Ketamine-assisted psychotherapy offered through two Steamboat practitioners
Routt County resident Jennifer said she has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety since her teenage years and had exhausted her options after many types of treatment.
In April, Jennifer experienced severe anxiety where she could not go outside her home. That is when her therapist recommended she try ketamine-assisted psychotherapy. The treatment worked for her.
“I no longer had trouble getting out of the house in the morning,” Jennifer said. “I started feeling excited about my job again. I had more purpose, which were all things that were lacking when I was at my lowest.”
Starting this year, two practitioners in Steamboat Springs offer ketamine-assisted psychotherapy that has helped multiple patients who were stuck in a mental health trauma they could not get past. The medicine is paired with intensive, professional psychotherapy.
According to Psychology Today, “Ketamine’s dissociative and pain-managing processes help individuals safely explore painful emotions and memories.”
First developed in the 1960s as a human anesthetic, ketamine for therapy purposes can be administered as a shot, pill dissolved under the tongue, IV or nasal spray.
The team at Minds in Motion integrative care clinic as well as neurologist Dr. Jason Sebesto both offer the therapy service, although in different formats. Minds in Motion offers integrated treatment in-house. Operating via telehealth, Sebesto receives patient referrals from primary care doctors and therapists, and he prescribes the ketamine drug for patients to use at home with another adult present.
Both practitioners say the treatment option is possible for patients cleared by a medical professional as physically healthy adults not helped by other mental health treatment options. Both practitioners try to keep their prices affordable because the treatment generally is not covered by insurance plans.
“We have a mental health crisis,” Sebesto said. “If we are going to make any progress, we have to make the interventions accessible and affordable.”
At Minds in Motion, owner and neuro-based psychotherapist Angela Meltzer and master’s level counselor Cristen Malia assist clients in-house in a quiet, internally situated ketamine treatment room where patients relax in a lounger wearing an eye mask while listening to calming music.
Rudy Spector, a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner at Minds in Motion, said she became interested in ketamine when some local patients were traveling to the Front Range for treatments and “were seeing improvements in their mental health that they were not getting from months to years of being on psychotropics.”
“With the mental health crisis we are experiencing, I believe it is important to explore all avenues by looking outside of the box for treatment,” Spector noted.
For Jennifer, who has utilized ketamine six times at home with her husband helping, she said the experience feels like being wrapped in a safe, calming cocoon. She takes ketamine in the evenings twice a week two days before a session with her therapist. She monitors her blood pressure before and after the treatment and said her only negative side effect has been some dizziness afterward.
Jennifer hopes the therapy will help enough so she can stop her prescription medications for anxiety and depression.
Former Moffat County resident Nicole was stuck, suffering from the eating disorder bulimia for decades. Nicole experienced daily episodes that became worse when she was stressed from being the sole caregiver of a critically ill loved one.
Nicole said ketamine treatments through Minds in Motion made a huge difference for her rapidly. For the past six weeks, she has not binged and purged.
“That first time was really cathartic and amazing for me,” Nicole said. “It has helped me immensely.”
Both women asked not to use their last names because they say more education about the treatment is needed due to some misunderstandings in the community. They hope their stories will help other patients know that ketamine-assisted psychotherapy is another option to consider for people stuck in their mental health care.
“I found it to be incredibly helpful and important,” Jennifer said. “Breaking down the stigma is what I’m passionate about.”
“If you are open to it, it can really make a huge difference in how your brain is working and seeing the world and seeing yourself,” Nicole said. “I still have a lot of work to do, but I don’t think I could have gotten to where I am now without this.”
Sebesto, whose practice is called Slopeside Vitality, moved to Steamboat recently with his family when his physician wife accepted a local position. Sebesto has worked with ketamine-assisted psychotherapy for 12 years and is a member of the American Society of Ketamine Physicians, Psychotherapists and Practitioners, a nonprofit group dedicated to the safe clinical use of ketamine for mental health disorders and pain conditions.
Sebesto said the treatment is becoming more accepted as more studies are published and more patients become comfortable with psychedelic medical treatments in general, such as medical mushrooms that now are legal in multiple U.S. cities and several states including Colorado.
To reach Suzie Romig, call 970-871-4205 or email sromig@SteamboatPilot.com.
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