What is Ketamine?
Ketamine is a psychoactive drug classified as a dissociative anesthetic. It was first synthesized in 1962 and has been used in the United States as an anesthetic in medical settings since 1970. It is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines.
Ketamine has been used off-label in sub-anesthetic doses for the past 20 years to treat chronic pain, depression, and a variety of other mental health concerns, thanks to its rapid onset antidepressant effects, sometimes providing nearly immediate relief from emotional and physical pain. While the antidepressant effects tend to be temporary after a single ketamine treatment, multiple treatments have proven to have a cumulative effect, successfully alleviating symptoms in approximately 30 - 60% of individuals with treatment-resistant depression.
What is Ketamine Assisted Therapy?
Ketamine-assisted therapy (KAT) is a unique therapeutic method used to address a variety of mental health conditions, including depression, post-traumatic stress, chronic pain, addiction, and some forms of anxiety. It involves the use of the psychoactive substance ketamine to enhance and deepen the therapeutic process, and the use of psychotherapy and other integrative forms of treatment to amplify and prolong the curative effects of ketamine.*
In low doses, ketamine can serve as a supportive adjunct to psychotherapy, as it provides an opportunity for the temporary softening of the psychological defenses, allowing for deeper self reflection and psychotherapeutic processing.
In moderate doses, ketamine has psychedelic effects, which have been shown to facilitate profound transpersonal experiences. These types of experiences can help people in a variety of ways, offering important clarity and insight into one’s struggles, adding a spiritual dimension to ongoing therapeutic work, and facilitating a sense of meaning and interconnectedness.
At Sage, we offer ketamine-assisted therapy as part of our comprehensive and holistic approach to wellness. We have found that this unique type of treatment is most effective when paired with other forms of therapy that compliment and deepen the work. In addition to integration counseling, we offer acupuncture and bodywork to support the system in opening to the experience, moving blocked energy, and integrating the physiological and energetic effects.
What to expect
We will start with a phone screening in which we will discuss your symptoms and determine whether ketamine-assisted therapy (KAT) might be of benefit to you. If so, you will meet with our psychiatric nurse practitioner for an initial consultation and psychiatric assessment.** If you qualify for our program after the intake, you will be scheduled for preparatory sessions in which you will get to know the therapist who will be supporting you in your treatment, and prepare for your KAT session. There will be a minimum of two preparatory sessions before your first KAT session. In some cases, more than two session may be essential to your treatment.
The ketamine session itself typically lasts 3 hours. Your therapists will be with you throughout the ketamine session. While there are many possible routes of administration, we primarily work with sublingual lozenges. The effects begin to appear after about 15- 20 minutes, peak for about 40 minutes, and dissipate over the following 1-2 hours. Positive impacts on mood have been shown to last over the following days and sometimes weeks.
After your first KAT session, you will have at least 2 integration sessions in which we will help you integrate your experience during the ketamine session, discuss how you responded to the medicine, and determine an individualized course of treatment moving forward. Generally, multiple ketamine sessions are required in order to experience lasting effects. Please contact us directly for more detailed information and to answer any questions you might have.
Ketamine is used off-label for a variety of mental health disorders, including depression, chronic pain, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, and addiction.
Some medical and psychiatric conditions need to be treated before you can safely work with ketamine. These conditions include hallucinations, untreated mania, cardiovascular disease, uncontrolled hyperthyroidism, increased intracranial pressure, cystitis, or evidence of liver disease.
We offer individualized packages based on your particular circumstances and needs. A typical package includes:
An intake with our psychiatric nurse practitioner
2 preparatory sessions
3 ketamine sessions
6 integration sessions
3 integrative treatments that could include bodywork, acupuncture, or nutrition sessions
Your package may include closely-monitored at-home lozenge sessions, which can help to make the treatment more affordable.
We recommend a commitment to at least 3 ketamine sessions, as this medicine tends to have a cumulative effect and is most beneficial after multiple treatments.
Ketamine assisted therapy session: $800
Preparation and Integration session: $200
Medication refill/psychiatric follow up: $180
Typical treatment package (described in the “Packages” section above): $4860
We offer a sliding scale for those with fewer resources and opportunities. The sliding scale for the package described above ranges from $3650 - $4860.
We also offer a limited number of need-based “Community Supported Medicine Scholarships” to subsidize the treatment of individuals from underserved communities. Availability and amount of scholarship funds granted is dependent on the level of funding that we currently have available. If you would like to donate to this fund, you can do so here.
If you would like a sliding scale fee or to apply for our Scholarship, we ask that you fill out a questionnaire to give us a better sense of your financial need and eligibility. Please contact our front desk at firstname.lastname@example.org or (510) 564-7099 for more information.
*Our therapeutic model has been developed with the support of the Kriya Institute,the Healing Realms Center, and Polaris Insight Center.
**Psychiatrist, Dr. Gary Bravo provides clinical supervision for ketamine sessions.
Photograph by Eric Hunt, 2005.