There is quite the buzz going around lately about psychedelics in the healing space. The benefits of therapy in general are clear, including stress reduction, increase in self-esteem and improvement in depression and/ or anxiety. Studies show that therapy can greatly improve the quality of someone’s life. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 75% of people who enter psychotherapy show some benefit from it.
Traditionally, talk therapy has long been the gold star in treatment. However, as more advances have become available, modern healing modalities have led to newer, experiential forms of therapy.
Enter, psychedelics. Psychedelics are a newly revived option that have allowed therapists to provide a wider range of available treatment options. As a licensed clinical social worker, Melissa Jones is a professional guiding the field, offering ketamine therapy treatments in her practice.
“Over the past 20 years or so, ketamine has proven to be an off-label treatment for certain mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),” Jones shares. “Psychedelic therapy is a new paradigm. It is not about popping a pill; it is about changing one’s mind.”
I work with a lot of clients that suffer from treatment resistant depression as well as PTSD. I believe that being able to incorporate psychotherapy with ketamine will be the most beneficial for these clients. However, ketamine is not for everyone. Clients need to be screened carefully to determine if ketamine is a good fit for them.
The short answer is that it causes growth in different parts of the brain, such as the prefrontal cortex. These areas of the brain are associated with emotional regulation and mental health disorders. I like to describe it to my clients as ketamine allows them to see things that are going on in their lives from a different lens. During the session, most clients feel relaxed, open-minded and less defensive. People often describe it as feeling like they are floating outside their body.
Institutions such as Yale, Stanford, Harvard, UCLA, USC, NYU, the National Institute of Mental Health and the Cleveland Clinic have found that 70% of patients treated with ketamine showed a significant decrease in depressive symptoms; virtually all of these patients failed to respond to traditional forms of treatment, including medications.
There are three possible modes of treatment which may be administered: ketamine via oral lozenges, IV or intra-muscular injection. Each has its own specific benefits depending on the client’s needs.
In between ketamine sessions, a client returns for an integration therapy session. During this time, they’ll revisit their treatment goals and envision the life they want to create. We explore and apply insights gained during the treatment session, while also identifying places of growth and strategies for positive change in one’s life. Clients may start to see things in a more positive light and find it easier to integrate new thought patterns.
As the stigma around using psychedelics decreases, they are slowly moving more into the mainstream. However, there are two big barriers for using other psychedelics, such as psilocybin and MDMA, in a treatment setting — decriminalization and cost. Decriminalization has begun in a few places, like Denver, but cost continues to be a barrier for many people. At this time, I am not aware of any insurance companies that cover this type of treatment.
The training consisted of an intensive, 10-month long program where I was able to experience the effects of ketamine for myself. Through my training, I was able to gain an understanding of how useful ketamine can be in a treatment setting. Because I was able to face negative things during my ketamine session, I’m better able to face them and cope with them outside treatment. I was left with that warm, tranquil, happy feeling afterward as well.
To learn more about how a full treatment is performed and more information, you can visit my website mjpsychotherapy.com.
Melissa Jones brings to psychotherapy her real-world experience as a licensed clinical social worker. While studying for her degree in family studies at the University of Arizona, she worked at Las Familias, an organization providing support for sexually-abused boys, and Child Protective Services in Tucson. Pursuing her master’s in social work at Barry University in Miami, Florida, Jones held internships and professional positions that catered towards physically and mentally handicapped children and at-risk youth. By the time she arrived in Colorado, Jones was well-equipped to counsel students affected by the Columbine High School tragedy in her position with the Jefferson Center for Mental Health. She went on to become a psychotherapist for the Mental Health Corporation of Denver and the coordinator of the Child and Family Program for Developmental Disability Consultants (DDC) in Denver. While at DDC, she transitioned to working with adults, which remains her primary practice. Jones has since started her own private practice, is certified in EMDR and brainspotting, as well as certified as a psychedelic-assisted therapist.
Originally published in Summer + Fall 2023 issue of Colorado YOGA + life.
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