Keith’s Personal Story of Overcoming Mental Illness – Keith Kurlander – HPP 76
Suffering from PTSD and other related mental illnesses brings so much negative and dark thoughts in all of us that can often lead to severe depression and suicidal tendencies. It’s no surprise that more and more cases of suicide are reported in the news and in all media outlets. This is a huge problem that we see today with an alarming increase throughout the years.
In today’s episode, Keith Kurlander, MA, LPC, shares with us his inspiring story, a transformative journey about suffering from a multitude of diagnosed illnesses with deep suicidal thoughts through healing, and what his valuable life experience has taught him around overcoming mental illnesses and how anyone can achieve it through an integrative model therapy.
Keith’s Struggles – 02:04
“I was pretty sick, I have a bipolar diagnosis, bipolar two diagnosis. But I would get severely agitated, severely dissociated, severe intrusive thoughts, violent, intrusive thoughts, I would have horrible insomnia. And I would be very sick physically, pretty significant fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, IBS, daily migraines. And this is the height of my suffering”
Suicidal Thoughts And Seeking Help – 03:51
“And it was so overwhelming the disturbance, and it was also a physical disturbance that really grew inside of me that I just, I was like, completely convinced I was going to jump out the window and go down as one of those peoples we heard about decades ago, jumping out of buildings on LSD”
Psychedelics: A Treatment With Great Potential – 06:58
“And so when you have somebody like me, and other people that have really severe histories of complex PTSD, and probably already had a brain that’s operating in a bipolar spectrum, I think that it’s sensitive and delicate. And that if psychedelic medicines are going to be used, it’s just they need to be used with caution in those cases”
Seeking Help: Psychodynamic Psychotherapy – 10:15
“But I had a great first experience in psychodynamic psychotherapy, it was helpful. And also in retrospect, I know now there’s ways to speed up the process and not spend a year and a half in psychodynamic psychotherapy that I can see would have helped me in a month, I could have got out of psychodynamic psychotherapy”
Experiencing Psychedelics – 13:26
“And it just makes me think about myself, I feel like I’m a used car like a 1967 Ford, like coming in. And it’s like, you got to bring it into the shop, like, five 710 times a year to keep the thing going. That’s what my experience of psych meds were, it’s like they did, they sort of got the car back on the road”
Keith’s Struggles: Mood Disorders – 19:32
“So without compulsions, I’ve got a generalized anxiety diagnosis, I’ve got a dysthymia diagnosis. I’ve gotten a bipolar two diagnosis, I’ve got an A cyclothymia diagnosis, I’ve gotten the complex PTSD diagnosis. I’ve gotten a I believe I got a psychotic diagnosis. Once that wasn’t openly said to me. Yeah, I basically got every single mood disorder. And to me, that’s the fascinating part of the whole thing”
Understanding Mental Disorders And What’s Underneath – 23:42
“Those types of tools helped. But so I would say, overall, the diagnosis didn’t solve my problem. But then you asked one other question, which I want to speak to, which is, well, what about trauma? Right? And how do you differentiate between these diagnoses and trauma and, you know, one thing I want to say about that is that we have PTSD”
The Conventional Versus The Integrative Model – 30:31
“I started pushing myself and challenging myself to not believe that, that no one could tell me what’s going on with me that, you know, I’m not that unique, that there are people out there that actually could probably tell me what’s going on—once I actually open to the fact that people had the answers, they’re out there, they could help me understand my puzzle that was going on. And that’s when it started happening. And that’s how I opened up to like, for instance, an integrative psychiatrist
Understanding Psychiatry And Psychotherapy – 38:50
“And that was the next thing that I think that helped me propel forward in my journey was when I stopped trying and approaching it that way. You know, that was a big shift for me when I stopped, you know, when there was a new kind of flare up internally, and I would say this is only three, four years ago when it was really up to practices and how to work with the this flare up, and I’m starting to get crazy and feel out of my body and just knots and, you know, normally just the symptoms coming on”
people, psychedelics, life, medicine, trauma, symptoms, work, person, bipolar, medication, experience, diagnosis, ketamine, challenge, healing, suicidal, suffering, sick, big, terms
Keith Kurlander, Dr. Will Van Derveer
Keith Kurlander 00:00
I got this wave of sort of feeling how disturbed I was actually like, it just sort of was like I knew it the whole time. But it was kind of like, in my face, how deeply disturbed I actually was feeling my whole life.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 00:22
Thank you for joining us for the higher practice podcast. I’m Dr. Will Van Derveer, with Keith Kurlander. And this is the podcast where we explore what it takes to achieve optimal mental health. Well, I’m really excited about this episode. Today, I will be interviewing Keith Kurlander who is my business partner, and co revolutionist, I would say in changing the way mental health care is done in this country and also my co host for this podcast. And Keith has a really interesting and in some ways challenging story to tell from what he’s been through that has made him into the person he is today. He has a background as a therapist, and has been shifting into really supporting and leading the revolution in mental health care for the last few years. So really excited to have an opportunity to hear Keith’s story about how he got interested in these ways of working with people. And I think you’re really going to enjoy hearing this episode. Welcome, Keith.
Keith Kurlander 01:34
Dr. Will Van Derveer 01:35
Well, so you’ve been through a lot in your life. And I wonder if you could start by just for our audience painting the picture of, you know, what are the headlines of what you’ve been through and what you’ve been struggling with?
Keith Kurlander 01:48
Yeah, thanks. So I guess I’ll start more with struggle than triumph, paint the picture of the struggle First, we could get it to triumph maybe later in the episode. Does that sound like a good plan?
Dr. Will Van Derveer 02:01
It sounds great.
Keith Kurlander 02:04
Yeah, so, you know, I’ve suffered historically from pretty severe mental illness for lack of a better term. And, you know, the painted picture at the height of my suffering. I was pretty sick, I have a bipolar diagnosis, bipolar two diagnosis. But I would get severely agitated, severely dissociated, severe intrusive thoughts, violent, intrusive thoughts, I would have horrible insomnia. And I would be very sick physically, pretty significant fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, IBS, daily migraines. And this is the height of my suffering. Very intense mixed states of depression and anxiety, feeling out of my body to personalization, feeling like things aren’t real derealization, very awkward thinking, bordering on psychosis, although not completely psychotic. There’s a lot of insight there. And also, not quite psychotic, but very awkward thoughts, weird, intrusive thoughts that are bizarre. And, you know, I was, in my life, I say, these periods of this kind of severity, sometimes lasted years historically. In those states, I would say that, you know, my suffering, I’ve got a good handle on what it’s like to be really messed up in terms of your mental health, physical health, they usually correlate, as you know, and behaviorally and more historically, like in college addiction. So I’ve been down the road in terms of what we call mental illness. And there’s always worse, but I would say I was definitely on the spectrum of being extremely messed up for long periods of time in my life.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 03:51
Thanks. That’s a great start. I wonder if you could tell us a little bit about a question that I think a lot of our listeners are probably asking, or have asked themselves in the past people who are dealing with suffering on a deep level like you are in the past who might be asking themselves, you know, when is the right time to make a phone call and get some care? Can you walk us through that process for you the first time?
Keith Kurlander 04:18
First time I made the phone call?
Dr. Will Van Derveer 04:20
Keith Kurlander 04:21
It’s a good question. I was actually messed up as a kid, but I didn’t have perspective then. You know, where I grew up in Central New Jersey, I didn’t know anyone at least openly getting any form of mental health help, least openly. It was the 80s in Central New Jersey, I never even knew this concept of therapy and psychiatry, but in my world, that was not a thing. But I was definitely suffering from insomnia, my whole childhood and severe social anxiety. And then the first time I got help was when I was 19. And I guess I’ll just paint the picture real quick, What happened. It was my first psilocybin experience. And I was alone in my dorm room. And it was nighttime and I was on the 22nd story of a very tall high rise, UMass University, Massachusetts, they have these high rises. And I got this wave of sort of feeling how disturbed I was actually, like, it just sort of was like I knew it the whole time. But it was kind of like, in my face of like, how deeply disturbed I actually was feeling my whole life. And it was so overwhelming the disturbance, and it was also a physical disturbance that really grew inside of me that I just, I was like, completely convinced I was going to jump out the window and go down as one of those people we heard about decades ago, jumping out of buildings on LSD. And I thought I was that’s what was happening to me that night. But I stopped myself from doing that. Just the kind of takeaway I had there about. The thing that helped me get through the suicidal periods of my life was I just clung on to a person I love in my mind. And it happened to be my younger sister at that moment, which totally got me through the least suicidal experience there and others in the future. But he got so overwhelming, and I was so that’s when all the symptoms I’m describing really came on fully for the first time. And at that point, it wasn’t a choice of reaching out for help. At that point, it was a lifeline. I would say I don’t recommend waiting for a lifeline to get help. You know, if anyone’s struggling, I see it more as a growth path. We’re all struggling some days and some days we’re doing great. And so I think it’s just a path of growth, we could always be growing and healing. I don’t think we have to wait like I did until it became a life or death crisis. Unfortunately, that’s how a lot of people it goes down for but my encouragement would be to everyone that we can be on a personal development path our whole life.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 06:58
Nice. You know, your description of the impulse to jump and that suicidal thinking on the mushrooms brings up for me this question mark, I’m curious what you think about this in psychedelic experiences. Some people interpret the intensity and the difficulty and the challenge and sometimes suicidal thinking, for example, as that the psychedelic is revealing something that was there, or opening up an opportunity to look at things traumas from the past that kind of thing. And then in conventional psychiatry, the way I was trained was of this person’s, you know, having a drug induced psychosis or a drug induced manic episode, or it’s an interesting contrast between how people who seem to be more experienced with psychedelic psychotherapy would interpret the experience that you described versus conventional psychiatry. And I’m wondering when you look back with more than 20 years of life experience between that event and today, how do you look back at that?
Keith Kurlander 08:01
Yeah. Well, you know, it’s a great thing. You and I have talked so much about psychedelic medicine. And this question has been something you and I have chatted about a lot, right. And it’s so my framework, while first say Obviously, I’m a very big fan of psychedelic assisted psychotherapy done properly. I’ll say it that way. But I think that I think that it’s not necessarily I don’t lean toward that it’s in and of itself can induce schizophrenia, it’s like somehow a psychedelic, if you never took it, you probably would have never got schizophrenia. I think that’s probably unlikely. Of course, this is speculation, but I think more so I lean toward that psychedelics are amplifiers of what’s already happening in the system. And so when you have somebody like me, and other people that have really severe histories of complex PTSD, and probably already had a brain that’s operating in a bipolar spectrum, I think that it’s sensitive and delicate. And that if psychedelic medicines are going to be used, it’s just they need to be used with caution in those cases, and I had no idea how much she’ll save and I took or how much I should have taken. I had no one there to help me process. So more of my framework now is that there are certain cases where psychedelic medicines aren’t right, they’re not right for every situation. And then the majority of people that probably get aggravated from psychedelic medicines, it was probably an issue of set and setting and dosage in my opinion now, more so than probably wasn’t right for them. But you know, it’s case by case but that’s kind of my current thinking about it all but I think the psychedelic medicine conversations are really important. Fascinating fun.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 09:49
Yeah, thanks. Yeah, it’s good to hear your, your current perspective. I know it’s evolved a lot over the years. And it also brings up for me that initial experience of making that phone call, as you described in a lifeline scenario of being presented with choices about. I’m curious what that conversation was like with the provider the first time if we were willing to share that. Were you offered medication at that point or what happened there? Yeah.
Keith Kurlander 10:15
Yeah, that’s a great question, actually. Well, first, I told my parents what was going on, which was really hard. I was very scared to tell them that I was suicidal and total mass and a basket case inside myself. I was really afraid. So I told them eventually, pretty quickly, because it was again, it was Lifeline situation. I was like, Well, if I don’t do something, I’m going to kill myself. Right. So. So then it was, it was interesting. The first person I actually saw was a pharmacologist, who, he didn’t tell me exactly what he thought was going on with me. But you know, I got put on a really high dose of carry remember, it was an antipsychotic, he definitely thought I was I was psychotic. I think it was I practices around that I can’t remember was I just I practice around in the mid 90s.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 11:02
Yeah, yeah. Yeah.
Keith Kurlander 11:04
Yeah. So I practiced a high dose. And in two days, I got 100 times more suicidal, I was so messed up. And I was fighting throughout the entire day to just not kill myself. It was so bad, it got so amplified. So fortunately, my own intuition was I can’t go back to this guy. So I stopped Zyprexa. On day three, we and then my parents found another psychiatrist, met with him the first day and I started psychodynamic psychotherapy, looking back, that’s what it was, I didn’t know at the time, and he was a great guy. And interestingly, he put me on an antidepressant at the time Paxil and a benzo. And I was loopy as hell, I was, you know, hypo manic all the time back then they didn’t have as much context around. As you probably know, around the sensitivity around the bipolar spectrum. demanda depressants and my social anxiety went to social exhibitionism almost, I was so open and loopy but took about four or five months. And I came out of that really scary time. But then I was a little loopy and hypomanic for about a year and a half on that medicine. But I had a great first experience in psychodynamic psychotherapy, it was helpful. And also in retrospect, I know now there’s ways to speed up the process and not spend a year and a half in psychodynamic psychotherapy that I can see would have helped me in a month, I could have got out of what I got out of psychodynamic psychotherapy,
Dr. Will Van Derveer 12:36
Thanks for sharing that, it’s helpful to hear about the challenges of the first go around with medication, what you face there, and it’s such a common experience for people to have serious side effects with medication, and it’s hard to get right. You know, speaking from the other chair in the room, so to speak, you know, from psychiatry, see, I can remember experiences where it’s just like you hit the nail on the head, and it’s beautiful. And you get a really good result with almost no side effects. And then for every one of those you have, you know, half a dozen or a dozen partial in the nail down with the hammer kind of experience. It’s
Keith Kurlander 13:12
challenging job that you’re in. You know, that’s challenging, right? Yeah. Because you’re, you’re basically an artist over there, even though we call it 100%. Science, like those numbers that’s not 100% science.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 13:26
Right, exactly. I mean, I can remember and probably, who knows how many thousands of patients I’ve seen, like, you know, I remember, with vivid clarity that handful of times, it was almost perfect, you know, it’s like, right there on the first try. And then so many experiences, where it’s a lot of tweaking and a lot of adjusting and a lot of working with side effects. And are we going to start another medication to deal with the side effect from the first medication? Or how are we going to write a result here?
Keith Kurlander 13:56
And I’m glad you’re Yeah, I’m glad you’re bringing that up. It makes me think about myself, you know, because I’ve been on many rounds of psychiatric medications for my life. And it just makes me think about myself, I feel like I’m a used car like a 1967 Ford, like coming in. And it’s like, you got to bring it into the shop, like, five 710 times a year to keep the thing going. That’s what my experience of psych meds were, it’s like they did, they sort of got the car back on the road. But like three months later, it broke down again. And it’s like trying to analyze what happened and you know, you’re putting another bolt onto the engine. And I think I’d love to hear what you’re saying. But I think what you’re saying here is like complex psychiatry, patients tend to be complex. They don’t tend to be simple or they don’t need to go to a psychiatrist. And it seems like it’s actually a very challenging treatment plan of just using medication. It’s a challenge to get it right. So what I’m hearing you say
Dr. Will Van Derveer 15:00
Yeah, there’s definitely an art to it. And for sure, there’s a lot of range in terms of people’s experience and their effectiveness and working with medications as a tool. And you know, medications, when they help people are amazing that they can be very helpful and suppressing the jagged edge of suicidality or other symptoms, you know, but I think one of the things that shifted for me about medication over the years is a shift in what I was, what the goal was, of what I was trying to do with people, because as you know, the conventional training is that if the symptom disappears from the treatment, then you’ve got a successful treatment. But what I started to see over the years was people who were kind of going through their lives suppressed. The things that get suppressed, are not only the symptoms, but other things like joy and creativity and expression and sexuality. sex drive is often very impacted by medications and so forth. So I’m wondering what was how you would describe, you know, the kind of pros and cons or what the benefits and drawbacks really were for you over the years with medication? Yeah, that’s
Keith Kurlander 16:13
a great question. Well, let me give a little context. So you know, I had this episode, I’ll call it an episode at the time that I got really sick when I was 19. Probably lasted six, seven months. And then I was kind of a little hypomanic, like I said, For years, but I was not well, during my 20s, I was still had chronic insomnia, still had chronic social anxiety, still high chronic agitation and anxiety and generalized anxiety, and had a low grade depression. And I didn’t even know all this through my 20s. But it was there, it was pretty significant, actually. So I wasn’t well in my 20s. And then in my mid 30s, is when I got really sick for four years in my mid 30s. And now I’m 45. So that’s just a little context about this conversation about medication. So I think that medication, I wonder if I’d be alive if medication wasn’t psych medication wasn’t discovered? I don’t know, I may not be. So my first answer about psychiatric medications. And the benefits is that I think they were one of the things that actually saved my life from me, prematurely ending it, because I think that they did have a role in sedating and suppressing my symptoms enough at different moments in time, that it gave me a window to ask bigger questions. But I also know, in terms of the drawbacks, in my mid 30s, when I have my biggest run of medications, that I’m finally almost off of all of them. Now, 10 years later, I’m still on an extremely low dose of a sleep medication that I’m probably off of, I think, in the next few months. But what I learned about medications in that realm was really different. It was a constant, what you were talking about, it was like a tweaking process, I was really severely sick for four years, with bouts of going into, you know, severity, a 10 on the scale of one to 10, to getting to like a five with medication, and constantly tweaking that 510 510. So what I know now is that if I knew what I know now, in terms of what actually caused my problems, and what solves my problems, I imagine I wouldn’t have needed them. But I did take them at a time. And they helped slow things down enough for me to go look for more answers. But I’m also not convinced I’ll never take psych meds again in the rest of my life, because I don’t want to be arrogant in that way. But I know so much more now about what actually caused my problems and the actual solutions that solve them. And it actually turns out at this moment in time, it’s not psych meds that are solving my problems. I don’t know if I’ll need them again. They’re there for me and other people, but turned out there were other things that actually solve the problems and segments were one of them. They just kind of reduced the problems for windows of time. Yeah,
Dr. Will Van Derveer 19:32
I think that’s well said, reducing the problems for windows of time. I think that’s I would say it’s better than nothing, you know, getting reduction in symptoms for periods of time, but obviously, it’s not the kind of result that we would stand for, we would want to see with our clients today. Right? I’m wondering if this is a related topic and it keeps coming up in the back of my mind. So I want to see if you have any thoughts about this just around medication and diagnosis. You know, because you threw out in the beginning that there was a bipolar two diagnosis. And then you mentioned complex PTSD. And I think as a psychiatrist, one of the things that’s most difficult to discern sometimes is the difference between a presentation that’s driven by complex developmental trauma versus a bipolar two condition. Right? It’s not to say that they’re always mutually exclusive, either. I mean, you could have both, but I’m just wondering, from your experience, how you relate to that, or how do you parse those out in your mind?
Keith Kurlander 20:36
Yeah, such good questions I’m, well, first I’ll say let me throw out every diagnosis I’ve ever been labeled with the start position. And I’ll just say that any diagnosis I mentioned, I’ve been labeled on the severe spectrum of the diagnosis. So I’ve been labeled with OCD without rituals, some called pure OCD. There’s different words for that. So without compulsions, I’ve got a generalized anxiety diagnosis, I’ve got a dysthymia diagnosis. I’ve gotten a bipolar two diagnosis, I’ve got an A cyclothymia diagnosis, I’ve gotten the complex PTSD diagnosis. I’ve gotten a I believe I got a psychotic diagnosis. Once that wasn’t openly said to me. Yeah, I basically got every single mood disorder. And to me, that’s what’s the fascinating part of the whole thing, which is that when you know, and before I get into answering directly a question about, you know, PTSD versus diagnosis, and also the usefulness of diagnosis is another part of it. Like, I’ve spanned everyone, in terms of I could fit into everything in the DSM outside of really the psychotic disorders. And I was fortunate and didn’t fit into the personality disorders, you know, just fortunate for myself that my personality got highly injured. So I was able to have the awareness to keep the ball moving forward on my healing really quickly. But you know, that’s what the first thing I would say about the conversation is like, well, the DSM is a great idea in a certain way. But in practicality, when you have a patient that’s not well, and hasn’t been well, for a long time, you could tend to find them in ohms off those diagnoses at some point in their life. And so then what do we do? So that’s the first thing I would say I’m if you have a comment about that, but
Dr. Will Van Derveer 22:17
Well, absolutely, I mean, you’re speaking, a perspective that, you know, a lot of people would associate Tom insoles perspective with the former head of NIMH, who also was a provost at Harvard University. I mean, when he was head of NIMH, he was basically calling for throwing out the DSM, because there was so much overlap between symptoms from one condition to another, that they didn’t hang together statistically as separate phenomena. And I think the other critique that you and I have talked about a lot over the years is, outside of PTSD, we really don’t have in psychiatry any kind of orientation toward the cause of the symptoms, we sort of relate to these as so called biological illnesses, right? OCD, bipolar, schizophrenia, major depression, even panic disorder, generalized anxiety, disorder, ADHD, these are all so to speak brain disorders. But the problem with that perspective, you know, which obviously, we could get into, it’s very reductionistic. And, you know, it implies that there’s no valid inquiry into what’s underneath the symptoms. And I think that’s if you’re a practitioner, or if you’re a person who’s getting psychiatric services, I think the conversation gets really interesting when you set that filter aside, and you start actually opening your mind to the possibility that you could resolve your issue if you could get to the bottom of it.
Keith Kurlander 23:42
Right. Yeah, I totally agree. And I would say fortunately, from the get go, like yourself, I was exposed to a psychiatrist that was probably more into the psychotherapy than he was into the medications, even though he was good at that. And so, generally speaking, the psychotherapists I’ve come across in my healing process, they don’t hang their hat that much on the diagnosis, they’re much more interested in what you’re talking about, which is well, okay, but let’s actually figure out what’s going on here. So I was exposed to that, I think, early on. I think the benefits of diagnosis, though, which there are some, I could see that there’s some benefits in kind of understanding. I mean, first of all, doing research on medications, there’s benefits and diagnosis and also knowing like, okay, let’s probably not give an antidepressant to bipolar. I mean, as a general rule of thumb, like, like, we know that there’s like certain things that kind of constantly around these diagnoses that kind of point the way, I think as providers in terms of thinking around interventions, but in terms of getting to the bottom of the causes, not just the interventions, but the actual cause. And then what to do next? Like they don’t help that much, I don’t think at all. I mean, I can’t say that all the seven or eight diagnoses I have at the end of the day, that’s anything about what my real problem was. And actually figuring out the solutions, solutions weren’t really attached to the label. I think that’s the simplest way to say it at all. Like, it wasn’t even like a, you know, bipolar, try a mood stabilizer. Like that’s not what the solutions were, for me. Those types of tools helped. But so I would say, overall, the diagnosis didn’t solve my problem. But then you asked one other question, which I want to speak to, which is, well, what about trauma? Right? And how do you differentiate between these diagnoses and trauma and, you know, one thing I want to say about that is that we have PTSD, right? The DSM four, five, but complex PTSD, to me is almost like, potentially, as one of the causes of almost all these conditions. I have an odd to say this, I haven’t met many people that have been really sick, that don’t have complex PTSD, that don’t have developmental trauma that happened over the course of time to them. And, you know, I’m not saying I, you know, I’m not going to meet someone that I’m just like, they’re totally fine, is one person, I could think of that in my entire time of, you know, not just myself working with thousands of people. Also, there’s only one person I could think of where like, it wasn’t totally obvious of what happened in the childhood system that would create a traumatic nervous system that might have influenced the brain to have these disorders. But anyway, so I would say they’re almost not separate. For me, it’s kind of like, I wouldn’t call complex PTSD. PTSD is a disorder, which is caused by it as is, is one of the root causes of your problem. It’s one of the root causes. I don’t even know that it’s necessarily a disorder, in the same way as how the brain gets dysfunctional in these kinds of categorical ways. Yeah, that’s an interesting way to look at it as a root cause without necessarily being what I’m hearing you say, not determining a particular phenomenon, let’s say.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 27:14
So, for instance, a person with schizophrenia may have childhood trauma that, you know, may be driving the expression of chronic psychosis, whereas a person with bipolar disorder could also have complex trauma as a component of what is manifesting. Yeah, same thing with anxiety disorders or depression.
Keith Kurlander 27:38
Yeah, yeah. Cuz I think that the way I look at it today, and this keeps evolving for me, but like it, for instance, I mean, does that I see myself, and so it’s also the way I’m kind of viewing my philosophical framework at this point. Like, if someone sits down with me, I’m no longer saying like, does this person actually have bipolar? Or do they have complex PTSD? I’m no longer doing that. Because now I’m just saying while they’re showing the symptomatic system of what we call the categories, bipolar, okay. But likely, I know now, likely, there’s a complex trauma in there that we also have to work through, in addition to other things, because they have this brain expression now. And just solving the complex trauma in and of itself probably won’t be enough when somebody has bipolar because the body is so imbalanced. So there’s a lot of functional medicine that has to happen and other things. So for me, it’s like they’re a little different.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 28:34
Yeah, that’s similar to how I think about it. I’ve told, you know, many of my patients that let’s take, for example, trauma and bipolar one telling people look, I don’t know if healing your trauma completely will fully resolve your bipolar disorder or your bipolar symptoms. But we might as well do it because we have the technology to do that. And if we can get a person in the right kind of effect of trauma work, it may completely resolve it, or at least reduce the expression of it enough to make it more manageable and for the person, you know, to become more empowered in their life.
Keith Kurlander 29:13
Yeah. Yeah. And I would say that we’re too sensitive as a culture, and especially in medicine, like being careful about telling people that they have trauma. And like most people have trauma like that. We’re so careful about that. I think we’re too sensitive there. Because first of all, it’s like, what’s the big deal? Like this is a human being. It’s a fragile life experience. And we all have on digested experiences and if you get mentally ill in that process. To me, that means there’s no way you’re not traumatized. If you’re mentally ill. I mean, you’ll just be traumatized just from the mental illness, let alone events that you’re feeling are traumatic to yourself, but you can’t get through a mental illness and not have trauma about the mental illness. I mean, I’ve never met a person on the planet that went through severe mental illness and isn’t just traumatized in and of itself, just by the mental illness. So to me, they’re inseparable mental illness and trauma, they’re inseparable. And I think we just have to grow up and realize, like, let’s help people digest your experience and digest the parts of their experience that were overwhelming to them, which is all I know, that’s my framework on trauma, and we’re gonna have one step closer to helping mentally ill people. There’s other components, as we both know, but it’s a big one.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 30:31
Yeah, absolutely. And it, it, it’s a nice segue into coming back to your journey of healing in psychiatry, and the decision that you made at some point, to look for an integrative provider and not work in the conventional model anymore. And I wonder if you’d be willing to share what that was like? And how did you went through that process of making that choice?
Keith Kurlander 30:54
It’s also a really good question, because, you know, I. So the other thing that happened at age 19, is I got sent on a spiritual journey right at that moment on that psychedelic journey. So not only was I really messed up, but also got extremely spiritual in my life. And so I was already in my 20s, you know, trying all kinds of things, different diet things. And of course, like in the meditation traditions, and all kinds of stuff. And then in my 30s, when I got really sick again, we could talk about what triggered that, that could be useful, too. But when I got really sick again, I was doing a lot of stuff on my own, you know, again, with diet and some supplements and things like that. But I was so I didn’t even realize that I wasn’t really open to finding the answers. At that point in time, I was spinning my wheels, not calling in the helpers that could have propelled my journey quicker. I think that I believe now that we intuitively will attract the helpers that we need at any given point in time. And that as we wake up to the possibility that there’s a deeper level of healing, if we’re willing to change our behavior, and change the way we think all of a sudden will attract in the next level of healer. So it actually wasn’t until my mid to late 30s, that I was even ready to recognize that I could change the way I was thinking about this whole thing. Up until that moment in time, I was still stuck in the thing of why am I this way. Like, I’m unique. What I’m going through, no one can tell me what’s going on exactly. all the way till my mid to late 30s. And then all of a sudden, I started pushing myself and challenging myself to not believe that, that no one could tell me what’s going on with me that, you know, I’m not that unique, that there are people out there that actually could probably tell me what’s going on. As soon as I open to that. Then all of a sudden, I finally started attracting in that next level of healers. And there were some key healers at that point, doctors and coaches and throughout the whole spectrum of healers that all of a sudden, I got the answers that I was waiting for my whole life, once I actually open to the fact that people had the answers, they’re out there, they could help me understand my puzzle that was going on. And that’s when it started happening. And that’s how I opened up to like, for instance, an integrative psychiatrist, when I was like this is I can’t spend my whole life this way I don’t want to. I have so much I want to accomplish. I think the one other thing I’ll say here is that my reason for getting better got bigger than it ever was. And that’s the second thing that changed. I knew I wanted to have a child and I knew I couldn’t be the father, I wanted to be how sick I was. I also knew that I wanted to help people in a much more global way and run a business to do that. And I knew I couldn’t accomplish that how sick I was. So those two reasons got so big in my mind that then I had a big enough reason to change my perception of what was possible. And then all of a sudden, all the people I ever needed showed up in my life within months. And then the growth curve of healing went down to just a few two to three years versus decades.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 34:33
Wow. Powerful. Yeah, I’ve got so many questions from what you were just sharing. It’s hard to choose which path to go down. But one piece that I think is so powerful here is basically making a decision that you are going to the word that keeps coming up in my mind is responsibility like you You took responsibility for achieving the fullest expression of who you could be and I’m Putting it that way, because one of the challenges that I’ve encountered over and over again, with my patients as a psychiatrist is the challenge that comes with the diagnosis. It’s almost like, Okay, I have bipolar, okay, I have PTSD. And there’s oftentimes there’s an implied limitation inside of that. And it’s like, I don’t want to collaborate with someone unconsciously, to basically message them that their life is going to be limited by the mental health challenges that they face. And I guess the word I’m looking for is colluding with people to basically say, you know, you’re always going to be limited, you’re never going to be able to run because you broke your leg one time, you’re never going to be able to run as fast as the next person, or that kind of messaging. And I’m wondering, this choice that you made this taking this bigger stand for your future? Was that something that ever came up in the care that you were receiving? Or was that something that more came from inside of yourself?
Keith Kurlander 35:59
I think it’s both. I think that the the trick when someone’s been suffering for decades, when they’re on the moderate to severe end of psychiatric illness, I think the trick here is that, when you’re in those states, every moment feels like an eternity, it’s kind of like what we talked about is like a bad psychedelic experience. It’s like where you don’t, there’s no part of you that believes it’s ever going to end. There’s because it feels so eternal, and boundless in those states. And the it’s sort of like this inner torture that you’re sort of doing everything in your mind to try and Ninja your way away from the pain. Because it’s so overwhelmingly incredible, and you’re constantly just trying to do things in your mind, to sidestep and it’s just every time you sidestep, you’re right back at the pain, but it’s like this circle of just constantly running in a cage. And so to break that state, which a lot of people are in, right, as you know, a lot of people get to that place, and they stay there, sometimes for years, and often for months. And again, one moment feels like an attorney. So that’s intense, right? So to break the state and to recognize that there’s another possibility about how to approach this thing. I mean, for me, it was definitely a combination of an inner voice of inspiration. To answer your question, it was an inner voice of inspiration, which I always had, which was like, I always knew that my mission in the world was far more important than my neurotic and psychotic, so to speak processes. I always knew my mission was actually more important than what I was sucked into. So I was able to listen to that. But I would also say that there were just certain people and their methods that allowed me and I would almost call them more coaching methods that allowed me to crack the code on those, at least those profound states of suffering, to get into a empowerment in myself, where it was like, I’m gonna spend my whole life dealing with this, I don’t care anymore, I’m going to deal every day, I’m going to wake up and deal. I think it was also the coaching kind of space, people that I started falling that helped me crack that code to get empowered enough to care that when I woke up, I don’t care if I feel like absolute hell and torture. And I’m going crazy. I’m still going to look for the next solution.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 38:50
Yeah, this is probably another conversation for another time. But I just think it’s so interesting that psychiatry, in terms of how we think about it, or conventional psychiatry, we think of as dealing with symptoms and just get rid of symptoms. And then we put thriving and empowerment and being fully expressed in the world and so forth, as we put that into coaching around. Yeah. And I just think it’s such an interesting delineation that, you know, psychiatry, basically, we think of it as not addressing any of those things, which is, I think, very sad, actually.
Keith Kurlander 39:26
It is. Well, you know, it’s interesting, right, because psychiatry and psychology was completely based on pathology, basically, mostly until the 80s. I mean, there were other traditions that came up like a stall and things but they were mostly just based on pathology. But then psychiatry didn’t actually shift that much psychotherapy had a bit of a shift with positive and optimal psychology movements that started then and and looking for like, what is actually potential. But it actually didn’t even take hold that much in psychotherapy, either. There was a wave there. And it’s definitely talked about. But I still believe when I talked to, you know, when I study a lot of what’s going on in the psychotherapy space, and you and I obviously know a lot about the psychiatry space with our institute, but there’s not a lot of talk about what’s the potential of the person sitting in front of you. It’s not typically the conversation, how do you cheat potential? And you’re right, that’s the conversation in coaching. In the coaching space, like people often ask me, what’s the difference between coaching and therapy? Well, one of the main differences for me is that in the coaching space, the coaching space is talking about what is this person’s potential? What is this person’s potential? The psychotherapy space tends to be more of either a process space, or how do we get them functional? functionality, self discovery, but it doesn’t tend to predominate the space? How do we get this potential person reaching higher and higher and higher levels of potential across their entire Lifeline? Like how do we give them the tools so they keep reaching the next level of potential? And, you know, I think that’s sad. It’s not just sad, but I think it’s something where we can grow in these fields, getting this into human potential movement. And that’s obviously what you and I are trying to do, but it needs
Dr. Will Van Derveer 41:14
to happen. Absolutely. And, you know, it’s obviously, it’s also a cultural issue, that the sort of, you know, we tend to talk about it like in terms of growth mindset or growth mentality, that life is about being challenged, and facing the challenges and finding the resources to overcome the challenges and to grow throughout the entire lifespan, the idea that the mind while that the brain is plastic throughout the lifespan, so this whole idea of like life as a journey of growing and learning and falling down and dusting off your knees and continuing on, and it’s not something that I encountered as a kind of cultural phenomenon in how we live in America, you know, to couch life, let’s say or health, let’s talk about health for a minute, like, health is the absence of pain. Is that true? Like, I think that’s how we are in conventional medicine, not even just psychiatry, but conventional medicine, it’s like, well, health is the absence of symptoms, it means you don’t have pain, you don’t go to the doctor. But, you know, we know that. That’s not what health is.
Keith Kurlander 42:23
Yeah, it’s what you’re bringing up a really good sort of segue for me in the story, because it’s like, You’re making me kind of reflect on that. I always wanted to sort of keep seeing what I was capable of. Okay, so that was just one thread of my life, like, I had that in me. But another thread in relationship to my suffering, was, how do I just feel better? How do I just feel better and get rid of the suffering? And that’s what you’re describing as health? How do we get the absence of pain, and I got to say that I failed that one. I never succeeded at that, which was having an absence of pain and suffering. And I finally stopped trying. And that was the next thing that I think that helped me propel forward in my journey was when I stopped trying and approaching it that way. You know, that was a big shift for me when I stopped, you know, when when there was a new kind of flare up internally, and I would say this is only three, four years ago when it was really up to practices and how to work with the this flare up, and I’m starting to get crazy and feel out of my body and just knots and, you know, normally just the symptoms coming on. And I’m sure a lot of people can relate to those who’ve ever suffered from severe symptoms. It’s like a chair just starts tripping out like, Oh, my God, it’s here again, it’s what do I do? How do I fix this? When I finally stopped doing that with myself, and knowing that I’m going to suffer, that’s a part of life. But now what? Okay, so I’m in this experience. Now, what do I do like versus, you know, the Panic of like, how do I get rid of the pain as fast as possible? Yeah, that was a major shift. And I would agree, I think that although there has been some benefits to allopathic medicine, pursuing that approach, with different types of conditions, there have been benefits to you know, abolishing symptoms overnight, we also see that a lot of people, not just mental health wise are very sick on the planet. We’ve done decently in medicine, but not that great in terms of people’s quality of life. And I think that this is this is a philosophical issue in medicine that you’re pointing out, and mental health care specifically, it’s like, if we keep taking this approach, we’re gonna find ourselves realizing that we’re in pain the day later when we just abolished one pain, a new patents right back at our face. And that’s just through a cycle of using medicine and your whole life that actually has consequences to use it that way.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 44:57
Yeah, exactly. I mean, it’s the philosophy of how you are using the medication. And I think the metaphor for mental health care providers of surgery and using medication as anesthesia so that the actual surgery can happen, and you don’t have a patient who’s jumping off the table, because you’re using a scalpel without anesthesia is actually a pretty useful metaphor in my practice. So failing to relieve pain is a huge mistake. And, you know, as you shared, I think so vulnerably, you know, you could be dead today, if somebody didn’t step in and help you relieve pain. But when we use anaesthesia, we wheel people back to the O r, and then we give them anesthesia, and then we don’t do the surgery, and they come out of the ER, and they think that they’re, well, because they got anesthesia. But there was no surgery. That’s also a mistake. And so I think both, you know, it’s sort of like both aspects. And the art really, in medicine, of balancing, supporting the person adequately to face what they need to face, but challenging them at the same time, which, again, is something that we don’t really think about, or not something I heard about in medical school. That’s
Keith Kurlander 46:20
right. Yeah. And I think that, um, I think it takes a certain level of maturity, to recognize that psychological challenge and emotional challenge, physical challenge to high level sometimes like that actually can benefit us in our life, and that we actually need that to grow. And for that to be a living experience, not just an intellectual concept, or that’s fine. One day, we’re like a little challenge, like, Oh, yeah, this is a good challenge for me, mentally, but then the next day, you know, we’re like, banning our partner out of our house in our head, because we don’t want the challenge, right. So it’s like, I think it’s a maturity process, I think, and it’s a necessary one of being a human that not mental illness, but psychological challenge is a part of flexing the psyche, to expand and grow and learn life’s curriculum, and it’s necessary. And the more we can embrace that, the quicker we can understand when things go when things get too disordered, and disorganized in our systems about how to bring it back into a more higher state of order. But we’re always gonna have challenges and we’re always gonna have bad days and bad hours and bad minutes, where we’re like, Ah, this is so damn hard. And I want it so bad to go away. We’re always going to have that. But it’s like, I think what I’ve learned is, well, what position Are you going to take with that for the rest of your life? Because it’s coming tomorrow? What position are you going to take? When that happens? Again, what are you gonna try to take? What’s your intention? Because we’re not always going to do it. Right.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 47:58
Absolutely. And, you know, that kind of leads into another area that I think has been such a rich conversation for you and me over the years, which is not just what position Are you going to take? But also what lens? Are you going to wear it as you face? The challenge or the suffering? And for example, do you take a functional medicine lens to the suffering? Do you take a psychological lens to the suffering? Do you take a lifestyle medicine perspective about the suffering, and there’re so many different ways to relieve the suffering, but there’s also a lot of different root causes, I would say. So I’m curious, your perspective and your journey around that.
Keith Kurlander 48:40
First thing I would say here is that what I learned is that it tends to be the thing we’re rigid around, that helps us do the things that we don’t want to do. Like, I don’t want to take psych meds, I don’t believe in functional medicine. You know, it’s like it, I don’t believe in, you know, going from a vegetarian diet to an animal protein diet, like, it tends to be in my experience now, from what I’m seeing, there’s ways we’re rigid in our life, and we’re not willing to try other things based on ideologies. And in my experience, actually, it’s that rigidity, and the things that we haven’t tried is where the healing is. We’ve tried the other things, anything we’re telling ourselves is gonna work. I mean, that’s the one other thing I would say to this is like, if we’re telling ourselves this thing we’ve been trying for 220 years, is going to solve the problem. And the problem is only 10 or 20%. Better, it’s not going to solve the problem. You’d be lucky if you get another 5% out of that method. So I think that all these things are important. I found I think it’s a constitutional thing. I think for me, it happened to be for the most part, it was a lot of evidence based things That worked for me. There’s some evidence. But there’s some things that there’s no evidence that I’ve done, like example is intergenerational trauma. I can only say I believe I can’t say no, but I could say I believe I had a really high level of intergenerational Jewish trauma. And that it was 4050, Somatic Experiencing sessions just on Holocaust trauma. That may have been 40 sessions. And I believe it was a massive part of my healing, but there were many others. But when I was 28, or 30, like I had no, it was like, now I like maybe I was like, more like, maybe that’s the thing, but I’m not gonna focus on that. So I think it’s something about being realistic, not just doing things that are completely Whoo, forever. And it’s, if it’s giving you results, keep doing it. But you know, if you go try something that’s, you know, very esoteric, and not much is happening in a month or two months, I don’t think it’s gonna happen in a year. Like, to me, what I found is like, functional medicine was a big lever for me, but like, those things started working in like, you know, one, two to three months, I started seeing big results. And the only other thing I would say, there’s got to make sure you have a qualified provider. Because like you just like you were describing earlier, it’s an art form. And you could get lost in somebody who you think is qualified for years, but you’re not getting radically better. Well, if you still believe in the system, go try someone else in that system. And that could be conventional psychiatry, even though I’ve had multiple conventional psychiatrists, and a couple of them in my early 30s. Didn’t couldn’t get it right. So any, any discipline, right?
Dr. Will Van Derveer 51:53
Right. And you know, that’s exactly, and that’s why they call it medical arts, because it’s a practice. And there’s no cookbook, especially in psychiatry, or what the right combination is for this particular person, because the bipolar two presentation, for example, among others, is really different for each person. And so what combination does that person need? Yeah, there’s definitely an art to it. And I appreciate what you said about opening your mind to other frames if the frame that you’re in isn’t producing the results. That’s interesting that once you opened your mind to some functional medicine approaches, you started getting results. It sounds pretty quick.
Keith Kurlander 52:32
Yeah, I mean, the framework you and I created, and in our institute, and we do we teach in our clinics, like I believe that the framework we’ve created is a very wide framework in terms of the amount of people that could enter that framework, follow that framework, and get benefits quickly. I think it’s a very wide net framework. But it’s not for everyone. But I do believe that there are a few essential things, anybody that’s pretty mentally sick, that they should be checking out pretty deeply. I think functional medicine is absolutely one if and but you need a skilled provider, there’s a lot of people in any medicine tradition, that’s not skilled enough. So you need a skilled provider and mental health and functional medicine. Right. I think that’s one. And then I think that, you know, nutrition is a huge lever that is overlooked. And I think that, you know, obviously, just all the psychological Sciences is big, too. I mean, I think those three things in and of themselves. And then in the psychological sciences, I would include coaching, because I think you need good coaches, to help you with the stuff we were talking about. So but if you’ve got a, you know, if you had a team and you’re not doing well, and you’re dealing with the functional medicine, and the supplements, you’re dealing with the psychological stuff, whether it’s trauma and a coach, and and then you’re dealing with your diet, and your behavior and your life, which will follow but you do those, I think most people can get better, not everyone, because there’s always unique situations that there’s these sub disciplines that you got to look at. But I think that overview from what I’ve learned, and what I’ve seen with my clients is that most people can get better under that.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 54:18
Yeah, we definitely have a broad basis of areas that we look at in terms of how to get lasting results or empowerment with people. As we support them. There are some things that we don’t include, which I think we at least my position would be that they’re also valid, but they’re just outside the scope of what we teach like acupuncture or naturopathic approaches or homeopathy are things that can be very effective for certain people. And I’ve known people who’ve gotten great results from those files. But yeah, I think the important message that I’m hearing from you which I agree with is be open minded and get empowered and learn about all the different things on the menu that could help you Don’t get stuck in kind of a disempowered relationship with the provider you’re working with, and really relying on them to tell you what could be effective for you. Obviously, they hopefully will have very valuable information for you. But to think that they have the answers for you is just, I think, a very disempowered position to put yourself in.
Keith Kurlander 55:22
Yeah, I think before even thinking about the modality, you got to make sure that you’re with the provider, like, you know, when I tell people that I work with now, and you know, I don’t work a lot of people anymore, but like, if they’re not hearing things they’ve never heard before, and feeling things they’ve never felt before. Like, I’m not the right guy for them. Like, to me, it’s like, when you find a provider that is working at the next level of where you’re trying to get to, like, they’re gonna start telling you things that like, oh, finally, someone’s saying that to me, like, no one’s said it to me this way before. And you know, there’s a clear path, and you’re going to see results progressively over time, one more stock and symptom cycles. For years, it’s time, in my opinion, it’s time to go find a new provider, because why not like, you want to just stay in symptom cycles for the next five years, and you’ve been in them for five years. Like, to me, it’s like, okay, that provider got you where they could, and now you’re needing something new than new providers offer you. So I think a big part of the conversation is the provider. And it’s not about better providers, or worse providers or right or wrong, it’s just like the level of healing that you need. There’s a certain person out there that’s right for you at that moment in time.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 56:41
Yeah, I agree. And, you know, in my own journey, I have met providers who helped me for a certain period of time, and then it was time to move on, I totally relate to what you’re saying, and, you know, agree with you. Yeah, it’s interesting how people use it sometimes I think, and I, you know, I’ve had this experience with both being on the receiving and the giving. And there’s sometimes there’s a sense of sort of stagnation or a sense of comfort that arises just from the familiarity of having a person who cares about you, and but there can be a kind of a plateau in recovery, that sometimes people get, I think, a little too comfortable in that, and are not being maybe challenged enough to go to the next level.
Keith Kurlander 57:25
Totally, totally. And, you know, I think that’s a big thing, like, as a provider, to try and not take things personally. And like, if there’s a plateau, and, you know, it’s like time to send them off to the next person and push and push that, if you feel like you don’t have a ton more to offer, it’s like, there’s always going to be people that I would have to do that with just even with what I know, now, there’s always going to be a time where it’s like time for the person to go to the next person. I think that’s relevant for sure. And thinking that it would be exciting to spend a little more time on psychedelics, because you brought it up. And it’s such a major part of the conversation right now in mental health, at least in one of the innovative spaces of like, Well, you know, what’s coming? And what’s the role, and I’m just thinking it might be nice to spend five minutes or so on that.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 58:15
What do you think? Sounds great. Let’s do it.
Keith Kurlander 58:17
Yeah. Where shall we start with that?
Dr. Will Van Derveer 58:20
Well, I guess the first thing I’d like to say about psychedelics is that Well, I mean, it’s funny, I, I’m a true believer in the potentials and the possibilities here with psychedelics. And at the same time, you know, having practiced psychiatry for 20 years and seen promised advances, after promised advances, after promised advances, I come with a certain level of sobriety or kind of, I’d like to call it maturity. I don’t want to sound jaded. But I think that there’s a hype that arises whenever there’s a new tool that’s on the way, you know, and people get on the bandwagon, and they get a little carried away and inflated sometimes about what can happen with a particular tool. And you know, it’s like, oh, we finally have the tool, we finally have the tool. So I think it’s important for us to talk about, you know, how we think about the right way to hold this tool, and to sort of bring it into balance. So it’s not really perceived as a panacea, or something that can fix every problem under the sun.
Keith Kurlander 59:27
Yeah, yeah. And link is also a little bit about, you know, the relevancy in my experience of what I went through in my life, around mental illness and the role of psychedelics. I think, like you’re saying, there’s a lot of hype, and I think we hear a lot of the voices of individuals that are expressing how much psychedelics have helped them, and we also see some great research coming out. But more like popular media, we hear voices of A lot right now, there’s a stage because of the positive research for a lot of individuals that have benefited from psychedelics, and we’re hearing a lot from them right now. And I guess what I would say is, you know, I’ve seen that and I’ve also seen, in my practice a lot of people that use psychedelics, they don’t look at it that way in their own life. And they look at it like, gosh, that was something I don’t want to have to go through again. So me personally, like I’d said, the 19 year old story I’ve probably done. I haven’t done a psychedelic outside of a ketamine experience, medical ketamine experience, which that’s a different story, which you know, about what’s amazing. I haven’t done a psychedelic in 10 years, outside of that experience. And my I probably done 40 or 50 times psychedelics prior to that. So for some people, you know, I’ve never done the psychedelic, that’s a big number,
Dr. Will Van Derveer 1:00:56
right? substantial amount of experiences. Yeah.
Keith Kurlander 1:00:58
And for people who have done a lot of psychedelics that’s like, grade school,
Dr. Will Van Derveer 1:01:04
right, if you’re just a beginner for the Burning Man crowd,
Keith Kurlander 1:01:06
it’s like, I’m not even a beginner, right? It’s like, I’m just, they’re just giving me my white belt right now. So what I will say, for me is like, you know, my most of my psychedelic experiences, prior to 10 years ago, was with Iowa casca. And that was always a love hate affair. For me. Every time I hated almost every minute of it, and I loved it, that I wanted to come back from war. And, you know, it’s kind of brutal . It was like, every time it was like, my most inner torturous experience I could imagine. And something about it was so intriguing. And I thought that if I keep returning to it in the setting that I was doing it that it was I would get through what was going on in the context of what I was doing it in now, it turns out for me, I got really sick mentally as I kept doing it more and more, that it’s not the Iowa casca. And want to say that it’s that one, it’s probably not the right medicine for me number one at all. And two wasn’t the right dose. And it also wasn’t the right setting. And I didn’t have a therapist and all that combined, you know, and ended up really destabilizing me. That’s the first thing I would say there. I
Dr. Will Van Derveer 1:02:20
don’t know if you have any comments about that part of it. But I’ll just clarify for our audience. I’ve, you know, been close to you through your journey. So I know some of these details. But tell us about the second setting. Were you ordering? I was on the internet and drinking it at the kitchen table or? Well, yeah, right. It was the content. I
Keith Kurlander 1:02:38
had a great set and setting in a certain way saying it wasn’t the right sentence for me. But I did it all ritualistic and in spiritual communities, churches, I walked churches and 30 people in a room with a shaman and helpers and you know, rituals and prayers and songs and all that stuff. And I didn’t know, Columbia was in Colombia twice, was in the jungles there with 90 year old shamans. And so in a certain way, on the outside, you would go Oh, that’s the right set of setting, right. Like that would probably be the initial response there.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 1:03:14
Right. Qualified shaman, relatively traditional ceremony, that kind of thing.
Keith Kurlander 1:03:20
Right? Right. But it turned out two things for me of what happened there for me. Now, one thing I want to ask why I want to give credit is because it highlighted what was wrong with me enough that I actually got pointed in the right direction. I don’t know if I could have done that with those without those stories. On the flip side, I got really, really sick and Ill by doing that much I Alaska in the set and setting in the way I was doing it. So what was not going on that knew I needed was number one, I needed a therapist there the whole time with me. That’s the first and foremost thing right by my side. Because when I take psychedelics in general, I feel an extraordinary amount of trauma in my mind and in my body. You know, certain people can just work with the medicine to let it heal them. And that’s real. Without another body there. Even my particular blend of trauma was about going into an internal state of social isolation and isolation in my mind, from my particular bone to trauma. So for me, that seven setting was like traumatizing on steroids because I needed social engagement to deal with my trauma. Even on the medicine, I couldn’t just let the medicine do its work because I needed social engagement because my wound was around social isolation inside myself. So you know, that’s the first thing I would say you know, and I also am a slow metabolizer so I was talking about four Five times as much as I needed. And so, you know, my dose was always like, what people were having, you know, six, seven doses like what’s going on here? Just that I’m a slow metabolizer I don’t think there’s any other big story there.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 1:05:15
Yeah, so there was all that clarification question. And this is really sort of a speculative question. And there’s no right answer here for anybody. But I’ve always wondered with I Alaska, how much of the trauma material that comes up on io oska? is personal. And how much of it as transpersonal or intergenerational or in the field, even in the circle of say, 30 people working with a shaman, do you have any thoughts on that? Yeah, it’s
Keith Kurlander 1:05:46
such an important question that we can obviously no, but what I would say is, that’s the question, we need to be asking ourselves all the time and trauma work, just like is any of this intergenerational trauma? And if it is, if it’s not only about the experiences of this lifetime? What do we do about that to not create too strong of a story that we start clinging to and attaching to, but to be able to work with the energy in a conducive way? So I would say that, my experience is that it’s very easy to access intergenerational experiences on medicines like that. But we also have to be careful not to create huge stories after you know, now I’m the sixth reincarnation of blah, blah, blah. And I just saw, you know, a soldier that cut my head off, like, okay, maybe, but I think we just have to be mindful and ourselves around creating narratives that are super strong and fixated. But I would say that my intuition, without knowing for sure, is that a lot of intergenerational material comes up on these medicines.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 1:06:54
Yeah. Yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s a lot of information. In any case, wherever we decide to hang our hat on, where you know, where it’s coming from,
Keith Kurlander 1:07:06
a lot of information, but you know, it’s good information, because it points us in directions of modalities of healing. whether or not these things are 100% true, it sort of doesn’t matter. It’s like the first time I didn’t believe in it. But the first time I was up on this Holocaust trauma of mine was when I was 21, on an LSD journey, and for about half hour, I was just seeing swastikas everywhere. And I was so terrified and overwhelmed by it. I didn’t say anything. And you know, it was the first insight for me of pointing the road of like, yeah, things that happened seven years ago, where I wouldn’t be here, if that kept happening, eradicate almost my entire tribe, that doesn’t have an impact on my psychology, like, pretty obvious, it does. Took a little LSD to start the point that direction.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 1:07:58
Keith Kurlander 1:07:58
but I’m also not necessarily advocating here, go try all these different medicines, you know, not only just because they’re illegal, but it’s like, I am actually much more now conservative in my approaches to healing because I’ve learned from some of my mistakes. So I’m pretty excited about taking our time here, let’s see what comes out of the research. You know, that’s why I’m really a big fan of ketamine for particular uses. Because we’ve got some research to stand on. And we’re seeing some great results and like, let’s just be patient. We’re going to have some research very soon on MDMA. We’re going to hopefully show promising research and become illegal for certain indications and like, let’s just be patient. It’s these things that are calming.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 1:08:42
Yeah, I agree. I, you know, when we were speaking a few minutes ago about, you know, it’s good information. Regarding mosque, I think it’s also worth balancing that comment with the perspective that I’ve kind of grown into with my background with MDMA research and following along the research on psilocybin and more of the historical research on LSD, that there’s, there’s certain medicines that are probably not the best for certain people, you know, and as we become more knowledgeable through research, and through shared clinical experience, I think we’re going to have a much more accurate and kind of sharpened perception about which medicine might be a better fit for which person and so we can live inside of this more nuanced zone between kind of like the the psycho, not end of the spectrum of like, everybody should be trying everything. And more of the conventional maybe end of the spectrum of or conservative end of the spectrum. Nobody should ever do any of these drugs, because they’re gonna hurt you every time.
Keith Kurlander 1:09:51
Right, right, which is where we’ve been, at least across our culture, but yeah, and I think you’re right and it’s like, you know, we’re Gonna have guys like you who are like, all about the research, you know, it’s still an art form, but it’s like these are medicines just like the rest of the medicines available to us. And I think they need to be viewed as medicines, you know, sure they have this extra component that’s so fascinating about how it interrupts the psyche. And that’s amazing. But their medicines and their chemicals, whether they aren’t synthesized or they are synthesized, they’re still medicines in my mind, and they have a purpose, first people and sometimes they don’t have a purpose for people that’s going to really help them.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 1:10:34
Yeah, I mean, I’ve certainly seen my fair share of people who were traumatized by using psychedelics and not only in a, quote, unquote, recreational context, people coming out of Iosco retreats in South America and taking a year to get back to finding their footing, or more, right, but I’ve also seen incredible openings and deepenings that were inconceivable for people who had never used psychedelics before. So, you know, this is like one of those conversations in mental health where there’s no right answer, but there are nuances for us to pay attention to, and ways that we can mitigate risks and try to tell the movement toward healing and away from further damage or further trauma.
Keith Kurlander 1:11:22
Yeah, and, you know, I think that, you know, if we talk about ketamine for a moment, too, so, you know, we’ve obviously, there’s all these psychedelics that, you know, people are recreationally using or spiritually using on their own. And, again, like, I’ve seen it all, like just like you like, the person who comes back and is really in a different place. And the person who comes back from those experiences is in a much worse partner place and more challenges that take a long time to unravel. And, but when I think about ketamine, since that’s the one psychedelic that we can medically use right now. And from my experience of doing that intervention, it’s an incredible tool. It seems to be the most appropriate right for very depressed people and very stuck people, ruminative people and in other things, it also seems to be somewhat useful for trauma, like you can get into some deep trauma therapies with it, it’s pretty fascinating that way. And so, to me, like when I see something like that, what excites me is that we’re now finally at a moment in history in this country where we can control the seven setting at such a high level, like with ketamine, we can control dosing, we can even do IV ketamine where we’re like, we could turn the volume down, if it was, if it’s like blasting people into so much overwhelm that we can turn it like that, now we’re at all even or turn it off, right. So we’re now at the point where we’ve got a certain setting where we can have a therapist that is a person, so we can, you know, we’ve got an agent that actually has a biological impact on people’s brains, that’s really quite profound sometimes. And we’ve got a control mechanism. So to me, like, we are way beyond where we’ve been in the last 50 years, with psychedelics, you know, at the chaos of the 60s with psychedelics, and you know, that didn’t turn out that well, overall. I mean, it was great. And it costs a revolution, part of it, that there were other things that caused a revolution. But there was some Fallout, but now we’re like, We’re going slower now. And I love how, like ketamine is a great example of when we really adhere to the medical protocols, well, we’re way more likely to produce a positive response. And that’s, that’s my hope of how, as these new medicines hopefully come to pass, that we stay responsible, and we keep the controls in place. So that we’re really limiting, you know, and helping people experience challenges that they can actually do something about, and not just have challenges, that’s gonna blow them out of their body, and they can’t do anything about it except, you know, trying to integrate it later. Because, you know, hopefully we don’t have those all the time.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 1:14:14
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there was this more manic period in the 60s, I would say, Timothy Leary, and, you know, the notion that everyone you know, psychedelics are good for everybody. And we should be, you know, spiking people’s drinks with LSD without their knowledge and all that kind of crazy business and, but in the background, there were these very determined and methodical researchers like Stan grof and William Richards and people who were kind of behind closed doors, doing the work, you know, figuring out like, what is set and setting and how does it work and what works well and what doesn’t, and I feel so much gratitude and just humble regard for these giants who came in front of us and really light a path down for, you know, successful treatments with psychedelics, and it’s, it’s exciting that their work is finally coming, Roland Griffiths said, Hopkins and you know, the work is coming forward to be accessed, hopefully in short order by no means of people. So yeah, it’s an exciting time.
Keith Kurlander 1:15:27
It’s a really exciting time. And it’s just an exciting time for some new medicines really, to get to the public. And the thing is, is that the medicine is not the treatment, right? The psychotherapy is the treatment. So Exactly. It’s an exciting time to pair the medicine with the treatment. Because that’s not what’s been done. And sure some people got it without it. You know, they got to just buy the medicine or they have a space holder. But I’m excited about now as these come along here like, well, let’s pair these two things. And now we’re going to see some healing.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 1:16:05
Yeah, exactly. It’s a different use of pharmacology. It’s catalytic. It’s a disrupter kind of use big time, which is very different in terms of what we were talking about earlier today about antidepressants and suppressing and kind of more mild anesthesia, which isn’t so much about disruption. It’s about smoothing things over. So
Keith Kurlander 1:16:28
yeah, and it’s great, you know, I’m glad you’re bringing it there. As we kind of wrap up on psychedelics. It’s a great framework, which is there are times to suppress, right. You know, we want to suppress psychosis, right? Like, we don’t want to amplify a psychosis. So it’s like, there’s a role for suppression, and there’s a role for expression, but the psychedelics are going to express what’s going on. And there’s a time and place for that. But it’s not a one stop shop, obviously.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 1:17:00
Right? When is the right tool going to be picked for the right application? And including the suppressive therapies, as you say, you know, which we still use a lot and recommend in our fellowship, education and inside of our clinics. Yeah, there’s absolutely a role for that, the need for that
Keith Kurlander 1:17:19
until there’s something better there is right, right, maybe one day we’ll discover something that can suppress something quicker, more effective, and with less side effects. Hopefully we do. Because there’s just a role for suppression. I mean, there’s that’s all it’s about, right. There’s a time and a place to suppress the experience, enough to create a stability underground to start working from.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 1:17:47
Well, yeah, when you talk about suppression, I mean, on ketamine, on the one hand, does have suppressive impact on say, suicidal thinking, for example, or even symptoms of chronic depression, that is faster than SSRIs most of the time, even to the point where some emergency rooms are giving people IV ketamine when they come in with suicidality. I mean, there’s a step forward in terms of how quickly we can relieve pain there. But it’s interesting that ketamine also comes with this other opportunity that’s not only about suppression, it’s, there’s also an opportunity to get after some of the underlying mechanisms of the depression. So yeah, we can be
Keith Kurlander 1:18:28
exciting at the same thing. But it’s such an exciting medicine in that way, because it’s got both this sort of, quote unquote suppressive agent, but it also has, quote, unquote, the expressive agent. And we’re not sure about the other medicine, psychedelic medicines yet in regards to that, but that it’s very interesting how ketamine is doing both. Right. Yeah. Should we start wrapping up or?
Dr. Will Van Derveer 1:18:51
I guess so it’s, yeah, go? could go on for a long time here.
Keith Kurlander 1:18:55
Dr. Will Van Derveer 1:18:58
Maybe we’ll do another conversation to maybe go a little deeper in some of these areas. Another time.
Keith Kurlander 1:19:04
Yeah. Yeah. Well, thanks for interviewing me. That was, that was exciting and lively.
Dr. Will Van Derveer 1:19:13
He has a lot of fun for me too. And I just want to thank you for taking the stand that you’ve taken in your life to push yourself to grow and see more possibilities. And it’s really powerful to hear you talking about the mission that you wanted to accomplish in the world of having a bigger impact than you know, being a therapist, which already has a big impact in people’s lives and realizing that you weren’t going to be the kind of father you wanted to be unless you could find a deeper level of healing. I think it’s fitting me in a very deep place of just inspiration and respect for the journey that you’ve had.
Keith Kurlander 1:19:53
Thanks. Well, yeah, I appreciate hearing that. I think I also want to say to the listener to the Share this episodes if these episodes are impacting you, and you want to spread what’s happening on this podcast to other people that whether it’s a client, a colleague, a parent, a friend, like that is the way we get all the information on this podcast is simply by you sharing at once we have a lot of listeners on here, and if this is something that you want in the hands of other people, that’s how we spread the message. So I do encourage you to share this episode if this one stood out to you in a certain way, and you feel like someone could benefit from it. Yeah. Well, thanks. Well,
Dr. Will Van Derveer 1:20:37
thanks, Keith. 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.