Psychedelic Therapy 101: Navigating Your Ketamine Experience
As you approach your first Mindbloom visit, you may be asking yourself:
- “What will happen during my first Mindbloom session?”
- "After I take the medicine, what do I do?"
- “What should I think about?”
- “Will I be talking with my clinician during my treatment?”
In this article, we’ll cover exactly what to expect heading into your first treatment and how the “TLO” mantra will help you navigate the experience.
What you should know going into your first treatment
In our article, we talked about setting intentions before treatment. Even with your thoughtful focus on intentions, psychedelics can still unlock unexpected subconscious material. That’s why we ask our clients to set intentions, not an agenda, and cultivate a positive and open mindset heading into treatment. Here are some more important points to keep in mind for your first experience:
You’re entering uncharted territory
You’ll work with your clinician to find an appropriate therapeutic dose during your first couple of sessions. Even with a conservative initial dose, the medicine (ketamine) causes changes in your physical and mental perception and allows you to explore sometimes hidden parts of your consciousness. Read our article, “How will I feel during treatment,” if you want to learn more.
You’re here to learn
You’re doing this to learn and gain insights into your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Approach the experience with an attitude of curiosity and exploration. We advise clients to use their session to collect experiences that you can reflect upon and start to decode while journaling for integration after your session, and in the days and weeks that follow.
If you encounter anything during your exploration that causes fear, sadness, anger or any other uncomfortable emotion, remember that anything that is coming up in your mind is there not to harm you, but to enlighten you. Treat these ‘guardians of the threshold’ with openness and curiosity – they’re not monsters, they’re teachers. Have compassion for the fact that they have carried the burden of these difficult emotions for so long, and thank them for bringing them into the light of your awareness for healing and integration.
Your Mindbloom Guide and a professional clinician are there to support you throughout your journey. Before and after your initial session, your Guide and clinician will ensure your medication dosage is right, and help you work with your set intentions. During treatment, you’ll be comfortable in your own at-home setting, with an eye mask and hand-selected meditations and music for your journey. Your Peer Treatment Monitor (PTM) —a loved one or close friend— is with you during your sessions to check in on your safety and comfort.
How to navigate your experience
Even if you’re familiar with psychedelics, you may feel uneasy or excited for your first Mindbloom session. Don’t worry - your Guide will help you prepare both your intentions and expectations during your initial video consultation and at the start of your Mindbloom session.
In your preparation call before taking the medicine, your Guide will help you prime your mind for the experience. Immediately after, you’ll use journaling to help develop and solidify your insights and new perspectives and then debrief your session with your Guide and clinician. This helps to ensure your safety, provides support with integration, and helps make a suitable plan for treatment moving forward. Your guide is also available for unlimited text support throughout the journey.
Your Mindbloom psychedelic therapy sessions are designed to facilitate inner exploration, where you’ll dive into your own mind. The goal isn’t to focus on anything specific, but to embrace what comes up.
Your Guide and clinician work very closely as a team to support you every step of the way. In addition to unlimited text support, you will have 1:1 support with your Guide, meeting virtually both before and after your first and second treatment session. This includes a deep dive integration session following the second treatment. You'll receive a Wrap-up call at the end of your journey, which is a space to reflect on and integrate The Basics Program with your Guide.
Throughout your journey, we encourage you to practice a classic psychedelic mantra that will help guide you: trust, let go, be open.
TLO - Trust, Let Go, Be Open
“Trust, Let go, be Open” or TLO, is a mantra that is widely used in psychedelic therapy. From pioneers such as Stan Grof and Betty Eisner to today’s sessions at Johns Hopkins and NYU, the TLO mantra helps voyagers get the most out of their experiences.
Trust that you've been prepared by expert Clinicians to dive deep into the issues that are holding you back from living your best life, without compromising your physical or psychological well-being. Trust that the medicine will serve its purpose.
Trust your own Inner Healing Intelligence, and trust that you have the skills and natural abilities to achieve profound insights and healing from this experience.
Letting go is crucial to psychedelic therapy. Let go of expectations about what should or shouldn’t happen to your mind or body. Let go of concerns and judgments, as well as the inevitable urge to control the experience. Whatever happens, happens – let it unfold. Your mind will give you what you need.
If the experience is challenging, confront whatever frightens you. Betty Eisner, a psychedelic therapy pioneer, explains:
Then there was the most important information for a therapeutic session, the suggestion that the subject should allow IT (whatever) to happen… “Move toward the problem!” In other words, one should go into the fire, toward the dragon, into the vortex, toward the void, toward that which is frightening. In a psychedelic session (as in life?), it is confronting the seemingly life-threatening situation that allows the problem to be solved and/or transcended… Life – or the deep unconscious – knows better than we do.
Be open and curious about whatever comes along in your journey. Your experience may be centered on your intentions – or it may not, and that’s okay. You may experience epiphanies or breakthroughs during your first experience, but don't be disappointed if they don't come right away. Benefits will compound over each session.
Be open to the events that are unfolding, whether profound or confusing, pleasant or challenging--there will be plenty of time to process and make sense of things later, if they don’t make sense right away. Stay open to the fundamental truth that everything happening is completely and utterly OK.
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 the National Suicide Prevention Line at +1 (800) 273-8255, call 911, or go to the nearest emergency room.
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