Keith + Will’s Personal Experiences with Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy – HPP 91

Keith Kurlander, MA, LPC

Dr. Will Van Derveer

Getting up-to-date on the research and practical application of psychedelic-assisted therapy is only half the story. Ketamine is a unique medicine in its bioactive properties for treating depression, but it can also produce a powerful psychedelic experience that can be leveraged with psychedelic-assisted therapy.

In today’s episode, Keith and Will discuss their personal experiences with ketamine-assisted psychotherapy in an intimate look at the power of this medicine, how to integrate both uplifting and very challenging experiences, and ways to start to get involved in the psychedelic-assisted therapy revolution.

Show Notes:

What to know about ketamine – 00:22
“So ketamine represents a new hope for a way more effective treatment for depression. And so it seems to work really well for people who have this treatment resistant depression where they’ve tried and failed multiple attempts to get well. So it’s a big step forward”

The basics of ketamine-assisted psychotherapy – 04:52
“And I looked at the results. 83% of the people who got MDMA on three occasions didn’t have PTSD anymore. And I thought, wow, this is really, truly remarkable, very small study, but it was well conducted, you know, double blind placebo control. So I ended up joining the team, and getting trained in MDMA assisted therapy”

Cosmic realms, dimensions and the larger matrix – 12:45
“So when I went into the ketamine training that I took, and was given ketamine, I wasn’t surprised that traumatic body memories came up because I was familiar with working with that. So that’s an important piece of context”

Revisiting and repatterning birth- 18:56
“Then I started vomiting. And one of the facilitators came and attended to me. And I felt incredibly fragile, and in need of a lot of support. And I think I just was experiencing the after the moment after birth, where you’re a tender infant, and you just need to be with your mom”

Intergenerational trauma, bipolar depression and more – 27:38
“For me, it was very interesting. I felt like my main ally was my breath, which is common on psychedelics, when there’s a very powerful psychedelic experience. And that I really had to use my breath to contain the experience and not have it blow me out. And that was good”

How to get involved with psychedelic therapy – 38:28
“So there’s so much more client centeredness and trust in the graph, call it the inner healing intelligence, there’s wisdom that’s already present in the client, that with the right support, they will access and so learning how to do psychedelic therapy is actually quite different from doing conventional therapy”

Exciting developments ahead – 41:22
“It’s really exciting, but you are talking about the experiential component. And we should just mention right now a little bit about that, because we’re going to have an optional live experiential, ketamine-assisted therapy component. So people can both have the option of sitting as a therapist with people as well as having the experience of ketamine”

Full Episode Transcript

Keith Kurlander, Dr. Will Van Derveer

Dr. Will Van Derveer 00:00
Ketamine represents a new hope for a way more effective treatment for depression. And so it seems to work really well for people who have this treatment resistant depression where they’ve tried and failed multiple attempts to get well.

Keith Kurlander 00:22
Thank you for joining us for The Higher Practice Podcast. I’m Keith Kurlander with Dr. Will Van Derveer. And this is the podcast where we explore what it takes to achieve optimal mental health. Hi, there, welcome back. So if you’ve been listening to the podcast in recent weeks, you’ll know that we’ve been talking about psychedelics and really excited about my psychedelic therapy training that is going to be open for registration very soon in the integrative psychiatry Institute. And that’s a very exciting time that we are facing right now in terms of some very new promising medicines that could really help people in therapy we really haven’t had a lot of access to. And we thought that today would be a great day to dive more into the ketamine conversation and share some personal stories that Will and I would like to share with you about ketamine and how it’s helped us and how it’s helped some patience and the power of ketamine as a psychedelic specifically, ketamine is interesting, in its biological properties, but also as a psychedelic. And so we thought that today would be more about storytelling, and hearing about the real power, the intimate power of psychedelics. So that’s where we’re headed today. And we’re gonna dive in right now. So Will, do you want to start us off telling us a little bit, maybe just for the listener, who hasn’t heard that much about ketamine just a really quick snapshot about ketamine, how it’s being used, and then we can get into some storytelling?

Dr. Will Van Derveer 02:07
Sure. That sounds good. Yeah. So some of the context is basically that ketamine is an anesthetic. It’s been around since the 60s. It’s widely used all over the world in a lot of different settings. And it’s considered to be extremely safe, and does have some risks and some drawbacks, which, of course, are important to know about if you’re going to do ketamine. And it became known inside of mental health in the early 2000s, with a series of studies, and I really got on the map around 2006, with some national institutes of mental health studies that reported back really breathtaking response rates of 70%, after one treatment with IV ketamine for chronic depression. So, chronic depression, treatment resistant depression is a big problem globally, there are hundreds of millions of people with depression, globally, and the current rates of treatment resistant depression is about 100 million. So about a third of the people with chronic depression, don’t get good results from the first couple of attempts, which is how we define treatment resistant depression, solid attempts to get well whether from therapy or from antidepressant medications. And it’s incredibly discouraging for people to make a big effort to get well from depression and not get any results and sometimes just good side effects. So ketamine represents a new hope for a way more effective treatment for depression. And so it seems to work really well for people who have this treatment resistant depression where they’ve tried and failed multiple attempts to get well. So it’s a big step forward. And it also represents this category of a new approach in psychiatry of using psychedelics to treat serious mental illnesses like depression, PTSD, anxiety, OCD, things like that.

Keith Kurlander 04:19
And it might be really useful to say a little bit Will about ketamine in certain circles isn’t talked about as a psychedelic concern for medical circles. And maybe let’s just kind of give a little bit of the lay of the land of why, because it’s such a powerful psychedelic, why it can be useful for people with trauma, how that works. And then maybe we jump into a story here. Sure, yes, you want to get an overview?

Dr. Will Van Derveer 04:47
Yeah, let me just start from even further back to give a bigger panoramic perspective. So as a psychiatrist in practice now for about 20 years, the first half of my career I used more conventional strategies. And I was the kind of psychiatrist not that many psychiatrists who practice a lot of psychotherapy. So I was doing psychotherapy with about half of my patients, and some of them got well with the usual approaches, and some of them needed more integrative tools. And that’s another conversation for another day. But a lot of people really struggle to get well with psychotherapy and conventional medication. And then about 10 years ago, I was invited to support an MDMA psychotherapy clinical trial in here in Boulder, Colorado, where we are and I was one of those people who was taught in medical school that MDMA is only bad, it’s a drug of abuse, it’s harmful, it has no medical benefit. And I was pretty against it. And I’d seen plenty of people who had taken MDMA a lot and not gotten well, and not used it therapeutically at all. So anyway, I was given a paper to read in 2011 paper. And I looked at the results. 83% of the people who got MDMA on three occasions didn’t have PTSD anymore. And I thought, wow, this is really, truly remarkable, very small study, but it was well conducted, double blind placebo control. So I ended up joining the team, and getting trained in MDMA assisted therapy and being able to offer that lots of times with a number of participants in our clinical trial. And we published our results in 2018. Our results were kind of similar to what had been found elsewhere with MDMA therapy for PTSD, chronic PTSD, about two thirds of people no longer met criteria for PTSD, even at the one year follow up. So when we finished our clinical trial in Boulder, I was faced with the reality that I had patients under my care in my clinic who were not going to get MDMA, because of the limited number of slots available in the phase three clinical trial. And I knew that from my experience with MDMA therapy, that there was a new wave of therapy coming that hopefully, and it looks like we may see approval in the next couple years with MDMA, but I had patients who were suffering and needed help immediately. So I had a patient who told me about ketamine. This is around 2015 or 16. And I had the same kind of medical reaction to it. Wait a second, ketamine. ketamine is a drug of abuse. It can’t be why would it be used in depression, it’s an anesthetic. And my patient who had tremors distant depression said, hey, look, there’s a body of research now in mental health. He showed it to me, I read it again, ketamine. I started opening my mind to ketamine. And then toward the end of this clinical trial, I said, I got to look further into this. So that’s what my introduction to ketamine was all about, I was really seeing that my patients needed better tools to get well. And I needed to take action to really go outside the box and look for better solutions for them.

Keith Kurlander 08:21
Right and circling back to ketamine as a psychedelic and why it can be used for trauma. And you were very exposed, obviously to MDMA, as a psychedelic for trauma, which is very powerful. ketamine is very different for trauma, but maybe just give a quick hit here on just how ketamine as a psychedelic can help people access their trauma in a useful way. And then yeah, let’s get into some stories.

Dr. Will Van Derveer 08:46
Yeah, so ketamine has a very different chemical impact on the brain from traditional, or what we would call traditional psychedelic, so LSD, psilocybin, DMT, ayahuasca. These interact very actively with the serotonin neurotransmitter system, a very specific serotonin receptor. ketamine primarily acts on the glutamate neurotransmitter system. So a very different mechanism, which probably has something to do with this kind of more dissociative effects that people have with ketamine. But it also means and this is the benefit is that ketamine doesn’t have the same drug-drug interactions that traditional psychedelics have with their serotonin drugs that are commonly prescribed in psychiatry. So when someone comes in for ketamine work, it’s much easier to deliver the ketamine treatment without having to go through a sometimes long and sometimes really arduous medication taper that has to happen for our traditional psychedelics and for MDMA. So the psychedelic experience on ketamine can be extremely useful for working with trauma for a number of reasons. One is that when you undergo the ketamine experience, you exit your kind of default perspective about your life. So you go outside of the usual kind of everyday ordinary consciousness way of looking at yourself and your life. And so getting that break, or that shift and point of view can be super helpful. The other thing that commonly happens with ketamine is this kind of effect where your awareness leaves your body for a while. And people who are dealing with chronic trauma oftentimes will have significant tension in their body, very severe manifestations of physical aspects of the trauma, somatic experiences that they’re having all day, every day of the trauma getting retriggered. And so getting outside of your body gives you another perspective on your experience that’s different, and helps you to see that there’s actually another possibility. So it gives you a glimpse of the possibility of a point of view that’s removed from the traumatic perspective, people carry.

Keith Kurlander 11:10
Right, and it’s sort of like this two sided helper because you can kind of get that abstraction that we talked about in some of the trauma therapies, while also you get an amplification, sometimes of the actual implicit memory systems of the trauma and so like, you can really start to feel that the actual state in the body of the trauma in an amplified way so you can right, try and work with that energy.

Dr. Will Van Derveer 11:41
Yeah, exactly. And that’s, I’m glad you mentioned that that’s actually really important as that, and I think it was Stan grof, who said that psychedelics are nonspecific amplifiers. So ketamine really does work that way where you can get an amplification of the somatic memory, and it’s unfortunate that a lot of people who receive ketamine for chronic depression, get it without support or without a therapist or without a sitter in the room that get IV ketamine without that. And then they may have all these somatic experiences that are amplifications of what’s inside that needs to be healed. But the technology of somatic therapy and trauma resolution isn’t being applied at that moment. And so it can be re-traumatizing for people who don’t have the support.

Keith Kurlander 12:27
Right, Will you’ve got a great story to tell about this exact thing that we’re talking about. So let’s get into your story here. And your story of experiencing ketamine is in training, right? Well, right. Now, I do want us to say a little bit about the context of why you even got to experience ketamine.

Dr. Will Van Derveer 12:45
Yeah. So, again, I mentioned earlier that after my participation in MDMA study, I really wanted to explore the possibility that I could offer ketamine psychotherapy in my practice. So in 2017, I found out about a training that I could go to, to learn about ketamine assisted therapy, and that was a group of psychiatrists learning from someone who was really experienced with ketamine therapy, and it was experiential. So we were all given ketamine, and we took turns sitting for each other and receiving ketamine. And again, just to zoom out for a moment, my personal history, if you’re familiar with the adverse childhood event scale, when I took that test, I had a score of seven out of ten, ten is a lot of trauma in your childhood basically. So I already knew that there was a lot of trauma in my body from childhood and I’d already worked a lot of it in ordinary therapy for decades, I really dug in and really got into it. So when I went into the ketamine training that I took, and was given ketamine, I wasn’t surprised that traumatic body memories came up because I was familiar with working with that. So that’s an important piece of context.

Keith Kurlander 14:07
Important piece of context, and Will maybe talk about the kind of onramp like so you have this ketamine and what started happening and how it led to what’s going to be a really powerful experience to share here.

Dr. Will Van Derveer 14:20
So we were oriented toward what to expect. I had never taken ketamine before. So this was a new experience for me. And I’ve never taken a so-called dissociative drug before. So what ended up happening as it came on was that ketamine comes on very quickly. And within a matter I don’t know how much time passed because I was on ketamine, but I would say it was probably less than five minutes. My perception was completely divorced from any ordinary or recognizable reality, the one thing That was actually pretty strange, I don’t know how to explain this. But the one thing that was perceptually familiar was that I actually could hear the music that was being played. And my mind somehow was having this weird, it was almost like, reverse deja vu experience where I could tell what the next song was going to be played on the playlist. And then the song would be played, and it was the song that I knew was gonna happen. Very strange. Yeah. Aside from that everything was completely unfamiliar, it was a total gap in any sense of self. And yet, I felt like I was inside of this kind of dark brown Rubik’s Cube, and I couldn’t find myself and I was terrified, because I couldn’t find the location of my awareness. Hmm. It was completely diffuse.

Keith Kurlander 15:54
Are you still aware at this point of reality, as we know it like that there’s form and people and no, you were completely dissociated, quote, unquote, from physical reality, basically, inside your own identity structure in some Rubik’s Cube, and then you couldn’t even locate your own identity very well.

Dr. Will Van Derveer 16:14
There was no border of the Rubik’s Cube, like I was inside of this matrix. I couldn’t tell what the dimensions were of it, or if there was any limit to it, or if it was just the nature of the space I was in. But that was weird. And then, but the real, the part of the story, I think that’s really relevant here to share is that as the ketamine wore off, I began to re experience my birth. And I knew from my prior trauma work, that there was a birth trauma that was substantial. And, of course, going into this ketamine piece, I actually thought I was further along with my trauma healing actually was. So I started to re-experience the moment of being inside the birth canal, trying to push my way out, I was the forceps baby, and I got stuck in the birth canal. In my actual birth, I was experiencing the moment of coming through the birth canal, and I was in this existential moment, this kind of ericksonian moment of the world. Okay, can I. And somehow, I was aware that I was going into all of these adverse childhood experiences, I had a sort of a premonition inside of the ketamine birth canal, that I was going to be experiencing all these adverse moments. And I was just a huge No, in that moment to actually face and go through this life that I knew I was going to face as a child.

Keith Kurlander 17:47
And this is kind of sometimes I’ll just put a little context here, because what you’re describing, sometimes we talk about this in therapy and breathwork is rebirthing. Yeah, a rebirthing experience. Right. Would you agree with that?

Dr. Will Van Derveer 17:59
I think so. yeah. It’s also interestingly, detailed by Stan Grof, in his book on LSD psychotherapy, where he talks about these prenatal birth matrices. And so they’re these kinds of waves of the task at hand that you face as you go through the birth canal. So I was just very resistant and ambivalent to being born in that moment. And it was incredibly painful, because I was basically just saying no to reality, because the birth was happening. I was coming in, and it was kind of like, I was trying to inhabit my physical experience.

Keith Kurlander 18:47
like this extreme resistance to the birthing experience that you were tapping into.

Dr. Will Van Derveer 18:52
Yes, exactly.

Keith Kurlander 18:54
So then what happened?

Dr. Will Van Derveer 18:56
Then I started vomiting, and one of the facilitators came and attended to me. And it was, I felt incredibly fragile, and in need of a lot of support. And I think I was experiencing the moment after birth, where you’re a tender infant, and you just need to be with your mom. So I guess I’ll just leave it at that for now.

Keith Kurlander 19:27
Yeah. Well, maybe it would be really useful to talk about how the integration happens, post ketamine for you, and how you’ve integrated that experience into your life in a meaningful way that you feel like is actually contributing to your growth. Right? Yeah. When you go there.

Dr. Will Van Derveer 19:43
Yeah. Well, so. Thanks. So I think the big task that unfolded from that moment was I realized that I hadn’t fully linked all of the adverse experiences I had in my childhood to the life that I get to have now, in a nutshell. And that’s why there was so much energy behind the resistance, I was perceiving more drawbacks than benefit of going through the things that I went through. And that prior to that ketamine experience, the integration of those traumas was more still on more of an intellectual level. Like I understood that those things shaped me and that I love who I am today and that I have made use of the limits to make lemonade for people. But it was still too intellectual, it wasn’t fully integrated. So one of the things that happened is I went back and reread Victor Frankel’s book, for I think, the third time, Man’s Search for Meaning. A great book, oh, my God, if you ever feel like a little bit whiny about the things that you’ve been through, read about somebody who spent three years in a concentration camp, right? And found a way to make meaning out of that. So I really feel so grateful for him, and just this notion that we get to control the meaning that we make. The last human freedom is that we get to control the interpretation of our experience. And so from the ongoing therapy, after the ketamine experience, that training experience, I was able to really see how, first of all, it gave me a huge respect for how difficult those ketamine experiences can be for people, especially people who didn’t have a huge background in healing like I had going into it. But also for the depth of the integration that’s needed, I mean, that took me I would say, months to integrate that ketamine experience. And for a while, I felt pretty delicate. So other things that helps, I think, just, man there’s so many things, I could talk about integration.

Keith Kurlander 22:12
Yeah. I mean, I think that what is what I think I’m hearing, what’s really important, is just that ketamine therapy, and psychedelic therapy isn’t only about the actual session, when you’re on these medicines, it’s also about it’s an ongoing process, typically, with these medicines, where we do what’s called integration, right? And where we’re really integrating these medicines in a way to construct a new narrative in our lives. So the storyline that’s more healthy and productive than the old storyline. And also, obviously, there’s a lot of other things, a new consciousness and a new way of perceiving the world. Rewiring the nervous system writer on trauma, which is your real story kind of shows you have a great story.

Dr. Will Van Derveer 23:00
Absolutely, I mean, the other thing that I think it illustrates is, we’ve had dick Schwartz on this podcast talking about parts work. And I think it made so much sense to me afterward that this really difficult moment in my life at my birth, was so overwhelming for my nervous system as a infant, that I dissociated, and that there was a capsule of dissociation around that event, the event of my birth, and that the healing of trauma, or oftentimes, I found and I saw this so much in the MDMA therapy with people in our study is about breaking through not that’s too violent to say that, but having these parts that are dissociated, come back into contact with each other. Right? And so that infant can be held by the other healthier, more mature parts of myself. And so this is something that I think is underappreciated, even inside of the world, trauma therapy, how much dissociation can keep different parts isolated from each other? And how impactful that can be to try to live that way. With that much separation between parts really hard.

Keith Kurlander 24:18
Really hard, and powerful, what you’ve, what you went through and what we’ve seen with so many people from this really amazing medicine. Yeah, well, should I get into my story? Yeah, let’s hear it. Well, my story is very different, right? Because I did ketamine not in a training, I did an actual medical treatment. So my story is very different. So a little context for the listener, I have a bipolar history, I could say in terms of what my brain works, and a lot of other mental health disorders have been given to me over time. So my exploration of ketamine was a treatment to see if it would help promote my brain functioning over time. And I also have context. You give a good context, one of my contexts is a different history of psychedelics. Right. And I dabbled with psychedelics when I was very young, and had some negative experiences not only, but mostly of getting overwhelmed on psychedelics and getting pretty unraveled outside of the psychedelic experience. And then of course, I had our round of being a part of an ayahuasca church and getting very unraveled and not having a therapist there helping me. So this experience was totally different for me, right, this was the first time I had a medical assisted psychotherapy experience with a medicine, and it was kind of revolutionary for me in terms of, I was a little bit skeptical still about psychedelics, on some level of like, can psychedelics with the right support? Pretty much mostly just really be effective for people and not be harmful. I’m still like, well, maybe a lot of people are getting hurt, like and not that the data even shows that. But that was what happened to me. And this was a radical experience for me. So the context for me is I did have therapists in the room with me and actually had multiple therapists. That’s what I wanted, holding space for me. I did IV ketamine, which I also wanted to do, because of my history with my mental health disorders combined with my history with psychedelic traumas that I went through without having the right support, I wanted the control mechanism of having the IV there, because I knew I was going to come up and face some trauma eventually, on the psychedelic, I assumed, and I wanted to make sure I had a mechanism to be able to manage how much medicine I was taking, because I knew I’m also very sensitive. So this was, I would say, the most spiritual grounded experience I ever had on psychedelics, I would say that it has also changed me as a person in a very positive way. I think that it also, I mean, these are the highlights. And I think that it also helped my brain in a way that my highest hopes came true. I think I was able to, yeah, and this is my subjective reality here speaking, I’m a case study. And I’ll give some examples of what happened. But I really feel like I could see how my brain started operating better than it was previously. So should I get into it.

Dr. Will Van Derveer 27:38
Yeah, let’s hear the specifics. Yeah. What did you notice?

Keith Kurlander 27:41
So I guess I’ll back up and just talk about the actual experience specifics. So for me, when the medicine started coming on, which, like you said, was almost instantaneous, so fast, right? For me, it was very interesting. I felt like my main ally was my breath, which is common on psychedelics, when there’s a very powerful psychedelic experience. And that I really had to use my breath to contain the experience and not have it blown out. And that was good. It was like, somehow I knew how to do that really well, and was using my breath to work with it, because it was just a very cinematic and psychic bigness is the best way to say. And then similar to you, I started moving through different matrices and dimensions, which is kind of common, it seems like ketamine, these kind of like ethereal astral experiences. And for me, I went through a number of waves I first touched into, and this was really healing for me, I first touched into my ancestry, by Jewish ancestry, and seemed to be in some kind of energetic dialogue, because the best way to describe it, that the trauma that I had been working on for 20 years or a little less than that, at that point where I was actively working on it, that trauma of the Jewish lineage, like that wasn’t what I was working on. And it was sort of like, I got a thumbs up from my lineage that it’s just time to serve now. And that, like I don’t have to focus on that anymore. So that was incredibly healing, and this is in psychology. We call it intergenerational trauma. Right? And for me, it wasn’t the session of working through intergenerational trauma, it was actually like the beginning of the session was more of a, you’ve done that work mostly. And now it’s time to give back, keep getting back now, you can go do that. So that was very powerful, it was kind of like a closure on the intergenerational trauma work I’ve been doing for like a decade up to that point. It was super powerful, you just have that inner experience now whether that’s my imagination that I’m working with in that moment, or it’s sort of irrelevant, because it’s some kind of closure to the relationship of intergenerational trauma. That a lot of people obviously have intergenerational trauma in different ethnicities and all differences. Then this session became really about love, and feeling deep comfort in the awareness that there is a fabric of love, within and without everything and just kind of riding waves of that. And it was interesting for me, because this particular treatment, I was very verbal, and kind of just sharing insight from the space of being in that kind of matrix of love. And just the downloads of more of the essence of reality and just sharing verbally out loud. It wasn’t that I was internal or needing support from the therapist, it was just really like this expression of love. And that was very healing for me, I think psychically It was very healing, and psycho emotionally is very healing. And then this session as I was coming off of the ketamine, it’s interesting how and I’ve heard this from other people I’ve worked with that have done ketamine other patients I’ve worked with, for me as I was coming off of the ketamine, and I had my scary moment. And I’ve heard this before from other patients, and you kind of described as you were coming ketamine this very moment. And so it was sort of this pendulation moment in me from being in a very ethereal space, just like you, I didn’t really know what reality was. But I was able to verbalize and knew there were like therapists sort of in the room, but I was very much in an ethereal space. Is that the right word ethereal?

Dr. Will Van Derveer 32:01
Well, what do you mean ethereal?

Keith Kurlander 32:03
Cosmic space?

Dr. Will Van Derveer 32:06
Sure, there you go with that.

Keith Kurlander 32:07
Yeah. So coming as the ketamine, right toward the end of my experience, I found something very familiar to me from my old psychedelic experiences when I didn’t have the right support, and weren’t doing it as a treatment, which is that I had kind of this ego annihilation experience, with terror associated with it. And sort of like I was kind of flashing in and out of reality, as I was coming back online, to reality more and, and kind of flashing in and out. And there was just something psychically disorganizing, confronting and terrifying about it. And familiar for me, familiar in terms of probably some psychic states, I can go to when I’m not doing well in my life, dissociative states. But that’s where the therapist and just having people there with me, it was different than ever before. And it was amazing. Because, for one, because I was already coming down from the ketamine, I ended the ketamine experience, I was on the IV and I ended it. I was almost done with it. When I was like, you know, this is not a space I need to just plow through, personally because I know the space so well. And know that it’s this space is about integration, I need to integrate this and so I was able to kind of turn off the IV there and say, let’s focus on integrating this and, and that was super powerful, and did integration work around that and can get illuminated a part of my psyche. And the way that I dealt with trauma in my life, in terms of going into very, very deep dissociative states that psychedelics when they amplify those and if it gets too much, and there’s no support there can be come traumatizing, and I think I have a lot more insight about when psychedelics can get traumatizing, I think it’s a lack of support, and it’s too much medicine and the combination of the two can be traumatizing. But that didn’t happen this time, and so I was able to kind of enter the state a little and work with it and then get a lot of good integration. So fast forward, so your question about how did this like what how did I notice these changes in my brain after That’s right. Well, one thing that’s kind of crazy that happened to me and I haven’t heard this from other patients that, we treat but one thing that happened to me was that as soon as the ketamine experience was over, and four months after I was literally having like three to five new memories a day from childhood. Very Yeah, a lot and not charged emotional memories just like mostly just pleasant memories, not like nightmare memories. It was just like three to five new memories and it’s just like I was basically like waking up to that like a whole Lost part of my childhood, after the ketamine and, again, my case study here, I don’t know how many people have ever reported that. But I think for me, it was more of a, I’m curious to get your thoughts on this. But for me, like kind of my conceptual framework here is it just, I just opened up another doorway into probably integrating trauma, complex trauma from childhood, through that session, and ketamine is the power of just how it helps the brain and just accessing through new connectivity. A lot of forgotten material that is beautiful. It’s so interesting how we can remember hard material in childhood. And it’s often hard to remember lots of really good things that happened, right? That’s true. So I’m not sure of your thoughts on this part. But for me, it definitely just has the power of my memory to be a little stronger, long term memory. Just feel like it really helped my brain in some way there.

Dr. Will Van Derveer 35:57
That’s really interesting. I’ve never heard that from the ketamine patient I’ve worked with. But it brings up for me again, this concept of dissociation, and reconnection of parts. And there’s a kind of bracing that we see in somatic therapy and the body. I think there’s also embracing in the mind, that happens as a outcome of trauma. And you could think of that bracing as keeping elements of your memory in separate containers. So my first hit on what you’re describing is sort of like the falling open of that bracing, that allows interconnectivity and like flow of information and positive memories flooding in from some kind of positive impact on the bracing of complex trauma.

Keith Kurlander 36:54
Yeah, that makes all the sense to me. Yeah, the other thing that came out of that experience, because again, I did it at a time where I wanted to get up just a little more enhanced, and in my brain, just with my mental health issues, and I feel like I did it, I feel like if there was any kind of depression that was there prior to the experience, and brain fog sub optimal ways of being like from the bipolar disorder like that, also lifted pretty instantly, I felt much more alive and vital and clear, present. So I think that too, is just a very positive aspect of what ketamine can do. I think I will say to you that there were moments of having kind of the surfacing of that dissociative state that’s so familiar to me in my life, after the ketamine experience of a few times after for the next two weeks, and I integrated that with some help of therapy, and it was no problem. And again, I think for me, the takeaway since I’m more in the dissociative spectrum of mental health issues, and the agitated spectrum of mental health issues is that with the right guidance with the psychedelic medicines, we can use these people that are suffering a lot of different ways. But it needs to be a lot of guidance and training is what I’m really learning here over time.

Dr. Will Van Derveer 38:27
Yeah, maybe another conversation for another time. But when I was trained as an MDMA therapist, I had this huge background of conventional training behind me, that actually was negative, in some ways to my ability to pick up the skills of as a psychedelic therapist, because for one thing, the kind of psychedelic therapy that’s based on standing on the shoulders of giants of people who came before us in the 60s and 70s, and who really developed these techniques, totally different approach, from cognitive therapy, from psychodynamic therapy from more traditional therapies. So there’s so much more client centeredness and trust in the graph, call it the inner healing intelligence, there’s wisdom that’s already present in the client, that with the right support, they will access and so learning how to do psychedelic therapy is actually quite different from doing conventional therapy. And it’s important to get the right kind of training. Yeah, which comes back to our training.

Keith Kurlander 39:41
Yeah, it comes back to our training. And also, I’m just glad you’re talking about innate wisdom, inner wisdom, inner healer concept. Because I think that for people who have been trained in more clients that are therapies it’s talked about, it’s absolutely talked about and then transpersonal psychology psychotherapy is taught About, but psychedelic medicines are an amplifier again around. Yeah, the inner wisdom and the healing intelligence. And so it’s so easy, I think, as a therapist to not even realize you’re getting in the way of that, when it’s really amplified, and also trying to figure out when Is there a need to do something and not do something with psychedelic medicine? It’s complex, because someone is overwhelmed? Or when is their intervention? versus when is this just unfolding the way it needs to? And yeah, it’s complex, right?

Dr. Will Van Derveer 40:36
It is, and, and it’s also really difficult to grok the non ordinary state if you’re a therapist who’s never experienced an ordinary state of consciousness, which is why I really wanted to have experiential training and ketamine therapy. So I could know what, at least, what one experience of that would be like, in my body, and my maps and other organizations that provide psychedelic therapy, generally speaking, have a strong stand for people to have an experience of non ordinary reality. Otherwise, when someone who’s on the couch having an experience is panicking, the therapist might panic too. And that’s really not helpful.

Keith Kurlander 41:23
And also just not necessarily know what really is happening. Yeah, right. Exactly. If not familiar with the terrain, or especially in medicine and but right, so as we kind of wrap up here, let’s just talk about our training that will be open for registration very soon. We’re super excited about it, we’ve been working really hard with our team to put this together. And it’s really exciting, but you are talking about the experiential component. And we should just mention right now a little bit about that, because we’re going to have an optional live experiential, ketamine assisted therapy component. So people can both have the option of sitting as a therapist, with people as well as having the experience of ketamine, so that they’re trained properly. Right?

Dr. Will Van Derveer 42:10
Exactly. Yeah, it’s really exciting to have that opportunity as a part of this training. Yeah. Plus, it’ll be in a moment to gather like minded people together for a deep, transformative moment together.

Keith Kurlander 42:23
So we’re gonna say more about this training in coming weeks, as we open registration, and just talking about who might be a good fit for when not a good fit for but very excited about what I started calling my head, fifth wave psychotherapy. there’s traditionally four ways some, say five with mindfulness. I really believe I don’t know what you think we talked about this in our last episode, but I think it really looks like psychedelic medicine will now become another sort of school of psychotherapy, essentially, where there’s, it’s a massive impact on the entire practice of psychotherapy already. sort of looks that way. Right. It does. Yeah, definitely. I mean, it’s happening rationally.

Dr. Will Van Derveer 43:07
Definitely, Yeah. I mean, these non ordinary states are huge opportunities for healing, just to put it in that transpersonal language to go back to that for a moment, because I think it’s really useful. This idea is like a fully developed, divine self, capitalist self, Union right self, connected with everything, connected with wisdom, connected with divinity. Your ego needs to have that connection with the inner divine Self. And so psychedelics represent this incredible opportunity to choose a moment where you can have that opportunity to connect that way, as opposed to, up to this point in history, kind of mystical experiences are moments of connection between the ego and the transcendent, divine self are kind of random, they might happen at a half at a peak experience in your life, right? Or they might never have.

Keith Kurlander 44:05
It might never happen. Maybe they happen in spiritual practices. Yeah, for certain people, but it’s hard to create a certain setting where you could most likely have them happen is that to actually create a therapeutic process? Exactly. That’s where it’s the power of psychedelics. Yeah. Yes. It’s exciting. Yeah. Well, why don’t we wrap up there for today? Yeah. Great. Thanks.

Dr. Will Van Derveer 44:28
Thanks. Thank you.

Keith Kurlander 44:34
We look forward to connecting with you again on the next episode of the higher practice Podcast, where we explore what it takes to achieve optimal mental health.

Keith Kurlander, MA, LPC

Keith Kurlander, MA, LPC is the Co-Founder of the Integrative Psychiatry Institute (IPI) and Integrative Psychiatry Centers (IPC), and the co-host of the Higher Practice Podcast. He graduated Naropa University in 2005 with a master’s degree in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology, and he has practiced integrative psychotherapy and coaching with individuals, couples and groups for over 15 years. After years of treating highly complex patients, as well as a personal journey of overcoming complex trauma and mental illness, he turned toward integrative psychiatric practices as a key component to achieving mental health and understanding the healing process. He brings a professional and personal passion toward innovating the field of mental healthcare.

Dr. Will Van Derveer

Will Van Derveer, MD is co-founder of Integrative Psychiatry Institute, co-founder of the Integrative Psychiatry Centers, and co-host of the Higher Practice Podcast.

Dr. Van Derveer is a leader in the integrative revolution in psychiatry and is passionate about weaving together the art and science of medicine. He has published in the field of psychedelic medicine, and he has provided MDMA – psychotherapy for chronic treatment resistant PTSD in clinical trials with MAPS, the multidisciplinary association for psychedelic studies.

As medical director of the Integrative Psychiatry Centers, he oversees a busy ketamine assisted psychotherapy practice.

Dr. Van Derveer is a diplomate of the American Board of Integrative Medicine (ABOIM). He studied medicine at Vanderbilt University and earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania.