Psychedelic substances used in therapy (e.g. ketamine, psilocybin, LSD) can change the way you process information and open up your mind to new perspectives.
Here’s a step by step guide on everything you need to know about psychedelic assisted therapy.
What Is Psychedelic Therapy?
Psychedelic therapy refers to the use of psychedelic drugs to treat mental disorders like anxiety, depression, and PTSD.
Many mental health issues can stem from our perceptions, experiences, and even genetics. With psychedelics, patients can come to terms with a past trauma, addiction, or life challenges. These changes can have lasting, beneficial effects.
How Does Psychedelic Therapy Work?
When traditional treatments for depression, anxiety, PTSD, or addiction don’t work, people turn to psychedelic therapy. Here’s what the process looks like:
1. The Consultation
The first step in psychedelic therapy is to have a detailed discussion with a physician or therapist. You’ll discuss any current medication and treatment, as well as your goals and intentions for your session.
It’s also important for you to develop a sense of trust and comfort with your doctor. This will make interaction after your psychedelic dose more productive. Having an intention will also help your doctor determine if psychedelic therapy is right for you, or how you’ll respond to it.
2. The Preparation & Infusion
Next, you’ll be taken to a controlled setting or suite where you’ll have time to get comfortable. The doctor will come in to explain the dose you’ll receive, and what to expect from the experience.
Then you’ll be guided through a 5-minute breathing meditation to help you feel more relaxed. This is the time to try to let go and focus on your intentions. You’ll also have the option to use an eye mask, listen to music, and diffuse essential oils to enhance your experience.
From there, you’ll lie down on the “journey bed” with a blanket and receive a dose of the psychedelic drug. For ketamine therapy, this is often done intravenously so dosage can be adjusted at any time. You’ll always be monitored to make sure you feel comfortable, safe, and supported.
3. The Psychedelic Experience
The effects of a ketamine infusion for therapy are felt within a few minutes. Experiences vary, but there are three general responses to the infusion:
- Deep Relaxation: You feel calm with a heaviness in your body. Some don’t feel much, especially at a lower dose. But that doesn’t mean it’s not helping improve your condition.
- Euphoria: You feel great, the best you’ve felt in years. It feels like you’ve had a couple of drinks and everything feels lighter.
- Altered Consciousness: This a more ‘psychedelic’ or ‘spiritual’ experience. You may feel separated from your body and a deep connection with others. Vivid daydreams or visual patterns may arise. You might even revisit people, places, or events from the past which may bring up emotions that will help you let go of past traumas.
These altered experiences aren’t side effects but rather important parts of your healing process. Some patients experience ‘breakthroughs’, feeling relief from dark, depressive, and obsessive thoughts. These effects may last hours to weeks, but most often, more treatment is needed for longer lasting effects.
After the psychedelic effects of the drug have worn off, it’s time to unpack your experience. Integration is when you and your therapist will dive into the meaning and emotions of your psychedelic experience. Hopefully, you’ll come to better understand the mechanisms behind your challenges or traumas. Psychedelic drugs can help break down your emotional defenses.
What Are the Benefits of Psychedelic Therapy?
Guided psychedelic therapy can have an amazing effect on one’s values and purpose. It can improve self-esteem, relationships, and outlook on life.
Ketamine, one of the most researched psychedelic drugs, helps patients suffering from severe depression and anxiety. It can also help those suffering from addictions, reducing the risk of relapse over time.
Is Psychedelic Therapy Safe?
Psychedelic therapy is low-risk if administered in a clinical setting. Some substances like MDMA or psilocybin can raise blood pressure or body temperature. But not enough for medical concerns. Most of the danger comes from the unknown chemical makeup if sourced from the underground and not a licensed professional, where you can be assured of the real thing.
It’s also important to remember that psychedelics can alter one’s sense of time and reality. They can even distort or intensify perceptions. On their own the effects aren’t harmful, but the presence of a doctor ensures a safe experience.
Is Psychedelic Therapy Right for You?
Any kind of drug use is a personal decision. So consult with your primary care physician before trying anything new.
Different psychedelic drugs offer different experiences. So do your own research on what treatment best serves your needs. Don’t let the stigma of psychedelic drugs prevent you from seeking real help.
Psychedelics have shown remarkable promise in treating mental health issues, and they may be the right option for you.