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Integrative Psychiatry

Ketamine in Psychotherapy: Opportunities To Explore by Will Van Derveer, MD

By September 8, 2020No Comments

Trying to understand the common conditions treated in integrative psychiatry is vital in figuring out what’s really happening and the root cause of treatment resistant depression.

Depression can be described as a cumulative result of multiple missing resources which is why we are having long term impacts of lacking the resources for our health.

The effects of meditation with the Default Mode Network shows during the meditative state different activity and connectivity is present in the DMN specifically the medial frontal and posterior cingulate cortices are relatively deactivated in experienced meditators across all types.

The use of Ketamine has been known to have very specific impact to the DMN. It has shown significant normalization of connectivity between the Insula and the DMN comparing without the controls which had reversals after 10 days of the testing period.


I like to think about our conditions, the common conditions that we treat in integrative psychiatry over time and try to understand what’s really happening here. We talk a lot in IPI about treatment resistant depression and the root causes. And as an overall summary, I gave it my best shot to summarize how I think about it at this point. I think depression can be summarized as a cumulative result of multiple missing resources. So these are the long term impacts of lacking the resources that we need for health.

The default mode network is a wandering mind that has negativity bias. So, this is a survival mechanism, this is a mechanism that protects us. This is what has us scanning the environment, scanning our email scanning our text thread scanning Facebook, scanning our families and the faces of the family members we have at home looking for what’s wrong looking for who’s upset at me or what’s not right in this situation.

The default mode network has also been studied in experienced meditators. This study by Brewer showed, that meditation experience is associated with differences specifically the medial frontal and posterior cingulate cortices were relatively deactivated in experienced meditators across all meditation types. The point in bringing up the default mode network in this talk is that the default mode Network really represents the self. It operates very subconsciously, so talk therapy, oftentimes, falls short of getting the job done with changing patterns in the default mode network.

We also know that ketamine has very specific impacts on the default mode network. In this study connectivity between the insula and the default mode network was normalized, compared with healthy controls two days after, and this change was reversed after 10 days, and didn’t appear in the placebo scan. So, insula is a part of the brain involved in shame and it’s also involved in physical pain.

Making changes to habitual patterns is not easy, it requires a lot of work. You can see from the direction of this talk that that my perspective is that, chronic depression is a multifactorial situation and ketamine offers a window into a deep possibility for change. But like our other medications, it’s really not addressing a root cause. It creates an opportunity but it doesn’t get to the bottom of things, which is what we need to do by supporting the virtuous cycles exploring new resources, journaling, exercising, diet upgrades, reworking relationships.

Frederick Barrett is a cognitive neuroscientist with training in behavioral pharmacology, and the Associate Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research. Dr. Barrett has been conducting psychedelic research at Johns Hopkins University since 2013, and his research in healthy participants and in patients with mood and substance use disorders focuses on the psychological and neurological mechanisms underlying the enduring therapeutic and other effects of psychedelic drugs. In 2017, he received an NIH “R03” grant as Principal Investigator to investigate biological mechanisms of psilocybin effects, the first federally funded research since the 1970s administering a classic psychedelic to people with psychedelic effects as the primary focus. He has developed measures of subjective effects of psychedelic drugs, and has also published first-in-human studies characterizing the acute and enduring effects of psilocybin on the brain. He is currently leading clinical trials to investigate the use of psilocybin to treat patients with major depressive disorder and co-occurring alcohol use disorder, and he is leading a number of ongoing studies aimed at better understanding the psychological, biological, and neural mechanisms underlying therapeutic efficacy of psychedelic drugs.

Will Van Derveer, MD is co-founder of Integrative Psychiatry Institute (IPI), along with friend and colleague Keith Kurlander, MA. He co-created IPI as an expression of what he stands for. First, that anyone can heal, and second that we medical providers must embrace our own healing journeys in order to fully command our potency as healers.

Dr. Van Derveer spent the last 20 years innovating and testing a comprehensive approach to addressing psychiatric challenges which transcends the conventional model he learned in medical school at Vanderbilt University and residency at University of Colorado, while deeply engaging his own healing path.

He founded the Integrative Psychiatric Healing Center in in 2001 in Boulder, CO, where he currently practices. Dr. Van Derveer regards unresolved emotional trauma as the most significant root cause of psychiatric symptoms in integrative psychiatry practice, along with gut issues, hormone imbalances, inflammation, mitochondrial dysfunction, and other functional medicine challenges. He is trained in Somatic Experiencing, EMDR, Internal Family Systems, and other psychotherapy techniques. His current clinical passion is psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy, which he mentors interested doctors in providing. An avid meditator, he has been a meditation instructor since 2004.

For the past several years Dr. Van Derveer has taught psychiatrists and other psychiatric providers integrative psychiatry in a number of settings, including course directing the CU psychiatry residents’ course as well as with Scott Shannon and Janet Settle at the Psychiatry MasterClass. In addition to his clinical work and teaching, he was co-investigator in 2016 a Phase II randomized clinical trial, sponsored by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). He continues to support this protocol, now in a Phase III clinical trial under break-through designation by FDA.

Dr. Van Derveer is a diplomate of the American Board of Integrative and Holistic Medicine (ABoIHM) since 2013, and he was board certified in the first wave of diplomates of the new American Board of Integrative Medicine (ABIM) in 2016.