Ketamine IV Treatment vs. Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy


We’ve talked a bit about Ketamine therapy before on our blog–what to expect, frequently asked questions, and how to know if it’s right for you

But what about the different types of ketamine treatment? What’s the difference between KAP (ketamine assisted psychotherapy) and a ketamine IV treatment? Which is which? What are they used for? What do they entail?

First let’s start with IV Ketamine treatments:

Ketamine IV treatments as we know them now are fairly new in the medical world. Back in the 1960s, ketamine was used as anesthetic, administered to soldiers in Vietnam. But, since then, it has found to be an effective treatment for things such as: 

  • Chronic pain
  • Fibromialgia 
  • Depression
  • Post traumatic stress disorder
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder
  • Suicidal ideation

Ketamine IV infusion treatment is an option for people with “drug resistant” depression–meaning that they have tried several kinds of antidepressants, and have found none of them to be effective. 

It works like this: 

If, after a consultation with your doctor, you have determined that ketamine IV infusion therapy is right for you, it will be about a 40 minute infusion, which will feel similar to the sensation of getting your blood drawn. You will be in a private room, awake, but feeling highly sedated. Depending on what has been determined to be the best course of action for you, you’ll receive about 6 treatments over the course of 2-3, with additional treatments on an as needed basis. 

Now, what about Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy?

KAP takes ketamine IV infusion therapy, and adds psychotherapy on top of it, in order to enhance the effectiveness. Psychotherapy is what you probably know as “talk therapy.” 

Combining this medical IV treatment with talk therapy helps to make the combined treatments more effective. While the drug can help with the physical symptoms of things like depression, PTSD, etc., the talk therapy works as a base to address underlying emotional or mental blocks that can hinder your healing. With talk therapy you can identify your own behavioral patterns, learn about your emotional needs, and get tools to help you cope in hard times. 

The ketamine treatment helps to facilitate this talk therapy, because the ketamine itself gives you a feeling of being in a dreamlike or almost hypnotic stage. Meaning your normal emotional blockades or defense mechanisms that prevent you from sitting with uncomfortable feelings, or bad memories, etc. won’t be as strong. And because of this, the amount of time it takes you to understand those negative feelings and experiences is much shorter than standard talk therapy. 

Along with this almost trance-like state, ketamine is also a dissociative drug, which means your mind can feel entirely disconnected from your body. While that may sound disconcerting, or even extremely unpleasant, for some people that separation of mind from body really allows them to tap into their thoughts, their environment, the present moment, etc. without it being tied to their body–which they may have a complicated or poor relationship with. 

KAP can also help ease the worries of people receiving the treatment–while ketamine is safe with the proper dosage, and medically the risks are very low, it has a history of being used as street drug, “Special K,” and can be addictive if not used carefully, with the guidance of a medical professional. This additional guided care with a therapist can give you the assurance that someone else is participating in this treatment with you, and will be there to help you should you need it. 

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