

Sessions last up to 90 minutes are one-to-one, in pairs, or groups. Techniques can include talking, drama, story-telling, or music.

How can it help? It helps eliminate or control troubling symptoms to function better while increasing well-being and healing.

With mental illness on the rise, it’s no wonder alternative treatments have risen, too. Science and research state that ketamine psychotherapy is cost-efficient and works better in the long term. Coupled with a therapist, ketamine psychotherapy has fewer side effects and relapses.

Wondering what to expect from ketamine assisted psychotherapy? Let’s take a look.

Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy: Who will it help?

First, let’s define ketamine. It is not a new drug because its usage on people and animals goes back over five decades. It’s a dissociative anesthetic used as a powder or liquid form.

Other antidepressants work on serotonin, norepinephrine, or dopamine systems; Ketamine works by shutting off the brain’s glutamine (a different transmitter that is much more prevalent in the brain) receptors that disconnect it from the body relieving pain and producing relaxation.

Depression currently affects more than 6.7 million people in Canada. Symptoms can persist even after prescriptions and therapy defining treatment-resistant depression affecting up to 28% of the people who suffer. Those individuals now have hope due to Ketamine psychotherapy and other disorders such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and anxiety.

Ketamine assisted therapy is also proven effective in people with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) with suicidal thoughts and actions. It is considered a therapeutic psychedelic therapy.

How is Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy Administered?

Recently, ketamine is proven beneficial in people suffering from depression, where medications have been less than helpful. Ketamine is delivered intravenously or through a nasal spray at a doctor’s office or clinic, providing fast-acting relief. These treatments provided in a clinical setting are due to the series of adverse sedation outcomes and dissociation.

Intravenous ketamine is generally safe and well-tolerated for helping depression and anxiety. IV ketamine is fast-acting in some patients providing relief in just a few hours and could last several days to weeks.

The treatment is a mix of two mirror-image molecules, called “R” and “S” ketamine. IV ketamine in children or patients experiencing mania, active psychosis, or unstable cardiovascular disease is not recommended.

Ketamine iv infusions bind to the NMDA receptors increasing the amount of glutamate. Then this activates the other receptors called AMPA. Working together, they release additional molecules that help neurons communicate along new pathways. This process called Synaptogenesis affects mood, thought patterns, and cognition.
Ketamine assisted therapy infusions are known for reducing inflammation that causes mood disorders. Inflammation is the body’s immune response to fight off foreign invaders. Sometimes the body will attack the system meant to protect.
Spravato Nasal Spray Ketamine (Esketamine) has created a nasal spray called Spravato, filling the perpetual need for those who have difficulty treating depression and its symptoms. It has proven to reduce depression symptoms at four weeks.

Typically this is taken in addition to an oral antidepressant. Spravato is a control substance making it necessary to administer in a clinic under a licensed professional’s watchful eye.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below we’ve addressed common questions regarding ketamine.

What should patients expect during Ketamine treatment?


Ketamine-assisted therapy treatments are administered through an IV drip in a lower dose than used for anesthesia. Patients are closely monitored for side effects in quiet, calm, and safe environments while in a reclined chair.

Patients remain aware of their surroundings and experience deep relaxation. Most patients experience positive results after the first infusion and will need to follow up treatments to help prolong effects.

What else should I know about ketamine?

Like Opioids, Ketamine has addictive properties, so weighing risks vs. benefits is essential when consulting with your physician.

A lower dose is given when treating depression vs. when used for anesthesia.

When ketamine works, patients notice it within one to three infusions. Increasing sessions help prolong the effects of ketamine.

Dissociation is thought of negatively, especially in context with trauma and PTSD. Why is it helpful in this context?

Dissociation is when you separate yourself from reality in what’s happening in the current time. It’s a psychological defense mechanism the mind has. People with trauma learn to cope with dissociation, and it can get in the way of your life.

When used in a controlled setting with a practitioner you trust, you can begin the process of working through those traumas. It’s easier to make changes and how you think and look at the world in that state.

The memory as you come down is still there but leaves you feeling differently about the situation bothering you. The context has shifted, but the memory will always be there.

Our bodies send out signals when we are anxious or sad. The feelings are unpleasant, and so through dissociation, you can separate your body and mind without negative feedback. Your mind is fully aware, and you’re conscious and present.

Will any specific medical conditions prevent me from receiving ketamine-assisted psychotherapy?


Patients with psychosis, high blood pressure, cardiac and pulmonary issues shouldn’t receive Ketamine assisted therapy infusion. Consult with a doctor before treatment to go over your medical history.

How long will the effects last?

The effects of a single infusion last typically up to two weeks. After a series of six treatments, a patient can be symptom-free for several months.

What is a booster infusion?

These are given less often and are usually for maintenance monthly or a few times per year.

Should I continue seeing my psychiatrist or counsellor?

Absolutely, this treatment is to work in a combination of talk therapy and sometimes an additional antidepressant.

Can medications interact with the ketamine infusion?

Patients should not mix alcohol with ketamine infusions and should not take benzodiazepines or any prescribed narcotics on the injection day.

Is there any risk when taking ketamine?

When using ketamine in a clinical setting at a licensed practice, the risks are lower, surrounded by trained personnel, and a safe, comforting environment.

Final Thoughts

The fact of the matter is patients struggling with treatment-resistant depression amidst failing medications have hope again. People are no longer condemned to a world of uncertainty and sadness.

Depression is not a choice, but ketamine and psychotherapy are some of the keys to unlocking the darkness and despair. It’s strongly encouraged to continue counselling for pre and aftercare post-psychedelic treatments.

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