Although ketamine treatments are typically administered to individual patients, some couples are discovering that a ketamine infusion during their couples therapy sessions improves the quality of these sessions and in turn their relationship. Some coupled patients believe the combination of ketamine and therapy sessions has saved their marriages.
Therapy for couples is a great option for partners looking to improve the state of their relationship. Many couples struggled to seek assistance for concerns within their relationship during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic and found their issues exasperated due to the restricted access to therapy and additional stressors associated with the pandemic.
With additional stressors and new situations to navigate, therapists and coupled patients are seeking out alternative approaches to their therapy sessions. One of those includes ketamine-assisted couple’s therapy.
Ketamine for Depression
Ketamine has been used as an anesthetic since 1961, and in recent years was discovered to be a viable option for the treatment of symptoms related to depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)¹.
Ketamine infusions in small doses allow patients to enter a more relaxed state of mind and lower their feelings and thoughts of suicide within hours of treatment. Similar to other treatments for depression, ketamine infusions are ongoing, requiring multiple sessions, and are recommended to be accompanied by lifestyle modifications and psychotherapy to reap the full benefits of these sessions.
A recent study showed ketamine’s ability to alleviate and treat symptoms of treatment-resistant depression, such as suicidal thoughts, in 70 percent of patients². Around 30 percent of patients also reported little to no signs of depression after multiple treatments spanning a few months².
With the success of ketamine in treating individuals with depression, medical professionals considered it could be beneficial for couples therapy or marriage counseling sessions.
Ketamine-Assisted Couples Therapy
Psychotherapists interested in offering ketamine-assisted therapy are required to obtain advanced training in the specialty and learn how to best serve their patients in a less direct approach under the effects of ketamine. If coupled patients seek ketamine-assisted therapy, the therapist will partner with a prescriber like Avesta Ketamine and Wellness.
Therapy assisted with ketamine infusions requires some pre-planning with both the therapist and the prescriber. Ketamine couples sessions last anywhere from 1-2 hours of ketamine, with a 30-60minute debrief after the infusion. Like all other ketamine treatments, the couple must have a designated driver as they are not permitted to drive after the session due to the medicine’s lasting effects¹.
At Avesta Ketamine and Wellness, the couple will be shown to a private room with 2 comfortable recliners, where the staff will check their vital signs. The couple then receives ketamine treatments in the form of ketamine lozenges, or IV. Every individual reacts differently, and its effectiveness can increase or decrease over time. The dosage administered will also vary in its effects on an individual, and is weight-based. Treatment with ketamine, whether alone or accompanied by a partner for psychotherapy, can last anywhere between five to 20 sessions for a full treatment, or around six to eight months¹. At Avesta Ketamine and Wellness, we design a plan with the couple, and their therapist, that will be the most effective in achieving the couple’s goals.
When given a low dose of ketamine, both partners will enter a relaxed state, allowing the couple to feel more comfortable, vulnerable, and open to sharing and receiving feedback on their emotions with one another. Couples feel more comfortable sharing because the relaxing effects of the ketamine treatment help suppress the reactionary response. Instead, patients are better equipped to share their emotional state, listen to their partner’s emotions, and form healthier habits with communication¹.
Benefits of Ketamine-Assisted Couples Therapy
Research has shown that partners that undergo ketamine treatments together will also experience more benefits as the medicine increases neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s capacity to create new connections¹. This benefit allows coupled patients to adopt new, healthier habits surrounding communication and relating to one another. Depending on the individual, the medicine can also provide antidepressant and anti-anxiety benefits for weeks or even months post-treatment, making it easier for some couples to create a stronger connection.
Couples’ Experiences with Ketamine-Assisted Counseling
Not only is ketamine helping couples and individuals, but some partners believe ketamine has helped their marriages. One such couple that shared their experiences, explained that after seeing results from treatments for stress and depression, they decided to try marriage counseling assisted with ketamine treatments. For their first couple’s session with ketamine infusions, they explained their intention was to have a deeper connection and described their first session as extremely profound¹.
“You kind of go to the place you need to go, even if you don’t know you need to go there. We were able to work through some things that we hadn’t in over a decade and actually move past them¹.”
After this couple underwent six sessions with ketamine over the course of 18 months, they both expressed a noticeable difference in their relationship and believe it saved their marriage. They believed that their ketamine treatments enabled them to experience things that were too painful to experience, but without the pain and judgment. The combination of ketamine and therapy gave them something to work toward and look forward to. To the couple, it was as if they cracked open a part of themselves that they did not show and were able to let go of all their defenses¹.
Therapists who provide ketamine-assisted therapy for couples believe that partners become more willing to hold difficult conversations because they have access to more empathy. In a typical setting, a difficult conversation can cause an explosive response of hurt or cause a partner to withdraw. With ketamine-assisted couples therapy, you may reconnect to the feelings of falling in love with increased compassion for your relationship, but for yourself¹.
Ketamine treatments during therapy sessions or weekend retreats are not an instant fix to relationship problems. For some couples, however, it can provide an additional boost they need to create a stronger, lasting connection.
Avesta Ketamine and Wellness
At Avesta Ketamine and Wellness, we value your mental health and are committed to improving your well-being. If you are interested in learning more about ketamine-assisted therapy, please check out our resources page for a recommended list of therapists or or reach out with any questions you may have or schedule a consultation!
¹ Hendrix, R. (2022, October 31). Couples are trying ketamine-assisted relationship therapy, and some say it’s saving their marriages. Insider. Retrieved November 15, 2022, from https://www.insider.com/ketamine-assisted-therapy-is-saving-some-couples-relationships-2022-10
² McInnes, L. A., Qian, J. J., Gargeya, R. S., DeBattista, C., & Heifets, B. D. (2022, January 11). A retrospective analysis of ketamine intravenous therapy for depression in real-world care settings. Journal of Affective Disorders. Retrieved November 16, 2022, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0165032721014142
DiazGranados, N., Ibrahim, L. A., Brutsche, N. E., Ameli, R., Henter, I. D., Luckenbaugh, D. A., Machado-Vieira, R., & Zarate, C. A. (2021, February 4). Rapid resolution of suicidal ideation after a single infusion of an N-methyl-D-aspartate antagonist in patients with treatment-resistant major depressive disorder. Psychiatrist.com. Retrieved November 16, 2022, from https://www.psychiatrist.com/jcp/depression/suicide/rapid-resolution-suicidal-ideation-single-infusion/
Author Dr. Ladan Eshkevari, PhD, CRNA, FAAN Dr. Eshkevari is the lead clinician at Avesta, and is a long time researcher and educator in physiology, biophysics, and anesthesiology. She is passionate about assisting patients with retractable, difficult to treat mood disorders, and relies on the latest research to bring evidence to Avesta’s practice to better understand and serve patients.