What a Therapist Should Be Aware Of As Your Client Goes Through Ketamine Therapy

Isha Method

What a Therapist Should Be Aware Of As Your Client Goes Through Ketamine Therapy

Written by

Isha Team


November 15, 2023


November 14, 2023


In recent years, the mental health field has witnessed the emergence of innovative treatment methods, one of which is ketamine therapy. Originally known for its use as an anesthetic in medical settings, ketamine has now gained attention as a potential treatment for various mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This novel approach has opened new avenues for therapeutic intervention, offering hope to individuals for whom traditional treatments have been ineffective.

As therapists, our role in supporting clients through this journey is paramount. Ketamine therapy is not just about the administration of a drug; it's about navigating through the unique psychological landscapes it opens up. This requires us to understand not only the pharmacological aspects of ketamine but also the profound emotional and cognitive experiences our clients may encounter. We must be equipped to guide them through these experiences, helping them integrate new insights into their therapeutic process.

Understanding the nuances of ketamine therapy is crucial for any therapist whose client is undergoing or considering this treatment. The process is multifaceted, involving preparation, the experience itself, and the integration of insights gained during the sessions. Each stage requires a different set of skills and an in-depth understanding of how ketamine can affect the mind and emotions.

The aim of this blog post is to provide therapists with a comprehensive understanding of ketamine therapy. We will explore what makes this treatment different, the potential it holds, and how therapists can effectively support their clients through this transformative process. By bridging the gap between traditional therapy and this innovative treatment, we can offer our clients a more holistic approach to healing and personal growth.

Understanding Ketamine Therapy:

Ketamine therapy represents a significant departure from conventional mental health treatments, offering new hope but also presenting unique challenges and considerations. To effectively support clients undergoing this therapy, therapists must first have a thorough understanding of what ketamine therapy entails and how it differs from traditional treatments.

1. The Basics of Ketamine Treatment:

Ketamine was initially developed and approved for use as an anesthetic. However, in controlled therapeutic settings, it is now being used to treat a range of mental health disorders, particularly treatment-resistant depression, anxiety, and PTSD. The treatment typically involves a series of sessions, where ketamine is administered in lower doses than used in anesthesia, either intravenously, intramuscularly, intranasally, or orally.

2. Mechanism of Action:

Unlike traditional antidepressants that target neurotransmitters like serotonin, ketamine acts primarily on the NMDA receptors in the brain. This action helps to create new neural pathways, potentially 'resetting' brain function in areas affected by mental health conditions. The speed at which ketamine can produce noticeable changes is one of its most significant advantages, with some patients experiencing improvement in symptoms within hours or days, as opposed to weeks or months with conventional antidepressants.

3. Psychological Effects:

Ketamine can induce a unique state of altered consciousness, which some describe as dissociative experiences. These experiences can range from a heightened sense of clarity to more profound, almost dream-like states. This altered state is thought to be a key component in its effectiveness, as it can provide patients with new perspectives on entrenched mental patterns and facilitate a deeper level of introspection and emotional release.

4. Immediate and Long-Term Effects:

The immediate effects of a ketamine session can include both euphoria and disorientation, but these typically subside shortly after the treatment. The more significant therapeutic effects, such as reduced symptoms of depression or anxiety, can be observed in the days and weeks following treatment. It's important to note that the long-term effects of ketamine therapy are still being studied, and ongoing therapy sessions may be necessary for sustained results. 

Key Considerations for Therapists:

As therapists, being aware of the nuances of ketamine therapy is crucial for providing effective and empathetic support to clients. Here are some key considerations to keep in mind:

1. Safety and Suitability:

  • Assessing Client Suitability: Not every client is a suitable candidate for ketamine therapy. It’s vital to assess factors like medical history, mental health conditions, and potential risk factors  before recommending this treatment.
  • Collaboration with Medical Professionals: Therapists should work closely with the medical professionals administering ketamine. This collaboration ensures a unified approach to the client’s well-being and helps in monitoring the treatment’s impact.

2. Preparation and Expectation Setting:

  • Educating the Client: Clients should be thoroughly informed about what ketamine therapy involves, its potential benefits, and risks. Understanding the treatment process can help alleviate anxiety and set realistic expectations.
  • Managing Expectations: It's important to emphasize that ketamine therapy is a tool, not a cure. The therapeutic process still requires work and commitment from the client, both during and after the treatment.

3. Support During the Process:

  • Availability for Check-Ins: Clients may experience intense emotions or revelations during ketamine therapy. Therapists should be prepared to offer more frequent check-ins or support sessions to help them navigate these experiences.
  • Handling Emotional Responses: Ketamine can trigger a range of emotional responses. Being equipped to help clients process these experiences, whether they are moments of clarity or confusion, is essential.

4. Integrating Ketamine Experiences into Therapy:

  • Processing Ketamine Sessions: Assisting clients in making sense of their experiences during ketamine sessions is key. This may involve exploring and interpreting the thoughts, emotions, and insights that arise.
  • Utilizing Insights for Therapeutic Progress: Encourage clients to explore and integrate the insights gained from their ketamine experiences into their ongoing therapy. This can foster deeper personal growth and healing.

5. Ethical and Legal Considerations:

  • Staying Informed: Therapists should be aware of the evolving legal status and ethical considerations surrounding ketamine therapy. This includes understanding the regulations and guidelines in their region.
  • Maintaining Confidentiality and Professionalism: Given the sensitive and sometimes intense nature of the experiences clients may share, it is crucial to maintain the highest standards of confidentiality and professional ethics.

6. Aftercare and Follow-up:

  • Long-term Support: Post-treatment support is crucial. This can include regular therapy sessions to help maintain and build upon the gains achieved during ketamine therapy.
  • Monitoring for Long-term Effects: Continuous monitoring and support can help in identifying any long-term effects of ketamine therapy, whether positive or adverse, and adjusting treatment plans accordingly.


Ketamine therapy, with its novel approach and rapid effects, represents a significant advancement in the treatment of certain mental health conditions. For therapists, understanding and navigating this therapy can be as challenging as it is rewarding. As we conclude, it’s important to reflect on the transformative potential of this treatment and the crucial role therapists play in it.

The journey through ketamine therapy is not a solitary one for clients. It involves a collaborative effort where therapists play a pivotal role in ensuring the safety, efficacy, and integration of this treatment into the broader therapeutic process. By staying informed, empathetic, and supportive, therapists can help clients harness the full potential of ketamine therapy.

This involves a commitment to continuous learning, as the field of psychedelic-assisted therapy is rapidly evolving. Staying abreast of the latest research, understanding the legal and ethical frameworks, and developing skills to support clients through these unique experiences are all vital aspects of a therapist's role.

Moreover, therapists should remember the importance of integrating the insights and breakthroughs from ketamine therapy into the ongoing therapeutic journey. This process is not just about managing symptoms but fostering a deeper understanding of the self and facilitating long-term healing and personal growth.

In essence, ketamine therapy offers a unique opportunity for clients to explore and address deep-seated emotional and psychological issues. For therapists, it is a chance to guide and support clients through this profound journey, helping them to achieve lasting change and a greater sense of well-being.

As we embrace these new frontiers in mental health treatment, let us do so with the knowledge, empathy, and ethical commitment that are the hallmarks of effective therapeutic practice. In doing so, we can ensure that our clients receive not only the most advanced treatments available but also the compassionate and comprehensive care they deserve.

Book a call with Dr. Shimada to learn more about ketamine therapy. 

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