According to a 2020 National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) report, one in five adults in the U.S. experience mental illness each year. Based on the fact that this report was published before the pandemic hit our shores, and because many reports have subsequently come out declaring the state of mental health in America as a crisis, it is clear that swift actions need to be taken to mitigate this experience.
Etymology online defines a crisis as a turning point, a point at which change must come. If you listen to any news media, it may feel like an onslaught of crises. Yes, change must come. And what do they say about how difficult change can be for us as individuals? Seemingly insurmountable.
Mental health, and the pursuit and education of it, is only beginning to be seen beyond the realm of stigma, the hush-hush corridors of that which shall not be named, which varies greatly across cultural divides. Psychoanalysis and therapy is a relatively new practice, less than two centuries old. As such, it is constantly developing and evolving to accommodate more research, more modalities and, of course, more people.
From Liberation Psychology, we understand that the individual doesn’t come to therapy alone, but with an ancestral, cultural, familial and social inheritance of the psychic variety. As our nervous systems are primed for safety, these spaces can be difficult, and maybe even dangerous, to venture into alone. It is within the mental health practitioner’s room that we feel held to examine whether these beliefs are healthy for us and support us in navigating the path forward.
Compounded by the collective obstacles we face, such as climate change, homelessness, white supremacy, sexism, disease and loneliness, it is no wonder we have a mental health crisis on our hands and no wonder so many are struggling with making meaning in our world. Therapists are tasked with holding space for all of this and are always looking for better tools to support this process. Cue the momentous mainstreaming of psychedelics.
Research studies report over and over again the benefits of psychedelics for neurogenesis (making new neural connections in our brains), healing chronic pain, treating PTSD and treatment-resistant anxiety and depression and giving us a sense of interconnectedness and meaning.
In a Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy clinic, psychedelic clinicians hold space with integrity and with sacredness. This allows the client to venture into the dark territory of their minds, gently guided by a team of experienced psychedelic therapists and social workers.
Ketamine, the only currently legal psychedelic that can be used therapeutically in a clinical setting, is proving to have a profound effect on healing. However, it is not the most affordable option, as it is not currently FDA-approved for its off-label use (meaning not using it the way it was created to be used, as an anesthetic in surgical procedures). This is why utilizing Ketamine in group therapy spaces is a game changer. But its affordability is not the only benefit. A group experience can have a diminishing effect on the isolation and alienation that we individuals are facing.
A recent report published by Harvard concluded that 36 percent of all Americans—including 61 percent of young adults and 51 percent of mothers with young children—feel “serious loneliness”.
This report was published after the onset of the pandemic, and while it might be easy to shake our fingers at COVID for this dilemma, according to a study done by Cigna before the pandemic hit our shores, loneliness had already been of epidemic proportion, affecting three in five Americans, a 13 percent increase from 2018.
It is becoming increasingly more evident that what we need are better support systems and communities that show up for one another, in celebration and in grief. We are, us humans, social creatures that rely on a sense of belonging and an actual felt experience of it, in order to survive. The lie, and great gaslighting, is around the narrative that it is the responsibility of the individual to provide, succeed, support, produce and consume, all by themselves. This is not only unrealistic, but also dangerous for our mental health.
Group Ketamine experiences include three, hour-long sessions with a maximum of three other participants who have collectively agreed upon rules that help them feel safe, and which is facilitated by two mental health practitioners and a medical provider. These sessions are followed by group integration, which happens at least 48 hours later.
Over and over again, group experiences increase the sense of connection with one another, empathy, feeling seen and heard, inspiration, safety and problem solving. While we collectively have so much work to do to get to where we want to be, could group Ketamine help us get there with heart? We think so.Alyssa Spungen is Communications Coordinator at Tucson Counseling Associates (TCA), which specializes in anti-oppressive outpatient psychotherapy services for children, teens, adults, couples and families. In-office appointments are available as well as telehealth. TCA empowers people to collaborate and take an active role in deciding their treatment goals, frequency and duration. Connect at 520-214-0818, [email protected] or TucsonCounselingAssociates.com.