Ketamine treatment is a rapidly evolving field of mental health intervention. But since this treatment is so new, many people aren’t sure what to expect after receiving ketamine treatment for the first time.
While everyone has a unique experience with this innovative treatment, there are a few things that can help you understand what you can expect.
Ketamine Treatment for Mental Health
Ketamine has been used in the medical field as an anesthetic since the 1950s. While there were early indications that ketamine could be a valuable tool for treating depression, scientific investigations were cut short as new types of anesthetic medicines gained favor.
Only in the last several years have these investigations been reopened and the findings have been remarkable. Ketamine-assisted therapy has quickly shown itself to be effective in treating:
- Multiple types of depression
- Substance use disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Anxiety disorders
It’s important to note ketamine’s striking ability to help people who have treatment-resistant mental health challenges. This means that ketamine can frequently help people achieve recovery even if they’ve tried therapy, medication, or other interventions without success.
The Ketamine Treatment Process
To fully understand what to expect after ketamine treatment, it’s first important to understand the treatment process itself.
Ketamine is a medication that belongs to a class of drugs known as dissociative anesthetics. The effects of ketamine can help accelerate the therapeutic process, helping people gain insight and make breakthroughs with their therapist.
The process starts with meeting our team of mental health clinicians and medical professionals. Our team can provide a detailed assessment and evaluation, helping to ensure that ketamine-assisted therapy is the right treatment for your needs and that there aren’t any contraindications for treatment.
After the assessment, the next step is the ketamine treatment. It closely resembles an extended individual therapy session, with our medical team standing by to ensure your safety and comfort throughout the process. The medication is administered at the beginning of the session. It takes about 30 minutes for clients to begin feeling the effects of ketamine, and they typically last about two hours.
During the ketamine experience, you’ll sit with your therapist to discuss your mental health challenges, what you hope to gain during treatment, and how to process the ketamine experience itself. Your therapist helps to guide you through the session as you fully embrace the experience. They are there to help if you experience any uncomfortable side effects.
The Ketamine Experience
The ketamine experience itself is hard to explain. Some people report experiencing an out-of-body experience, a feeling of disconnection from their sense of self, and a greater sense of connection with others.
This is why ketamine is referred to as a dissociative drug, and this sensation is one of the key elements in helping people achieve breakthroughs in ketamine-assisted therapy.
Being able to disconnect from your body, take an objective perspective on your mental health challenges, and find even temporary relief from cognitive and mood challenges can make all the difference in progressing toward recovery.
These effects are why ketamine is often referred to as a therapy incubator. The experience can help people make breakthroughs that could take months or years in conventional therapy alone in just a single session. This leads to durable improvements in your overall mental health and can quickly change the course of your life.
But in addition to dissociative effects, ketamine can also produce a number of other beneficial effects, including:
- A feeling of relaxation
- Substantial boost in mood
- A dream-like experience
- Mild visual and auditory distortions
The ketamine-assisted therapy session can become a pillar moment, providing you with a turning point for your mental health and overall quality of life.
What Happens After Ketamine Treatment
After your ketamine therapy session is complete, people often report several lingering beneficial effects. Many clients leave a ketamine treatment session with a feeling of calm relaxation, increased connection to the world and others, and a dramatic improvement in their mental health symptoms.
But some effects can be disorienting if you’re not prepared for them. Side effects from ketamine treatment are rarely harmful, but they can cause concern if you aren’t aware of what to expect. There are a few common experiences that people have reported during their treatment.
A ketamine treatment session is inherently introspective. In fact, the entire experience is designed to enhance the effect of introspection that is inherent to the medication itself. You’ll be offered eye shades, relaxing music, and a soft and comfortable environment.
This enhanced introspection can persist for several hours or even days after the therapy session itself and is a key component in why ketamine-assisted healing is so effective. Insight into your own mental health condition and how thought patterns and behaviors can affect your mood and well-being is a critical element of achieving mental health recovery.
You may find yourself wondering about why your thought patterns fall along certain lines or why your behaviors haven’t been in line with your recovery goals. This can lead to making lifestyle changes that can sustain your recovery for years to come and be the starting point of an entirely new way of life.
The deep work of a ketamine treatment session can leave you feeling worn out, tired, and generally fatigued. This is common to all types of therapy, but the added experience brought on by the use of ketamine makes this all the more true for ketamine-assisted therapy.
The fatigue from ketamine treatment comes from two different sources. The first is the medication itself, which, like other psychedelic drugs, causes a spike in brain activity and perceptual changes. This saps your energy on a basic metabolic level, leaving you feeling as though you’ve just completed a hard day’s work.
The second is from the deep work done in the therapeutic process. Confronting deeply emotional or difficult situations in therapy is inherently taxing and can leave you with little emotional or mental energy throughout the rest of the day.
Another common experience following ketamine treatment is a feeling of inspiration. It could be an inspiration to reach out to an old friend, to spend more time with your family, or to take up a new hobby that you’ve been considering for some time.
When struggling with a mental health disorder, feeling the fog lift can provide a burst of motivation to get back to living life as you see fit. We encourage our clients to lean into these inspirations, to find what brings them purpose and joy in life, and to fully embrace the positive benefits that you can experience after ketamine-assisted healing.
A less desirable effect that happens to some people following ketamine treatment is a feeling of disorientation. The very nature of ketamine-assisted healing can change your perceptual state for the duration of the drug’s effects, and some symptoms may linger after your session has been completed.
It’s completely normal to feel a moderate sense of disorientation or even anxiety following treatment. You’ve likely had an experience unlike any other, and returning to your everyday experience can feel jarring.
But this symptom is temporary and almost always dissipates within hours. If you’re experiencing this symptom, try seeking out a relaxing environment, focus on some calming practices, and remember that the uncomfortable feeling is temporary.
Using ketamine in a therapy session helps people to take a step back, to look at their problems and behaviors objectively, and to see what is working for their recovery goals and what isn’t. But the effects of ketamine don’t last forever, and it’s up to you to take action on the changes that you see need to be made.
This process is commonly called integration. It is the process of recognizing the work you still need to do and the changes you need to make to continue on the path to mental health recovery. Starting to incorporate the insights from treatment into your everyday life is a crucial part of integration.
This process looks different for everybody, but it could include changes such as:
- Being more open and vulnerable with the people closest to you
- Not letting your emotions guide your behavior
- Challenging maladaptive thought patterns
- Seeking out more social connection
- Prioritizing the things in life that you find most meaningful
Integrating the lessons you’ve learned in ketamine treatment into daily life isn’t always easy, but it’s where the truly lasting and durable improvements in mental health take place. Embrace this process as much as you can — and you can start to reap the rewards of recovery for years to come.
While most people experience dramatic improvements after just a single ketamine treatment session, our team will continue to follow up with you to monitor your progress and see if you’re experiencing any uncomfortable side effects.
In most cases, repeated ketamine treatments can further enhance your progress in recovery or simply provide a mental health top-up to keep you feeling your best.
Continuing care is built into the very model of ketamine-assisted therapy, ensuring that you’re not left alone after this transformative experience and that you have the resources you need for your continued success.
While continuing with ketamine treatment after your first session is typically recommended, our team can also guide you toward other innovative and effective treatment strategies to help you resolve your mental health challenges. This includes services at Plus by APN, such as:
- Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (dTMS): Uses an innovative and non-invasive technology to stimulate brain regions typically underactive in certain mental health conditions
- Lifestyle Psychiatry: Combines conventional psychiatry approaches with holistic lifestyle changes and motivation strategies to provide long-term results
- Neurofeedback: Uses real-time brain data to help you understand how your brain responds to specific situations and trains you to help control your brain’s activity levels
- Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT): Introduces clients to a hyper-oxygenated environment so the brain and body can experience rapid healing and repair
These treatment options are directly integrated into Plus by APN’s holistic mental health treatment program and can all be used in tandem with ketamine-assisted therapy for even greater results. Our team can help you choose the right combination that works for you and will be there to support you every step of your recovery journey.
Start Treatment at Plus by APN
Plus by APN focuses on providing our clients with the best in innovative and evidence-based interventions for holistic mental health. Our team is dedicated to supporting clients in their journey to better mental health.
When you’re ready to start the process of mental health recovery, reach out to us by calling 424.644.6486 or by filling out our confidential online contact form for more information. We are ready to help you navigate your options and choose a treatment plan that works for you.
- Sepulveda Ramos, Carolina et al. “The Therapeutic Effects of Ketamine in Mental Health Disorders: A Narrative Review.” Cureus vol. 14,3 e23647. 30 Mar. 2022, doi:10.7759/cureus.23647
- Taylor, Jerome H et al. “Ketamine for Social Anxiety Disorder: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Crossover Trial.” Neuropsychopharmacology : official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology vol. 43,2 (2018): 325-333. doi:10.1038/npp.2017.194