As you approach your first session in any psychedelic therapy program, a lot of questions, comments, and concerns can arise: what will happen, how does it work, do other people feel like this the first time? The list can be vast.
And it’s completely normal to feel this way! These are big and beautiful investments in yourself and your health, and this decision deserves a level of respect, concern, and seriousness. The more you commit to the process, the more the process will give you in return.
This post serves as an overview of many of the common categories of questions we receive as someone is preparing to begin their Mindbloom journey:
- How does the first session / subsequent sessions work?
- What does the experience feel like?
- Was this a “typical” session?
How does the first Session work?
At this stage in the process, you should have already had your initial consultation with your Clinician, been introduced to your Guide, have your Bloombox™, and your medication has arrived or is on its way to your home. The first session has been booked, is on your calendar, and you’re in the preparation process now.
The sessions all follow a similar structure, however the first session does have some unique features to it to set you up for success throughout the rest of your program.
Guide preparation call - 30 minutes
To begin your session, you will join a Zoom call with your Guide to make sure everything is in place for a comfortable journey. They will ensure that your Peer Treatment Monitor (PTM) is present and aware of their role, that you have your medication and supplies, they will take core vitals like heart rate and blood pressure, and help you clarify and refine your intention for the session.
This process typically takes between 20-30 minutes, and is built into the timing of your first session. Once this is complete, you will end the call, ready to begin your session at your own pace.
Session start - 10 minutes
Once you’re off the call with your Guide, you are able to start. Take time to:
- Set up your music playlist and listening devices
- Take a final trip to the washroom
- Turn off device notifications, and remove any other distractions from the room
- Get comfortable
- Tell your PTM that you will begin
You will take your medication according to your Guide’s instructions, and start your playlist. After 7 minutes, you can spit out your medicine, put your eye mask on, and immerse yourself in the experience.
Session experience - 1 hour
The session experience is different for everyone —we’ll touch on this more below. It typically lasts around 60 minutes. Some sessions may be shorter, and others a bit longer. If you need any assistance during this time, like walking to the bathroom or a comforting presence, you can ask your PTM.
Return / journaling - 30 minutes
Once the session is complete, you will still be under the effects of the medicine. Take some time to slowly reconnect with your body, your room, and your waking state.
Be gentle with yourself initially and listen to your body as some physical effects may linger longer than an hour. If you experience any dizziness, difficulty walking, lightheadedness, or nausea, lay back down or sit still for a bit longer. This should pass shortly.
A light snack, some water, and intentional breathing can help ensure a smooth “landing.” At this time, it is very helpful to take some notes in your journal about the nature of the experience. Write down any major themes or insights that were present, as memories of the ketamine experience can fade quite quickly.
Post-session Guide call - 30 minutes
As this is your first session, once your journaling is complete, you will return to a quick call with your Guide so that they can check in on you and your experience.
They will ask you to take your vitals, and also ask about the experience itself. If you have any questions, now is a wonderful time to bring them up.
Clinical follow-up - 30 minutes
In the days after your session, you will also have a clinical follow-up with your Mindbloom Clinician to further explore your experience.
Your clinician will:
- Ask about the medicine and the experience
- Make a clinical assessment
- Finalize your dosage for the program
- Submit your new prescription, which may increase, decrease, or stay the same.
After this, you will wrap up the call and have the rest of the day to yourself!
Rest & recovery
While the effects of the medicine may still be mildly present, it’s helpful to use the rest of the day after your first session for rest and recovery.
Taking a walk, spending time in nature, taking a warm shower, or continuing to journal or reflect on your experience are all helpful ways to rest and integrate. You cannot drive or operate machinery at this time, so factor that into your planning. It’s also wise not to make any major life decisions during this time, it’s best to sleep on it for a day or two before taking any action.
At this point, you have completed your first session of your Mindbloom experience! You have taken a bold first step towards your own healing and wholeness. Take some time to congratulate yourself, to thank yourself and extend some gratitude for the steps you have taken here. They are filled with love, compassion, and courage — it’s worth recognizing that.
Note: The times above are estimated. You can expect the first session to last around two hours.
What Does the Experience Feel Like?
Many clients often ask what they might experience during their first session. As always, it’s difficult to provide a direct answer to this, as the nature of the experience is different for everyone based on what they need and who they are.
We have several pieces available that explore the nature of ketamine, the psychedelic experience, visions/visuals, and intentional dissociation. These provide an excellent coverage of the classic hallmarks of the ketamine experience, and the psychedelic experience.
A few notes on the first session and the experiences that may arise.
Mindbloom clinicians prescribe a weight-based, sub-anesthetic ketamine dose for the initial treatment. This dose is typically something in the mild to moderate range of the dosing spectrum for the majority of clients.
For this process, it’s much better to build momentum and confidence than to jump into the deep end immediately. This is to ensure safety, and a gentle ease into an experience which can be emotionally challenging for some.
Effects may be pronounced, but mild. Feelings of lightness, introspection, mild dissociation, euphoria, or "presence" in the body are common.
Conscious vs. subconscious effects
Psychedelic therapy works on the mind and the body. Sometimes the work does not make its way into conscious awareness. It can feel like nothing happened, however this is because the real work was unfolding in your subconscious and at the level of your body.
If anything, take this time to rest, relax, and come into deep awareness of your mind and body. You can always bring this up to your Guide after the session or with your clinician during your follow up appointment.
Novel states of being
You may also have novel experiences that you have not encountered before. Dissociation, out-of-body experiences, visions/visuals, and complex emotions are all possible within this experience. It depends on what you need for your healing at that time. If these do occur, simply stay with your breath, know that you are safe and supported, and express gratitude for the opportunity to heal.
Your first session may have very mild or very pronounced physical sensations, all of this is okay. You may feel your body very directly, or you may not feel your body at all.
What’s most important is to always come back to your T.L.O. framework: “Trust” the experience, “Let Go” of expectations, and “Be Open” to the healing the experience is giving you.
What Does a “Typical” Session Look Like?
The truth is, there’s no such thing as a “typical” or “normal” session. What happens in your experience is normal for you. It’s what was needed and what was necessary to take continued steps towards your healing and wholeness.
On the surface, it generally looks like you are lying down for a nap on your bed or couch for an hour. Psychedelic medicine is often an introspective experience, there’s not much to look at going on at the surface level. The first sessions tend to be a little lighter of an experience for a majority of clients with the weight based initial dose.. However, many individuals —particularly those working with ketamine for the first time— have significant or powerful experiences in the first session.
When questions like “Did I do this right?” or “Was this a normal experience?” arise, use this for your own healing and growth. If you did your best, you did it right. This is how the experience wanted to happen for you, so it was normal. Notice how quick we are to compare ourselves and our experiences, always wondering if we did it well enough, if we made a mistake somewhere along the way.
Begin to notice where those questions come from. Why do you think you did it wrong? Why do you think your experience isn’t normal? Investigating those questions and their origins, will help you along the way. Rest assured that you are doing an amazing job, that your healing process will unfold exactly as it needs to, and that you have taken another significant step along this path.
The healing process is rarely linear. It surfaces many complex and nuanced emotions, and brings our own concerns and confusions to the surface for us to address.
You are embarking on an amazing journey, and the fact that you’ve read this far shows how committed you are to your own process and your own healing. That intention and commitment will carry you far.
You have read about how the first session runs, what feelings might arise, and what a “normal” session is like. Now go experience it for yourself, with your head held high and your heart open. Enjoy!
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This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. If you are in a life-threatening situation, call, text, or chat the National Suicide Prevention Line at 988 or +1 (800) 273-8255, call 911, or go to the nearest emergency room.
Important FDA Safety Information
Ketamine is not FDA-approved for the treatment of depression or anxiety. Learn more about off-label uses here.
Side effects of ketamine treatment may include: altered sense of time, anxiety, blurred vision, diminished ability to see/hear/feel, dry mouth, elevated blood pressure or heart rate, elevated intraocular or intracranial pressure, excitability, loss of appetite, mental confusion, nausea/vomiting, nystagmus (rapid eye movements), restlessness, slurred speech, synesthesia (a mingling of the senses).
Do not proceed with ketamine treatment if any of the following apply to you:
- Allergic to ketamine
- Symptoms of psychosis or mania
- Uncontrolled high blood pressure
- CHF or other serious heart problem
- Severe breathing problem
- History of elevated intraocular or intracranial pressure
- History of hyperthyroidism
- Other serious medical illness
- Pregnant, nursing, or trying to become pregnant
Ketamine has been reported to produce issues including, but not limited to, those listed below. However, lasting adverse side-effects are rare when medical protocols are carefully followed.
While ketamine has not been shown to be physically addictive, it has been shown to cause moderate psychological dependency in some recreational users.
- In rare cases, frequent, heavy users have reported increased frequency of urination, urinary incontinence, pain urinating, passing blood in the urine, or reduced bladder size
- Ketamine may worsen problems in people with schizophrenia, severe personality disorders, or other serious mental disorders.
- Users with a personal or family history of psychosis should be cautious using any psychoactive substance, including ketamine, and discuss potential risks with your MindBloom® clinician before proceeding with treatment.
- The dissociative effects of ketamine may increase patient vulnerability and the risk of accidents.
To promote positive outcomes and ensure safety, follow these ketamine treatment guidelines:
- Do not operate a vehicle (e.g., car, motorcycle, bicycle) or heavy machinery following treatment until you’ve had a full night of sleep
- Refrain from taking benzodiazepines or stimulants for 24 hours prior to treatment
- Continue to take antihypertensive medication as prescribed
- Avoid hangovers or alcohol intake
- Refrain from consuming solid foods within 3 hours prior to treatment and liquids within 1 hour prior to treatment
- Ketamine treatment should never be conducted without a monitor present to ensure your safety