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Sometimes, using one treatment method for a mental health condition doesn’t always offer the outcome you hoped for. In some cases, you may have stopped taking medicine or started using another treatment before you were supposed to. In others, a particular medication or therapy didn’t work. Ultimately, you and your healthcare provider may decide on combined treatment – in this case, ketamine and psychotherapy.

What is Psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy is sometimes called talk therapy. It’s a generic term for dealing with mental health problems by talking with a mental health specialist or another healthcare provider. These sessions typically focus on conditions and moods, feelings, thoughts, and how you behave in each situation. Psychotherapy provides you with the skills to regain control of your life and how to respond healthily when faced with a distressing challenge.

There are many kinds of psychotherapy, each with a different approach, but what’s right for you may not be suitable for someone else. It’s a kind of therapy that is sometimes combined with medicine like ketamine for continual and more positive outcomes.

What is Ketamine?

Ketamine is a medicine that was initially used as a human anesthetic and, later, as an animal anesthetic. It’s a powerful sedative that can quickly render a person or animal unconscious before a medical procedure. Ketamine was field-tested on wounded U.S. combat troops fighting in Vietnam during the 1960s. Still, people soon discovered it possessed other medicinal benefits – specifically, treating symptoms of depression, other mental health conditions, and even chronic pain.

Why is Ketamine Unique?

No one knows for sure why ketamine works as well as it does, but researchers are learning more every day. According to Gerard Sanacora, MD, Ph.D., of Yale Medicine, there may be a few reasons why ketamine is unique compared to other medications used to treat depression or other mental illnesses. First, it works quickly, frequently in a few hours. Secondly, the medicine seems to provide relief for people who never benefited from what Dr. Sanacora called classical antidepressant medications. 

What Are the Risks of Ketamine Therapy?

Ketamine’s a viable option for reducing symptoms of treatment-resistant depression, for instance, but many healthcare providers caution that it’s not a cure-all or magic bullet. Like other kinds of medicine, it presents some risks to be aware of. According to BWell Health Promotion and Brown University, ketamine creates a temporary, euphoric feeling and can rob someone of their ability to feel physical pain. It can make you agitated in certain instances, interfere with your ability to drive, increase your blood pressure, and make it hard to breathe for short periods.

Which to Choose? Single or Repeated Sessions of Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy?

Depending on your health, symptoms, and diagnosis, your healthcare provider may recommend a single session or multiple sessions of ketamine-assisted therapy. Today’s logic is that the benefits of traditional psychotherapy can be significantly enhanced when combined with medicine like ketamine. Still, positive outcomes are customarily experienced when a patient undergoes multiple treatment sessions. Ketamine-assisted psychotherapy may benefit any of the following:

  • Major depression disorder. This happens when you’re not interested in doing things that were once enjoyable, and you feel hopeless or have low moods. Symptoms lasting more than two weeks may lead to a depression diagnosis.
  • Dysthymia is a mood disorder that may last for at least a couple of years and is characterized by a chronic, low-grade, unhappy, or irritable mood.
  • Bipolar disorder features depression with episodes of mania or heightened mood.
  • A mood disorder linked to another health condition, like cancer, wounds, infections, or chronic illnesses, can lead to depression symptoms.
  • A substance-induced mood disorder can sometimes be treated with one or more sessions of ketamine-assisted psychotherapy. This is mainly triggered by alcoholism, drug abuse, exposure to toxins, medicine, or another kind of treatment.
  • Generalized anxiety disorder, which shows itself through an excessive display of anxiety or worry for six months or more, and disruptions to daily life.
  • Panic disorder. This anxiety disorder features recurring unforeseen panic attacks and intense fear, which normally peaks within a few minutes.
  • You also could have a specific phobia-related disorder, like an irrational fear of a place, situation, or even an insect or animal.

The kind of therapy you undergo and how often is your decision. It may be most impactful if you know about your condition before choosing single or repeated sessions of ketamine-assisted psychotherapy.

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