Dear Therapist:

I experienced a lot of serious trauma as a teenager. Now, years later I still suffer greatly from it. Someone recommended "ketamine assisted psychotherapy." I was wondering what your opinion of this is and if you would recommend it.



Hallucinogenics have recently become increasingly popular, both in general and in conjunction with therapy. Specifically, with regard to trauma therapy various drugs with hallucinogenic properties are being used to help people to break down the conscious barriers that prevent them from fully experiencing their fears, insecurities, and other unconscious processes.

Some psychedelics, like ayahuasca (pronounced ayawaska) have had cult-like institutions built around them. They have also been used in more casual atmospheres.

I am in no way an expert on hallucinogenics. Nor am I a neuroscientist or a medical professional. I cannot begin to describe the effects that these substances have on the human mind, both in terms of the immediate effect and with regard to long-term effects. Truth be told, I doubt that anyone can speak definitively to these. This is partially due to the human brain’s incredible complexity. It is also due to the fact that each person’s brain (and concurrently their conscious and unconscious mind) develops very differently.

I have little direct knowledge of these drugs. Therefore, although I would not deign to recommend these forms of therapy, I would also not specifically condemn them. If you decide to explore this option, however, I would caution you not to see someone who focuses mainly on the use of these substances. Instead, see a licensed mental health professional who is also experienced in using these substances. Prior to any decision as to whether they should be used, you should undergo a full evaluation.

If use of a hallucinogenic is indicated, the therapist should be able to explain their rationale specific to you. You should understand the possible ill effects or complications, along with their reasoned explanation as to why they consider these to be minimal in your case. They should also describe their process, and the safeguards that they have in place in the event of any negative reaction.

-Yehuda Lieberman, LCSW

  psychotherapist in private practice

  Woodmere, NY

  adjunct professor at Touro College

  Graduate School of Social Work

  author of Self-Esteem: A Primer / 516-218-4200


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