What Do I Do After My First Ketamine Therapy Session?
Congratulations on completing your first, or one of your healing sessions. The window of time after your session is a highly conducive opportunity for continued healing, integration, and growth to occur. It’s natural to want to use this time wisely, and get the most out of your neuroplastic integration window. This piece explores how to approach the window of time after your latest ketamine treatment session.
What to do Directly After / Day-of Session
If you have just completed a session, the rest of the day should be oriented around rest and recovery.
There are significant experiences, emotions, and insights that can arise after a session. Though it can be tempting to immediately get to work, or take courageous action, it’s important to give your mind and body the time to properly rest and recover. Consider this a break after a good day of work and self-care.
Also, keep in mind the medical and clinical requirements after a session:
- Do not operate heavy machinery or drive a car.
- Do not consume alcohol or other substances.
- Do not make major life decisions and act on them, as you are still under the effects of the medicine.
Beyond the basics however, this is a wonderful opportunity to practice taking care of yourself. Reward yourself with space, silence, and stillness. Even if it feels like nothing happened, there are still many unfolding events under the surface in your body and your subconscious that need continued space to deeply root themselves.
Taking some time to journal about your experience is a powerful practice. Although you may not be able to fully articulate the experience, as they tend to be indescribable, writing about your current mental, physical, and emotional state helps this process.
Doing activities that you enjoy, such as reading a book, speaking with a loved one, or taking a walk or a bath, are all generative to this process and assist your healing journey and the recovery process. If you feel called to eat, rehydrating yourself and eating whole, nourishing foods is a helpful step in this rest process.
In the day after your session, find space, stillness, and silence. Let the medicine continue to work, let the lessons and experiences settle down, so that you can come back strong and composed in the days that follow for your remaining integration work.
What to do During the Integration Period
The integration period is where the real healing happens. This is when you begin to materialize the insights, experiences, and emotions you had during your session in the world and in your life directly.
You can think of the session itself as a glimpse of what is possible. The actions that you want to take, the emotional states you can experience, the beauty that is available all around you. It provides the embodied recognition that this is all possible, but it doesn’t yet make it real in your life. Integration is the process of acting on these experiences and grounding them in your day to day life and behaviors.
There are a few helpful ways to approach your integration window.
Clarify the experience
Continued journaling, meditation, or self-reflection on the experience will help you clarify and crystallize the important parts of your experience. This will help you create an overview of action steps, behavioral changes, or areas to focus on during the integration period.
Some integration actions can be quick and straightforward, like cleaning your living space. Others can be more ambiguous or larger undertakings, such as big health changes, important conversations, or rethinking your future life plans.
It’s helpful to start small, and build momentum. Take care of the small, actionable steps first, so you can immediately see the fruits of your labor and build personal confidence. You can then carry this feeling with you as you take on some of the bigger integration tasks.
Be Gentle With Yourself
The sessions themselves are only one aspect of your healing journey, and the healing process will continue in the days, weeks, and months that follow. If you miss a day or two, or if you find yourself tired or challenged in any way, this is okay. It is part of the process. Be gentle with yourself, maintain your self-care habits and normal routines, and as mentioned before, start small, do what you can in the moment, and build momentum over time.
Join an Integration Circle
As part of your Mindbloom journey, you have the opportunity to join integration circles. To discuss your experiences and your process with a trained Guide, and to learn and grow from the wisdom and experiences of other clients. Being witnessed in your process, and joining into community are powerful tools to assist your integration period.
Use Your Support
Working with a therapist, or discussing what arises with your Guide/Clinician, are resources you have available to help understand the nature of your experience and create an integration plan for yourself. You are not alone in this process, and have support available, use it.
The important point with your integration period is that integration is an ongoing process. There is no deadline for your integration work. You are not judged on it afterwards. These are steps you are taking for yourself, for your life, and for your future. If you have the motivation to take action, that’s wonderful, plan it out and act on it. If your body is asking for continued rest and recovery, that’s wonderful as well, honor it.
How to Maximize the Neuroplastic Window
The 7-10 days after a treatment session open up your neuroplastic window — where your brain and neurobiology are in a more flexible, open, and suggestible state. This is a very powerful window for behavioral change, working on your self-image, or trying things you may have previously been resistant to.
As your mind is more open to new behavior patterns, it’s very powerful to begin building new habits if that was something that came up in your session. Your mind is more receptive to these new developments, and the neuroplastic window will help them settle in more deeply, increasing the likelihood they stick and endure once the neuroplastic window has passed.
With a more open and suggestible state, it is helpful to continue exploring your session, your emotions, and your life in general. With care and compassion, you can reflect on challenging areas with more levity and grace, which can help surface key insights, or clarify next steps to be taken. As you can see, continued reflection is a helpful component of maximizing your neuroplastic window.
Overall, if you’d like to work with the medicine and the opportunity it provides, manage your energy throughout this time. Use this neurobiological window as a catalyst to take clear, decisive action on new habit formation, on new ways of relating to people, and on designing the life that you want for yourself.
Understanding the Healing Process
The healing process is not linear. Some days may be slower or more challenging than others. Some days may be filled with motivation and energy. All of this is normal and okay. Your healing process will be unique to you, your life circumstances, and what you need most at this time.
You may find that more challenging emotions arise even outside of the sessions, this is your mind and body’s way of letting go of pent up or repressed emotions or experiences. If this happens, come back to your foundations of reflection and self-care. Be an ally to your own healing process. Give it space, compassion, and love.
Some integration actions may arise that seem very large or overwhelming, such as career changes or significant relationship shifts. You don’t need to tackle everything at once. Break them down into smaller actions, digestible chunks, and address each one when you have the energy and capacity to do so.
It’s very easy to begin comparing yourself to others, but be wary of this trap. Their process is not yours.
Some individuals may have highly conceptual or abstract experiences, while others may have the majority of their session be focused on their body and physical health. The key is to stay rooted in your immediate experience, what you are feeling, what insights/experience arose for you, and how you would like to move forward with them.
Everything that comes up for you throughout this healing process is an opportunity. An opportunity to show up more for yourself, an opportunity to give yourself the love and affection you give to others, and an opportunity to safely and confidently move towards challenges, as they will lead you to growth, healing, and wholeness.
Each day is a new opportunity to continue your healing process. Most of your healing, and the real changes you see in your life, will come outside of your treatment sessions. These days are just as important and significant as the treatment sessions. This is when it all becomes real. Take a deep breath, use the support you have, make an integration plan, manage your energy, and begin cultivating the life that you deserve.
It’s easy to put all of the responsibility for your own healing on the medicine and the session experience itself. But in the days or weeks following your sessions, how you approach them, the work you do, the love you express are just as powerful as the sessions themselves.
As you move into your post-session window, first and foremost continue to take care of yourself. Make time for rest and recovery, for silence and stillness. Let your mind, body, and inner healing intelligence do what they do best. When appropriate, join in this process by taking small, clear, and confident steps forward towards your future.
The more you make this an innate practice of figuring out what you want, where to go next, and acting on it, the faster, deeper, and more exciting your healing process will be. You will begin to see results, feel the changes, and recognize the immense value of the work you are doing. Enjoy the process, embrace your healing, and walk boldly towards your future.
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