So you made the decision to try Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy–now what? Much like planning a vacation, the time between arranging a therapeutic ketamine session and actually departing on the trip can be filled with anticipation, curiosity, and even some anxiety. Learn how to pack your metaphorical bags and prepare yourself for KAP below.
Intention setting is an important part of using ketamine therapeutically. In short, an intention is what you’re hoping to get out of or explore during your ketamine experience. It is usually a short word, phrase, or question that is simple enough to remember when you are in an expanded state of consciousness. While your therapist can help you identify intentions for each session, it can be beneficial to spend some time reflecting on the following prompts.
What value or quality would I like to see more of in the way I live my life?
Typically an intention is stated in the affirmative. For example, instead of saying your goal is, “I want to be rid of my depression,” a perhaps more fruitful intention might be: joy, release, or freedom. Because psychedelics have the potential to amplify thoughts and feelings, intention setting may also be a good time to tap into your pre-existing values in hopes that you might identify new ways of engaging in values-based living.
What has been a barrier or roadblock to recovery in the past, and what would I need to overcome it?
If you are exploring ketamine-assisted psychotherapy, chances are you have tried several other things in the past that simply didn’t work. Have you noticed any patterns? Are there perhaps draining relationships in your life where you are afraid to install appropriate boundaries? Do you find yourself often feeling unmotivated to do the things you know are good for you? Often, clients find themselves needing to build willingness, openness, self-worth, or courage at some point in their treatment.
Of course, just roadblocks don’t just happen internally. There are plenty of outside forces which make recovery challenging–but as you turn your attention inward throughout the course of ketamine therapy, it is worth reflecting on what skills you may need to build to better face life’s difficulties.
What feels like it needs my attention first?
By the time you have answered the first two questions, it is likely you are left with more intentions than there is time to explore within your designated KAP treatment plan. That is okay! The truth of the matter is there is no perfect intention that is guaranteed to produce the perfect trip. A principle of psychedelic psychotherapy is that each person’s inner healing intelligence will guide them to where they need to go within the journey.
That said, sometimes it will become apparent that certain intentions need to be explored before others. For example, safety or willingness are great intentions to work with before more complex concepts like self-love or forgiveness–but consider this a suggestion rather than a rule.
If you’re having a hard time prioritizing or figuring out where to start, try this guided visualization:
Imagine holding two possible intentions in your hands, one in the left and one in the right. You might even put both hands out in front of you with palms facing upward to deepen this practice. Notice how each potential intention feels in each hand; notice their weight, their magnetism, and any other differences between the two. Use these observations to inform your assessment of which intention may be calling for attention first.
This exercise can be repeated with additional intentions you are considering until one feels more clear. You can also, of course, discuss your ideas with your KAP therapist.
At Field Trip, we consider ketamine therapy a bio-medical-psycho-social-spiritual method to not only help the mind recover from difficult mental health disorders, but also improve patients’ quality of life overall. As you embark on a period of change-making, it can be helpful to consider the following.
What am I physically consuming that may interfere with my intentions or ketamine journey?
Generally speaking, patients should be able to observe abstinence from certain substances for at least 48hrs before and 48hrs after each ketamine session, if not the entire several week treatment period. These substances include alcohol, cannabis, other psychedelics, opioids, and illicit stimulants like cocaine. Some ketamine practitioners have also observed that NSAIDs like ibuprofen and naproxen seem to dampen the potential benefits of ketamine. If you have any concerns regarding the medications or substances you are currently using, please discuss them with your treatment team before coming in for your first ketamine session.
Are there any habits that I would like to change, add, or reduce?
Ketamine, like many psychedelics, is believed to create a period of neuroplasticity within the brain. This means that ketamine may support the development of new habits by forming new neural pathways. To take advantage of this effect of the medicine, consider hitting the ground running by beginning to integrate new habits into your daily routine now. These might include a regular meditation practice, spending more time outside, exercise, or getting out of your comfort zone socially. Imagine what your day to day would look like in recovery, and start realizing that version of yourself.
Is there anything that would be helpful to bring with me to support my journey or integration afterward?
Some people may find it helpful to bring a physical item with them to their ketamine experience. This could be anything such as a sacred object like mala beads or a special pendant, a fidget tool like a stress ball or worry stone, essential oils, a photograph of a loved one, or something else totally unique. This item may act as an anchor to hold onto during your journey, or it may be placed somewhere in the room as a way of making the space your own.
Consider also what kind of clothes you would like to wear for your ketamine journey. If you are receiving IM ketamine, the medical provider will need access to your upper arm–so short sleeves or layers are recommended. Do you have a favorite shirt or lucky socks? Wear what will make you feel most comfortable.
It is natural to have some pre-flight nerves before your first ketamine journey. Thankfully, you don’t have to take this trip alone. With the support of professional therapists and medical providers, you can rest assured that you’ve got a good team to help you in case of any turbulence. Safe tripping!