What is Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy?

Ketamine is a powerful, accessible, and broadly effective psychedelic medicine. Used for decades in emergency medicine and by anesthesiologists for safe sedation of patients, Ketamine’s antidepressant properties were first observed in emergency rooms after sedation and then demonstrated in research trials in the early 2000’s.

What were once considered unwanted side effects and strange subjective states became the focus of therapists and mental health treatment providers who saw the potential for Ketamine to be used in the framework of psychedelic-assisted therapy already developed with medicines like MDMA and LSD.

Fast-forward twenty years. Generic ketamine is a widely available, inexpensive, Schedule 3 drug which can be administered in a doctor’s office or prescribed for use at home. It is generally accepted that Ketamine is a rapid-acting antidepressant which creates a neuroplastic window that patients can use to form new mental and behavioral habits. When using generic Ketamine, providers can combine a wide range of dosing strategies and routes of administration, and therapeutic modalities to create unique treatment protocols for a variety of diagnoses, or follow an FDA approved protocol of Ketamine for major depressive disorder. Unlike typical antidepressants, and in keeping with the way most psychedelics function, one or a few ketamine sessions can have a lasting impact on mental health long after the drug is gone from the body. With proper training in the basics of psychedelic-assisted therapy, the specifics of ketamine’s effects, and an ethical and theoretically informed therapeutic approach, the potential clinical applications are numerous.

General Principles

Ketamine-assisted Psychotherapy (KAP):

  • is grounded in the therapist’s existing clinical training, experience, and practice; 
  • assumes all the clinical, ethical, legal covenants that are attendant to the therapist’s scope of practice;  
  • sees the patient in a comprehensive clinical way, including the medical, psychiatric, psychological, and social conditions in which the ketamine work is situated;  
  • is patient-centered, respecting the patient’s autonomy, rights, and personal liberty with regards to their decisions regarding ketamine treatment;   
  • is respectful of wisdom traditions and other care modalities that may lie outside the therapist’s experience or practice;
  • is collaborative with medical and mental health providers, somatic health practitioners, alternative healing practitioners, and spiritually oriented healers;
  • is offered in alignment with the provider’s professional ethics and in a spirit of inclusion, non-violence, affordability, non-discrimination, and transparency;
  • is fully compliant with the MAPS Code of Ethics for MDMA-Assisted Therapy, published in Spring, 2019 and the Guidelines for Therapeutic Ketamine Clinicians published by Kriya Institute.   

Certificate Program Graduate Expectations:

The following are expectations of our Postgraduate Certificate in Ketamine-assisted Psychotherapy graduates.

Please see the 
Certificate Program Overview page for program details and to apply.

Knowledge, Competencies, Experience:

1. Knowledge:

The graduate will:

  • Know how to evaluate and conceptualize a patient’s relationship to ketamine and the relationship between the patient’s experience with ketamine and their presenting problem or concerns;
  • Know how to embed preparation for ketamine experiences and integration of ketamine experiences into the existing course of psychotherapy or treatment plan;
  • Be highly informed regarding ketamine’s effects, risks, and the extremely varied ways it can be used in treatment;
  • Know (in their own therapeutic orientation) how to understand (make meaning of) and work with experiences that may be neutral, positive, challenging, traumatic, and ranging from under- to overwhelming intensity that can occur with ketamine;
  • Identify and respect a range of motivations patients bring to their ketamine experiences while screening and identifying appropriate patients for ketamine administration;
  • Recognize common signs clinical danger that may be related to ketamine treatment, and be prepared to consult with other professionals and provide crisis intervention;
  • Have knowledge of transference reactions, both those commonly seen in non-psychedelic-assisted treatment, and also those unique to psychedelic work;
  • Know how to recognize countertransference reactions, how to use them creatively when possible, and seek consultation when difficulties arise;
  • Have working knowledge of the legal aspects of ketamine administration in the US and all local laws and regulations.
2. Competencies:

The graduate will:

  • Be competent to establish and maintain a therapeutic alliance as well as skillfully manage termination and referral process for ketamine assisted therapy patients;
  • Have competency at recognizing both verbal and non-verbal communication as they relate to KAP;
  • Be competent to maintain boundaries and confidentiality, as required by their licensing board as these relate to KAP;
  • Be competent in understanding and integrating a broad range of treatment modalities as these relate the patient’s care;
  • Be competent in identifying and understanding the range of psychological reactions to psychedelic experiences as these relate to the patient’s care;
  • Be competent to provide psychoeducation regarding ketamine;
  • Demonstrate respect for wisdom traditions (indigenous and alternative treatments) that may be part of the patient’s experience.
  • Possess an ability to access higher meanings, values, and abiding purposes, and to integrate these in living richer and more creative lives, with respect to themselves and their patients.
  • Have competence in maintaining self-care and identifying need for expanded work in self-care domains, with respect to themselves and their patients.
  • Be competent in self-monitoring clinical work at all times.
  • Accurately represent themselves and their professional services, including KAP, to the public in ways that are aligned with all applicable laws and regulations.
  • Provide professional services, including KAP, to the public in ways that are aligned with all applicable laws and regulations.
3. Experience:

The graduate will:

  • Have close clinical consultation with Fluence trainers regarding the KAP they have conducted with volunteers or patients who have undergone ketamine or other non-ordinary states of consciousness (NOSC) experiences;
  • Have thorough consultation with Fluence trainers regarding their own NOSC work in any form, setting, and origin.