Eric Sienknecht (Psy.D.) & Veronika Gold
Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy: Observations from the Clinical Practice
Ketamine, classified as a dissociative anesthetic and N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor agonist, was discovered in the 1960’s and used primarily in surgical anesthesia. As use increased, surgeons and anesthesiologists began noticing “emergence phenomena”, described as an “unwanted” side effect of the medicine and involving reports of non-ordinary states of consciousness (NOSC) such as out-of-body and near-death experiences. On the other hand, famed Mexican psychiatrist Salvador Roquet, described these phenomena instead as the “principal fascinating effect” of ketamine.
Interest in the use of ketamine for psychiatric indications has grown steadily since Zarate and team published their article in 2006. In March 2019, Janssen received FDA approval for esketamine (brand name Spravato) for treatment of depression, which is bringing more interest to the field and greater acceptance of this extraordinary medicine.
There is a growing body of evidence that this unique medicine is not only extremely safe and effective but can produce real and lasting changes in the mood, perceptions, and behaviors of depressed patients.
When used in a safe and supportive setting, ketamine has the potential to elicit profound transpersonal experiences and non-ordinary states of consciousness and is currently the only psychedelic substance that can legally be administered in a clinical setting. We will discuss our clinical observations in our ketamine-assisted psychotherapy (KAP) practice and provide case examples to illustrate elements of therapeutic change. It is our belief that healing and transformation happens through direct experience and we will highlight the unique qualities of experiential learning observed in KAP session.
Eric Sienknecht received his B.A. in Philosophy and World Religions from Georgetown University in 2000 and his Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology from California Institute of Integral Studies in 2011. He is a licensed psychologist, co-founder of Polaris Insight Center, a ketamine-assisted psychotherapy center, and sub-investigator and co-therapist on the Phase 3 MAPS-sponsored MDMA-assisted psychotherapy clinical trials for treatment of PTSD. His areas of expertise include treatment of mood disorders, chronic pain, trauma and integration of psychedelic experiences. His professional interests include psychoanalysis, consciousness research, mystical and peak experiences, mindfulness, and studying the synergistic effects of combining yoga, music, and psychedelics.
Veronika Gold, a psychologist from the Czech Republic and a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in California, has an expertise in the treatment of anxiety, depression, and PTSD. She is a co-founder and COO of Polaris Insight Center in San Francisco, clinic providing Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy treatment for depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental health issues. She is also a sub-investigator and a co-therapist at San Francisco Insight and Integration Center, site participating in the Phase 3 MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy clinical trial for the treatment of PTSD sponsored by MAPS. Veronika Gold is as well EMDR therapist, consultant, and a volunteer facilitator for EMDR Humanitarian Assistance Program. She is a certified Somatic Experiencing Practitioner and a Realization Process Teacher. Veronika provides Psychedelic Integration Therapy and serves as a consultant, trainer, and presenter on Psychedelic Assisted Therapies.