“My role as a Guide is to help the patient navigate the psychedelic experience safely and utilise it optimally and fully in their current life situation.”
[To find out about psychedelic-type guided experiences that are substance-free, click here.]
Various psychedelic and psychedelic-like substances have entered the arena as effective treatments for depression, PTSD, OCD and other serious conditions. Psychedelics have also been found to assist in end-of-life transitions. In South Africa, Ketamine is now used legally in psychiatric settings, although it is not yet commonplace.
Disclaimer: The author, Melissa McWalter, is not endorsing the recreational use or illegal therapeutic use of psychedelics.
What is Ketamine?
Ketamine is a dissociative anaesthetic. It is a relatively new protocol used in psychiatric settings at low doses to alleviate suicidal ideation, treatment resistant depression, PTSD and more. It has been found to work extremely rapidly compared with traditional anti-depressants. Ketamine acts similarly to a psychedelic and in most cases, it causes the patient to experience altered or non-ordinary states of consciousness.
What is it like to take Ketamine?
In South Africa, Ketamine can be administered intravenously (IV), or intramuscularly (IM). As the Ketamine begins to work, patients enter into a different state of consciousness, where everyday waking thoughts are slowed down or stilled and alterations in consciousness, sometimes called psychedelic dreaming, occurs. With this may come a physical sensation of detachment, floating or movement. Patients may experience mild or intense imagery (pictures/movies in their mind’s eye). Emotions may include bliss, intense connection, warmth, comfort or even possibly fear; emotions may be related to the ‘story’ or images unfolding, or to the music that is being played. The patient may experience a profound sense of rest, calm or beauty. The patient may have deeply moving, spiritual, awe-filled or simply ineffable experiences while in the altered state of consciousness induced by Ketamine.
Psychedelic guidance should maximise the benefit, sometimes the intensity, of the experience as well as promote safety, although this may not always be the case with some unregulated guides and substances. Guidance is especially important when a psychedelic is used as a psychiatric treatment, where there is significant potential for both growth and regression.
My role as a Guide, as the name suggests, will be to help the patient navigate the psychedelic experience safely and to utilise it optimally and fully in their current life situation.
Because Ketamine allows a patient to tap into previously unexplored parts of the mind, it also unlocks transformative psychological potential. Ketamine Guidance offers containment, safety and maximum opportunities for transformation during the Ketamine protocol. As a Guide, I will achieve this through:
I ensure that the physical, sensory and emotional environment is optimal for the specific altered state that Ketamine induces. As a registered music therapist, I work deliberately and therapeutically with specific music and silence in order to enhance the altered state while also providing non-verbal containment for the patient.
During or after the Ketamine experience, I may skilfully but non-invasively facilitate a deeper exploration or experience of the imagery, sensations or emotions during the altered state. This helps the patient collect experiences and connect with that which may be significant during their ongoing process.
Meaning Making and Integration
Over the course of the Ketamine treatments and Guidance sessions, Guidance requires that I hold a space where various meanings and images can emerge, be discussed and creatively engaged with, validated, and ultimately become integrated into the patient’s story. This leads to a renewal of mind and a sense of hope and connection that is of substance, relevant to daily life.
Logistics of Guidance
I am experienced in working with altered states of consciousness, with the specifics of Ketamine and psychedelic experiences, and with individuals in a therapeutic setting. As a registered music therapist, I am experienced and versatile in the therapeutic uses of music.
Guidance consists of:
– Pre-Ketamine meeting
– ‘pre-talk’, preparation and intention setting 20 -30 minutes before each experience
– Guidance during the experience, including monitoring environmental factors, therapeutic dialogue, intentionally and therapeutically chosen music.
-Verbal and/or creative processing during and/or after each infusion.
Available in Cape Town, South Africa.
Psilocybin (‘magic mushrooms’) is not yet legal in South Africa but many individuals and groups experiment with it nevertheless. Unfortunately, these sessions are frequently facilitated in less than optimal, sometimes dangerous, conditions by guides who have little to no knowledge as to how to best contain and safely optimise such a powerful experience. As a general rule, if you do intend on exploring psilocybin, it would be essential to engage an experienced, sensitive and knowledgeable guide for your journey.