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Ketamine-Assisted Couples Therapy

Traditional couples therapy relies on a talk-based approach to help resolve issues. And while it’s effective, modern romantic relationships demand a more nuanced approach to dealing with problems between partners.

Among these new approaches, ketamine-assisted couples therapy (KACT) has emerged as an effective solution. These sessions facilitate introspection, emotional breakthroughs, and better communication, allowing couples to resolve issues that impede real intimacy and connection.

In this article, we’ll dive into KACT, discuss its unique benefits, and give you a more wholesome idea of this therapeutic approach.

Understanding Ketamine

Psychologists have been intrigued by ketamine and its therapeutic properties for years. It has effectively treated mental health issues like PTSD, depression, and substance abuse.

While the effect of ketamine on the brain is still under investigation, studies show how ketamine produces antidepressant and anti-analgesic effects on the brain.

This study claims that, unlike regular pharmaceuticals, ketamine aids in neurogenesis (creation of new neurons). As such, treatment can help patients make changes of a more permanent nature rather than resorting to prescription medications that temporarily relieve symptoms.

Another study found that ketamine boosts synaptic plasticity and strength; a lack of which has been directly linked to depression.

While we aren’t out of the dark yet, these studies provide evidence that ketamine has the power to rewire our brains.

What Is Ketamine-Assisted Therapy?

Ketamine is a complex substance that leads to immediate and long-term changes in the brain. Ketamine therapy involves administering ketamine to patients and helping them integrate what they learn into their regular lives. The benefits of ketamine-assisted therapy include:

  • Reduced anxiety and depression
  • Openness to new ways of thinking and perceiving
  • Seeing parts of oneself that may be hindering one’s growth

Ketamine-Assisted Couples Therapy

Now that you know what ketamine does, it’s easy to imagine why it works in couples therapy.

Ketamine facilitates a disassociative state, where patients notice feelings, thoughts, and perceptions without judgment. It allows couples to see deeper parts of themselves and helps them communicate freely without the fear that accompanies confrontation.

Here’s what a typical KACT session looks like:

  1. Preparation: The couple meets a therapist and discusses their goals during therapy. The therapist assesses whether the couple is physically and emotionally ready.
  2. Administration: The therapist administers ketamine through intravenous methods, nasal spray, or intramuscular injection.
  3. Guided Exploration: Once the session begins, the therapist aids the couple in exploring their issues. They use mindfulness exercises, prompts, and imagery to steer the conversation.
  4. Emotional Processing: One or both partners may experience emotional breakthroughs during the session and gain a deeper understanding of themselves and their partner. The therapist helps the patient process this information through techniques that encourage open communication.
  5. Post-Session Integration: After the ketamine wears off, the couple must reflect on the insights and experiences gained with help from the therapist.

The integration part of the therapy continues for weeks or even months to help the couple assimilate what they’ve learned.

Unique Benefits Of Ketamine-Assisted Couples Therapy

While regular therapy can work wonders, KACT provides unique benefits which include:

  • Deeper Connection – During KACT, automatic defense systems are lowered, allowing couples to communicate with more empathy, compassion, and openness. This allows them to address issues that aren’t easy to bring up.
  • Non-Judgment – The dissociative qualities of ketamine allow couples to explore painful events without the pain and judgment associated with them.
  • Breaking Negative Patterns – With the therapist’s help couples gain insight into negative ways of relating to each other. During these sessions, they get to break free from these patterns and form healthy and more adaptive ways of relating.
  • Better Communication – KACT can help facilitate an honest dialogue between couples. This allows partners to express themselves freely and without the fear of judgment, which positively affects communication in the long run.

Evidence Supporting KACT

Sapience Therapy, a company that hosts ketamine-assisted retreats for couples, states that ketamine helps couples by interrupting negative patterns, increasing personal accountability, and improving emotional regulation.

An example of a successful KACT case was reported by Victor and Maggie, a couple looking to deepen their connection and save their marriage. As Maggie recounts, ‘We were able to work through issues we haven’t been able to speak about in a decade.’

The couple did six sessions spaced out over eighteen months and both firmly believe that KACT saved their marriage. They reported greater clarity and felt the safety required to put in the hard work needed to save their marriage.

Role Of The Therapist In KACT

The therapist is the key to effective KACT, and it’s crucial to find someone with a license and formal training in counseling, psychology, or a related field.

It’s also important that the therapist has experience with couples therapy and with ketamine-assisted therapy. They should be able to administer ketamine safely and understand how to create a suitable environment for their patients.

  • Setting Intentions: The therapist should work on understanding the couple’s goals, identify areas for growth, and help them set intentions for the session.
  • Guiding The Experience: The therapist’s key role is to guide the session using mindfulness techniques, imagery, and verbal prompts to facilitate introspection and emotional exploration.
  • Facilitating Communication: As with regular therapy, the therapist facilitates open and honest communication between partners. They will encourage dialogue and active listening and may intervene in case there are communication problems.
  • Emotional Support: The therapist must be a container to hold space for the emotions that arise and give each partner the emotional support they need during the session.
  • Integration: After the effects subside, the therapist aids the couple in integrating the experience into their daily lives. This can look like translating insights and emotional breakthroughs into actionable steps moving forward.
  • Follow-Up Therapy: Aftercare and integration are essential parts of KACT. Follow-up therapy sessions are essential for couples to unpack the insights learned over time and gradually integrate them into daily life.

KACT Vs. Traditional Therapy

While there are some similarities between KACT and traditional talk therapy, the differences are evident and can be summed up as follows.

Traditional TherapyKACT
ApproachA talk-based approach where the therapist encourages open dialogue between a couple.Uses ketamine to facilitate a state where deep-rooted experiences can be tapped into and spoken about.
Substance UsedDoes not use any substance.Uses ketamine, a substance that alters brain perception.
Rate Of HealingA gradual approach that takes time to identify and address underlying issues.Quick access to deeply-held emotions and beliefs, leading to breakthroughs.

While traditional therapy can work, here are a few situations where KACT is more effective.

  • Trauma And Emotional Blocks: KACT temporarily alters consciousness, creating a safe space to process traumatic experiences that can be difficult to access traditionally.
  • Communication Breakdown: KACT can help a couple that has experienced a communication breakdown, where there is emotional disconnect and unproductive conflict patterns.
  • Non-Vulnerable Individuals: KACT can help lower inhibitions, reduce defensiveness, and create an environment to share thoughts and feelings without judgment.
  • Time-Limited Intervention: In cases where couples don’t want a long, drawn-out therapy session, KACT can quickly bring issues to the forefront and help couples tackle them head-on.

Potential Drawbacks Of KACT

While KACT holds a lot of promise, there are a few potential drawbacks to this method. For starters, KACT hasn’t been studied long enough to understand the long-term effects of such therapy on couples.

The therapeutic environment must be safe, and the therapist must be highly qualified to handle such an intense session. It’s also crucial that the patient doesn’t experience heightened distress after a session.

Finally, KACT may not be suitable for everyone, in some cases, this can mean one partner in the couple. The process is individualistic and the effects of ketamine vary, so it’s crucial to proceed with caution.

Final Thoughts

KACT is an innovative approach to couples therapy and has the potential to resolve issues that may not even surface in traditional therapy. Of course, further research must be conducted to understand its long-term effects and figure out where this approach is not applicable.

Our increased knowledge of KACT and its impact can help revolutionize psychotherapy for couples, allowing people to connect on a more visceral level and tune in to what their partner is asking for without getting judgmental or defensive.

For more information about ketamine-assisted couples ketamine therapy in Los Angeles, call us today for a free consultation and the first step on your journey to a happier marriage.