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Decoding the Differences: Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy vs. Ketamine only Treatment...Which is Right for me?

Ketamine has emerged as a potential game-changer in the field of treating treatment-resistant depression (TRD) and other mental health disorders. 


But determining whether to do Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy (KAP) or ketamine only treatment (no therapy) can be a difficult choice. Hopefully we can shed some light on the differences between the two and which might be the best route for you.


Asking the question should I do ketamine with therapy or by itself

Ketamine-assisted Psychotherapy (Ketamine with a Therapist): A Holistic Approach

KAP combines the therapeutic benefits of ketamine with structured psychotherapy sessions. Here's how it works:

  • TREATMENT APPROACH: At Starks Therapy Group (STG), clients will have a few “prep” sessions with their assigned STG therapist prior to their first dose of ketamine. Once the ketamine is administered, the therapist stays in the room while the client goes through their experience and is present as a supportive professional. After each dose, the client will also have an “integration session” to discuss the ketamine experience with their therapist (please see ketamine FAQs for more details).

  • SETTING: KAP occurs in the comfortable, safe space of the therapist’s office. You will be provided a specifically-curated playlist (and headphones). Clients are often laying on the couch or reclining in a chair with an eye mask. Blankets and pillows are provided to make the client as comfortable as possible.

  • GOALS. AND OUTCOMES: The primary goal here is not only to give quick relief to depressive or anxious symptoms, but also to help clients gain insights, process emotions, and work on the root causes of their mental health conditions, focusing on long-term healing and personal growth.

  • DURATION AND FREQUENCY: KAP sessions occur on a regular schedule with the duration and frequency determined by the therapist and the client's specific needs. Our staff can adjust the dosage, frequency, and setting to best suit everyone’s needs. This personalized approach enables a more holistic and client-centered treatment experience.

Ketamine Only (Ketamine Infusions with no Therapy)

Ketamine only, on the other hand, focuses solely on delivering quick relief from depression symptoms and other mental health disorders. Here's a breakdown:

  • TREATMENT APPROACH: In this method, ketamine is administered directly into the client's bloodstream, often through an intravenous (IV) drip. There is no concurrent psychotherapy during the infusion session.

  • SETTING: Ketamine-only infusions are typically conducted in a specialized outpatient ketamine clinic instead of a therapist’s office. While clients have their IV ketamine treatment, blood pressure and heart rate should be monitored by a professional, often in 15- or 30-minute increments (this monitoring would also be done in your KAP session by our onsite nurse practitioner).

  • GOALS AND OUTCOMES: The primary objective is to provide fast-acting relief from depression symptoms. The effects tend to be shorter-term, and clients may require periodic infusions to maintain the benefits.

  • DURATION AND FREQUENCY: Initially, clients may undergo a series of ketamine infusion sessions, often over several weeks, to achieve the desired improvement in symptoms. Afterward, maintenance infusions may be needed but less frequently, depending on the individual response and the specific condition being treated.

Choosing the Right Path for You

When deciding between KAP and ketamine-only treatment, it's essential to consider your specific needs and treatment goals:

  • If you seek a comprehensive approach that not only provides rapid symptom relief but also addresses the underlying causes of depression while valuing the therapeutic process, KAP may be the path to explore.

  • If you require rapid symptom relief, with the focus just on the quick and effective intervention, ketamine-only infusions might be the right choice.

It's worth noting that both ketamine treatments have their unique benefits and may cater to different individuals and their conditions. Consultation with a mental health professional is crucial to determine which approach aligns best for you. 


Regardless of your choice, the emergence of ketamine opens doors to new possibilities in the ongoing battle against depression and other mental health disorders.


This post contributed by Serena Hess, licensed Registered Nurse with a master’s degree from DePaul University; former Starks Therapy Group intern; currently completing a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner post-master’s certification (PMHNP-BC)


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DISCLAIMER: The sole purpose of this post is to keep individuals informed of Starks Therapy Group's events, provide useful information related to mental health issues and provide thoughtful content related to self care and mental health. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any mental illness. This post is not monitored daily and is used for information sharing only. If you wish to communicate directly with someone at Starks Therapy Group, please call (708) 689-3055 or fill out our Contact form‬. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911.


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