As evidence continues to emerge in support of ketamine treatment as a rapid and effective treatment for a variety of psychiatric disorders, more and more physicians and patients are turning to therapeutic ketamine to improve mental well-being and alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety.
If you’re considering ketamine therapy for your own healing, it’s important to remember that while the healing potential of the drug alone is effective, what you do before and after your session are equally important components of the experience.
Properly preparing before your session and thoughtfully assimilating new insights and lessons into your life following the experience are vital steps in the process and are crucial for facilitating long-lasting positive change and growth.
The following outlines the steps you can take before and after your session to ensure you get the most out of your at-home ketamine experience.
Preparing for Your Session: The Importance of “Set” and “Setting”
“Set and setting” is an expression first coined in the 1960s by Harvard psychologist Timothy Leary. The concept of “set and setting” describes the idea that psychedelic experiences are powerfully influenced by the internal and external environments in which they take place, a theory which is widely agreed upon in psychedelic medicine and research today.
Set - short for mindset - refers to the patient’s attitudes and mental state going into the experience, while setting refers to the physical environment in which the psychedelic experience takes place.
A patient’s experience during a ketamine session will be profoundly influenced by both their inner world of thoughts, emotions, attitudes, fears, and expectations (set) and by the physical space in which the session occurs (setting), so purposeful cultivation of these two components is an essential part of the therapeutic process.
Cultivating Your Ideal Set
The outcomes of your ketamine treatment will largely be dependent upon your mood, attitude, and expectations before the experience.
When you enter the session with a mindset that is calm, relaxed, grounded, curious, open, and trusting, you’re increasing the likelihood that the medicine’s full transformational healing potential will be reached.
Let’s discuss some actions you can take prior to your session to create an optimal frame of mind with which to enter the experience.
Consider some gentle movement prior to your session- taking a walk outside, or engaging in some light yoga or stretching will help you feel more grounded, present, and relaxed.
We also recommend meditating or engaging in breathwork exercises before your session. Wondermed offers a complimentary Breathwrk subscription to every patient
Meditation helps to calm any racing thoughts, soothe any turbulent emotions, ground your attention and focus, and prepare your mind to be receptive to the emotions, insights, and revelations that may surface during the experience.
Setting Intention for Your Ketamine Session
Another important step for cultivating the optimal set for your session is setting intentions.
An intention is focus that you’d like to take into your session, and often looks like a short mantra describing what you’re hoping to learn or gain from the experience.
For example, your intention might be “Help me become more accepting of myself” or “Show me what I need to heal.” Your intentions are unique and personal to you, and every patient will have different aims, goals, and hopes throughout their therapeutic journey.
Write Your Intention Down
Before your session, write down or verbalize your intention or intentions - what you hope to feel, understand, or reconcile during your experience.
These intentions are not an expectation, requirement, or attempt to control your experience, but instead serve as a guide and a way to keep you connected to and aligned with what you hope to get out of the session.
To properly set intentions, reflect on what brought you to the session, and what changes you hope to experience in your life.
Questions to Guide Your Intention Setting
If you’re struggling to figure out what intention might be right for you as you approach a session, you can try asking yourself the following questions:
- What’s holding me back in my life?
- What would I like to change about my life?
- What am I afraid of?
- Where does this fear come from and how does it impact me?
- What does a joyful life look like for me?
Intentions should be clear and specific and should focus on positive transformation and growth. Writing out these intentions prior to the session is an important step in solidifying this framework that will guide the experience and journey and promote maximum therapeutic growth and healing.
Finally, before your session, try to release and surrender any preconceived notions, expectations, and fears you may hold. Trust the process, and be open and accepting to whatever emotions and sensations you encounter during your experience.
Cultivating Your Ideal Setting
The physical space you occupy during a therapeutic ketamine session is another important factor that can influence your experience.
The ideal setting is a space where you feel relaxed and safe. We recommend conducting your session in a clean, quiet room with limited distractions and a comfortable couch, bed, or chair for you to lie on. Wear soft, comfortable clothing, and consider dimming the lights, if it feels right.
Before your session begins, gather any materials you might need - we recommend:
- A soft blanket or pillow
- A glass of water
- Your Wondermed eye mask
- A journal and favorite pen
- Headphones to listen to calming music (Wondermed offers soundscapes designed specifically for the experience, or you can use a meditative playlist of your own).
After Your Session: Integration
For patients seeking healing through ketamine treatment therapy, the experience of the session itself can be powerful and transformative. However, the days and weeks that follow this experience are where most of the real healing will take place.
Ketamine treatment can lead patients to discover lessons, wisdom, and newfound perspectives on themselves and on the world. Taking the time to process and reflect on the experience is an essential step in incorporating these new insights and revelations into everyday life to make lasting positive changes in thoughts, behaviors, and emotions.
Integration refers to the process of reflecting on and understanding your experience, identifying key insights, and taking purposeful action.
Reflect on Your Ketamine Experience
To begin the integration process, we recommend reflecting on your experience through journaling a few hours after your session.
Try to write down everything anything you remember about what you saw and how you felt, how you feel currently, and any preliminary insights or takeaways you have from your session.
Don’t worry about fully unpacking or making sense of your experience right away, just let your thoughts flow freely and write whatever comes to your mind or feels important to you.
Continue to Reflect and Journal After Your Ketamine Experience for Deeper Insights
Over the next few days, we suggest returning to what you first wrote following your session and see if any new insights come to you.
Consider continuing to journal regularly - journaling can help you explore your experience more deeply, better understand the emotions, thoughts, and behaviors you experience daily, and gain a more profound understanding of the insights and perspectives you’ve taken away from your ketamine sessions.
Leveraging Increased Neuroplasticity from Ketamine
One of the most powerful effects of ketamine lies in its ability to enhance neuroplasticity, making your brain more adaptable, flexible, and open to change in the days that follow your session.
This window of increased neuroplasticity induced by ketamine is an optimal state for facilitating positive cognitive restructuring and behavioral change. Thus, an important final step in your integration work is taking actionable steps towards positive growth and change.
You can take advantage of this window by adopting new habits, behaviors, and thought patterns, based on insights gained from reflecting on your session.
Here are some ideas of actions you might try to implement into your life:
- 10 minutes of daily meditation or breathwork
- Daily walk outdoors
- Adding positive, self-loving affirmations to your morning routine
- Writing a list of things you’re grateful for before bed each night
Like the rest of your journey towards healing, the integration practices you choose are unique and specific to you.
Remember to be patient and compassionate with yourself. Your healing journey won’t always be easy or linear. Embrace the process, remain hopeful, and be kind to yourself always.
Ready to discover a new way to heal your anxiety?
Check your eligibility to see if ketamine treatment is right for you.